Chapter 26 has been referred to as the "proverb poem." Look for the repeated phrases that appear even in the English translation (and which are stronger and more evident in the Hebrew). The poem begins with an "introduction," consisting of three sayings (vv. 1-3). In v. 1, something good (honor) is given to someone bad (a fool), in v. 2 something bad (a curse) is given to someone good (an innocent person), and in v. 3 something bad (a rod) is given to someone bad (a fool). The next two verses are admonitions or warnings which, on first reading, seem to be contradictory: don't make a fool of yourself by trying to reason with a fool and answer fools or else they will think themselves wise.
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, an undeserved curse goes nowhere. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. (Prov. 26:1-5).
Meditation: More of this "proverb poem" about fools tomorrow. For today, can you think of reasons why Solomon would say on the one hand not to answer fools or you will be a fool (makes sense) and then turns around and says to answer their foolishness so they don't think themselves wise (seems to make sense also)? Could the answer be in not whether we respond to fools, but how we respond?