“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you…The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” (Proverbs 9:7-8; 15:31-32)
I once had a two-year-old rescued collie dog that had storm phobia. Hershey ran around the house, barking incessantly as long as the thunder continued. I tried without success to break him of the habit. But a far more troubling problem was the dog’s hatred for cats. Finally, after two years, and many injuries to himself and neighborhood cats, I gave up and returned him to the shelter where I found him. I was utterly exhausted and deflated. I suppose the reason I thought about Hershey is the reference at Proverbs 9:7 to Matthew 7:6: “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.”
Have you tried to correct someone who mocks you? Have you tried to convince an atheist or agnostic that God exists? Then you know how frustrating it can be, and how easy it is to feel abused. Are we not to share Christ with everyone, even those who insult us? Yes, we are, but we are not to continue giving the precious gift of the gospel to those who do not want it. We should pray for them and invite them to partake of the grace of God, but we are not to try to force our beliefs on them. Jesus instructed his disciples, “If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” (Matthew 10:14) Proverbs informs us that scoffers will hate us when we rebuke them, but we will be loved by the wise when we do the same for them.
How many parables did Jesus tell to scoffers that ended with judgment for those who refused to submit to his teaching and his lordship, lived out by his hearers? The Jewish Pharisees who rejected Jesus hated him for his appeals and finally had him crucified. This is the ultimate hate and injury that anyone has ever suffered for offering a life-giving reproof. They preferred their false religion, empty rule-keeping, and positions of contrived power over the truth and forgiveness. So, it is today for many whom we love. However, a wise person who is truth-seeking, like Nicodemus, will love the Christian who counsels him for his own good. David loved Nathan for confronting him with his sin (2 Samuel 12). They are grateful for the help and give thanks to God for those Christians who are strong enough to offer it. They enjoy being in the company of wise believers.
Are there people in your life who frustrate you by their obstinate refusal to believe in the gospel? Are you willing to leave them in God’s hands and offer your wisdom to those who will appreciate it and grow in it? “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” (Psalm 141:5a)