Proverbs: Wisdom in Reproof

Part 3 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

I was on a mission trip in the summer of 2006 and I left my beautiful metallic blue 1994 Mercury Tracer at home with my family. When I returned, to my chagrin, I found out that the “Blue Beast” had shock and strut problems. The damage was estimated at $1,200. The car wasn’t worth that much. It was time to buy a new car.

My parent’s neighbor advised me to buy a Chevy Lumina we test drove. It was an older model. It was white with burgundy cloth interior. It was shaped like an elongated box. It didn’t have a CD player. The windows were manual. It smelled like moth balls inside. “But, it will last forever,” he told me. I didn’t care. I didn’t listen. I bought a 1998 Mazda 626, and two years and thousands of dollars of upkeep and repairs later, the Mazda I paid $4,600 had a worn out transmission and was ready to be sold for a measly $1,000.

Looking back on this situation, I think Proverbs 12:1 provides a good commentary:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

The truth is that in our life there are thousands of decisions to be made. These decisions make life difficult. Most of these decisions are very practical, such as: “What job do I take?” “Who should I marry?” “Should I relocate or not?” “What church should I attend?” “Who should my friends be?” “How much can we afford for vacation?” and so on.

We also have character and personality issues that cause life to be hard. We are either too passive or too aggressive. We are too extroverted or too introverted. We are too humorous or too serious. We don’t listen well and we talk too much. We get greedy, envious, jealous, bitter, malicious, lustful, lazy, arrogant, unforgiving, and self-righteous. The list never ends.

The only way we can deal with making hard decisions and growing in holiness is to subject ourselves to wise reproof. This happens in two ways. First, we come under the authority of Scripture. Proverbs 13:13 says, “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.” Second, we need to come under the counsel of wise men and women. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

The Scripture submission may not be hard for you. But what about a person who rebukes you or even offers loving advice? They come to you and say, “I am here to offer reproof, correction, and guidance.” Your first reaction is not normally, “Why thank you! Get out the rod, I need a good rebuking!” But Solomon tells us, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (19:20). I have not been a great example in this, but the Lord is teaching me. In order for us to develop as Christians and people, we need to listen to older, wiser, trusted people.

Finally, Solomon has a few words for those who offer rebuke and correction. He writes, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you” (Prov. 9:8-9). He means that people who repeatedly make foolish decisions and ruin their life won’t listen, so don’t waste your time with them. Remember that Jesus even said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matt. 7:6).


Don’t Be a Theoretical Theologian

I’m not very old.  I’m 24.  But the older I get and as I work with different people in ministry contexts, the understanding for my need of practical theology deepens.  I’m glad I’m learning this now and not when I’m 50.

We all know people who can argue about finer points of theology in regards to spiritual gifts, the atonement, justification, eschatology, etc.  However, when it comes to practical living, they fall flat on their face.  There are guys who can talk Calvinism all day, but do not know their wife’s favorite restaurant.  Perhaps you are one of those people.  I know I can be from time to time.

The people and students I work with know that I love doctrine.  And it is essential!  But if it’s only head knowledge and theory, what’s the point?

So many people are prepared to answer questions about the doctrines I mentioned above (or others).  That’s all well and good, but here’s the kind of questions I get from people (and some I’ll probably be asked once I pastor a church):

  • Is it wrong to kiss my girlfriend?
  • What can I do to stop eating so much?
  • How can I get myself to read the Bible everyday?
  • Why do I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning?
  • How can I love my parents better?
  • Why am I so bad at communicating?
  • Why isn’t God answering my prayers?
  • How can I stop drinking so much?
  • How do I stop procrastinating?

I assume that you get these questions, too.  Of course, there are those questions like, “What is irresistible grace?” and “What does Paul teach about the sanctification process?” and many other doctrinally oriented questions.  But if you merely answer a question, instead of responding to a person, you aren’t doing anyone any good.

Theology was made for man, not man for theology.  Take everything that the Holy Spirit teaches you — everything in the Scriptures, all the doctrines — and be intensely practical.  That’s what everyday life is all about.