We are clearly told to “leave the presence of a fool” in the Scriptures (14:7). For “a companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20). Through the years I have instructed my children to steer clear of foolish young people. That counsel is not “unchristian.” It is just applied wisdom.
One very practical skill in leading a life of wisdom is to know what to do with those going in the opposite direction. How do you handle a fool?
This ability is increasingly needed, is it not? For foolishness abounds in our society. Remember its origin. The Lord told us bad fruit comes from bad trees (Matt. 7:17). We truly have whole forests of fools growing these days and, with social media, they have been given bullhorns.
To know how to deal with a fool, you first have to recognize him (being sure to check the mirror in the process!). The Bible gives us a ready description, especially in the book of wisdom known as the Proverbs. A fool does not fear the Lord or receive counsel, but delights in following his own ways and resisting correction (Prov. 1:7, 22; 12:15; 14:3). He is prone to angry outbursts (12:16; 14:17; 29:11). Such persons cannot control their mouths, babbling and arguing to their own ruin (10:10, 14; 18:7). This trait caused Solomon to muse like he was starting a bad joke, “A fool’s lips walk into a fight” (18:6). A fool is as unproductive as paralyzed legs (26:7), as hurtful as a drunken archer (26:10), and as grossly predicable as a dog going back to its own vomit (26:11).
As names and faces start coming to your mind now, remember that it is that last characteristic of predictability that gives us a fighting chance when interacting with fools. For they do follow patterns. So we need to learn to apply wisdom in dealing with fools in personal relationships, social media interactions, theological debates, politics, etc. Though you cannot engage a fool for any length of time without paying for it, following the three principles below will at least minimize the damage and encourage others in the wisdom needed.
Avoid fools whenever possible. We are clearly told to “leave the presence of a fool” in the Scriptures (14:7). For “a companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20). Through the years I have instructed my children to steer clear of foolish young people. That counsel is not “unchristian.” It is just applied wisdom.