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Proverbs was written/edited by whom for whom for what? Solomon collected it for his sons so that he could teach them to know wisdom and instruction. The Lord blessed Solomon with wisdom on earth, not for some esoteric existence. As a father he gifted his sons by passing on this knowledge and discretion. A workable definition of wisdom is "skill for living." I recently saw another good angle on this: “Wisdom comes from knowing the patterns God built into creation." ([source](https://twitter.com/dmichaelclary/status/1643217836360310785?s=20)) This recognition-ability helps us not pet the king's fur backwards, so to speak. All this is good. And while of (stinking) course there is application for those in any and every station under the sun, the primary "for what" of Proverbs, the chief end of "for what" with wisdom, the telos of "for what" in skill for living, is glorifying God *in ruling*. Solomon was teaching his sons the family business: kingdom administration. “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:” > to receive instruction in wise dealing, > in righteousness, justice, and equity; > (Proverbs 1:3 ESV) One of the first principles when leading any group of people is to recognize the pattern that a whole bunch of them are going to be *stupid*. There are rich and poor, diligent and lazy, righteous and wicked, wise and stupid. A little more than a year ago I read _The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity_. This booklet has less words than the book of Proverbs, and while the author isn’t a Christian he offers an astute non-inspired complement to the inspired Word. The definition of stupidity is really helpful: choosing things that don't benefit *anyone*, including oneself. “A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.” (Loc. 245) With that definition in mind, Proverbs has a lot to say about stupid people. “Stupid" is a genus with a variety of character species. In Proverbs Solomon shows the patterns of the simple/naive, the fool, and the scoffer. They are on a spectrum of agreeableness to aggressiveness, but they all share the stupid gene. They are all throwing soup on paintings, some just have stronger arms and more chunks. Proverbs is a Stupid Vaccine, a Treasury of Stupid Antidote, it's the Handbook for Ruling a Nation with Fools, it's wisdom that gives rulers skills against stupid people. (And to be clear, I am mostly thinking about people, not decisions. A foolish moment from your two-year old isn’t the same as a stupid person who is characterized by foolish choices year-in and year-out of their adult life.) Before I give the headings, a few things. First, this ruling-wisdom works for all lesser magistrates. It applies at every level of organization. That starts with your own *feelings*. If you did nothing else with these skills, do *self-rule* when you see your own thoughts wanting to squirt off the path of wisdom through an open gate into the fool’s field. Cut them off. And then obviously there's a bunch of use for fathers (and mothers) dealing with stupid choices of sons (and daughters). Likewise, take notes: teachers, bosses, neighborhood association presidents, city council members, Christian nationalists. Second, as Christians we are in line to be *rulers*. This is our future. The present isn't a game per se, but you are going to use all this *after* the school of life. The Lord has made us a kingdom and priests, and we “shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10). Blessed are those who share the first resurrection, “they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). You've got a governing position appointed for you in the Millennial Kingdom, so here's where you're putting in some reps to get ready. Proverbs in this sense is about Christ as the wise King teaching His sons their work. Third, the stupid people are mixed in everywhere. Cipolla’s *first basic law* is: “Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.” I’m going to curate some of the counsel for us, use different words to concentrate our pattern recognition. But there's a subtle message in Solomon's arrangement of the Proverbs themselves: stupid people come up in all sorts of situations. # Expect a Miracle When I say to expect a miracle, I mean expect that it is going to take a miracle to fix stupid. Isn't this part of the reason we're so frustrated? We think it's *natural*, or at least obvious, to not choose things that benefit no one. And it *is* obvious, just like it's obvious that men didn't crawl out from being frog larvae and stretch their legs before inventing satellites and sending them into space. Stupid is a way of looking wrongly; that’s just how it looks. My favorite proverb is not in the book of Proverbs. > But a stupid man will get understanding > when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man! > (Job 11:12 ESV) The word for "stupid" here has the nuance of hollow, so “empty-headed” (NKJV); “An idiot will become intelligent” NAS), “The witless will become wise” (NIV). It is just as likely for dimwits to become discerning as it is for a donkey’s baby to come out a human being; it will take a miracle. > Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle > along with crushed grain, > yet his folly will not depart from him. > (Proverbs 27:22 ESV, see also “a hundred blows” 17:10) If you can't beat stupid out of someone, why would you think your charming smile is going to work? You're casting pearls before pigs that can't tell the difference between dirt and their own dung. Be wise, recognize the pattern, don’t lose your mind when stupid follows its trajectory. # Stay Above the Fray Two of the most well-known proverbs on responding to fools hit one right after the other in Proverbs 26:4-5. They almost seem too clever because on the surface they say the opposite. But unlike Democrats, the wise can see a play on words, get the joke, and understand better. > Answer not a fool according to his folly, > lest you be like him yourself. > (Proverbs 26:4 ESV) We don't really have to guess what **according to his folly** means, there is plenty of fool fodder in Proverbs. A fool exalts himself, to the point that he isolates himself (since no one is as wise-in-his-own-eyes). He has at least 11 followers on Twitter and 9 of them are bots who agree with