Q. How Do I Honor A Close Relative Who Is A Fool?
First, let us agree that it is possible for anyone, including a close relative, to be a fool (Proverbs 10:1; 15:5, 20; 17:25; 19:13). Indeed, all of us are guilty of foolishness at times. It is possible for a king to act foolishly (1 Samuel 13:13; 26:21; 2 Samuel 24:10). No doubt this is why Solomon prayed for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:7-12).
That said, it is also possible for one to wrongly judge another person to be foolish, which can have serious consequences (2 Samuel 6:20; Matthew 5:22).
To my knowledge 1 Samuel 25 is the best biblical example of the way wisdom deals with foolishness on the part of a close relative, or of one who deserves honor, such as a king (Romans 13:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:4; Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 2:17).
We should note that there are actually two men who are acting foolishly in this text in 1 Samuel 25 – Nabal, the fool (1 Samuel 25:17, 25) and David. David was hot-headed and about to act foolishly by setting out to kill all the men of Nabal’s household. Abigail is a godly woman, who dealt wisely with regard to her husband, and with regard to her king.
Had Abigail failed to act contrary to her husband’s intentions Nabal would have been put to death, along with all the males in his household. Instead, Abigail subordinated her personal interests by putting herself in harm’s way, and offering to suffer David’s wrath toward Nabal (1 Samuel 25:23-24). Her actions covered for her husband’s folly and as a result spared his life and the lives of others.
David, too, was inclined to act foolishly by dealing harshly with not only Nabal, but also with his entire male household (who obviously did not share Nabal’s folly – see 1 Samuel 25:14-17). Unlike Nabal, Abigail embraced the fact that God had appointed David to be Israel’s king (see 1 Samuel 25:1-11, 30-31). She reasoned with David that such folly as killing Nabal’s household would cast a shadow over David’s reign as Israel’s king. Unlike Nabal, David listened to reason.
The point is that Abigail honored her husband by putting herself in harm’s way to spare her husband’s life. She honored David by appealing him to act in a wise and kingly way, for this was who he was destined to be.
I think the take-away here is that we may honor others in different ways, depending upon their character. Is this not consistent with what we read in Proverbs?
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
lest you yourself also be like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own estimation (Proverbs 26:4-5, NET).
Think of it this way. Abigail did not answer Nabal, the fool, according to his folly. To try to reason with him would have been futile, and indeed, counter-productive. She did not let his folly keep her from sparing his life, and the lives of the men in her household.
But in the case of David, she did answer him according to his folly – in a way that exposed the folly of his intended actions, and she reasoned with him in a way that led to a dramatic change of course for him.
So, in the final analysis, wisdom is necessary in order to determine which course of action to take when “honoring” a person who is acting foolishly. (And God has promised to give us wisdom – James 1:5.) In the end, one must discern how to respond to someone acting foolishly by discerning their character, and acting accordingly. David was about to act foolishly, but he was no fool, and thus he responded to reason. Nabal was a fool, and would not have responded to reason, and so Abigail acted wisely by putting herself at risk, and doing what would save Nabal’s life, as well as the lives of his male servants.
I hope this helps,