How Do You Deal with Fools?

There are two reasons to understand fools:

  1. Learn how to recognize fools.
  2. Learn how to avoid being foolish ourselves. Even though certain people are identified as fools.

There’s some foolishness in all of us. Learning about fools can convict us of our own foolishness.

How to identify a Proverbs fool…

They’re described as unteachable:

Proverbs 1:7b Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:22c Fools hate knowledge.

It’s not that they literally hate wisdom, instruction and knowledge. They hate it in the sense that they won’t gain any because they think they know everything:

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.

Since they refuse to learn, they continually make the same mistakes.

Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.

Instead of learning:

Proverbs 18:2 A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.

This is to say they don’t want to understand. They just want to listen to themselves talk. This leaves them very puffed up:

Proverbs 14:3a In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride.

This pride leaves them blind to their own foolishness. They’re deceived:

Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.

Wise people know the truth about themselves. They see themselves accurately. Fools on the other hand have deceived themselves into thinking they’re wise. As a result they think they’re speaking wisdom, when in fact:

Proverbs 15:2b The mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

Proverbs 15:14b The mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.

This is why their mouths and ignorance get them in trouble:

Proverbs 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.

Proverbs 10:21 Fools die for lack of wisdom.

What’s the solution for fools? How can they avoid the destruction their foolishness brings? The solution is to become teachable:

Proverbs 8:5 O you simple ones, understand prudence, and you fools, be of an understanding heart.

How to deal with a Proverbs fool…

Now that we have an understanding of the characteristic of fools, this is the obvious question!

The simple answer is you don’t! Proverbs says the best way to deal with fools is by not dealing with them at all:

Proverbs 14:7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.

When you recognize people are fools, it’s time to get away from them!

If you choose to hang around fools though, the Bible also lets you know what to expect:

Proverbs 13:20b The companion of fools will be destroyed.

What if you don’t want to be the “companion of fools” but you want to try to reason with a fool. In other words, what if you try to deal with a fool? The reality is you can’t, because it’s inevitably going to become an argument. Scripture is clear about the hostility you should expect dealing with fools:

Proverbs 12:16 A fool’s wrath is known at once.

Fools are quick tempered and often respond in anger. This is how miserable it is:

Proverbs 17:12 Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs,than a fool in his folly.

A fool will hate what you have to say:

Proverbs 23:9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.

You’ll be scorned if you try to correct a fool:

Proverbs 14:9a Fools mock at sin.

The clear instruction from Scripture is not to waste your time trying to deal with a fool; it is a futile, frustrating endeavor. You can’t talk any sense into a fool, and not to sound too simple, but this is what makes him a fool: he won’t listen. He won’t learn. He could experience terrible punishment and discipline, but he won’t change:

Proverbs 27:22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.

If fools would listen they’d cease being fools, but since they won’t it’s best to let them continue in their foolishness. What’s the problem with this though? If you’ve been around a fool it’s hard not to respond!

Proverbs 27:3 A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both.

The difficult dilemma with fools…

You shouldn’t respond to a fool for the reasons mentioned, but you know if you don’t respond the person will remain a fool. The situation is described perfectly:

Proverbs 26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. You want to respond so he doesn’t continue to think he’s right and remain a fool.

Answering a fool makes you “like him” in two ways:

  1. It is so foolish to answer a fool you have to be a fool to do so.
  2. You won’t be able to help but look like a fool when you respond, hence the quote, “Don’t argue with a fool because onlookers won’t be able to tell the difference.”

Proverbs 26:4 says not to answer a fool, and then Proverbs 26:5 says the opposite? It looks like a contradiction unless you consider how well it captures the predicament you’re in with a fool:

  • You can’t answer a fool because of his foolishness.
  • You should answer a fool so he learns some wisdom.

Despite the strong urge to respond, DON’T! Unless you want the frustration the Bible clearly warns you’ll experience.

Discuss:

  • Do the verses in Proverbs help you recognize a fool? More importantly, do they warn you against being foolish yourself?
  • Have you dealt with a fool before?
  • Requiring some humility, when have you acted like a fool?

Share your answer(s) in the comment section below!

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33 thoughts on “How Do You Deal with Fools?

