9Don't talk to fools—
they will make fun of you.
We see lots of fools today. Oh, not the court jester-type of fool with a funny face and a silly hat. And not a comic either. Humor has its own wonderful place. A comedian can help us face deeply disturbing truth about our foibles and failings. But the fools I have in mind are more the mocking cynics. They come on with sophisticated and disturbing analysis. It is often biting, but leaves you empty. Giving an answer to their nagging criticism is never simple. Wisdom suggests two distinct strategies.
Gather people together and there always seems to be a mouth in the room. That guy at work who can’t shut-up, no matter how little he has to say. What do you do? We are tempted to give a snappy rebuttal. But prudence, a virtue in short-supply, suggests otherwise. And the proverb today agrees. Don’t talk to a fool.
The wisdom collected in this section of Proverbs comes from Israel’s neighbors. Here Solomon’s wise advisors collected and recast their best thinking. But pithy proverbial wisdom has its limitations. The advice can seem black and white, with little room for context or qualification. So Solomon sometimes juxtaposed contrasting sayings to make this point. (See Proverbs 26:4 and 25: 5, for example.) In the gospels we see Jesus applying this principle. His replies are always personal, tailored to the speaker. Sometimes he ignores the question making a contrasting point. For others he tells a story, reframing the question in different context. But when speaking with the devil he met the false assertions directly with God’s truth. The key was in the context. For some fools a gentle rebuke will be received. But for the cynic no wise answer will ever make a difference. Wisdom is in knowing the difference. Prudence is acting on those insights.
Wise Father, we come in humility asking for wisdom. Give us discernment to know when to speak, and when to keep silent. Let us be good mediators and skillful communicators of your truth. Lord of life we lean on you in Jesus name, Amen.