There is a time and place for everything under the sun, a time for peace and a time for war (ref. Ecclesiastes 3). The difficult part is knowing exactly when and where things are appropriate and when and where they are not. As Godly men, and especially for those of us who are involved in any form of discipleship training or any kind of Christian mens ministry, we should always turn to the Bible for the hard answers. So, lets take a look at what the scriptures have to say about where and when it is appropriate to rebuke a fool.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs, chapter 26, verse 4, to “not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.” Immediately thereafter in verse 5, it tells us to “answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.” Here we have seemingly contradictory passages. It does not mean that the Bible is contradictory; it means that the Bible is complimentary. This happens all the time in the scriptures, as there are many verses, which, parallel each other and even each other out. That simply means that there is a time and place to utilize each verse. A unique circumstance calls for a unique action.
So, what did Jesus have to say about this specifically?
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (Matthew 5:29)
So why not go at it with a fool? Because sometimes it just isn’t worth your time. The lesson that they might need to learn is best learned through our silence versus a harsh rebuke with words.
But Jesus didn’t just stop there. He also taught us to not throw our pearls before swine (ref. Matthew 7:6). He even went as far as commanding His disciples to wipe the dust off their feet as a sign of judgment to a city if they did not welcome the message of the gospel.
“And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” (Luke 9:5).
So, why now the change from the prior principle of passivity in turning the other cheek to a harsh rebuke? Because “a rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Proverbs 17:10). Some people (typically a man of understanding) need the rebuke and are willing to listen while others (typically harden fools) are unwilling to accept any rebuke given and are not even worth the time. There is a time and place to rebuke and a time and place to be silent.
Now, learning how to discern an appropriate response for a specific situation can take a high level and degree of wisdom. So if anyone needs guidance, they should ask the Lord. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).