Silence is the best answer for a fool.
You’ve no doubt heard this line a couple of times over when people have used it as an ultimate defence having exhausted every other meaningful thing to say. It has become a cliché sort of. We’re no longer enraptured in the wondrous moments we used to stop to ponder the truth in those words.I stopped marvelling at it even before I became a teenager and I remember even thinking it could be a smart invention people should quip whenever they have nothing else to say to an obstinate person in a matter or whenever they were about to lose an argument. Well I learned we’re not supposed to say that to people after I used that line once and the object of my retort challenged me saying, “Are you calling me a fool? It is you who is the fool!”
It may come as a surprise to some people that the Bible advises along this same line. Proverbs 26:4 (NIV) says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.” I’ve wrestled with this scripture for decades because immediately after verse 4, verse 5 says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” In other words, ignoring a fool can be dangerous.
This remained highly contradicting to me but because I trusted God and am patient with Him having understood that faith and wisdom can grow. The following scriptures prove that this is so:
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.” (Luke 2:52 NIV)
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV)
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matthew 15:28 NIV).
You will find that there is a faith described by our Lord Jesus as little faith, as mustard seed faith, and as great faith. There is therefore a progression from little faith to great faith. There is also a progression from little wisdom to great wisdom.
Countless times over the past years, I’ve read the book of Proverbs. While I studied Proverbs chapter 26 this morning, I read those two scriptures, lifted up my head, and an explanation came to me. My patience paid off today.
Complimentary, not contradicting
Those two scriptures are not contradicting one another, they are stating cases. If you shift your concentration to the concluding part of those two statements, you’ll catch the light too. Taking verse 4 first, have there not been times when you got roped into unnecessary arguments so much that people couldn’t tell who was making sense and who was ranting hysterics? The truth is that if your spirit is calm, if you have a Spirit-controlled temperament, you will somehow be able to tell that a particular conversation or debate will lead to such a scenario. In wisdom, you will from the onset ignore the temptation to answer the fool and becoming like him.
Taking verse 5 now, have you not experienced times when someone said something perverted or downright stupid but because of his/her status or pedigree, people around that place have accepted it and gotten misled? In such times when an attempt is being made to institutionalize sin or mislead souls, it is your duty as a believer to answer the fool.
God is laconic
You see God is not a God of many words. He said He honours His Word above His name, and as such, He cannot say to you, “Be swift to hear and slow to speak” (James 1:19) if that is not exactly what Himself practices. God is not a talkative. He uses words sparingly and meditatively. He pours His very life into the words He speaks, and as such His words come with great power. God expects that same lifestyle from us and has given us grace through Jesus Christ to live it.
God says “…be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44) so He expects us to be like Him. If God is not a talkative, He expects us not to be. So He says to us, “Draw near to listen…Do not be quick with your mouth.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2) and also “Do not be like the Pharisees…who think they will be heard by their many words”.
Every Word of God is packed with the riches of God’s wisdom and is able to address manifold issues. This is why it is possible to take a single chapter or verse of bible and write a 300-page book out of it. The truths and wisdom poured into every Word of God is a rich eternal well-spring of “spirit and life”. (John 6:63)
The joy of waiting
I was so glad and refreshed in my spirit when I received the explanation of Proverbs 26:4-5 in my heart. It became even clearer to me that:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV).
If you learn to trust in God and not to discard His Word when you don’t understand it, God seeing your heart will eventually send explanation and clarification to you because He said, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIV) and also “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 NKJV)
Is there any other level of understanding of the scriptures Proverbs 26:4-5 that you have received from God during your bible study? You can share them with me in the comment box below.