“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).
Application of this obvious truth begins in ordinary conversation. Do you know someone who has a habit of finishing others’ sentences for them, or someone who can’t wait for the whole question before he begins his answer? Are you that someone? When we are so anxious to give our response that we don’t really consider the speaker’s point, we are poor listeners; and poor listeners are poor learners.
This text, however, addresses a deeper problem than annoying conversation habits. It is the problem of prejudice. That word means just what it says: pre-judging, reaching conclusions before considering the evidence or without sufficient cause. Prejudice comes in a variety of forms.
One is social prejudice, prejudging because one belongs to a particular group. Often it is based on race. This was a major problem in Jesus’ day (John 4:9; Acts 11:3), one that troubled churches throughout the first century. Sadly, it remains so today. But social prejudice is broader than a race problem. It is all too easy to stereotype people based on any number of factors: wealth or lack of it, occupation (politician and used car salesmen come to mind), even something as simple as where one is from. When you automatically attribute to every person in a group the characteristics of some in that group, you are giving an answer before you hear.
Akin to that is personal prejudice, prejudging an individual on a whim, without ample consideration. This occurs when a bad “first impression” so taints our judgment of someone that we never give him a chance. It is the problem when, because we like or support a person, he can do no wrong; or conversely, because we do not like or support him, he can do no right. Remember, there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11), and we are to be like Him.
Another category is religious prejudice. Is anyone more often the victim of prejudice than God? How often do people decide what His character is or conclude what He will or will not accept without ever consulting His self-revelation, the Bible? We cannot know God except as He has made Himself known (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:11). Any view of God apart from the Bible is nothing more than one’s imagination.
Jesus was often the object of prejudice (John 1:46; Luke 7:39; John 9:16). The Bible is too. Some dismiss it as a myth, full of errors, or too difficult to understand—all without any investigation. More than folly and shame, this is an eternally fatal mistake.
Consider one other: idea prejudice, accepting or rejecting an idea without investigating its merits. It may be because of who suggests it, how it strikes us, or how it affects us. Or, it may be just because it is different. Some people think every new idea is great, others treat every new idea as suspect. Why not open-mindedly look at the facts, then decide? That would avoid much folly and shame.