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
- The words of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the Prophet, against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, waters rise up out of the North, and shall be a swelling flood, and shall overflow the land, 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 bones, at the noise of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels: the fathers shall not look back to their children, for feebleness of hands, Because of the day that cometh to destroy all the Philistines, and to destroy Tyre, and Sidon, and all the rest tht take 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 scabard, 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. Concerning Moab, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Woe unto Nebo: for it is wasted: Kirjathaim is confounded and taken: Misgab is confounded and afraid. Moab shall boast no more of Heshbon: for they have devised evil against it, Come and let us destroy it, that it be no more a nation: also thou shalt be destroyed, O Madmen, and the sword shall pursue thee. A voice of crying shall be from Horonaim with desolation and great destruction. Moab is destroyed: her little ones have caused their cry to be heard. For at the going up of Luhith, the mourner shall go up with weeping: for in the going down of Horonaim, the enemies have heard a cry of destruction. Flee and save your lives, and be like unto the heath in the wilderness. For because thou hast trusted in thy works an din thy treasures, thou shalt also be taken, and Chemosh shall go forth into captivity with his Priests and his Princes together. And the destroyer shall com eupon all cities and no city shall escape: the valley also shall perish and the plain shall be destroyed as the Lord hath spoken. Give wings unto Moab, that it may flee and get away: for the cities thereof shall be desolate, without any to dwell therein. Cutsed be he that doeth the work of the lord negligently, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood. Moab hath been at rest from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been poured from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed. Therefore behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send unto him such as carry him away, and shall empty his vessels, and break their bottles. And Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel their confidence. How think you thus, We are mighty and strong men of war? Moab is destroyed, and his cities burnt up, and his chosen young men are gone down to slaughter, saith the King, whose name is, The Lord of hosts. The destruction of Moab is ready to come, and his plague hasteth fast. All ye that are about him, mourn for him, and all ye that know his name, say, How is the strong staff broken, and the beautiful rod! Thou daughter that dost inhabit Dibon, come down from thy glory, and sit in thirst: for the destroyer of Moab shall come upon thee, and he shall destroy thy strongholds. Thou that dwellest in Aroer, stand by the way, and behold ask him that fleeth and that escapeth and say, What is done? Moab is confounded: for it is destroyed, howl and cy, tell ye it in Arnon, that Moab is made waste, And judgment is come upon the plain country, upon Holon and upon Jahzah, and upon Mephaath, And upon Dibon, and upon Nebo, and upon the house of Diblathaim, And upon Kirjathaim, and upon Beth Gamul, and upon Beth Meon, And upon Kerioth, and upon Bozrah, and upon all the cities of the land of Moab far or near. The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, saith the Lord. Make ye him drunken: for he magnified himself against the Lord: Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he also shall be in derision. For didst not thou deride Israel, as though he had been found among thieves? for when thou speakest of him, thou art moved. O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rocks, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole’s mouth. We have heard the pride of Moab (he is exceeding proud) his stoutness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart. I know his wrath, saith the Lord, but it shall not be so: and his dissimulations, for they do not right. Therefore will I howl for Moab, and I will cry out for all Moab: mine heart shall mourn for the men of Kir Heres. O vine of Sibmah, I will weep for thee, as I wept for Jazer: thy plants are gone over the sea, they are come to the sea of Jazer: the destroyer is fallen upon thy summer fruits, and upon thy vintage. And joy, and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab: and I have caused wine to fail from the winepress: none shall tread with shouting: their shouting shall be no shouting. Fro the cry of Heshbon unto Elealeh and unto Jahaz have they made their noise: from Zoar unto Horonaim, the heifer of three years old shall go lowing: for the waters also of Nimrim shall be wasted. Moreover, I will cause to come in Moab, saith the Lord, him that offereth in the high places, and him that burneth incense to his gods. Therefore mine heart shall sound for Moab like a shawn, and mine heart shall sound like a shawm for the men of Kir Heres, because the riches that he hath gotten is perished. for every head shall be bald, and every beard plucked: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth. And mourning shall be upon all the house tops of Moab, and in all the street thereof: for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, saith the Lord. They shall howl, saying, How is he destroyed? how hath Moab turned the back with shame? so shall Moab be a derision, and a fear to all them about him. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, he shall flee as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab. The cities are taken, and the strongholds are won, and the mighty men’s hearts in Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in travail. And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath set up himself against the Lord: Fear, and pit, and snare shall be upon thee, O inhabitant of Moab, saith the Lord. He that escapeth from the fear, shall fall in the pit, and he that getteth up out of the pit, shall be taken [in] the snare: for I will bring upon it, even upon Moab the year of their visitation, saith the Lord. They that fled, stood under the shadow of Heshbon, because of the force: for the fire came out of Heshbon, and a flame from Sihon, and devoured the corner of Moab, and the top of the seditious children. Woe be unto thee, O Moab: the people of Chemosh periseth: for thy sons are taken captives, and thy daughters led into captivity. Yet 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
- I demand then, Have they stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid: but through their fall, salvation cometh unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to follow them. Wherefore if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more shall their abundance be? For in that I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office, To try if by any means I might provoke them of my flesh to follow them, and might save some of them. For if the casting awa of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruits be holy, so is the whole lump: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And though some of the branches. And though some of the branches be broken off, and thou being a wild Olive tree, wast grafted in for them, and made partaker of the root and fatness of the Olive tree: Boast not thyself against the branches: and if thou boast thyself, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou silt say then, The branches are broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well: through unbelief they are broken off, and thou standest by faith: be not high-minded, but fear. For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the bountifulness, and severity of God: toward them which have fallen, severity: but toward thee, bountifulness, if thou continue in his bountifulness: or else thou shalt also be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wast cut out of the Olive tree, which was wild by nature, and was grafted contrary to nature in a right Olive tree, how much more shall they that are by nature, be grafted in their own Olive tree? Romans 11:11–24
- As the snow in the Summer, and as the rain in the Harvest are not meet, so is honor unseemly for a fool. As the sparrow in flying, and the swallow by flying escape, 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 fooishness, 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 an 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