by Coye Bouyer
LANSING, MI – As a pastor, I have encountered many people and over the years I have learned that people are very different with a variety of attitudes and actions just depending on who you’re talking to. I have learned that when someone comes seeking biblical advice, I can listen to just about anyone even if I don’t always agree with them. I have learned that while I can ‘Listen to all, I must Leave some right where they are.’
The Consequences for Correcting the Incorrigible
Proverbs 9:7-9 communicates a caution to the wise individual who seeks to invite or impress insight and instruction (wisdom) to a scoffer. He writes, “whoever chastises or chooses to correct a scoffer…” The derivative of this word describes a superior correcting an inferior, further helping the reader realize that the one who is attempting to do the correcting has both the ability (knowledge) and authority to do so.
Secondly, the writer describes the type of person being corrected, ‘a scoffer.’ The Hebrew word for ‘scoffer’ describes one who is marked by attitudes and actions of corruption, discord and even gluttony. Throughout the O.T. the scoffer is one who is prideful, haughty, foolish and despises knowledge. He/she is described as one who is incapable of correction because their pride prevents them from gaining understanding, as if their pride insulates them from wisdom.
The writer closes this first clause out by saying, if the wise seek to correct a scoffer, brings dishonor upon themselves. The Hebrew word for dishonor includes concepts like blemish and defects in both a moral and physical sense. Moreover, this Hebrew word parallels the Hebrew word ‘insults,’ used in the second clause of this phrase, ‘and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.’ Used as parallels, these two words together can also mean ‘abuse.’ In a sense, the writer says, ‘when one with the appropriate ability and authority attempts to alter (correct) the attitudes and actions of the arrogant (scoffer), you’re asking to be abused.’
Rationalization for Response
But why would the wise individual receive shame, insult, and even possible injury? The wise writer recognizes the potential question, and therefore proceeds with the reason for such a response; “Do not reprove a mocker or he will hate you.” Now, with more of an imperative the writer says why it would not be wise to correct the mocker; it’s because the mocker loathes/hates rebuke. Moreover, rebuke, even from a superior, causes him/her to reject the relationship. Here, the wise sage speaks to why correction cannot be given to everyone. For when the arrogant gets rebuked not only is the rebuke rejected but the relationship is ruined.
Jesus says a similar thing with His words, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7:6). Here Jesus is making the point that one must discern when presenting to others what is holy for it will elicit nothing but abuse when cast amongst the wrong crowd.
In instances like this, restraint is required. While God is the ultimate judge and we are not to judge people, we are to use proper judgment of the people we may be witnessing to. In other words, Jesus, just like Solomon says, the intelligent invite insults…if you’re attempting to correct the incorrigible.
Hopefully, this encourages you by discouraging you from attempting to give wise advice to arrogant and prideful individuals. Why, because at times instruction invites insult, and our attempts to advise the arrogant are asking to be abused. Furthermore, when we do this, not only are our rebukes rejected, but relationships are being ruined because we are casting our pearls to swine. So, if you want to refuse to invite insult and injury into your life, one way of doing this is by learning to
“Listen to all, but leaving some right where they are.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pastor Coye L. Bouyer is the founding pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Lansing, MI where he has served since March of 2010. Pastor Bouyer recently stepped into the Diversity Ambassador role for the BSCM and firmly believes that he was not only called to Preach the Gospel as part of the process of reconciliation of man to God, but also using any platform as a bridge of reconciliation of man to man, and even more so amongst the brethren. Pastor Bouyer and his lovely wife Keturah (Gen. 25:1) have been married four over 20 years and have four children; Sierra, Seth, Cayla and Coye II.