Bible Reading: Proverbs 26.1-9
1 Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.
2 Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a curse without cause does not alight.
3 A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.
6 He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence Who sends a message by the hand of a fool.
7 Like the legs which are useless to the lame, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
8 Like one who binds a stone in a sling, so is he who gives honor to a fool.
9 Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, so is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
Proverbs has much to say about fools. They despise wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, 22, 10:21, 23:9); they are right in their own eyes (Proverbs 12:15); they are deceitful (Proverbs 14:8) and scornful (Proverbs 10:23, 14:9). Instructing a fool is pointless because his speech is full of foolishness (Proverbs 15:2, 14) and he does not want wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 18:2).
In our culture, it may not be politically correct to judge someone as a fool. Yet, we will be around fools at work, at school, at the store, on the phone and on the road as we drive…everywhere. This warning today teaches us to recognize fools and to not give them power over our lives.
In verse 1, 6 and 8 we see that giving honor and responsibility to a fool is unnatural (snow in summer) and creates big problems that can ruin the goal you are trying to achieve (harvest). If you treat a fool as wise and give them important responsibilities, they will cause you much pain. The damage they might do could be unrepairable. A fool will never achieve the goal you give them but instead will bring shame on them AND YOU, because of your poor judgment.
Proverbs 26:4-5 tells us how to answer a fool. These seemingly contradictory verses are actually a common form of parallelism found in the Old Testament, where one idea builds upon another. Have you ever heard someone say, "That doesn't deserve an answer"? That’s what this is saying here. Verse 4 warns against arguing with a fool on his own terms, lest we stoop to his level and become as foolish as he is. Verse 9 shows us that a fool cannot handle wisdom at all because he despises wisdom and correction. The fool will not listen to wise reason and will try to draw us into his type of argument, whether it is by using deceit, scoffing at our wisdom, or becoming angry and abusive. If we allow him to draw us into this type of discourse, we are answering him “according to his folly” in the sense of becoming like him.
Yet, there are times when a fool has to be addressed. Answering him according to his folly means to expose the foolishness of his words, rebuking him on the basis of his folly so he will see the idiocy of his words and reasoning. Our “answer” in this case is to be one of reproof, showing him the truth so he might see the foolishness of his words in the light of reason.
So, when do we know what to do? In matters of insignificance, it’s probably better to disregard the fool. In more important areas, such as when a fool denies the existence of God (Psalm 14:1), verse 5 tells us to respond to his foolishness with words of rebuke and instruction. To let a fool speak his nonsense without reproof encourages him to remain wise in his own eyes and possibly gives credibility to his folly in the eyes of others. We must restrain fools from having an impact on our life and others. Just as a bridle controls a donkey and makes it go where it should, by correcting a fool, we can control their impact on our lives.
Be on guard against foolish people. Do not exalt them or let them pull you down into their world and ways. Do not give them power over your life. Deal with them with love, even when rebuking them. Seek wisdom and imitate Jesus who stayed cool and confident in the presence of foolish people.
Memory Verse: Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Proverbs 26.11