A lot of us spend a good deal of our lives trying to figure out what we're supposed to do with evil. We look at the headlines, look at the world, look at the ache and think that our greatest challenge is what is just purely evil, a wickedness that we cannot fathom. How could someone do these things? How could we rape, murder, steal, abort, kidnap, traffic, etc.?
What are we doing to one another?
But if you read the Scriptures, it doesn't seem that the most difficult encounters that we'll truly have are with evil; evil's pretty straightforward, and we know that God wins. The most difficult encounters we have, it seems, are with fools.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of interacting with a fool is that a fool doesn't seem to know he is one. In fact, and you probably know this from your interactions with fools in your daily life, the fool is more likely to be sure of himself and cocky about his knowledge than a truly wise person.
Proverbs has some wisdom on this matter, although I'm not sure how much it really helps. First, in Proverbs 26, it warns us not to answer a fool in his foolishness or we'll become one ourselves. And that's true - if you try to argue with a fool, you can't win, and it just shows how willing you are to stoop to his level.
In the verse immediately following that one, however, the Scriptures declare that if you don't respond to a fool, he'll think himself wise. So if you don't expose his foolishness, he'll mistake it for wisdom and become arrogant about it.
Our problem, then, is that we never get to fools early enough to stop them from becoming arrogant about it, I guess. We get them after several others have failed to correct them along the way and now, well, they're intolerable.
It's a conundrum, though, isn't it? Don't respond to a fool when he's being foolish or you'll reveal your own foolishness in doing so, but if you don't, then he'll never learn any different. It's almost like what the Scriptures also say - that God uses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise.
Is your head spinning yet? Keep reading...
Because in Proverbs 29, we get more wisdom for dealing with the fool, and it is this: it doesn't matter how wise you are if the person you're interacting with is a fool. You can be right, perfectly right, indeniably right and have good justification and understanding for a particular course of action or insight, but if the person on the receiving end of your wisdom is a fool, then, to borrow a phrase, it's like chasing the wind. You can't win.
Do you get why fools, not evil, are our greatest challenge? Evil's straightforward. You look evil in the face, rebuke it, turn from it, and light a candle in the dark. Boom. Evil done, gone, defeated. But a fool...man, fools are hard. They just are.
So if you find yourself engaged with a fool, remember this advice from Proverbs and don't answer him, but make sure you answer him, and know that it doesn't matter any way because he won't understand.