Read: Proverbs 17:7
Don’t expect eloquence from fools. (The Message)
Solomon’s words remind me of a fool I ran into sometime back. I had known him for several years and had only interacted with him perhaps four or five times—each time very briefly. And on each occasion, I walked away from our exchange thinking, “that guy’s a fool.” He was always obnoxious, ill-mannered, misinformed, and insulting.
Instead of providing any juicy additional details about this “fool”, I have to confess something: Whenever I interacted with this guy, he was usually staring back into the eyes of a fellow fool. You see, I typically didn’t handle him very well. The guy really annoyed me—and usually I showed it. So what would Solomon say to a guy like me:
“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” (Proverbs 12:16)
Ouch! This guy’s words should have rolled off like water on a duck’s back, but I absorbed them and responded poorly. I felt I had to respond, to correct his messed-up thinking and counteract his insults. I should have been wise enough to know that trying to straighten out that guy is usually a waste of energy.
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 12:16, “Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly; the prudent quietly shrug off insults.” (The Message) As king over Israel, Solomon most likely interacted with fools day in and day out. And he knew the temptation to fly off the handle when angered by the fool. But he also understood that the way we respond to the fool indicates something about our character as well. If we react immediately with anger, counter-insults or some form of retaliation, we might as well hang a sign around our neck that reads, “I’m a fool.”
If our response is one of control, however, Solomon calls us prudent. A prudent person is one who shows discretion, whose words are measured, who has tremendous foresight, and uses careful judgment. The one who is prudent and patient, and who has learned to suffer fools is truly wise.
Proverbs 29:11 reminds us, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
Proverbs 20:3 points out, “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”
So if you run into a fool today, don’t you become one! Don’t get annoyed. And remember, even fools are God’s tools to help you grow in wisdom.
“A man without Christ has his roots only in his own times,
and his fruits as well.”
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
God’s Word is like the weather forecast: What you’re reading at the moment is likely what you will experience at some point today. So get ready—you’re probably going to be called on to suffer fools today. Your assignment: Don’t become one yourself.