This is, perhaps, one of my favorite proverbs. Before I offer my reflection, it is important to remind us of two things: First, this is the Word of God. It is inspired in every detail, sufficient for our lives and perfect in what it says. Secondly, accepting it (and everything else in the world) at face value is difficult and the difficult increases as the Word teaches things that are further and further from our cultural acceptance.
For example, 60 years ago, declaring that homosexuality was an abomination before God…sin in every respect and instance and absolutely wrong no matter the context was a more easily accepted truth. Where homosexuality occurred, it was still considered taboo and generally was hidden from sight. Today, homosexuality is a protected behavior in America and is becoming in many cases, a protected activity with “hate crimes” treatment for those who speak against it. The “coming out” is celebrated in our culture. Accepting biblical truth (which was the same 60 years ago as it is today) is more difficult today because it is increasingly outside of the mainstream.
Now, back to the verses. Our culture celebrates freedom of thought and values “tolerance” over truth as though tolerance were the ultimate ideal and indicator of enlightenment. So, no matter how “foolish” a statement sounds, the culturally appropriate response in no response or affirmation of the foolishness…at least as a valid personal opinion. The Word of God teaches differently. It says AUTHORITATIVELY that to accept foolishness without rebuttal or to affirm foolishness as valid on some level makes you a fool. You share in the foolishness because you did not speak up.
Furthermore, v.5 tells us to ANSWER the fool with truth lest he continue in his foolish mindset and be righteous in his own eyes. The first step to recovery is to admit there is a problem. Allowing someone to persist in their foolishness masks the problem and consigns them to destructive living.
Is this easy? Not really (depending on what you mean by easy) but it is loving. In fact, one of the most UNLOVING things you can do is watch a fool continue in his foolishness without speaking up…or worse still…telling him it is okay to believe (affirming him) in whatever he wants. Ultimately, whether we choose to accept it or not, God’s standard is still the only standard we will be measured by and it is the only one that give us abundant life.