Proverbs 25:28, “4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”
Hmmmmm… Did you catch the supposed contradiction in the two proverbs noted above? If you didn’t, please slowly read them again. Now do you see it? Did King Solomon make a mistake and somehow let these verses into his book? Or were the translators not paying attention and accidently wrote the proverb in two different ways?
Either way, many critics read these two proverbs and say, “Aha, the Bible does contradict itself! In one proverb it says, “to not answer a fool” and the other “to answer a fool.” Which one is it?” The simple answer is, “both.” Let me explain.
First, King Solomon didn’t make a mistake and the Holy Spirit wasn’t sleeping when these two proverbs were written. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Therefore, these two proverbs are both inspired and useful.
Second, and more to the point, there is no contradiction. Thus, the best question to ask isn’t “How should I answer a fool?” But rather, “What kind of fool am I talking to?” Meaning, King Solomon is giving two different approaches because there are two different kinds of fools in life.
In verse four he is referring to the kind of fool that is not willing to listen and will only mock and ridicule whatever you say. Thus, when dealing with a “mocking-not-listening-kind-of-fool” don’t even waste your time answering them because they will never listen. However, in verse five he is referring to the kind of fool that is ignorant and unlearned but willing to listen. In turn, if you are dealing with an “ignorant-ready-to-listen-fool” then give them a response in wisdom to reveal their folly in hopes they will repent.
Therefore, the main lesson from these proverbs is to ask the Lord when dealing with people in their foolishness- “what kind of fool are they?” And then answer or not answer accordingly!
- Ask God to always keep you from folly.
- Identify the kind of foolish people you encounter in life.
- Be led by the Holy Spirit to respond in wisdom to people in their folly.