John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Answering A Fool

This is out of context for our look at Nebuchadnezzar, but I've got some proverbs rolling around in my head and felt like I needed to put this out here. In one verse, the Bible says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself" (Proverbs 26:4).

In the very next verse we read, "Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes" (Proverbs 26:5).

These two verses are often used to disprove the inspiration of the Bible. After all, it would appear to be a blatant contradiction. In one verse it says we should not answer a fool; the very next sentence tells us we should answer a fool. Which is it?

I've read a few different answers to this -- many good thoughts. The best explanation I've found is that there is simply no winning with a fool. If you allow yourself to be drawn into an argument with a fool, you may be brought down to his level. Fools tend to use anger and rudeness in their arguments. They speak without thinking first. They have no humility and are not concerned with truth as much as they are concerned with vindication. To use such tactics is foolish, and arguing with a fool prompts me to respond in kind. I cannot afford to fall into the fool's trap.

However, we are told in the next proverb to answer a fool in order to prevent him from thinking he is wise when he is not. A fool believes that your silence is an admission of defeat -- thus confirming him in his folly. Unfortunately, when that happens, his behavior has been reinforced and others may follow suit.

The problem is, when you try to correct a fool, he will not receive your correction. The writer goes on to say: "Like a lame man's legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool" (v. 7). A fool does not know what to do with wisdom. It is no use giving it to him. The best thing may be to leave him to God, for only God can break through his folly.

There is something worse than a fool: a man who is certain of his own wisdom. "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (v. 12).

I want so badly to be wise, but I am too often a fool. God, keep me from being wise in my own eyes, and grant me the wisdom that only you can provide.