“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit” (Prov. 26:4-5).
Biblically, a fool is a person who is “fat” (Heb. keciyl [kes-eel]), that is, figuratively, they are so full of themselves they are stupid, or silly in their behavior, and in their speech. The fool is represented in Scripture in a variety of ways, with a view to stressing moral, rather than intellectual deficiencies. The fool is not a person who is lacking in mental powers, but is one who misuses their mental facilities to reason wrongly.
For example, though nature declares the glory of God, the fool looks at the known evidence, and concludes that man was not created in the image of God but is the product of a common ancestor with the apes. Some fools will spend a lifetime searching for an alleged missing link connecting man to animals while teaching that humans are nothing more than grown up germs that emerged from an oozing, primordial, cosmic soup. The fool teaches that time, plus space, plus chance, equals everything.
The foolish man looks at the planet, and reasons his way to globalization, which is code for a political ideology that keeps changing its name in order to hide its failed agenda wherever it has been implemented. Sometimes this political ideology is called Progressivism, Fabianism, Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, or Communism. The common thread is that man can live life without God. Man can collectively control the globe, and create Utopia, once a centralized government has been established, and taken control over all means of production and labor.
A Divine perspective is not considered on this subject. A Divine perspective is not wanted, and so there is no need for the Bible. The foolish man believes that a life without God is preferable to being accountable to a Moral Lawgiver. The foolish man will live according to his own set of values and standards.
This perspective allows for the foolish man to justify anything, and everything, from the verbal and physical tormenting of family members to the Holocaust, to the confiscation of property, to the slaughtering the unborn and selling their precious body parts on the open market to the highest bidder. All of this is according to a plan that is believed to be reasonable, but without morality.
So the fool is the person who casts off fear of God, and thinks, and acts, as if he could safely disregard the eternal principles of the righteousness of God. The fool has no fear of being judged by a Holy God. There is no heaven. There is no hell. But, if there is a heaven, the fool thinks he is worthy of living there in eternal bliss with the very God whose name he has profaned, with the saints, whom he has mocked, with the children he has hurt, and with the people he has falsely accused and cursed using the most vile language.
In the Proverbs the fool is presented as being rash, senseless, and unreasonable. In the gospels, Jesus used the expression, “you fool”, in the moral sense to mean, “you wicked” (Luke 12:20). The fool is a wicked person, from a Divine perspective.
Of course, because the fool is godless and self-centered, he does not perceive that he is wicked at all, but is justified in all that he says and does. Other people provoke him to anger, and he has a right to curse them. The fool casts himself as the Righteous One, thereby taking the place of God on the throne. The fool will decide who is right, and who is wrong. The fool will decide who the hypocrite is. The fool is self-sufficient, and fat with his own ego. God has no place in his heart, or consciousness, He is a god unto himself.
So what can be said to a fool. There is a Hebrew Proverb, a wise saying, counseling silence. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him” (Prov. 26:4). It is easy to get sucked into the madness associated with trying to have a conversation with a fool. The conversation becomes circular, endlessly repetitive, insulting and illogical. Closing down the conversation, and remaining in silence, is a viable option.
There is another Hebrew Proverb counseling engaging a fool just to keep him from thinking he is wise. “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit” (Prov. 26:5).
A fool will walk away from a discussion thinking he has prevailed, and the other person has no answer to his brilliant inquires. More likely, an answer has been given, but the fool did not like the answer, and so in his prideful heart he has prevailed. The fool, because he has no moral compass, did not even understand the answer, in all likelihood.
I have used both approaches in life at one time or another. I have tried to engage a fool, only to sense I am talking to an onion. Layer upon layer is peeled back, until you get down to, nothing. There is no God to appeal to, there is no Bible to trust as an objective standard, there is no love, there is no compassion, or kindness in the heart. There is only the will to power, sustained by insults, and vile language. The word craziness comes to mind. At that point, I always wish I had opted for the Hebrew Proverb counseling silence.
Many years ago Billy Graham made a conscious decision that he would not respond to his critics. He made the right choice. Mr. Graham has been able to love his enemies in large part because he has taken in silence their unjustified and unkind slings and arrows of outrage and contempt.
Today, I pray more and more for wisdom to stop talking to a known fool. Silence can be golden. Certainly silence is more peaceful than verbal tongue lashings of one another that can enflame passions, and set the world on fire. “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (James 3:5-6).
Silence has long been considered a virtue in Christianity. The 14th century author Richard Rolle of Hampole, in The Psalter, or Psalms of David, 1340, wrote, “Discipline of silence is good.” The Wycliffe Bible, 1382 includes the thought, “Silence is made in heaven.”