To Answer a Fool – or Not?

Disagree – Wisely

Proverbs 26 4 5 NIV

Proverbs 25 & 26
Proverbs is hard to write ONE devotion about. From chapter 10 forward, nearly the entire book is a collection of pithy quick sayings that were meant to produce wisdom in those who learned them. (Only chapter 31 is different, but that will be for another author to work through!) Today, for chapters 25 and 26, I want to focus on just one set of verses.
There are two authors to every word of the Bible. The first is the human author, a person who lived in a specific place and time, thought and wrote in a specific language and who was fallible and failing just like the rest of humanity. Also, Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. This means that God directed the author so that the words, ideas, and stories are those by which God wanted people to live and that everything in the Bible is true. Short and simple, the Bible is not full of lies and misinformation, and it doesn’t contradict itself. (1)
That seems like a hard standard to hold when we read Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5.
26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
DO NOT X & DO X. That is a pretty clear contradiction, right?
Well, yes and no; let me explain. It is clearly contradiction if we believe that all the Proverbs must be followed all the time, like the laws of the Torah. But this is not how the Proverbs were intended to be used.
Proverbs were meant to make people wise, and therefore were to build wisdom AND BE USED WITH WISDOM. Every Proverb doesn’t always give what must be done in every situation always, but instead tells you a general way of living that should guide you in the moment to make a wise decision.
The question we are hard-wired to ask is : Is it right or wrong to answer a fool? But,  THAT’S A BAD QUESTION! Instead we should be asking : Is it wise or foolish to answer this fool right now? Sometimes you debate with a person in private who will never change his or her mind, and you have to throw up your hands and say, “Not worth it” or you could be dragged into the mud and muck of folly and error. Sometimes, you need to correct someone for the foolish thing he or she has said or done, or they go on being foolish forever. Either approach could be wise or foolish; it is the wisdom of God that will sort out which way we should go.
Thus, God’s word is kept from our bad interpretation and we recognize that there is no contradiction!
Jake Ballard
(1) Rarely, if ever, is something truly “short and simple.” There are lots of implications and theological, historical and scientific questions that come up, but sadly, we don’t have time for that at the moment.
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 27-29 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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