It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
but every fool will be quarreling.
To a fool it is dishonor to walk away from a fight. It is shameful to “back down.” The fool believes he is protecting his dignity to respond to every perceived slight. The fool believes that he must correct every perceived error, that he must argue every point. He is quick to debate in any setting and with anyone (all for the sake of “truth”). He feels that if others are offended by his behavior, it is because they are hypocrites who don’t want to hear the truth; they are cowards who won’t take a stand, who are too fearful to speak up or fight for their name.
And yet, what the fool is really demonstrating is his own folly and arrogance. Whether it is the street thug who is quick to pick a fist fight or the intellectual quick to pick a verbal debate, what each reveals is that he is a fool.
It is not only practical to keep from strife; it is not only counted as wise to avoid arguing and fighting when possible; it is honorable to do so. What is being brought out here is not the willingness to take a stand for what is right, but avoiding unnecessary strife. It is knowing when to speak and when not to. It is knowing what is and what is not appropriate to say. It is knowing when to walk away and when to remain.
In reality the fool will be quarreling because he likes strife; he likes to offend. The honorable person engages in a fight or a debate only for the purpose of winning over an opponent to his cause or for protecting others. He stands up for justice because he truly cares about justice, not because he likes to make an impression of being for justice.
It gets back to the difference between pride and humility. The goal of the proud fool is to fit an image that he thinks is noteworthy; the goal of the humble wise is to do what is right and honorable before the Lord. Thus the fool will be seen by God for what he is and the wise person will be held up in honor by the Lord.
© 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church.
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