“Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,but whoever heeds reproof is honored. A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:18-20)
I rarely visit with teenagers but some relatives and friends of a friend joined us for Sunday lunch, including three teens. One of the boys had just had surgery on a broken leg with a plate inserted, so he was on crutches. Imagine the reaction of the over-50 crowd when we learned that he had driven a car (with manual transmission) “just a little” the other day. He clearly likes to take risks so we offered him the simple advice that doing so would probably hinder the quick healing of his leg. This fifteen-year-old with his drivers permit, who is usually very sensible didn’t want to hear our warning. Hopefully he won’t ignore it because doing so may result in hindering his desire to have his leg heal and may harm his friends by his influence on them. These are two of the consequences described in Proverbs 13:18-20 for those who foolishly ignore instruction.
This month we have been considering the implications of our hearts’ desires, and last month we considered the characteristics of foolishness. Before we move onto another topic, let us meditate on these issues together. In the Proverbs 13 passage above we are given a taste of the foolishness of fools contrasted with the wisdom of the wise. The first pairing is poverty and disgrace verses honor—refusal to obey reproof or correction verses appreciating and personally applying a rebuke. Perhaps you have told your children that you disciplined them because you loved them and wanted them to be the best version of themselves and wanted them to glorify God. Raising children who are thankful for discipline and its source in a loving parent results in adults who are faithful disciples, who learn from Scripture and their teachers. We are foolish is we resent correction because it is difficult to hear. And, it is always difficult to listen to a rebuke, whether we are already under conviction or were blind to our fault. The best reproof comes in the form of the gospel that brings everything to light in the righteousness of Christ. Christians rejoice when God illumines blind spots to mature with the help of the Holy Spirit. Believers are rightly disgraced and destined to spiritual poverty when they refuse to grow through the rebuke of a fellow, well-meaning, loving brother or sister in Christ.
Verse 19 contains another contrast: the wise know what it is to have biblical desires satisfied but fools won’t stop sinning long enough to have this experience. Instead the foolish person holds onto the unproductive, ineffective ways and never find contentment. Finally, in verse 20, the influence of a wise friend is juxtaposed with that of a foolish one—walk with the wise to become wise, travel with fools and be brought down with them.
As we study our Father’s Word today, let’s remember that “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” (Proverbs 15:5) Will you be the wise believer who looks to the gospel for correction and influences others with your wisdom?