him. > A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; > He rages against all wise judgment. > (Proverbs 18:1 NKJV) A fool loves to tell you what he thinks; while you’re talking he’s outlining his response. A fool “gives full vent to his spirit” (Proverbs 29:11), and one of the reasons he’s more and more isolated is because that means less people are around to challenge his opinion. > A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, > but only in expressing his opinion. > (Proverbs 18:2 ESV) A fool can only see what's immediately in front of him, he is perpetually short-sighted. He will lose the relationship to win (he thinks) the argument. > Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, > but a foolish man devours it. > (Proverbs 21:20 ESV) Don’t let the fool devour your time and your energy; it would be better to meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs (Proverbs 17:12). > If a wise man has an argument with a fool, > the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. > (Proverbs 29:9 ESV) > It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, > but every fool will be quarreling. > (Proverbs 20:3 ESV, see also not meddling in 26:17) Keep your head level and stay above the fray. Walk away. “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge” (Proverbs 14:7). Rhetoric is the art of a good man keeping his pie-hole shut, said Quintilian, or that’s at least what his first draft might have been. # Play the Long Game Let's go back to the answering two-step in chapter 26. > Answer not a fool according to his folly, > lest you be like him yourself. > Answer a fool according to his folly, > lest he be wise in his own eyes. > (Proverbs 26:4-5 ESV) Yes, we're to do the opposite of verse 4, but not in an inconsistent way. These verses don't cancel each other out. Don't respond in kind, respond to show the kind you’re dealing with. Don't engage in a corn-stalk sword-fights, light their stalk on fire to show it's true nature. It's the fool who thinks he must change everyone else's mind in one minute. The wise man pays attention to timing, and he knows his audience. His audience is *often* others who are watching the argument. “When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise” (Proverb 21:11). Think *second* level consequences. How does the Lord respond to the stupid? He certainly *sees*, which means we ought to take heart that we don't need to collect all the evidence for Him. The Lord keeps track. And the Lord often lets them have more of what they want, not because it's okay, but because He loves the pattern He made. Those who won't self-rule will self-ruin; “they shall eat the fruit of their own way” (Proverbs 1:31). No matter what, it is consistently the case that He is not worried. The Lord has a variety of plays in His repertoire. In the moment when we feel that we've only got *one* response, we've lost our nerve. > “Chronically anxious families (including institutions and whole societies) tend to mimic the reptilian response: Lacking the capacity to be playful, their perspective is narrow. **Lacking perspective, their repertoire of responses is thin**.” (_A Failure of Nerve_, Loc. 1289) At times the stupidity is targeted at us personally. If we can't overlook an offense we're not as glorious as we thought. > The vexation of a fool is known at once, > but the prudent ignores an insult. > (Proverbs 12:16 ESV) > Good sense makes one slow to anger, > and it is his glory to overlook an offense. > (Proverbs 19:11 ESV) You can only be calm and playful by fearing the Lord. “Vengeance on the stupid is mine,” says the Lord. Let Him take it seriously. You’re not defending yourself as much as showing that the fool shouldn’t trust his eyes that tell him he’s wise (Proverbs 26:5). # Never Flatter Fools Our rulers are flattering the stupid (think transgenderism, which is sort of a nuclear level stupidity of causing irreversible damage with no true benefits for anyone). Our society rewards the fools, we bail them out, we give them the microphone, we empathize with their (self-identified) oppression. Our nation fears men, or the mob, or the made up mob we have in our minds. > The fear of man lays a snare, > but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. > (Proverbs 29:25 ESV) You do not have to accept the stupidity. We're living in a culture-wide Objectivity Room where things are silly and our governing class either expects our agreement, or isn't blessed enough to boldly stand against stupid and coordinate greater protection from it. It’s not won by the Constitution, but by submitting to Christ. So because Christ is Lord, fear the Lord and say what He says and let the stupid fall where they will. > Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor > than he who flatters with his tongue. > (Proverbs 28:23 ESV) But the pattern reveals that only certain people learn. > Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, > and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. > Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; > reprove a wise man, and he will love you. > (Proverbs 9:7–8 ESV) The righteous will groan when wicked fools rule over them (Proverbs 29:2), but even here the Lord is giving us wisdom to rule for the rejoicing of others when it is our time. # Conclusion Lightning round: - Be careful little ears what you hear. (Psalm 1:1) - Walk with the wise. (Proverbs 13:20) - Try to at least *appear* smart. Watch your mouth. (Proverbs 10:19; 12:23; 13:3; 17:28\*) - Discipline your sons. (Proverbs 13:24) - Vote! And not for stupid people! (Otherwise we’ll be a cause of our own groaning per Proverbs 29:2) - Love discipline/feedback. “He who hates reproof is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1) - Build up big walls of self-control. (Proverbs 25:28) Stupid people are like the poor: always among us. Stop freaking out that so many people are so stupid. It is not wisdom to respond to stupid people *for no one's benefit*, that is the essence of stupid. "Understand oh stupid people, when oh fools will you be wise." (Psalm 94:8) The Hebrew word here has the nuance of being dull (ESV), not sharp, of being senseless, like an animal, so "brutish" (KJV). We have every reason to take refuge in the Lord as our stronghold, to trust Him to wipe out the wicked, and to fear Him for sake of learning the skills for ruling.