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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Love Your Enemies

Reading the Word

Proverbs 25:21–22 (ESV)
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The first line of this proverb is simple enough, but the second may seem kind of surprising, depending on how you interpret it. Some take the second line to mean that by doing good to our enemies, we heap up future punishment for them. This means that by doing good, we are secretly just waiting for their future punishment and our revenge. This seems like a strange way to understand this passage.

A better interpretation is to understand burning coals on the head as a picture of repentance. By loving our enemies and doing good for them, we can have a profound impact on them. Doing so may even lead our enemies to see the error of their ways and to a point of change, even looking to our God. Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). By doing so, we imitate what our Savior did for us and we put reaching the world with the Gospel as our top priority.


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Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not include supplemental material on Sundays, but I do publish a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.(Proverbs 25:20, ESV)

Affliction

Today’s post is part of our Psalm Saturdays series from guest blogger Robert Chamberlain. You can read his archives at www.roberlain.wordpress.com .

Psalm 129:1–8 (ESV)
1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”— let Israel now say—
2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.”
4 The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.
5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward!
6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up,
7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you! We bless you in the name of the LORD!”


Israel has been through a lot of suffering throughout history. But without wishing to downplay that fact, I believe this Psalm is ultimately about the Promised Son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a man of sorrows, and familiar with grief.

The talk of ploughers ploughing Israel’s back and making long their furrows immediately reminds me of the fact that Jesus was scourged to set His people free. The Lord is righteous and will cut all cords of wickedness. But Jesus endured that for us.

May unrepentantly guilty sinners of the torture and death of Christ get their comeuppance. May those of us whose sins nailed Him to that tree not be blessed, if we fail to acknowledge Him and be sorrowful for what we have done. May the Lord have mercy upon us for our guilt over the death of Christ!

“Almighty Lord, we acknowledge Your righteousness and confess our wickedness. Please have mercy upon us for our sins that nailed Christ to the cross. In His name, amen.”


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Respect Your Neighbor’s Space

Reading the Word

Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.(Proverbs 25:17, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s proverb begins with the phrase “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house.” The word seldom is also translated as “precious” in some translations. The word precious is not a bad translation, but it can have two interpretations. Precious can mean something that is greatly desired, but it can also mean something that is rare or scarce, like precious metals. The idea of scarcity is the point of this proverb.

Why would this proverb tell us to make our time in our neighbor’s house scarce? Spending time with a neighbor or friend can be a wonderful thing, but it also possible to wear out your welcome by not respecting boundaries and privacy. If you are always there, you can become a burden. Be a good neighbor and look to build your relationships with others, but understand that part of being a good neighbor is respecting the time and space of others.


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Haste Brings Shame

Reading the Word

Proverbs 25:7–10 (ESV)
7 What your eyes have seen
8 do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame?
9 Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret,
10 lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Have you ever heard someone explain their side of a story and they had a strong opinion of their rightness and someone else’s wrongness? However, when you heard the other side of the story and got all of the details you realized the first person was actually in the wrong? Have you ever assumed you knew all of the details about an event and then learned more information and had to change your opinions? That is what this proverb warns us of.

We must not be quick to take someone to court thinking we have a clear case that will go in our favor. If we do, we may find ourselves embarrassed when all of the details come out and we are not correct in our original assumptions. It is much better to go directly to the other person and try to work things out rather than drag things out into the public and risk embarrassment and loss of reputation.


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A Little Sleep and a Little Slumber

Reading the Word

Proverbs 24:30–34 (ESV)
30 I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,
34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday’s reading emphasized the importance of doing things in the proper order. First, we need to work and secure an income. After that, we can build our house. When we get the order wrong, we end up with great debt that we cannot repay. Today’s reading has the same emphasis, but uses a different picture. We must see that our work is done before we lay down to rest. Otherwise, before we know it, the time for work has run out and we find ourselves in poverty.

The Book of Proverbs teaches us how to live wisely in the world. Much of what is mentioned may seem like common sense, but if you have been around for long, you realize there really is no such thing. The last two days, we have learned that we must put in the work and preparation before we spend our money and before we lay down to rest. In today’s language, we cannot expect to start out with the best house, cars, and luxury items. We must save up for those things. We also cannot expect to live the retired life before we have worked and prepared for those years. First things first. If you get the order wrong, it can be disastrous.


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First Things First

Reading the Word

Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.(Proverbs 24:27, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

Preparation is important. We must always do things in the proper order if we are going to have success. One mistake that seems to be popular in our world today is people biting off more than they can chew. When I say this, I am speaking primarily of financial commitments, but it could be applied to areas of responsibility and other ways as well. The proverb teaches that we must first take care of our work, which is our source of income, before we can provide for our personal comfort.

So many today want all of the comforts of life before having the means to support those comforts. We want a big, fancy house, fine furniture, technological gadgets, and so many other things, but we do not want to wait until we can actually afford them. We do not want to wait to put in the necessary work and effort. Instead, many accumulate great debt that they cannot keep up with and ultimately lose it all in the end. Wisdom knows how to prioritize.


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Fear the Lord and the King

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Proverbs 24:21–22 (ESV)
21 My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,
22 for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?