Here is the Wisdom
“To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” Proverbs 15:23
An “apt” answer is an answer that can take many forms. Apt means applicable, fitting, good, proper, exactly suitable, and appropriate. Apt answers might be answering a question. They might also be providing an answer when a question has not been raised.
Why Solomon’s Advice Matters
There are many in this world who give advice. Sadly, much, if not most of the advice given is inappropriate, unsuitable, and inappropriate. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the answer has too many words. The answer is in the words, but the recipient does not get the message because we think more words makes the answer better.
Far too often the answers are given before the question, or the need is really understood. Solomon and Jesus both have some wisdom regarding getting answers and giving answers to those who have a problem or a need.
1. Don’t fall into the trap of talking too much. Too much advice becomes nagging or controlling. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 10:19
2. We need to learn to be better listeners. That means we will ask more questions to gain understanding before we give an apt answer. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13
3. Sometimes the ability to give an apt answer depends on the situation and the mindset of the one who asks a question. It requires wisdom to see the situation and understand the person who is asking the question. In life, some questions are traps. Jesus faced those types of questions from the religious leaders of his day. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 26:4-5
4. Answers should provide healing. Words that hurt are generally not loving. While it is true that a rebuke or correction are sometimes warranted and necessary, our goal must be healing, not harming. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
5. Remember to use good words. Good words are carefully chosen when it is clear that someone is struggling and needs encouragement. “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25
6. Finally, be a salty talker. Not crude or inappropriate sailor salty, but preserving and restoring salty. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6
When Human Answers Are Insufficient
God always provides apt answers. Sometimes we don’t like his answer to a need, but that isn’t because he did not listen or doesn’t understand. It is true that Jesus said God is the kind of Father who gives good things to those who ask him. We must remember, however, that God’s “good things” are not always to give us what we think we need, but what we really need.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11
All scripture passages are from the English Standard Version except as otherwise noted.