Proverbs 26:4 Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. 5 Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.
7 A proverb in the mouth of a fool is as useless as a paralyzed leg.
9 A proverb in the mouth of a fool is like a thorny branch brandished by a drunk.
16 Lazy people consider themselves smarter than seven wise counselors.
Ouch! You think maybe Solomon saw his share of fools? A king whose own brother tried to take the kingdom from their father, he also played Supreme Court Justice for his nation. Talk about reality show moments—one time, two ladies who were “professional escorts” brought a custody battle all the way up to the king’s court. He threatened to saw the baby in two and that’s when the lying woman showed her colors. Nowadays, you’d be arrested for saying such a thing, but I can see why he got tired of fools.
What does it mean “don’t answer a fool,” but “be sure to answer a fool?” Let’s take an example we can all relate to.
I spent a couple of weeks in 6th grade yelling insults at some girl named Kathy. I’m not sure why she started it—but I’m sure it was her, right? She told people I stuffed my bra; she called me names. I called her worse names because that’s the year I learned that it was shocking and cool to cuss like a grownup. At recess, in the hallways and at lunch, we made public idiots of ourselves until one day, I couldn’t take it anymore and ran out of the lunchroom crying. She found me a few minutes later and apologized. She “was just joking,” she said. Whatever she was doing, I was extending the stupidity by responding in kind. I subsequently went to 5 different high schools in 4 different states and found a bully in every one. Thanks to Kathy, I refused to respond in kind when the bullies came. I still had plenty of lessons to learn, but I had learned that one.
I confess that I didn’t walk into each new school with a “let’s be buddies” attitude. Instead, I wore toughness like my jean jacket and spiked bracelets, layers that might block the wind and look good but offered no real protection from life’s bullets. After a couple of years, I realized that all people are chickens when meeting strangers. I got better at breaking the ice and became truly interested in helping people. That led to some good friendships and some real screwups, as I wasn’t always as wise as I believed myself to be. A proverb in the mouth of a fool y’know 😉
So, let’s talk straight:
1. Do you watch shows or hang out with people who handle relationships with wisdom, or do you surround yourself with people or characters who talk trash and respond with fire and futility?
2. Do you ask God for help before you open your mouth? Say this prayer that I have to use frequently: “Lord, help me to say only what You would have me say right now, no more and no less.” Just because something is true or wise, doesn’t mean it would be accepted or useful in this moment or this conversation.
3. Do you frustrate the people who care about you by whining about a chronic problem but responding to all advice with reasons why it wouldn’t work? If there truly is no solution, then stop whining and find some way to appreciate the moment you’re in. But also stop for a second and say, “Well that suggestion might not work, but what if it could—what would have to happen? What could I do to head in that direction?” And pray. God made the ice and the desert, and He gave mankind enough knowledge to transport one to the other. He can probably get you to the place where you need to be.
Lord, eliminate the foolishness from us, one day at a time. Thanks for loving us (and probably laughing) even when we put limits on Your abilities or talk ourselves into sticky situations. We trust You to get us to where we need to be, and we love You.