  1. I realize this post was years ago, but I just read the post about how to deal with fools. I’m curious – as you pointed out, the Bible clearly tells us go not engage fools, in fact, to stay clear of them. Scripture also tells us that when a brother sins against us, we are to go to him and try to work out the issue, and if that doesn’t work, we get the church involved. But, when we’re married to the fool who keeps sinning against us, we’re told we simply have to submit and love him even more, examining ourselves to see what sin WE’VE committed. Why does the act of marriage take away our right to not remain in an abusive situation because the belief that God hates marriage also seems to make the church believe we shouldn’t separate either? My understanding of the decree of divorce was to protect wives from uncaring husbands – they could “put them out of the tent” if they were merely unhappy with them – THAT was the kind of divorce God hates. I would think, based on the rest of Scripture, that God hates it even more when a person (wives included) are being regularly victimized by those who are called upon to love and protect them.

    1. Hi Jan,
      I responded below your comments…

      I realize this post was years ago, but I just read the post about how to deal with fools.

      That’s okay. I still try to respond to all the comments on my blog.

      I’m curious – as you pointed out, the Bible clearly tells us go not engage fools, in fact, to stay clear of them. Scripture also tells us that when a brother sins against us, we are to go to him and try to work out the issue, and if that doesn’t work, we get the church involved.

      I’ll hold off for a moment before discussing marriage, and first say there’s a difference between dealing with fools and rebuking sin. Dealing with fools is an issue of instruction; you’re trying to provide them with knowledge and wisdom, but they won’t receive it. That’s different than rebuking sin. Rebuking sin means you’re aware of unrepentant sin in a person’s life, and you confront the person hoping to bring about repentance.

      But, when we’re married to the fool who keeps sinning against us, we’re told we simply have to submit and love him even more, examining ourselves to see what sin WE’VE committed. Why does the act of marriage take away our right to not remain in an abusive situation because the belief that God hates marriage also seems to make the church believe we shouldn’t separate either? My understanding of the decree of divorce was to protect wives from uncaring husbands – they could “put them out of the tent” if they were merely unhappy with them – THAT was the kind of divorce God hates. I would think, based on the rest of Scripture, that God hates it even more when a person (wives included) are being regularly victimized by those who are called upon to love and protect them.

      The Bible forbids divorce, but it does not forbid separation. There are situations when, for the health of wives or children, couples should separate. Separation allows time for sin to be rebuked, the Gospel to work, and for repentance to (hopefully) be produced. I copied two passages from my book, Marriage God’s Way, that I believe address your situation, and I hope provide you with some encouragement…

      Submission Does Not Mean That Wives Submit to Abuse

      What women long for is spiritual and moral leadership from their husbands—not spiritual or moral domination. While this is fairly straightforward, it is still worth making some clarifications. When we hear the word “abuse,” the next word that most likely comes to mind is “physical.” Abuse, however, can be emotional, mental, or even spiritual as well. There are wives whose husbands never lay a hand on them but mistreat them so badly they are in worse condition than even physically abused women.

      What should a woman in an abusive relationship do? She cannot divorce her husband, but she can separate from him. The apostle Paul writes: “If [a wife] does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives” (1 Corinthians 7:11, 39; Romans 7:2). If the abused woman is part of a church, elders or others should be willing to receive her (and possibly her children) while counseling is performed, repentance is sought, and the gospel is given time to work in the husband’s heart. An abused wife may also need to seek social or legal services, a battered woman’s shelter, and even the police, if the abuse warrants such.

      That said, the abuse card can be used carelessly I have heard women throw out the word “abuse” simply because their husbands do not treat them with sufficient adoration or give them everything they want. When a wife does not get to do all the things she wants to do, go all the places she wants to go, buy all the things she wants to buy, or spend all her time the way she wants to, that is not abuse.

      Additionally, having a husband who is less than perfect does not constitute abuse. God commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. No husband does this perfectly. Husbands regularly sin against their wives, but this does not mean a husband is being abusive. If failing to love one’s wife perfectly constituted abuse, then every wife on earth would be in an abusive relationship.

      Submission Does Not Mean That Wives Submit to Sin

      The account in Acts 5:1–11 of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, is instructive. The background of this story is that early church members sold their possessions to share with the apostles and other needy believers. Ananias sold a possession, kept part of the money when he brought his offering to the apostles, but acted as though all of the proceeds were being given to the church. As the apostle Peter reminded him, Ananias had every right to keep part of his profits. It was Ananias’s claim, however, to have turned over all the funds that resulted in his dropping dead on the spot for lying to the Holy Spirit.

