"When arguing with fools, don't answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are. When arguing with fools, be sure to answer their foolish arguments, or they will become wise in their own estimation."
- Proverbs 26:4-5 NLT
When my son, Joseph, was about 10 years old, there was a boy in his class at school who desperately wanted to be friends with him. Every day, this child would try to buy my son's friendship by offering him his prized possessions or his lunch money. When Joseph told me about the situation, I was very upset, and I scolded him for taking this boy's money and gifts. I lectured my son about how wrong it was for us to accept gifts like these, and I emphatically forbid him to do so in the future. On the last day of school that year, a girl in Joseph's class presented him with a set of small toys. As much as my son wanted to accept them, he reluctantly handed them back to his classmate, and explained to her that he was not allowed to accept such gifts. When Joseph arrived home that day, he told me about the girl whose mother had taken her shopping the night before, so that she could tenderly pick out some little gifts to give him the following day. When he mentioned how heartbroken this girl was when he refused her gifts, my own heart ached for her, and I felt deeply ashamed. I tried to explain to my son that this kind of gift from a friend was more than acceptable, and that it should be received graciously and gratefully.
The Lord has brought this experience to my remembrance over the years whenever I've encountered seemingly contradictory teachings in the Bible. I've also used it to instruct others. Most of the people I encounter who question me on the "contradictions" in Scripture are those who have never read the Bible from cover to cover, and who have learned to take verses out of context because of mere bits and pieces they've heard. Look at the two Scriptures above from the Book of Proverbs. At first glance, they seem contradictory. But a closer look with a spiritual eye will reveal that they are not. The first verse warns us not to stoop to the level of foolish people by dignifying their foolish arguments with an answer. The second verse advises us not to neglect giving foolish people a reply that could deflate their big egos.
Different occasions and circumstances require different responses from us. Worldly people can only rely on their own wisdom to determine how they should respond to any given situation they encounter. But God's people have spiritual discernment, born of the Spirit of God, to guide their actions and reactions. The apostle Paul talks about this kind of spiritual discernment when he writes: "We know about these things because God has sent His Spirit to tell us, and His Spirit searches out and shows us all of God's deepest secrets." (1 Corinthians 2:10 TLB) Paul goes on to say that because unsaved people don't have God's Spirit dwelling on the inside of them, they lack the spiritual discernment needed to see things from God's perspective. "The man who isn't a Christian can't understand and can't accept these thoughts from God, which the Holy Spirit teaches us. They sound foolish to him, because only those who have the Holy Spirit within them can understand what the Holy Spirit means. Others just can't take it in. But the spiritual man has insight into everything." (1 Corinthians 2:14-15 TLB)
God didn't just give us His Word, and then expect us to understand and apply it without His help. He gave us His Holy Spirit, the very Author of the Scriptures, to illuminate His Word and empower us to obey it. And just as I instructed my son on how to do the right thing, our God will teach us to live according to His Word and ways. May the psalmist's declaration of faith be ours today - "I have not departed from Your laws, for You Yourself have taught me"! (Psalm 119:102 NIV)
Prayer: Lord, please show me how to approach principles in the Bible which appear contradictory. When I'm at risk of becoming confused, shed a holy light on me, and on Your Word, so that I may understand and apply Your truth to my life. Show me what study materials I could use to help me gain more insight into the Scriptures. Thank You that because of Your Spirit, I have the mind of Christ! (1 Corinthians 2:16)
- J. M. Farro