Pat Answers

Posted on March 8, 2018

by John E. Thomas

I am afraid I may be allergic to pat answers. The one-size-fits-all answer that is thrown out, usually without the specific situation truly being understood. Often someone that doesn’t have all the information thought it seemed like this other situation they heard of, saw, or read about and gave the answer they were taught. Maybe the person releasing their “wisdom” went through a similar situation and know how they got through it.

Each of these are great ways to learn principles—the books we read, the messages we hear, testimonies from our own lives and others. But one thing we have to do is hold our “pat answers” loosely. Many things work sometimes, very few things work all the time. I’m not talking about the essentials, like Jesus saves. I am talking about the answers for problems, even when we think we have Bible verses to back us up.

Here is an example. Proverbs 26:4 says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” Now that makes a lot of sense. How many times have we, or someone we know, been pulled into an argument where there was no winner when trying to help someone else grow in wisdom. Someone makes a statement that is wrong, not based on accurate information, or just mean and we try to help. I am not talking about someone trying to find an argument, but someone that is genuinely trying to help the other person so they show them their folly and it just goes wrong. The Bible says don’t do that. You end up looking like a fool to others. That is a principle I need to learn!

Now, look at the next verse, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:5) Wait, the last verse said not to do that. What do I do? I have a Bible verse that supports both paths! This is where real wisdom comes in. There is often more to a story than we think at first. This is why it is so essential to develop a deep relationship with the God Who is Wisdom, because only He can guide us through the confusion life has to offer.

Wisdom starts when we realize we don’t have it. You won’t pursue what you think you already have. The next time you feel the urge to tell someone the solution you heard or saw, wait. What does God say about it this time? I have had people come to me with solutions to situations that they heard from their favorite teacher and tell me, “This is the path they (or you, meaning me) should take. So-and-so taught this and God showed up when they did it.” A little later someone else comes to me with a very different solution to the same problem with the same reasoning, they had heard a teaching and a testimony. Do we throw both out?

No! You can’t throw them both out. Either could be right in different situations. Have you truly listened to the problem and have you really listened for the Lord. Here is a common situation. Someone that is known or that we love becomes sick and all the sudden twenty different solutions are offered with the phrase, “The Lord showed me that you should…” or, “The Lord impressed on my heart I should share…” One of them may be the Lord, maybe a couple, but often someone with very little information recognized a situation they heard from someone else or went through in their own life and they assumed that it would work out the same way.

I fight having an opinion when I hear about problems that need solved. I refuse to allow them in my heart. When they rise up in my thinking I pull them down and cry out to God for revelation. There are many times when someone asks me what I think about a situation or circumstance and my answer is, “I don’t know. I have an opinion, but I don’t care for my opinions. God hasn’t spoken to me on this.”

Are you willing to do that? The next time you hear about a situation and it reminds you of another situation, wait a while before you speak. Is it really the time to answer the fool, or is it the time to not answer the fool? There may be more than one “right” way to respond and we don’t want to rely on our knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong. We want to rely on the tree of life—Jesus!