Phillips Brooks, the famous nineteenth century preacher, once received a letter comprised of but one word, “Fool!” The following Sunday morning Brooks carried the letter into the pulpit, held it up for all to seem and announced, “I have received many letters from people who wrote the letter but forgot to sign their name. However, this is the first time I’ve received a letter from someone who signed his name and forgot to write his letter.”
Years ago, when many churches used what was called the “Question Box”, a preacher named Joe S. Warlick stood before an assembly to answer previously submitted questions. One scrawly note was more personal than pertinent. Warlick read the question word for word as follows: “Brother Warlick, could you tell us the difference between you and a long-tailed African ape?” Now from the handwriting, and from the snickers coming from a small group of teenaged boys, the quick-witted preacher knew who had written the query. By way of response, he said simply, “if the young man who wrote this question will come to the platform and stand beside me, I’ll show you the difference!”
I’ve heard that one congressman, back in the 1960’s, answered especially caustic, critical mail by means of a terse, one-line retort. He wrote, “Dear Sir or Madam, I just thought you’d like to know that some nut has been writing me letters and signing your name.”
Yes, Solomon’s inspired advice is still apt: “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” (Proverbs 26:5.)
Perhaps we would do well to make sure we’re not the fool in question!