Types of Questions We Don’t Need to Answer

Question Mark

When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest” (Proverbs 29:9).

It is easy for discussions on controversial issues – either in person or online – to quickly become contentious. This is especially true right now regarding political discussions, but it is also true when it comes to topics that are religious in nature. Contentious discussions can consume our time and mental energy if we allow them to do so.

Questions are often used to draw us into discussions. Some questions are good. Peter said that we must be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [us] to give an account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15). However, some questions do not need to be answered. It is important that we know which questions would fall into this category. The Bible shows us what types of questions we do not need to answer.

Questions to Which We Do Not Know the Answer

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:6-7).

It is possible to have a desire to teach, but not know the truth well enough to explain it. Those who are new Christians will often be in this position as they need “the pure milk of the word” in order to “grow” (1 Peter 2:2). However, this could be true of any of us on different topics. Growth is a continual process (2 Peter 3:18); therefore, there will be certain matters about which we may not have a complete understanding.

When we speak on spiritual matters, we have an obligation to speak the truth (1 Peter 4:11). Therefore, if we do not know the truth, we cannot speak it. Though we may be tempted to “make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:7) despite having an incomplete understanding, we must not do so (cf. Deuteronomy 18:20). This is not an excuse for us to be silent; instead, it is a call for us to study and learn (2 Timothy 2:15) so that we can continue to grow in our understanding and be able to answer these questions. In the meantime, instead of trying to answer questions to which we do not know the answer, we can get help from others who may be able to direct us to the truth (cf. Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 7:1).

Questions That Lead to Speculation

As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion” (1 Timothy 1:3-6).

Speculating about various matters – particularly about spiritual topics – may seem relatively harmless. Yet Paul contrasted this with building up others in the faith (1 Timothy 1:4). Again, we have an obligation to speak the truth (1 Peter 4:11). This truth is not found in our speculations or imaginations but in the word of God (John 17:17).

When we leave the truth of God’s word, we get ourselves into trouble. John wrote, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God” (2 John 9). Speculation is about things that we cannot know either because they have not been revealed – they are the “secret things [that] belong to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 29:29) – or because they are unnecessary since they do not pertain to “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, speculating about things that have not been revealed and are not necessary does no good because it leads to “fruitless discussion” (1 Timothy 1:6). We need to remember “the goal of our instruction” (1 Timothy 1:5) and “teach no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3, KJV)

Questions from Those Who Refuse to Acknowledge Bible Authority

When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?’

And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” He will say to us, “Then why did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From men,” we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.’ And answering Jesus, they said, ‘We do not know.’ He also said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’” (Matthew 21:23-27).

After the triumphal entry, cleansing the temple, and cursing the fig tree, Jesus’ authority was questioned. He certainly could have given an answer. Earlier He proved His authority based upon the testimony of witnesses – John, His works, the Father, and the Scriptures (John 5:33-39). But on this occasion, He did not answer their question this way. Instead, He asked them a question – whether they believed John’s baptism was from heaven or from men (Matthew 21:25). Their answer to this question would establish whether or not they were interested in authority. Since their answer proved they were not, He did not answer their question.

Jesus has been given “all authority” (Matthew 28:18); therefore, His word is authoritative. Because of this, we are obligated to follow what His word teaches. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). If people reject Bible authority, then there is no common standard to which we can appeal. They are like those in the days of the judges of Israel – “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Once it is determined that someone will not accept God’s word as the final authority, continuing a discussion about what the Bible teaches is useless.

Questions from Those Who Just Want to Argue

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).

We have already talked about the need to avoid “speculation” and “fruitless discussion” (1 Timothy 1:3-6). Sometimes, these questions may be brought up by sincere people. Other times, people just want to argue. They are “factious” (Titus 3:10), which means they want to cause strife and division. Paul said that such individuals were to be rejected.

Like those who refuse to acknowledge Bible authority, these ones are not interested in the truth. They do not “love…the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10); instead, they want to argue over things that are “unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). Until they are interested in the truth, we cannot help them. We can only do what Jesus said to do when people will not receive or listen to His message – shake the dust off of our feet and move on (Mark 6:11).

Questions That Draw Us into Foolishness

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him” (Proverbs 26:4).

This verse does not mean that we cannot ever answer the fool. After all, in the next verse, the wise man stated, “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:5). The point is that we are not to answer as the fool answers. The fool lacks knowledge, speculates, disregards authority, and argues. We must not stoop to his level.

When one persists in his foolishness, we cannot win an argument with him – or at least we cannot convince him of that. The wise man said, “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest” (Proverbs 29:9). Continuing to argue with a fool will do no good because he will either get mad at you or laugh off what you have to say. As long as he holds to his foolishness, he cannot be helped.

Conclusion

We must be always ready to give an answer for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). However, Jesus also warned us, “Do not throw your pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). Attempting to answer certain questions will be counterproductive to our efforts to teach others. Therefore, we must recognize the types of questions we do not need to answer so we can focus on those questions that deserve our attention and answers.


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