Saturday, June 14, 2014

How do you answer a fool in his folly?

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.  - Proverbs 26:4-5

These two verses have been used by atheists and skeptics to say there are contradictions in the Bible. This, however, is not the case. These verses teach two appropriate ways to answer the arguments of the foolish. We are told not to answer a fool according to his folly, which means we are not to stoop to his level and mimic his foolishness. If the fool exalts himself, we should not respond by boasting about ourselves. If the fool slanders, lies, mocks, and utters all kinds of evil against us falsely, we should not resort to the same tactics. If the fool reacts instantly in his emotions, we must patiently pray about our response.
On the other hand, we must avoid the temptation to ignore the fool, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Sometimes if we remain silent and don't answer the fool, he becomes justified in his folly and his foolishness only increases. It takes great discernment to know which position should be held in each situation.
When we think the point of an argument is to win at all costs, we fall into the same folly as the fool. We can be completely right about a matter, but handle the discussion in such a poor, sinful way that we have already lost because we fell into the trap of folly, and have become a fool. A good principle to follow when discerning how you should answer a fool in his folly is to not respond immediately, but to wait and pray for three days. Often times your potential response will radically change after three days when your emotions subside. After seeking God in prayer, studying how Christ responded to fools in their folly, and letting time pass, you will have far greater discernment of how to answer the fool, and therefore glorify God.

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