The great thing about social media is it gives everyone a platform.  The terrible thing about social media is it gives everyone a platform.

One of the key reasons we are addicted to social media is it gives “regular people” a place to be heard.  It’s the modern, digital town square.  It’s a place where ideas can be exchanged—even the crazy ones.

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One 0f the key reasons we can’t stand social media is it gives “regular people” a place to be heard.  Without the fear of having say something directly to someone’s face, we can type anything we want without the social norms that would normally have us keeping our mouths shut.

A couple months ago, I was outdoors eating breakfast at a restaurant with my family.  The folks at the table behind us were complaining (bragging?) how they hadn’t been out of their home in months—until that day.  They were speaking (loudly) how they were so afraid of getting sick and getting others sick that they weren’t even sure they should be eating outdoors at this restaurant with their friends.

Their friends said nothing, except to express their happiness they joined them.

A year ago, we would have thought the family that had barricaded themselves in their home for months were mentally ill.  In the time frame between March and August 2020, it doesn’t seem nearly as strange.  If that same person had said that one year ago, their friends would have probably spoken very differently.

How do you know what response to have? 

The answer is the same as the answer to the riddle of Proverbs 26:4-5:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.  

Proverbs 26:4-5
New International Version

These two Proverbs aren’t separated by chapters.  They’re not separated at all; they are right next to each other.  And this famous pair of contrasting Proverbs presents us with a mystery.

Before we get to that, it’s important to remember the Proverbs are not “rules” to be followed.  They are guidelines for wise, Godly living.  That’s an important distinction to make. 

If we try to make these (or many other) Proverbs “rules,” we’ll get stuck right here because one is telling us to NOT answer a fool and the very next one is telling us TO ANSWER a fool.  Seeing these as “rules” will cause us to freeze because we can’t follow one rule without violating the other.

So what do we do?  What are we supposed to do?  How does this work?

This pair of Proverbs reminds us of the overall need for wisdom.  Wisdom is how we know if we should or should not answer foolishness.

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

Very often in life, one size does not fit all.  Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “The early bird gets the worm.”  But I have also heard, “The second mouse gets the cheese.”  After all, the “cutting edge” is also the “bleeding edge.”

Very often in life we find these seemingly contradictory ideas.  Yet, they are not meant to be contradictory.  They are calls for wisdom so we seek the Lord in things, but also don’t check our brains at the door of situations.

So, answer that fool in their foolishness…if it seems best.  Or don’t.  Just act in wisdom.