“Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning…Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.” (Proverbs 9:9; 25:12)
I find myself a little surprised to be writing about reproofs again, but maybe it is because I imagine that today, the day before Mother’s Day, mothers are instructing their sons (and daughters) to remember them as they want to be remembered one day when they have children. Well, maybe you mothers aren’t saying anything out loud, but you’re thinking it! And your children will be wiser for your reproof, considering you precious like a gold ring or an ornament of gold. You are thinking, “Oh, wouldn’t that be nice!” But the Bible says it’s true, and I believe it.
The catch is that the person we reprove, who will love us and learn is already wise. The teachable among us like to be taught and never stop learning. For example, those who already have a good grasp of the gospel of Jesus Christ usually desire to grow in a deeper understanding of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 13:12) Those who love Christ and who appreciate God’s grace will receive more illumination of the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit. Those who seem to have some belief and understanding but haven’t been regenerated only look as if they have by their profession. They don’t see a need the work of the Spirit, and consequently they will not receive saving grace, being content to justify themselves, as did the Pharisees in Jesus’s time. We are to teach and reprove those who love the Lord, not to try to provide further wisdom to those who don’t already have some (which is impossible anyway). First, friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers need to hear the foundational doctrines of the gospel, which is like seed sown on good soil, a great pearl, or buried treasure (Matthew 13:23, 44-46).
Reproof for a wise Christian is like a gold ring or ornament. A wise person will only reprove another at the right time, with love and sensitivity, in faith and grace, letting the gospel direct his or her words. A wise listener immediately sends up a prayer for an open heart and mind, for a quickening of the Spirit, and a desire to learn, growing in wisdom by trusting the person giving the correction. Both roles take a lot of practice and are never comfortable. We must prayer and engage in self-examination before we reprove others, lest we are blinded to our own need for reproof like Job’s friends. To them, Job said, “Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray. How forceful are upright words! But what does reproof from you reprove? Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?” (Job 6:24-26)
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)