Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Proverbs 9:8
Wisdom manifests itself in how we receive reproof. Here we see two people who experience reproof or correction. How they respond to that reproof has everything to do with whether they are a fool or whether they are wise.
First we see a person who is called a scoffer. The word "scoffer" means one who boasts, scorns, mocks, or derides another. The reason that the scoffer does this is to express utter contempt of the person or comment that has been made to him. The context for the scoffers utter contempt is that of having someone reprove him. When he faces correction he reacts with complete disdain for the one who has offered the correction. To emphasize his disgust for the person who has tried to offer correction or constructive criticism, we read that this scoffer will hate them.
There are those who bristle immediately to any correction or reproof offered to them. This indicates that they are indeed a fool. To say that one does not need any correction is to say that one is perfect. It is indeed a sad thing to watch someone who thinks in their own mind that they are the manifestation of perfection itself. They are above criticism - because everything they do and everything they say is without flaw. First of all this is the highest form of arrogance and pride. We all make mistakes and have flaws. When someone offers us correction - whether constructive or not - it is an opportunity for us to embrace humility and see ourselves improve. Second, when we reject correction, we are saying that we ourselves are the judge of what is right and wrong. The fool rejects any evaluation of himself - and chooses his own horrifically flawed and prejudiced view of himself as truth. That is the only way he or she can be deceived enough to think that they are above criticism. Finally, the fool who rejects correction is actually rejecting love. It is love that often motivates people to correct us. That is the motivation of loving parents and others who only desire us to succeed and prosper. It is the motivation of God who desires us to be a partaker of His righteousness. But the fool who rejects all this - rejects the very ones who love him the most.
The wise man loves the one who reproves him. He understands that someone who is reproving him is not against him, but for him. This word reprove means to argue and convince, and was used to speak of those who would "prove" something. We need to see this word in this way because "proving" something was done by submitting it to the heat of a crucible - for the purpose of refining it. This was done only for one of two reasons. You proved something either to make it more valuable - or to make it stronger. The scoffer sees reproof as an attack - or as inaccurate information being used to hurt him. The wise man sees the reproof as something positive. He is being refined so that impurities are removed from his life. He is being refined so that weaknesses are taken out. He is being refined to be even more valuable in the Lord's work. He is being refined to be more valuable to God's kingdom and people. The reproof is making him stronger - better - richer. As he receives the reproof this way - the correction does its work - and he is blessed as a result.
It is not fun or pleasant to be reproved or corrected. If it was - everyone would want it all the time in their lives. The fool looks at reproof only through eyes that see the negative. He is too focused on his own comfort and his own ego being protected at all costs. The wise man looks beyond the possible unpleasantness of the moment. He sees the value of refining and the blessing of having potentially harmful things removed from this character. He knows the benefit of this experience will far outweigh its problems and difficulties. If we want to be wise, we too will begin to love those who reprove us and help us to become more Christlike - and of greater use to our Master.
Proverb a Day
Each day, we'll take a look at a verse from the chapter of Proverbs for the day. Our hope is to gain wisdom each day - and from that wisdom - to have understanding to make godly decisions in the throes of everyday life.
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