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Do Not Answer a Fool According to His Folly

Do Not Answer a Fool According to His Folly

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverb 26:4-5)


There are lots of people who are wise in their own eyes and take the firm stance that there is no God. King David had a name for these people: “fools”.


“Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1a – Complete Jewish Bible)


The Bible mentions fools 112 times and we know that lots of people deny the existence of a Supreme Creator. There are plenty of fools in the world and a lot of them like to argue with Christians. Some will use Proverb 26:4-5 to try to “prove” that God isn’t real and that His Word is inaccurate – proclaiming these two verses to be contradictory.


“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverb 26:4-5)


These two verses present two different options when dealing with a fool (God despiser) who challenges us. The key to these two verses is the term “according to his folly” which has to do with allowing a fool to bring you down to his level of silliness or foolishness.


In other words, whether or not you answer a fool, do not allow him to set the tone by using his folly as a basis for whatever point you may want to make. If you DO choose to answer, why not consult the One who is all-wise and reply with His guidance?


“The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fall.” (Proverb 10:8)


We are not obligated to allow a fool to set the tone for a discussion, debate, or argument, no matter what the topic. “The wise in heart” will seek God before replying and will often “receive commands” that address the foundational errors on which a fool will base his argument that God is not real. In this way, the fool will have a chance to experience an encounter with the Living God THROUGH a Christian…and not just an encounter with a fellow human.


God can change hearts.


I said that verses 4 and 5 in Proverbs 26 present two different options when dealing with a person who tries to lay traps for Christians. There is a third option: not saying anything in reply.


I have a saying I believe the Lord has given me: “Not everything that pops into our heads has to come out of our mouths.” Choosing not to get into pointless arguments IS a valid and wise option and, in fact, the Bible teaches this. While instructing about sound doctrine, Paul says the following in which he acknowledges that some people like to practice pointless arguing and how to deal with it: “from such withdraw”.


“Teach and exhort these things. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” (1 Timothy 6:2b-5)


Besides foolishness, the issue here for those who provoke pointless arguments AND those who find themselves drawn into them is pride. Sometimes we want to be the one who looks best and choosing to not prove our point challenges our pride. WE think, “How can I look great if I don’t win?!?!?”.


(Spiritual life hack: we don’t need to impress other mere humans. We’re children of God; HE enjoys

us. That should do.)


“In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.” (Proverb 14:3)


Pride is what drives a fool to ask questions or make challenges “according to his folly”.


“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverb 26:4-5)


If we allow a fool to draw us into an argument the Lord doesn’t want us to enter, we WILL “answer a fool according to his folly”. Without realizing it, we will allow his pride to inspire us to operate in pride instead of in obedience to God; or we can follow the Lord into not responding at all.


Sometimes, if we DO respond, our response only causes things to get worse for the fool.


“Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.” (Proverb 23:9)


So, we have seen that there are (at least) three options when dealing with a fool:


“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverb 26:4-5)


1) We can choose to not let the fool set the tone for us

2) We can choose to answer a fool according to his folly, allow him to set the tone for us and that will cause us to also be like fools and cause the fool to be “wise in his own eyes.

3) We can consult the Lord Who, at times, directs us to not even bother debating a fool…to the benefit of all involved.


May we be ever aware of the Lord and His desire to direct us through His Holy Spirit.


“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside (the lost), redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:2-6)

Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

Decatur, TX

© August 26, 2020


©2018 by Mike McInerney Ministries