Church of God, New World Ministries

Bible Q & A

Q. The Scriptures in Proverbs 26:4-5 seem to contradict themselves. Should we answer a fool or not?
 
A. 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 pointless argument.

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.
 
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