Proverbs 26


If you do not want to be a fool, read this chapter.

If you think you are not a fool, read this chapter.

Lots of food for thought in this chapter … but only if we are not too wise to ignore them.

What do you think?

Bible Passage:  Proverbs 26

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest he be wise in his own eyes.

~ Proverbs 26:4-5

Hmm….. when I first read these verses, I had to read it again.  And again.

These 2 verses seem contradictory doesn’t it?

First the wise man says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him”.  Then he immediately follows by saying “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes”.  But after spending some time reflecting on it, I realised that they were not contradictions but rather helping us understanding the same subject from different angles.

Using Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, I understand that in Hebrew, the word “fool” figuratively means “silly” while the word for “wise” means “cunning”.

Let’s look at verse 4 again:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest you also be like him.

In this case, we are told NOT to answer a fool according to his folly lest we be like him.  Think about it…

How many times have you found yourself involved in a silly argument or debate.  And at the end of it all, you find yourself being just as foolish and obstinate as the person you are trying to give an answer to.

Recently we had someone who walked into the church.  He seemed eager to learn more.  He was happy to have some Bible study.  And even though we spent a lot of time with him, it was a frustrating experience as he just wanted to ask his questions and did not want to be taught from the Word of God.  Instead of being spiritually open for discussion, he just wanted to argue and argue and would not listen to whatever was said.

At first we were patient.  But gradually I found myself to be just like him.  Arguing and going down to his level and ended up in a pointless, circular debate.

Jesus gave us a great example of what to do in this situation.  When the Pharisees came testing Jesus and questioning him by whose authority He did these things, they came not wanting to learn anything but to actually disprove Jesus.  They wanted to look for ways to catch Jesus out and show that He was not who He said He was.

But Jesus did not answer their question.  Instead, He asked them a question instead.

It was a brilliant answer to a question that was leading no where.  The Pharisees could not answer without condemning themselves.  And since they could not answer, they just had to go away without continuing the pointless discussion.

Let’s look at verse 5 now:

Answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest he be wise in his own eyes.

In verse 5, the circumstances are different.  In this case, we are to give an answer to a silly person “according to his folly”.

The reason for us doing so is to show him that his line of thought is weak and wrong.  He needs to be corrected and changed, “lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

You need to answer him to help him.  Why?  Or else the foolish man thinks he is so “wise” and that his train of thought is sound without realizing that he is actually foolish.

Paul showed us a very good example of this in his letter to the Corinthians.  At this time, there were some so called “apostles” of Christ but were actually false apostles (2 Cor 11:13).  If Paul had remained silent while they were were speaking and leading the Church astray, Paul would have been the foolish one.

These people thought their reasoning was sound and that they were more qualified or superior to Paul.  And that they should be the true leaders instead.

See how Paul responded.

He challenged them… “Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often” (2 Corinthians 11:23).

Instead of keeping quiet when these people boasted in their foolishness, Paul showed his own qualifications as a minister of Christ.  He showed them that they were foolish in their claims and that they were not the true apostles.

Normally Paul would not have “boasted” of himself in this way.  But in this circumstance, it was necessary for him to stand up and give a response and show everyone around that these so called apostles were false and that they do not deserve to be listened to.

So what did I learn today?

Actually these 2 verses reminded and taught me two different ways of handling questions and statements by people who are “fools”.

In some situations, we must avoid becoming a fool by going to the level of the fool.  Don’t be like them.  Don’t argue like them.  Don’t use they ways…. lest we also be like them.

But in other situations, we must not be passive but take an active step to respond or else he would become wise in his own eyes and his foolishness will be worse.  There are times if we want to save others, we must speak out… or we are the one who are fools.

Knowing when to keep quiet and when to speak out requires wisdom.  That is why we read the books of Wisdom and His Word to learn more.

We need to meditate and pray for wisdom that comes from above.  Without which, we will be fools.

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