Answering a Fool

There is a Jewish proverb that says, “When a wise man talks to a fool, two fools are conversing.” It is difficult to allow a fool to rant unanswered but a Christian must sometimes maintain silence.

“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23). It is a picture of perfect wisdom to see Jesus before his detractors, taking abuse in calm resignation. At His trial, in Matthew 27:14, to Pilate’s dismay, Jesus “answered him not one word; so that the governor marvelled greatly,” and washed his hands.

Many attempts to rescue the sinner from his or her sin, no matter how sincerely intended, are vain. Jesus, a living illustration of this uncomfortable reality, stated: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6).

Throughout the Bible, God continually encourages us to be humble. The reason is clear: if a person does not love the truth, the truth is powerless to help. Truth is objective and never changes (cf. John 14:6; Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6), however, the nature of truth is such that it must be embraced and applied in order to profit its owner. If a person chooses to ignore it or replace it, ultimately, it will lead to condemnation and death (Romans 1:28ff). Ironic: the same truth that saves (1 Peter 1:22), damns (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

The Bible provides us with ample examples of what constitutes a fool (cf. Psalm 53:1; Proverbs 10:18; 12:15; 14:16; 18:2; Luke 12:20; 1 Corinthians 15:36; et al.) and we must rightly and biblically identify who God calls a fool (if we “judge righteous judgment,” John 7:24). So, “Pilate marveled” and the Jews cried “Crucify Him”; they were not interested in the truth. Pilate was a compromiser with no spine for the burden of truth (Matthew 27:24); the Jews too worried about maintaining their position and nursing their bruised ego (John 11:50). A reasoned defense was a waste of time.

No matter how simple the truth, no matter how easy the answer, no matter how sincere the fool may appear to be, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him” (Proverbs 26:4).

Jeff Sweeten