December 24: You Should Do This, but Maybe You Shouldn’t
Jeremiah 47:1–48:47; Romans 11:11–24; Proverbs 26:1–11
We all know the feeling. When someone belittles us in front of others, we want to rail against them or make their lives miserable by filtering our rage through our best passive-aggressive behavior. When a friend continuously doles out inflammatory remarks, it’s easy to snap and say (or tweet) something inspired by the white-hot rage sweeping through us.
We’d be better off turning to the book of Proverbs, which can offer wisdom for dealing with these situations. The book seems to deliver hard-and-fast rules for life we can easily apply—do this; don’t do that. Do this and you’ll prosper; do that and you’ll suffer for your foolishness. However, Proverbs 26 delivers statements that confuse those who live by the rules: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly lest you become like him—even you. Answer a fool according to his folly, or else he will be wise in his own eyes” (Prov 26:4–5). Do we answer the fool or leave him alone?
The entire trajectory of Proverbs is the attainment of wisdom. The author of this proverb isn’t offering a simple rule. He’s giving guidance. Although it’s sometimes better to keep silent—when speaking would inspire us to be equally foolish—other times the situation might call for us to reprimand the fool. If the fool is misleading others, we need to gently correct them for their good and everyone else’s. The fool may be teachable, just lacking in instruction and discipline.
We need discernment to know which response the situation requires. Pray for guidance in your interactions with others. Pray for wisdom from the Spirit, who can provide you with the discernment you need to answer in the right way. Just don’t be the fool and set the conversation ablaze with inflammatory words (Jas 3:5).
How do you respond to foolish people? How can you, guided by the Holy Spirit, answer (or choose to remain silent) in ways that build up or challenge the fool?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
- The words of the Lord that came unto Jeremiah the Prophet, against the Philistines, before that Pharoah smote Gaza. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, waters rise up out of the North, and shall be as a swelling flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is therein, and all that is therein, and the cities with them that dwell therein: then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl, At the noise and stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses , at the noise of the chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels: the fathers shall not look back Ito their children, for feebleness of hands, Because the day that cometh to destroy. all the Philistines, and to destroy Tyre, and Sidon, and all the rest that taken their part: for the Lord will destroy the Philistines, the remnant of the isle of Caphtor. Baldness is come upon Gaza: Ashkelon is cut up with the rest of their valleys. How long wilt thou cut thyself? O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be or thou cease? turn again into thy scabbard, rest and be still. How can it cease, seeing the Lord hath given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the sea bank? even there hath he appointed it. … Yes will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the Lord. Thus far of the judgment of Moab. (Jeremiah 47:1-48:47)
- For I long to see you that I might bestow among you some spiritual gift, that you might be strenthened: That is, that I might be comforted together with you, through our mutual faith, both yours and mine. Now my brethren, I would that ye should not be ignorant, how that I have oftentimes purposed to come unto you (but have been let hitherto) that I might have some fruit also among you, as I have among the other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Grecians, and to the barbarians, both to the wise men and to the unwise. Therefore, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to ou also that are at Rome. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greceian. For by it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to fatih: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men, which withhold the truth in unrighteousness. Forasmuch as that, which may be known of God, is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him, that is, his eterna power an dGodhead, are seen by the creation of the world, being considered in his works, to the intent that they shoulbe without excuse: Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was full of darkness. When they professed themselves to be wise, they became fools. For they turned the glory of the incorruptible God to the similitude of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and four footed beasts, and of creeping things. Wherefore also God gave them up to their hearts lusts, unto uncleanness, to defile their own bodies between themselves. (Romans 11:11-24)
- As the snow in the Summer, as the rain in the Harvest are not meet, so the curse that is causeless, shall not come. Unto the horse belongeth a whip to the ass a bridle, and a rod to the fool’s back. Answer not a fool according to his foolishness, lest thou also be like him. Answer a fool according to his foolishness, lest he be wise in his own conceit. He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool, is as he that cutteth off the feet, and drinketh iniquity. As they that lift up the legs of the lame, so is a parable in a fool’s mouth. As the closing up of a precious stone in a heap of stones, so is he that giveth glory to a fool. As a thorn standing up in the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools. The Excellent that formed all things, both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth the transgressors. As a dog turneth again to his own vomit, so a fool turneth to his foolishness.. (Proverbs 26:1-11)