      The correlation is that Ananias “kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it” (Acts 5:2). When Sapphira showed up, not realizing her husband had died, she had the opportunity to tell the truth. Instead, she reiterated her husband’s lie, and Peter said, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out” (Acts 5:9).

      God’s judgment on Sapphira for supporting her husband’s sin shows she was as accountable as he was. If she had refused to participate in the deception, Peter’s response indicates her life would have been spared. This event is a perfect example of a time when a wife should not have submitted to her husband.

      Let me add a caveat that the principle in question applies to being asked to engage in blatant sin. A wife should say no to a husband who demands that she participate in drug dealing, theft, adultery, or even lesser offenses, such as cheating on income tax or lying to an employer. This is quite different from a husband opposing his wife’s involvement in positive spiritual activities. A husband may resist his wife’s taking time from home and family to join a Bible study fellowship, attend church several times a week, volunteer for a Christian outreach, or participate in a church sports league. He is not asking her to commit a sin but simply to respect his priorities. What is a wife supposed to do, especially when the activities can contribute to her spiritual growth?

      A wife can respectfully let her husband know her desires and ask if he would allow this for the benefit of their marriage, children, or family. If he is still resistant, then she should submit and pray that God will change his heart. Assuming God wants the family involved in the particular activity, that is something He can easily do. Even if she does not like her husband’s decision, she should be encouraged that God will reward her submission and—assuming the husband is disobeying God by declining—hold the husband responsible for his poor spiritual leadership.

  2. Thank you so much as I am married to a”fool” who left me after about 45 days to go back to her church in another town and former life,when she realized that a fundamental Christian believes the Bible to be literally true as Dr. Stanley preaches!She is Pentecostal and Father God has his reason for blinding our eyes and bringing us together! She is a wonderful Christian woman and your post gives me insight into how to use your advice from Scripture and The guidance from The Holy Spirit! Thank you so much after 6 months of frustration you have given me insight on how to handle this situation and may Father God bless you and your team!!! Hallelujah

    1. Hi David,
      I’m glad the post encouraged you, but I am sorry to hear about your wife.

      I will pray for your restored relationship and that you can be equally yoked regarding the church you attend.

  3. IN MY CHILDHOOD I HAVE READ SOME LOCAL HOLY BOOKS & HAVE A COMPANY OF FAKE PEOPLES SO I GET CONFUSED . IN MY YOUTH I LOVE FAKE & FOOLS SO I SUFFER. NOW I AM OLD AND MATURE. REALLY YOUR ARTICLES ARE VERY USEFUL FOR PEACEFUL & HAPPY LIVING.

    THANK YOU FOR SPREADING THE TRUTH.
    MANUBHAI

  4. Thank you. I needed this. I work in an office of devout liberals that are anti-christian, pro-evolution, pro-global warming, rabid vegetarians, relentlessly pro-gay and pro abortion the whole nine. All they do is babble endlessly about how much they know and how stupid people like myself are.

    1. Hello Charlie,
      I’m glad the post encouraged you. That does sound very, very difficult.

      Do you have even one Christian – or conservative – friend there if you don’t mind me asking? I’ve found in situations like that if people can find even one like-minded person it can be a tremendous help.

      I’ll pray for your encouragement!

