We are given many unshakeable truths in life, but few guarantees. The book of Proverbs is like this, and if we're not careful, it can seem to contradict itself: "Answer a fool according to his folly." (Proverbs 26:4)
"Do not answer a fool according to his folly." (Proverbs 26:5)
Great job, Solomon. Doug Wilson puts it this way:
The book of Proverbs does not give us head-for-head commitments and promises. They are proverbs. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and sometimes you wind up in Congress banning light bulbs for the rest of us. But as a general rule, hard work leads to wealth, and laziness to poverty, only not in every instance.
If we wrote a book of educational proverbs, we could make a couple like this:
"Straight A's are deceptive, and he who lays off his homework will find peace."
"He who does not study diligently will come to poverty."
Both are true, and that's the beauty of it. But here's the rub: which truth do each of our different children need to hear?