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  • Dr. Stieglitz

Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 26:4

Proverbs 26:4

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him"

Fools (the selfish, impulsive, rebellious) constantly want to embroil the diligent and productive in the quandaries of their life or thought. They can invent more problems with a plan than would ever actually appear in the plan. Remember the folly of the fool is when they are doing the impulsive, selfish, rebellious thing that strikes their fancy. In the midst of this they can see and even experience great difficulties and paradoxes. The answer is almost always this: you shouldn't have been there in the first place. If you allow yourself to get sucked into the debate, then they have framed the issue and already won.

They get themselves into problems over whether to steal a drug, to save a life, or let a loved one starve. Problems, such as, should they abandon a mistress who would be destitute without them or return to fidelity with family; problems of living with the true expression of their feelings: sodomy or being sexually and emotionally unfulfilled their whole lives by remaining single or heterosexually married? Problems, such as, "Should I keep this unwanted baby and be miserable for twenty years, potentially destroying my marriage; or should I have the baby aborted and be able to focus on my spouse, myself, and my career?" These conundrums often involve their emotions on the one side (which constantly change) and the inflexible rules and laws of righteousness on the other. Fools are impulsive and oriented toward themselves so their ideas and emotions and happiness trump any societal, familial, or revealed righteousness.

Much of the Hollywood productions these days seek to raise the fool's point of view as a profound paradox. They muck around in wickedness and find dilemmas that are real but could have been avoided by being moral at a much earlier place. The answer to dealing with the fool's dilemma is always the same: do the righteous thing, even if it costs you personally. The only way to get out of the mess you have made is to do the right thing – righteousness as defined by God. This, in the book of Proverbs, would be that which is inside of the moral boundaries of the Ten Commandments.

After having counseled dozens and dozens of these "hard" cases, I just try and get them to cut to the chase: do the right thing. I will not play the game of "What should I do?" with them. By the way, the right thing almost always involves personal pain for this person. That is the way you can tell a person has sincerely repented and the power of God is at work in their life. If they are willing to do something that is clearly not selfish, God is at work. Until they are willing to do that, then there is little hope.

Notice the dictum do not answer... according to his folly. Do not get sucked into the discussion of the selfish actions and the discussion from the fool's point of view. But, instead, ask questions that cut to the chase of the selfishness or moral degeneracy. The goal of your discussion and questions with the fool is that they would not be able to maintain that they are wise, knowledgeable, and handling life well.

Until tomorrow,

Gil Stieglitz

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