Read Proverbs 26:4-5
"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."
I smelled him before I saw him. A pungent alcohol odor preceded him. He reared back on his heals with his arms crossed and asked, “Are you the pastor?” I considered lying, but I didn’t. Then he posed this riddle: “Can a man get drunk, beat his wife, and still go to heaven?” Two possible scenarios make a simple answer unwise. I might crush a man in despair with God’s Law:
Me: “Sir, a Christian man would not get drunk and beat his wife.” But this response may not be appropriate if his heart was broken over his sin.
Him: “I knew it. I knew God could never forgive me. I was dry for 47 days. I was only going to have one beer last night, but then I woke up this morning and saw my wife and knew God could never forgive me.”
Or I may have emboldened sin by applying God’s Gospel:
Me: “Of course! God is gracious and forgives us all our sins!”
Him: “Good! My ol’ lady has it comin’ and when I get home tonight I’m gonna woop her!”
Proper application of Law or Gospel depends upon whether people are secure in their sin or despair of it. A despairing saint needs the Gospel. A secure sinner needs the Law. To diagnose the heart, we must respond to such questions with, “Why do you want to know?”
Proverbs 26:4-5 reads like a contradiction, but context is everything. Do you answer a fool or not? It depends! Only help from the Holy Spirit will lead us to properly apply God’s Word.
TAKEAWAY: What insight, question, or conviction did Jesus say to you in His Word and your prayer time today?