“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.”
How not to Deal with Fools
The advice provided in this verse seems a little strange. Surely an idiot wants to know that he is an idiot? But who should tell him/her? The NIV translation is a little easier to understand:
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Is it really our place to correct a scorner, a mocker? The likely response according to Proverbs is that the scorner will turn on the person providing correction. Does this mean we should suffer in silence?
My sixteen-year old daughter finds suffering in silence impossible, and constantly tries to correct her twelve-year old brother. As most children are not keen on being corrected by parents or teachers, there is little possibility of correction from an older sibling being well received. But the reaction from her brother doesn’t stop my daughter, who often fails to see the plank of wood in her own eye while trying to remove the speck of sawdust from her brother’s eye. Jesus said:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV)
Perhaps the shame in attempting to correct a scorner is that we fail to look in the mirror first?
Policing the Wicked
There is a reason why most law enforcement officers wear uniform. It is to distinguish them from civilians so that they are easily recognized. While members of the public do occasionally intervene to disrupt criminal activity, an untrained response can be fraught with danger. There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. In other words, it is not our job to judge the wicked or attempt to punish or rebuke those we believe to be wrong.
There are earthly authorities with that responsibility, and a higher authority in God. He will deal with the wicked in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:16-17). We need to ignore the fact that the wicked seem to prosper in this life (Job 21) and focus on ourselves. How are we doing?