“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceits” (Prov 26:4-5). What appears to be contradictory is not. There is a time to answer a fool and a time not to answer a fool. Today’s reading illustrates how Jesus practiced both principles.
An illustration of the former principle of answering fools is seen in verses 41-47, wherein the Jews accuse the Lord of being born of fornication. This calls to mind the dubious circumstances of Jesus’ conception, being before His mother and earthly father were married. Think of what a terrible accusation this was! Jesus was now about 30 years old, and those who hated Him were still will to throw this sordid account in His face.
But He did not answer these fools according to their folly, as no amount of reason could convince those so willingly blind and ignorant. Jesus left the accusation alone and dealt with them according to their claim that God was their Father.
In John 8:1-12 we have the account of a woman taken in the act of adultery. Bringing her to Jesus, her accusers ask Jesus if He think she should be stoned to death according to the law. Refusing to answer, Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they could be no longer put off, Jesus answered them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Being convicted by their conscience, each went away from the oldest to the youngest.
Jesus answered these fools according to their folly. They were not the least bit interested in observing the Law of Moses. If they had, they would have brought BOTH the man and the woman as the Law demanded (Lev 20:10).
There is another incident later in this chapter where Jesus did the same thing. In John 8:31-32 Jesus made His landmark statement concerning genuine discipleship, truth, and freedom. In response, the Jews made the most foolish retort, saying, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.” Has anything more foolish ever fallen from the lips of men? Had they forgotten their ancestors’ time in Egypt? In Babylon? In Persia? Their present humiliation under the iron fist of Rome? Of whom exactly were they speaking when they said they had never been in bondage to anyone?
Jesus was a master at knowing if, when, and how to answer fools.