Text: Proverbs 26:4-5

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” (Proverbs 26:4-5)

The above verses seem contradictory at first glance. However, the careful student will find in them much guidance on how to answer those who are foolish in their ways.

Firstly, let us consider who is the “fool” mentioned in these two verses. There are different Hebrew words that are translated as fool in the Bible. The word rendered “fool” here is kesil, which refers to a fool who is sensual and shameless. Here is a man who is so steep in his enjoyment of fleshly lusts that he is willing to reject heavenly wisdom (c.f. Prov. 13:19-20). He is shameless and unreasonable. He will even enter into contention to justify his sin (c.f. Prov. 18:6). They would simply refuse to see the error of
their ways, choosing rather to blame the righteous than to be held accountable for their wickedness.

Secondly, the Bible teaches us the spirit in which we should answer the “fool”. It warns us never to follow this sensual and shameless fool in his evil ways (v. 4). The temptation in answering such stubborn ones is to retaliate in the same spirit, twisting our words and seeking to inflame the situation. The world’s way is to seek revenge and wound the other party. However, this is not Christ’s way. In such situations when the other party is so
blind in his rage that he cannot be reasoned, it is best to keep quiet and let the Lord vindicate. There are many times when silence is the best answer. If only we know how to keep our mouths shut!

Thirdly, the Bible teaches us the answer that we should give the “fool” if he is willing to be reasoned. We must then help him in a manner which addresses his folly. This will require the Christian to know the Scriptures well, so that he is able to lead the sinner in the right way. Our duty is to be our brother’s keeper. Godly counsel at the right time will help point one another to the way that pleases God. This is what it means to provoke one
another unto love and unto good works (Heb. 10:24). However, if the sinner clearly knows that he is wrong and refuses to be reasoned, this is when we must be wise and know how to be silent. On the other hand, if we know not what to say, it is better to keep silent. Otherwise we may become a fool like the other party.

It is natural for the fool to bite and devour when the light of God’s Word shines on his way. Do not be surprised at such a reaction when you interact with such a person. Just make sure, by the grace of God, not to fall into the same folly. Always take your time to study a right answer before opening our mouths. “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.” (Prov. 15:28)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew