Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 26:5
"Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes"
This proverb is so powerful in its advice when dealing with someone who is right in the midst of being selfish. Some have seen this proverb as almost a contradiction to the immediately preceding proverb: Proverbs 26:4 "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him." But these are actually complementary discussions of how to deal with a person who is being selfish, rebellious, impulsive, egotistical, etc.
Notice that verse 4 says do not answer a fool according to his folly or from inside his folly. Do not allow the conundrums and paradoxes that grow within the midst of selfish actions to frame how you answer. I have regularly had people come and see me about how to fix a problem they are having and then have them tell me that certain solutions wouldn't work for them. Usually the ones that won't work for them involve repentance and abandonment of sin. Sin and selfishness create all kinds of quandaries. Do not get sucked into their universe of limited choices but instead retain the right to do what verse 5 says: answer a fool as his selfish and sinful actions deserve.
The answer that a fool deserves is one that points back to righteousness, morality, and self-sacrifice. Let me give you a few examples of the difficulties that face the person who chooses the fool's path. I have been asked what to do when you can't pay the house payments or put food on the table because not enough people have bought illegal drugs that month (they had been living off of their ability to sell illegal drugs). I have been asked what to do to heal a couple's marriage and keep income coming in because the husband had been making money by selling nude pictures of his wife on the internet. I have been asked how to get a wife to take her husband back into the marriage and also allow him to move his mistress into a back bedroom. I have been asked how to be close to God and still keep partying. Remember, from within their universe of choices, they don't see the way out. They need to be told how sinful and selfish their choices have been and that only if they begin choosing wisely and with righteousness can they escape this type of difficulty.
People will be selfish and will make selfish choices; it is these choices that put them in situations that there seems no way out. There is always a way out. Do the right thing. Look at the final section of this verse.
that he not be wise in his own eyes
Most really selfish people believe that they are very clever and have found a way to beat the system. They just bump into these difficulties which they can't answer. Realize that they need a different answer than their question is framed to give. They need the answer of repentance in some form. They have to change their mind about the selfish lifestyle they have been living. Do not allow them to continue with the notion that they are very clever.
The rebellious teen thinks they are clever because someone is funding their lifestyle.
The unfaithful spouse thinks they are being clever because they do not see all the things they will lose by this behavior.
The embezzling employee thinks they are being clever because they do not realize that they will get caught and face great shame.
The gossip thinks they are being clever because they always have a story to tell but do not realize that people don't want to draw close to them and will starve them from deep relationships.
If right now, as you read this devotional, you are dealing with a person who is clearly being morally foolish by their selfish, impulsive, rebellious, and arrogant behavior, realize that you must speak truth into this person's life. If you feed the thinking that this person is really clever, they will never ever get on the right pathway.
If you are being morally foolish, then listen. You are not being clever; you have not found the cheat sheet to life. Selfishness, pride, and rebellion will get you into deep trouble. Stop, repent, turn toward God and righteous living. Even if it costs significantly. Do the right thing.