These verses seem contradictory, but the writer is pointing out that we should exercise wisdom in knowing when to answer a foolish person. Every parent has experienced the folly of trying to reason with a tired two-year-old when it is time to leave the park. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire! Similarly, debating with your teenager over whether it is right for you to limit television until their grades improve is more likely to make them angry than convince them of your parenting wisdom. It takes self-restraint not to be lured into energy-draining arguments that will draw you down to a “fool’s” level.
Other times, however, it is necessary to respond to immature ideas. If your five-year-old tells you he is going to bathe the cat or if your teenager says he thinks premarital sex is a great idea, failing to answer may send the message that you approve of those actions.
Jesus knew when to respond to those around Him (Matthew 26:62-64). Follow His example when deciding if a response is appropriate.
Parenting by design