  5. Hello, thank you for this post. I really need help. I’m not being ugly, I am simply seeking true advice so that I may continue my walk with God. To come straight to the point, my husband fits every description of a …….uh,…..fool. Now don’t come at me…..this man has utterly destroyed me and everything about me. I have sought counsel, followed Gods Word to the letter, sacrificed everything…..and nothing works. He values only himself, he does not listen to wise counsel nor accepts advice. He has jeopardized our whole life for his selfish pursuits. He has a very charming personality so it’s very difficult for anyone to hold him accountable for his actions…..people want to rescue him…..listen, I just want to know how to go forward. I have seven kids, five are now grown. , I have two left at home. My dad helped me financially with the older kids, now he is gone. I have two left. I’m no longer at a stage in life where I can work and even if I could my husband would simply take advantage of it and destroy what I managed to salvage from the destruction he caused earlier plus he would dump all financial responsibility on me which I could in no way manage. He owns his own business, he’s a hard worker but he works for his own pursuits and brags about his abilities. He lives for praise and yes I have praised him, encouraged him, kept a quiet spirit. But he doesn’t value that….he expects it and takes advantage of it. This man tore down anything I ever built for him and our family. Listen, I could go on and on….the point is, how do I get through each day. It’s scarey, it’s lonely, it’s humiliating and it’s frustrating. I constantly go before God asking Him to reveal any unconfessed sin as I NEED God to help me….but God is quiet and my heart isn’t convicting me. How do I get this mans attention? He says he’s a Christian, he goes to church, he reads his bible but his actions are not Christian, he has no fruit, he is not a team player. He lives for himself, but he wants his family around him…..without the responsibility. God told me when I first met this man that he was my husband. God tells me now to love him. How do you love someone who destroys you…who persecuted you, who shattered your heart a broke every dream? How do you love someone like that? And how do you not worry and become anxious? How do you trust God in a situation like this? How do you let go and stand on Gods Word? How do you do that? How do I keep from being bitter? How do I let go of the pain when it faces me every day? Don’t tell me to leave….for out of exhaustive measures that’s what Godly counsel advised me to do….and I’m the one that lost EVERYTHING! I mean every single thing….even my relationship with God which I valued highly….so much so that I named my kids after biblical characters and stenciled scripture on my walls…..tastefully…..and I lost the trust and relationship with my children which I adored, fought for, sacrificed for….I lost EVERYTHING. So where do I go from here? How does God want me to respond to this guy….this guy that God loves and understands…..what do I do? Thanx….blessings!

    1. By the way, I should mention to you that not long after we were married, it was God that told my husband that He would take his heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh…..that was 30 years ago.

    2. Hello Tina,
      First, I think I’d encourage you to recognize that you probably haven’t done exactly what you’ve said: “followed God’s Word to the letter and sacrificed everything.” So far, there’s only been one Person in history who’s done that. We generally have higher esteems of ourselves than we should. So while I don’t doubt that your husband is a difficult man, hopefully thinking of your own weaknesses will give you more grace for him.

      Also, you said he “has utterly destroyed me.” While I believe he’s hurt you and you’ve experienced loss, I’m sure there are still many things in your life to be thankful for, and I’d encourage you to think on those things.

      I think it’s great you’re continually going to God in prayer, not just for strength, but also to be shown your sins and areas requiring your repentance. I’m sure you’re also praying for the grace to endure what God allows in your life.

      There are a number of variables I’m unfamiliar with. You said he’s a Christian and he goes to church. What’s your relationship like with your pastor? Does your husband have any godly men in his life? While I can attempt to respond to your post here, your situation clearly requires more counseling. Have you been to one of the elders in your church?

      When you say, “God tells me to love him” what do you mean exactly? Do you mean you hear a voice or you believe that’s what God says to you through His Word? Although husbands are commanded to love their wives, the command given repeatedly in Scripture to wives is to respect their husbands and submit to them. While I’m sure it’s difficult, do you feel like you’re attempting to obey God in that area?

      How do you not worry and become anxious? While I’m sure it’s tough, that has to come – not from your husband – but your relationship with the Lord, trusting He is sovereign and He will protect you like He protected Sarah when Abraham made foolish decisions.

      You said, “How do you trust God in a situation like this?” I’d say you have even more reason TO trust God. Who else can you trust?

      No, I wouldn’t tell you to leave, and you shouldn’t. You committed to this man for life.

      Again, I would say I believe what you need goes beyond the communication here. Please reach out to an elder in your church. I will pray for your and your husband!

