The Book of Proverbs says…
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself (26:4). Then, the next verse says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes (26:5).”
So which is it? Should we respond to people when they’re being foolish, or should we not respond? Are we supposed to “answer fools” or “not answer fools?”
**Proverbs needs to be read as a book of general principles, not commands. In other words, Proverbs is telling us – “In general, this is how the world works. Keep these principles in mind, and you’ll do better.”
So the answer is – you have to use judgment. Sometimes it’s better to ignore people’s foolish comments – it’s too easy to get sucked in and end up saying foolish things yourself (that’s why I moderate blog comments). Other times, however, it’s a good idea to speak up and correct people in their foolishness.
How do you know when to “answer a fool,” or “not answer a fool?” Several things – it depends on your relationship to them; sometimes you don’t have the place in their life to comment. Sometimes it depends on the nature of the foolishness; if it’s not that big of a deal, call it immaturity and blow it off. And sometimes, your correction probably wouldn’t make a difference anyway, so don’t waste your time with it.
Other times though – if there’s a relationship of trust and you’re likely to be listened to; or if the foolishness is serious enough to potentially cause harm – it’s a good idea to step in and attempt to correct some of the foolishness that may come your way.
Jesus was good at this – he let a fair amount of nonsense go by, and other times he got pretty darn confrontational. Seems like he was familiar with the Book of Proverbs.