Engaging Fools

Reading the Word

Proverbs 26:4–5 (ESV)
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Understanding and Applying the Word

What is going on with these two verses from the Book of Proverbs? They seem to contradict each other! Did the writer forget what he wrote in verse 4 and then write verse 5? What should we make of this?

Having these two lines right next to each other causes us to pause, scratch our heads, and think. That is exactly the intent! We must carefully consider these two lines and how they go together. In one circumstance, we should not engage a fool, but in another we must. This is the point. When in engaging with fools, those who do not know what they are talking about and refuse to learn, we must discern when it is better to just ignore them and when it is a time to address their nonsense. If the fool’s ignorance is doing no harm to anyone else, it is better to just ignore it. However, there are times when a fool may cause harm to others by leading them astray. In those times, we must speak up for the welfare of all.

These lines give us some much needed guidance on how to address others on social media today. It is often best to ignore those who post and comment ridiculous things. However, there may be times when we need to speak up and say, “No, that is not right.” We do this to protect others from a fool’s influence.


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Honor Is Out of Place for a Fool

Reading the Word

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.(Proverbs 26:1, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

I live in Michigan where we enjoy four very distinct seasons each year. We certainly get our fair share of snow in the winter. Can you imagine what it would be like if we got snow in the summer? It would be so out of place. “This just is not right!” we would proclaim. In the same way, rain is unwelcome to the farmer at harvest time. “This is just not right!” they say.

Just as snow should not happen in the summer and rain should not fall at harvest, the fool should not be honored. The Book of Proverbs has already mentioned things that are out of place for the fool, such as fine speech (Proverbs 17:7) and living in luxury (Proverbs 19:10). Fools make foolish decisions and refuse to learn, therefore they end up living with the consequences. When a fool excels and thrives in life, we all recognize that such a thing is out of place. It is the wise, the one who is willing to learn and grow, who we all expect to have success through life.


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