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DONíT ANSWER . . . ANSWER

 

Question: Is there a contradiction between Proverbs 26 verse 4 and verse 5?

 

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

 

Answer: These verses seem to refer to oneís speech and conduct when responding to an an ill-informed adversary. Looked at from the Christian viewpoint, the principle is similar to that found in 1 Peter 2: 23, in connection with Jesus:

 

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

 

When vilified or accused unjustly, the Christian ought to respond with self-control and good grace, in imitation of the Master. We must not stoop to the same level of diatribe or the ill-temper of our opponent. As a general rule, we should be slow to stand up in our own defence, letting the Lord be our shield and protector, but there are occasions when it is necessary to counter accusations against us, if only to correct a misunderstanding and thus reprove our accuser. In such instances, we should reply with reason and germane arguments, not straying into counter-accusations, sarcasm or character assassination.

 

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