Proverbs 26: 4-5 explains the following: Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Respond to a fool according to his folly, so that he does not regard himself as wise. (translation of Louis Segond). These verses might seem confusing at first, but they describe how Christians should respond spiritually to foolish arguments and attacks.
Part 1 of 3: Examine the texts
Step 1. Understand who the fools are
In this context, the fool does not refer to a person who lacks common sense or academic wisdom. The term is used here to describe a person who lacks spiritual wisdom.
- The kind of wisdom referred to in Proverbs almost never refers to intellectual wisdom. Most of the book deals with knowledge for living a moral life. This is why a fool in the book of Proverbs is a person who rejects spiritual and moral truth.
- In other places of Proverbs, the fool is described as a person who enjoys leading astray (10:23), who lacks integrity (19: 1), who is dangerous (17:12) and on whom you can't count, among other things.
Step 2. Think about this paradox
One of the sentences says not to answer the fool, while the next says to answer him. These two instructions seem contradictory at first glance, but when you take a closer look, they actually work together.
- Finding these two sentences next to each other reflects a parallel type of language used throughout the Old Testament. The very substance of the New Testament is to be built on the first.
- These two verses just mean that there are times when you must respond to the foolish while there are times when you must not.
- The phrase Do not answer the fool according to his folly, Lest you resemble him yourself suggests that you should not answer your opponent if it is to pass yourself off as a fool too.
- The second sentence Responds to the fool according to his folly, So that he does not regard himself as wise means that you must answer him to correct him and to show the inaccuracy of his words.
Step 3. Let God guide you
It can be difficult to know when to respond to the foolish and when to remain silent, even for the most experienced apologists. Prayerfully consider the circumstances of each situation before you act to help you determine the best way to respond.
It is worth noting that this passage specifically refers to the practice of responding, not its approach. In other words, the principles set forth here should be applied to situations in which the fool poses a challenge or response with the intention of forcing you to respond
Part 2 of 3: When Not To Respond To The Fool
Step 1. Watch out for adversarial attacks
There are times when a person might attack you in a clever way just to humiliate you or make you angry. Usually, these individuals have no intention of listening to your arguments, whatever they may be, and your response would be a futile effort.
Luke 23: 7-12 illustrates this kind of attack with an example. When Jesus is on trial before Herod, he asked him many questions; but Jesus did not answer him (23: 9). Herod's intention was to put Jesus on the show and he had no interest in knowing the truth. Giving an answer to Herod under these conditions would have been futile and degrading and that is why Jesus was silent
Step 2. Think about the importance of the situation
In some situations, the topic at hand might be too important to ignore, regardless of your opponent's attitude. However, the topic is often so unimportant that it is not worth responding to.
- Among this kind of subject, we often find the question of the existence of God. A person who tells you that God does not exist should receive a response, even if the conversation is brief. Once you've exposed the truth and see that the conversation isn't going in the right direction, stop lowering yourself to your opponent's level.
- On the other hand, you might also have debates on points of controversy about the doctrine of denominations that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. You can ignore a fool from the start if he tries to make a mountain out of a little detail.
Step 3. Let your opponent talk
When you decide the best thing to do is stay silent, you might have no choice but to listen to your opponent's attacks. It can make you angry, but often the best thing you can do is let your opponent do the talking instead of responding to them.
- Don't be surprised if the fool tries to deceive you or agitate you into responding.
- In these kinds of situations, your attacker usually wants to oppose you more than discovering and sharing genuine truth. This hatred can be caused by many underlying reasons, but whatever the cause, the result is the same.
Step 4. Keep Calm
The fool might try to get you to lose your temper. If you join your opponent at his level, you could become as insane as him. It won't do anyone any good.
- By responding to the fool using his own tactics, you will lower yourself to the same level. Using abusive language will only create hatred and disrespect in your heart. Once you are filled with hate, you lack morality as much as the fool, your opponent.
- In addition, by refusing to answer a fool, you deprive him of the fuel he needs to attack you. A person who just wants to make you angry will stop when they realize that their attack is useless.
Step 5. Stay alert, but stay open
God can change hearts and minds, and a person who is an unanswerable fool today can become a sane person tomorrow. Don't completely reject someone after an unfortunate incident.
Step 6. Approach future confrontations with this individual with caution, but knowing that your opponent's negative attitude may one day improve
Remember the changes God has made in your heart and mind throughout life. It should prove to you that God can soften hearts and minds.
Part 3 of 3: When to Respond to the Fool
Step 1. Know how to recognize sincere requests
Sometimes the fool does not have the right information without knowing it and is not a willful ignorant. You might feel frustrated because of him, but you won't feel hate. They are usually the kind of people you can respond to.
- The person you are talking to may never have heard the truth. The opportunities to do so surely presented themselves if he had sought them out, but no one has tried to involve him in these kinds of conversations in the past, which is why it is possible that he never understood. why it is important to seek answers by asking questions.
- Pay attention to the way the debate presents itself. Polite language and affirmations that sound well thought out are usually promising signs that the person you're talking to is making a genuine effort to chat with you. On the other hand, personal attacks, foul language, and arguments that sound like repeated lines are usually signs of a closed-minded fool who doesn't deserve your answer.
Step 2. Say what you have to say to get the truth out
If your silence could be misinterpreted as agreeing to a foolish argument, you must speak up. That's right, regardless of your opponent's attitude.
For example, when you are in a group of people and your opponent follows a private assertion of any moral character with a sentence like I'm sure you all understand what I mean, now is the time to share. your objections
Step 3. Respond with intelligence and love
When you choose to respond to the fool, you must do so with the intention of correcting his misconceptions and the false information he has. Your own attitude can be as important as your opponent's attitude, which is why you should not respond to them to humiliate or infuriate them.
That doesn't mean you always have to respond softly. Your conviction and your corrections can also be harsh. Harsh words spoken out of love can also be beneficial, while harsh words spoken out of hatred and anger can be destructive
Step 4. Think about the crowd
As other people read or listen to your debate, you also need to think about how the things you say might affect them. There will come times when your opponent will no longer accept any argument based on reason, but if your words reach a viewer of the debate, it may be helpful to continue the discussion.
People who are not emotionally invested in the debate are more likely to perceive the truth and lies correctly, even if they do not yet have a solid knowledge of what the truth is. If you behave with dignity and speak with reason while your opponent speaks irrationally and exhibits terrible behavior, you will leave a better impression on neutral viewers and your pitch will sound more solid than that of your opponent. opponent
Step 5. Persist when the truth is more important
If you are making progress in correcting your opponent's misconceptions, even if it is just a frustrating tiny step, it is often in everyone's best interests to keep the discussion going.
For example, if you've been having a courteous email conversation for a month and your opponent has admitted once or twice that you've made a relevant point that they can't respond to, this may be a sign that you're hitting more and more. more that person. As long as the conversation doesn't get worse, it can be beneficial to continue, even if the conversation seems to drag on forever
Step 6. Know when to opt out
Even a discussion that started in a polite way can turn sour and get worse. Once it becomes clear that there's no point in continuing the conversation, you probably need to back off.