Proverbs 26:4-5 are two of the most unusual verses in the Bible.
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.
The two big questions that spring to mind from this passage are:
How is this not a contradiction? and,
How can I simultaneously do the both one and the other command?
Well, I think that both questions are closely related. Have you ever gotten into one of those arguments that goes something like: NUH UH! Yes HUH! NUH UH! Yes HUH! I think we all have. Kids tend to resort to this sort of logic when they run out of real words. But adults are not much different. Answering a fool according to his folly, on the one hand, means falling into this sort of meaningless, circular argument. When we are drawn into this, we are made to look foolish.
On the other hand, answering a fool according to his folly means addressing his argument with sound logic and good sense. When we do this, we prevent him from being puffed up with pride because no one has answered him.
What I am constantly reminded of from the Proverbs is that we are so often the fool. We desperately need the wisdom of God to help us and guide us. We will always answer foolishly if we do not continually trust in the Lord. Let us answer the fool with sound wisdom from God, and let us take that wisdom to heart, so that we don’t become the fool.