Answering a Fool
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Reading these two proverbs might leave you scratching your head. Do you or do you not answer a fool according to his folly? Well, “yes, and no,” or rather “no, and yes.” For these are actually two very different cases.
In the first case, the fool threatens to entangle you in his web of foolishness. He attacks and you strike back. He talks nonsense and you dignify it with debate. Better not to answer, lest you become like him yourself. Don’t let fools drag you down to their level.
But we must not allow fools to think that we don’t give an answer because we don’t have one! Foolish arguments can appear to prevail when those who know the truth keep it to themselves—and the fool becomes wise in his own eyes.
Jesus shows the way. Before Pilate, the chief priests and elders accused him of many things (Mark 5:3), but Jesus gave no answer. Even when Pilate pressed him, Jesus gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that Pilate was greatly amazed (Matt. 27:12, 14).
Yet earlier, when the High Priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching, Jesus answered him, ‘I have spoken openly to the world . . . Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said’ (John 18:19-21). Jesus would not allow the High Priest to get away with a sham investigation and trumped up charges. Jesus would not let corruption win by default. Answer a fool according to his folly.
Welcome to Christ Church this Lord’s Day. There is a time to keep silent. And there is a time to speak (Eccl. 3:7). O Lord, with regard to the works of men, by the word of your lips let me avoid the way of fools (Ps. 17:4).
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