Answer or Answer Not

One of the things that a child of God must do is learn how to teach other people. After all, the Great Commission teaches us that we are to “…Go ye into the all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The challenge can sometimes be that we do not properly know how to address different individuals.

The apostle Paul understood that challenge as well. So, what did Paul do? “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:19-22). Paul’s goal was the saving of souls.

Therefore, Paul made sure that he was able to communicate with whomsoever he encountered. That included the man on the street as well as those in positions of authority. In like manner, we should take the time to educate ourselves properly so that we can do the same. After all, one soul is worth more than the entire world (Mark 8:36-38)!

Sadly though, not every person wants to learn the truth of the Gospel. Sometimes there will be individuals who are enemies of the cross. What do we do in those cases? In the book of Proverbs we find that there are different approaches that must be taken, depending on the individual. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit” (Prov. 26:4-5).

Sometimes we will have to recognize that our time is not best used debating. Believe it or not, there are actually some that will monopolize your time so that you are not able to teach others. In cases such as that, we should not behave foolishly. We should understand that there are other souls that need to be taught as well. Instead of continuing to allow our time to be misused, we should move on to teach someone else.

The Lord acknowledged that there are times that we must do similarly. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matt. 7:6). Also, Jesus instructed his disciples, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet” (Matt. 10:14). As hard as it may be, we have to recognize when it is time to go to someone else. What makes this even harder is when the one that continually rejects the Gospel is someone close to us (family and friends).

Do not misunderstand me. If a person is willing to learn, then by all means, keep teaching that individual. Do your diligence to understand the person, so that you can use the best approach. Keep planting and watering, trusting that the Lord will give the increase (1 Cor. 3:6).

So what have we learned? Each situation is unique unto itself. Through learning and application we can determine how we should handle each person. If I need to learn their culture, then I should do so. If I need to understand their ancestry, then I should do so. If they are wasting my time, then I should find someone else.

Let us make sure that we know when to answer and when not to answer. I will conclude with the following verse: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).
~ Corey Barnette