Wednesday Wisdom

Let me reassure anyone from our church family reading this that I am not thinking of any particular conversation or any particular individual! It’s not you. Honest. But there was an incident the other day that caused me to revisit these proverbs. They’re all about how to deal with someone who’s short on wisdom but not short of opinions.

Proverbs 26 gives us two options.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Let me just state what ought to be obvious even on a first reading, these two pieces of advice are plain contradictory. Answer him. Don’t answer him.

And so the deeper answer seeems to be ‘it all depends’. At one time it’ll be appropriate to say something. And at another time it’ll be sensible to keep schtum. There’s no automatic formula which we simply apply. It’s a judgment call. There are some times when an answer will simply inflame the situation and lead to a protracted argument in which the fool simply continues to demonstrate his stupidity. And there are other times when a simple answer will silence the fool and stop him in his tracks, thereby doing everyone a favour.

Judging how the fool will respond is the key!


5 thoughts on “Wednesday Wisdom

  1. Windy_London April 2, 2014 / 6:21 pm

    I’m extremely grateful to all those who have been gentle and wise towards me in my foolishness

    • theurbanpastor April 2, 2014 / 6:43 pm

      Graham. If I answer, promise not to think that I think you’re a fool!

      • Windy_London April 2, 2014 / 7:03 pm

        I think most of us are fools more often than we’d like to admit. I’m especially foolish when talking to my wife late at night when I am tired and irritable 🙂

  2. laurimoyle April 2, 2014 / 7:10 pm

    I think there is a lot of wisdom in deciding whether to answer or not to answer, but in this particular instance I would I read the verses slightly differently Perks. In the first instance I read folly as meaning: don’t buy into the fools premise (or else you play into the fools hand). In the second instance I would say the verse is saying, buy into the fools premise to such an extent that the exaggeration of the folly shows the fool his folly. In other words, show the fool you are taking his folly to its end conclusion, and thus show him wisdom. But that would also assume the one showing up the folly is wise. Erasmus does this well in his book: In praise of folly.

  3. sarahrs81 April 2, 2014 / 8:11 pm

    Or the other option is that there is no good way to respond. You either engage in a discussion or are seen to ignore him. The question is can you change a fool through discussion?

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