Proverbs 26:4-5

Answer not a fool according to his folly,

    lest you be like him yourself.

Answer a fool according to his folly,

    lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 26:4-5

These two verses demonstrate the frustration and complication of dealing with a fool. They also demonstrate the range of meaning of words. Here, the pivotal word is “according to.” The first verse means don’t become like the fool by talking in his ways. This reminds me of the saying, “Don’t get into the mud to wrestle with a pig. First, you will just get muddy. Second, the pig will enjoy it.” Guard yourself so that you don’t become a fool in the process of dealing with a fool.

The second verse demonstrates the pastoral heart of the writer. Here, he means, “Deal with the fool’s ideas, so that he is not mistaken that his ideas are wise.” We should try to never leave a fool under the mistaken notion that their folly is wisdom. But, we must be careful in how we do this.

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