I was reading through the Proverbs today, and this verse struck me in particular.
Proverbs 9:7-9 “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
I looked up the word “scoffer” on www.blueletterbible.org, and this is what I found:
“to scorn, make mouths at, talk arrogantly a) 1) to boast 2) to scorn b) 1) to mock, deride”
This passage spoke to me in a number of ways. In one way, it spoke to me because I believe I have found myself in positions where I have attempted to correct or reprove a scoffer, and the results have not been good. The result has been injury and inflammation of conflict. This passage convicted me of the error in this. It has also encouraged me to be more discerning about when I am actually called to speak up. I am by nature an activist. While there are some helpful aspects of this nature, there are also some major proclivities toward sin and error too. Sometimes this tendency in me has been nothing more than a lack of faith—a sorry attempt to take things into my own hands rather than quietly and prayerfully trusting the God who is perfectly wise and perfectly in control. It has also sometimes been simply a lack of patient love—a failure to treat others with the same long suffering and grace I have received from God (and from others, for that matter). I hunger to grow in my discernment, in my trust in God, in my prayerful dependence on God, and in my gospel love of others! And this Proverb has shown me new ways in which I am called to grow and mature in this area right now.
I also love the ESV Study Bible notes on this passage: “These verses present three statements about what happens if one corrects a scoffer or the wicked plus three contrasting statements about reproving a wise man. The point is twofold: if a person desires to be wise, he must examine how his heart responds to wise reproof or correction, and in order to be wise with others, he must have the prudence to observe other people’s actions. It is clear that the ‘wise’ or ‘righteous’ person does not rest content with his attainment, nor is he presented as morally ‘perfect’. He becomes still wiser and will increase in learning through correction.” (ESV Study Bible published by Crossway at page 1150).
I particularly love the last part: “It is clear that the ‘wise’ or ‘righteous’ person does not rest content with his attainment, nor is he presented as morally ‘perfect’. He becomes still wiser and will increase in learning through correction.”
I do not want to forget that my own sinful nature is that of a scoffer. All of our hearts have been boastful, arrogant, mocking, and full of derision at times. By God’s grace, I want to have a heart that truly recognizes that I have much to learn and that I am so far from morally perfect (as no doubt this truth is painfully obvious to all of those around me)! I want to have a heart that receives correction well with a humble heart. I want to have a heart that can distinguish between lies and truth. I do not want to slander or mischaracterize as a “critic” or an “enemy” someone who is actually a loving friend who is trying to help me to see an area where I am blinded by ignorance and sin I do not want to misinterpret loving correction as hateful rejection, as my heart is too often quick to do.
Dear Heavenly Father, Please give me a heart that is humble, soft, and discerning, Oh Lord! Help me to speak courageously, boldly, lovingly, and truthfully when you call me to, and help me to know when to love with my prayerful silence. By your grace, may I not sin against you or against my brother or sister on either end of this spectrum! Help my heart to humbly hear and heed correction and rebuke that comes to me from you through the lips of your people. Help me not to be a scoffer! Show me any areas where I might be behaving as a scoffer, and grant me quick and thorough repenetance! Help me to grow in wisdom and to honor you in all I do. In Jesus Name, Amen