Bible Q & A
The Scriptures in Proverbs 26:4-5 seem to contradict themselves. Should we answer a fool or not?
First of all we need to realize the Bible does not contradict itself.
God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). The scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).
These two verses are not contradictory. They complement each
other. The last part of each proverb shows the set of
circumstances under which each is to be used.
Verse 4 tells us not to answer a fool according to his folly lest we
be like him. In this situation, to answer the fool’s specific statement
or question you would be descending to his level and end up in a
example of this is given in Luke 20:1-8 where the Pharisees asked
Christ by whose authority He did certain things. The Pharisees were
not there seeking to learn anything. To avoid being like the
fools they were, Christ didn’t answer their question. Rather, He
asked them a question which they couldn’t answer without condemning
themselves. Since the Pharisees couldn’t answer His question the discussion was dropped.
Verse 5 tells us that under another set of circumstances we must answer
the fool according to his folly – by a foolish answer, which exposes how
ridiculous his statement, claim or question is – or he will be wise in
his own conceit. This case is well illustrated by Paul’s example in II Corinthians 11:23.
Certain men were at Corinth who claimed to be true apostles of
Christ, but they were false apostles (II Cor. 11:13). For Paul to have
remained silent at the time would have given tacit approval of these
men who were leading the Church astray. They would have appeared
wise in their own conceit. Therefore in verse 23 Paul said,
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool.) I am more; in
labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more
frequent, in deaths oft.” These men had been boasting of their
qualifications, and in this epistle Paul was exposing these men for what
they were. Paul answered these false apostles’ claims so they would
not appear wise
These scriptures do not contradict; but taken together they explain two
different methods of handling the questions and statements of fools.
You need wisdom to know just when and how to apply these principles.
And wisdom comes from God.