Proverbs 26:4-5, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit."
This morning, man tries to make "blanket applications" to different things and apply them the same way every time. They think, "Well, I have seen something like this before, so I will just do what I did last time." However, there are times, when we encounter similar things, and due to circumstances, we need to act and behave differently from occasion to occasion. While we should not act righteously one time and wickedly another, some situations require discretion instead of speaking. Solomon meditated upon these things when penning the 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes.
These verses appear directly connected to one another and seem to be saying the opposite thing. Do we speak or not speak when encountering a fool and his speaking of folly? The answer is not the same every time. These verses do not contradict one another but rather have a different set of circumstances under consideration. When approached with a fool and his erroneous thoughts and speaking, there are different foolish mentalities. Sometimes, fools have the mindset, "I have learned it all and have need that no one teach me anything." In cases such as these, DO NOT ANSWER HIM!
If he is foolish enough to think that he knows everything, do not be foolish enough to think that you can change his mind. That is being like the fool by answering him according to his folly. He builds his premise with no outside advice or instruction to solidify the foundation for the conceptual structure. Therefore, trying to reason with such a one goes beyond nonsense into utter foolishness. These conversations will come to no avail or profit. Now, do all fools behave thusly?
Some fools and their follies come from swallowing the things that they see and hear without putting stock or value into the source or research. Some people spout the things that they hear without checking them out at all. Such actions are foolish, but some wise counsel and instruction can recover this folly. You can reason with this type of fool since he does not believe that he is wiser than all the rest. However, by not answering this folly, this individual may go on forever thinking something that he ought not. This leads him to be wise in his own conceit and perhaps get to a state where he believes he has no need of any man.
Truly, much sorrow of heart results in losing one of these, for they could have been recovered and saved from death, hiding a multitude of sins. Therefore, let us ever be diligent to stand fast in the vocation wherewith we have been called so that whether we speak or keep silent, we would have the wisdom to discern the occasion and circumstance to know which should be our course.