Conversational Traps

Proverbs 26:4

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.”

To some it seems like a contradiction in Scripture. Here Solomon is telling us to not answer a fool, but in the very next verse he seems to say the opposite. The Apostle Peter even tells us (1 Peter 3:15) to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” Why, then, should we “answer not?”

Flawed and Senseless

Have you ever tried debate a teenager (or self-assured college-age daughter)? Trying to convince them of truth is like a genuine exercise in futility. When they are convinced they know what is right, there is no arguing, even when they realize their argument is flawed.

Some people will argue over things that make no sense at all, thereby making it impossible to win, no matter what side one’s on. For example, there was lady who called into a radio talk show complaining about the placement of deer crossing signs (signs that warn motorists that deer cross in that area). Let me give you a paraphrased version of the conversation…

deer crossingLady:  I’ve been trying to talk to somebody about this, but no one listen to me.

Radio: Really? What is the problem?

Lady: Well, there have been a lot of people hitting deer on the highway, including me. I just feel they should move these signs to places where there are less cars and slower speeds…I mean, we shouldn’t encourage deer to cross the interstate…that’s too dangerous.

Radio: Are saying these signs are instructing the deer where to cross?

Lady: Yes, and all it would take is moving the crossings to a safer place, like a school zone, where people would have time to see the deer coming and not hit them.

The problem with answering  a fool is that, when we do, we give the fool credence. Answering a fool in his “folly” tends to legitimize the fool’s efforts and encourages him to continue.

“Like unto him”

As a blogger, I receive comments from people all over the world, and believe me, the world is full of fools. Fortunately, I have the option approve or deny the comments people leave. Some of those who visit my blogs challenge me with questions that are obviously meant to entrap, inflame, and waste time. Answering does nothing but frustrate me and make the fool look important, so now I avoid them.

Interestingly, a recent study has shown that “anger is the internet’s most powerful emotion.” Therefore, it is very likely that we will encounter angry, irate, and irrational rants in some future cyber-conversation. The true mark of wisdom is knowing when to avoid getting into the fray, and when to calmly answer (26:5).

Unfortunately, too many of us in this day and age are falling for the fool’s folly and becoming “like unto him.”  Beware of conversational traps.

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About Anthony Baker

Husband, dad, pastor/preacher/teacher, musician, and Time Magazine's Person of The Year in 2006 (no joke!). Loves coffee (big time), good movies, and sarcastic humor. His tombstone will read, "I Can't Believe He Actually Said That!" Most importantly, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. All glory belongs to Him. View all posts by Anthony Baker

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