“Answer not according” vs “Answer according”
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest thou also be like unto him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own conceit.
On the surface, this pair of proverbs appears to be giving us two different instructions, each of which opposes and contradicts the other. But upon closer inspection and with more careful analysis, the true wisdom of these proverbs becomes apparent. And while they are not saying precisely the same thing, they are definitely not telling us to do one thing in one breath and the exact opposite in the next – contrary to superficial appearances.
“Answer not … according … lest thou also be like unto him.”
If you reply “in kind” then you have lowered yourself to the level of your antagonist – something that should be studiously avoided at all costs.
“Answer … according … lest he be wise in his own conceit.”
Your answer must be as skillfully loaded with wisdom as your opponent’s words were with folly so his designs will be fully defeated, thus preventing him from feeling smug and superior.
In this manner, BOTH proverbs can be understood as supporting each other and worthy of being carefully heeded.
Pastor Tim D. Cormier
Apostolic Faith Tabernacle