Which would you rather receive - a compliment or a rebuke? Even though many of us would choose the first - it is actually a better thing to get the second. Today we will look at the value of a godly, loving rebuke - or honestly - even a not so godly rebuke from someone who is frustrated with us.
My original question was not exactly what this proverb addresses. The compliment offered is actually called, 'flattery' rather than just a compliment. Flattery, by its Hebrew definition, is very seldom true. The one offering the flattery usually has an ulterior motive for offering it. They do not have your best interests in mind. What makes this difficult for me, though, is that I usually agree with people who think I'm awesome. My fallen heart wants people to make much of me. Thus it is very easy to deceive me with complimentary flattery. What I've learned though is that this is not good for me - because I don't learn to address sinful patterns of behavior that hinder me from loving others better.
Someone who offers rebuke is much harder to receive. The problem with receiving rebuke is once again my sinfulness. I will resist the thought that I am not awesome. I am perfectly fine with hearing other people rebuked - or even offering rebuke myself. They do have problems. In fact, often it is their problems that led to someone thinking I need to be rebuked. It is their fault, after all, that I have any problems whatsoever. What you have in these last goofy sentences is the affect of the sinful nature. We want to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for the things we do that are sinful - and prefer blaming others for them. Biblical reality looks much different. We are selfish and self-centered by nature. That leads to choices that are sinful - and that will lead to problems in our lives.
It is better to have someone in your life that will offer rebuke - than to have 50 who offer sycophantic flattery that only blinds you further to your moral and relational blind spots. The rebuke is a blessing in several ways. First, the rebuke helps us to see a sinful pattern or action. Second, as that sin is revealed, it helps me to turn to God in repentance and for forgiveness. Third, it puts me in a place where I want God's grace and truth in my life. The rebuke may hurt at first, but in the end it is far better for me because it helps me to grow spiritually and morally. The wise man learns to receive rebuke not only because of the benefit, but also because of how it identifies true friends. Those who only condone and put up with our sin are not really our friends. A true friend is someone who will tell us the truth lovingly - even if saying it may hurt us - and even our friendship in the short term. But if you have such a friend, thank them for such things, because they are truly interested in your best - and in God's best being realized in your life.