At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“Answer not a fool according to his folly, Lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”Proverbs 26:4–5
Because we as Christians know that the Bible is a perfect book, we sometimes make the mistake of imposing on the Scriptures our own misguided views of what perfection must look like. It is like imagining that the Garden of Eden was shaped out of colored plastics, so that no leaves would ever rot on the forest floor. Or made out of stainless steel, so that we wouldn’t be distracted with all those different colors. It is like assuming that Adam would not have been able to shuffle a prelapsarian deck of cards, because every hand dealt would contain four aces or a royal flush.
In the same way, we sometimes confuse perfection, which is an attribute of Scripture, with fastidious perfectionism, which is not. For example, we are not to convict anyone of a crime unless there are two or three witnesses. So which is it? Two? Or three? A wise judge, learned in the Scriptures, will sometimes require two witnesses. Other times he will say that three are necessary. He is after independent confirmation, and if two of the witnesses
These two proverbs, back to back, obviously contradict each other. But they are only a contradiction if we apply them woodenly. Say that a fool has said something. There are certain times when it is necessary to not give him the dignity of a reply. If you reply, you are in danger of starting to play his game, which you should not want. But there are other times . . . say that the fool has got a microphone, and thousands are following him. Say that you have an opportunity to shut him down? You should do so because to let him go on would be to let him marinate in his own conceits. The decision must be made on the basis of the circumstances.
Take a modern example. I am frequently attacked online by trolls, and one of the first things I do is click on the profile picture. If the person has three followers (mom and two sisters), I don’t answer. Why should I give my microphone to a fool? That would make his day. But suppose he has 100,000 followers, but is every bit as foolish. Now he just gave me the microphone.
But the main thing to avoid is becoming a fool in fighting folly, and the second main thing to avoid is allowing a fool to rampage on, unimpeded. It all depends.