Answer Not A Fool According to His Folly

As of late, the Hansen Household has been on a serious Jane Austen Kick! After some convincing, Caroline finally persuaded me to read Pride & Prejudice. We decided to read it allowed before going to bed each night and, as I explain here, I really loved it! Having finished Pride & Prejudice (P&P as the Hansen’s now call it) we have wasted no time moving on to another Austen work, Sense & Sensibility. I can assure you that the experience of enjoyment has been much the same in reading Sense & Sensibility as it was in reading P&P! We are just about finished with Sense and I will likely write a more thorough review for the blog in the coming days, but until then I wanted to share a quick snippet from the book that reminded me of Proverbs 26:4!

As I was reading allowed the other night, I came across a line in the book that took me aback! Elinor, the protagonist of the story, was speaking with a rather brash relative of hers who was making some (as usual) very brash statements! Upon hearing them, the narrator said the following of Elinor:

Elinor agreed to it [the brash assertion her relation made], for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition. (pg. 206)

Austen really can turn a nice sentence and I am continually astounded by them. When I read this one in particular I immediately copied it down because I knew I would want to right on it.

Proverbs 26:4-5 says:

v. 4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.

v. 5 Answer according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

You typical (shallow) atheist would read these verses and think that he has debunked the Christian faith because he found a contradiction in the Bible. Hopefully any reader of the Bible could “find” this contradiction because the two verses are right next to each other! But this “contradiction”, or paradox rather, is there on purpose (as are all seemingly Biblical “contradictions”). Solomon, the author of the Book of Proverbs, is giving wisdom on how to deal with a fool. These two verses show the reader that wisdom is needed to deal with fools because not every fool and every situation is the same. The wise man must measure the circumstances and read the scenes.

A wise man will know when answering a fool according to his folly will only make the himself look foolish. Jesus often employed this strategy with the Pharisees when they came to question him. He would not play their little games. Jesus knew they were just trying to trap him. They were fools and Jesus was not going to play along.

A wise man will also know when answering a fool according to his folly will not make him look foolish but will reveal the fool for what he is, a fool. Jesus also emulates this wisdom in the gospel accounts. When the Pharisees asked Jesus to give an account of his authority, he responded by asking the Pharisees if John’s Baptism was from God. When Jesus retorted with this question the Pharisees knew they were trapped. If they said John was from God then they vindicated Jesus, if they said that John’s baptism wasn’t from God then they knew the people would hate them.

To bring things back to Sense & Sensibility, Elinor shows that she is wise throughout the book. She understands that in many instances wisdom is displayed by not getting sucked into the foolishness of others. This is something that is very rare in our own society, especially among Christians (myself included!). I think we could all learn a lesson in wisdom from Elinor Dashwood as her wisdom points of back to the wisdom of Solomon; moreover, Solomon’s wisdom points us forward to the wisdom of Christ!

Food for thought.

Michael

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