    3. Thank you so much! Yes, I have been to church elders, his friends, people who have international
      ministries….and know us….they have done all they can….or feel they can. My husband will hear them but will not put into action what he is advised. One thing my husband tells everyone is that I taught all our children to respect him. Yes, I give him respect which is difficult when he is so changeable, not solid, difficult to follow. Here’s an example, when we went for counseling, the counselor gave him $20. to take me out. He refused until 9:00 p.m. the night before we were to meet with them. I couldn’t go due to lack of babysitter and pure exhaustion. He told me literally 10 minutes before he wanted to take me. One minute he’s this way, the next that…..fruit? There are none. And I’m not kidding. One counselor told me people would know us by our fruit….what I have done, what he has done….I cannot see any…and I do so much want to …I do not want to see him suffer a horrible eternity. He owns his own business, to which he owes tremendous taxes…debts….I begged our church to not encourage him to have his own business….but he’s a man…they did….and we suffered greatly. I’m wanting to be a help mate….but I just don’t know how….sir, I have gone to the church as well as his friends for help and advice…..when the kids were young and needed some type of care…..he would at that time see to his own needs….and I would be reprimanded by dentists and doctors….his one friend finally convinced him to allow me to take his son to the dentist for a cavity. I’m not on the checking account and all businesses I built he tore down….listen, I’m not making this up…..I finally hit a brick wall from pure exhaustion and my mind broke. I’m now getting back on my feet and my husband has even said he sees the progress I’ve made which is a miracle that he admits it. I’m not here today to belabor this….I want to know how to honor God as well as my husband in this situation. Yes, I’m aware that I’m a sinner and imperfect. I constantly seek God as I want victory in both our lives. I want God to win…not Satan….and not my own comfort. I want both of us to be a testimony to a lost and dying world…..for I’m simply a grain of sand on the beach so to speak but I want to be Gods grain of sand…..Thank you

    4. Well Tina, based on what you said I think what you should probably be praying for is his salvation. Everything you’re saying makes it sound like he’s not saved, and until he’s saved I wouldn’t expect any changes.

      I appreciate your desire to honor God, and it seems like you’re very sincere. Based on all you’re saying, I think you need to pray that God will open your husband’s heart to the Gospel. Until he’s converted, he’ll remain the same, as is the case with all of us when we’re unsaved.

    5. Thank you very much for the prayers Tina, I truly appreciate it!

      I will pray again for his salvation assuming he’s not saved, and if he is saved that there will be repentance and fruit!

    6. I was in a marriage to a a man like this for too long. You need to pray for and gather some inner strength, start working again and develop a plan of action (quietly) to be able to separate from him and stand on your own two feet. Read the book “Foolproofing Your Life.” It is written by a very well respected Christian author. It is excellent and has been so helpful to me. Stop expecting people in the church to understand. Unless they’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship they have no clue. And fools can be convincingly charming (when you don’t live with them, of course.) Get strong and get out! God hates divorce…and the man who covers his garment in wrong…which is the other half of Malachi 2:16. Get free and get some well needed peace. Best decision I ever made!

    7. Hi Debbie,
      If I’m understanding your message, you divorced your husband? If that’s the case, I’m very sorry to hear that. When we get married, we’re making a commitment not just to our spouse, but also to God. We’re entering a covenant with another human being, but more importantly we’re entering a covenant with the Lord Himself. While I can understand circumstances that warrant separation, it’s never God’s will for people to divorce.

      I have not heard of that book or author, but after doing a little research, here’s part of what I read:

      Gain the tools you need to get along with others and conduct your relationships in a manner that honors God–and preserves your sanity!–in Foolproofing Your Life: Wisdom for Untangling Your Most Difficult Relationships.

      I’m glad the book was helpful, but are you saying it encouraged you to divorce your husband?

    8. For anyone to comment about staying in a marriage because it is a sin to leave, is cruel for the injured spouse. I’ve lived 25+ years in emotional abuse. The push-pull, stonewalling, half truths etc. eventually erode your personality, causing depression, anxiety and ptsd. This is the definition of living in ABUSE!! I don’t even know who I am anymore. I don’t even know how to make decisions. I don’t even know what I like or dislike. It is an evil form of brainwashing!! The abuser is what is considered a fool in Proverbs.

    9. Hi Rhonda,
      I think it depends what you mean by, “staying in a marriage.” People can “stay in the marriage” without divorcing and without enduring abuse, by separating. Churches should have elders that can provide a safe place for an abused women (and any children involved). This is a far better solution than divorce, and it allows the elders to become involved, provide counsel, threaten church discipline, etc.

      I am very sorry about the situation you’re in. Are you part of a church that teaches and follows the Bible?

  6. Scott you have a very entertaining way of having approached the subject of dealing with a fool. My husband and I got quite a kick out of, “Despite the strong urge, DON’T!!” Hahaha…. Thank you for your insight in such a humorous way!

  7. I love the clarity of this series! Would you then advise that a way to pray for a loved one demonstrating foolish behavior would be that they become teachable? Any other advice?

    1. Hi Dawn,
      Yes, it would seem Scripturally that since you shouldn’t talk to the person you’re really relegated to only praying. If the Lord opens the door for the person so approach you, ask you questions, then it would be good to engage.

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please share!