“Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”
A Little Irony
In one way it seems counter-intuitive to be told not to reprove someone, but that is exactly what Solomon is saying. Some people refuse to be corrected.
It not only seems counter-intuitive, but ironic. Why would the “wise man” need to be rebuked? Shouldn’t we be rebuking the fool? It’s almost crazy, isn’t it? Don’t correct the fool, but do correct the wise: maybe we should dig into this a little further.
Let’s think about the scorner for a moment. Gesenius described the scorner as one who derides and mocks, maybe even by “imitating [the reprover's] voice in sport.” In other words, the scorner could be thought of as someone who, when corrected, comes back with a “nah nah nah nah boo boo, I can’t hear you.” Trying to reprove someone like that is more likely to make you angry, rather than help him.
A scorner is also not likely to take kindly to the reprover’s suggestions. Scorners are proud and unwilling to hear instruction. They get offended at the mere notion they could be wrong. This kind of person is just as likely to become your enemy, calling you everything from “judgmental” to “self-righteous” in an attempt to hypocritically justify himself. Therefore, it is impossible to be a friend to a scorner, for they will only hate you when you wound them as a friend (Prov. 27:6).
The Wise Man
Isn’t it wonderful to encounter someone who accepts instruction and reproof? A wise man will accept rebuke because he wants to do what is right, not what is right in his own eyes. Instead of hating you, a wise person will say, “I love you!” They will see that by calling them out about a wrong only serves to keep them in the right.
However, we should be very careful when we attempt to rebuke others. If we don’t do it in love, then the wise will be able to discern our intent. Then, along with the fool who hates our reproof, we may end up losing a friend, as well.
Lord, help me to be teachable. Help me to love those who want me to succeed in life. Help me to never resent the one who loving points out my faults, so that I may change.