What does Proverbs 9:7-8 mean? Is it just a warning for us so we aren’t surprised when we try and correct people? Is it saying don’t waste your time on scoffers because it doesn’t lead to anything good?
Proverbs 9:7-8 (NASB)
He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
Correcting people is a very interesting endeavor. Pastoring has taught me SO MUCH about it, although it doesn’t take being a pastor to understand.
I think it is most helpful, when trying to be a good Christian to aspire to the life that Jesus led. Now when I say this I’m not telling people to focus on healing people, walking on water, or casting out demons. I am not saying that those things were not important, I’m saying they were not the point. They were an outflow of Jesus living in obedience to the Father. Jesus only did what He saw the Father do.
Jesus did not heal every person, and He did not minister to every person. This may be hard for some people to understand, or even take in, but the truth of the matter is, He did not. I often like to use the example of when He went to the Pool of Bethesda, and found the lame man there. We understand by the story that there were many people there who needed healing, and yet we also see in the story that He only approached one person and healed that one. Why is this important? It’s important for the same reason of why the pool was there in the first place, and why and how the healing’s took place there. It wasn’t about the healing but about connecting people to God.
All of that said, we can draw on this knowledge to understand why talking to a scoffer would be a waste of time. One of the ways that the Hebrew word for scoffer can be understood is “One who shows himself a mocker.” Somebody who refuses the truth, who just does not want the truth, and will do everything to fight the truth, cannot be helped by talking to them about the truth. The person that tries to help them will just find themselves frustrated, and probably even embarrassed.
I actually have had this happen to me many times, but more specifically in defending the local church. During the time of Covid, we had some people lash out against us on social media. I decided that I would try to respond by being reasonable and explaining what we were doing, while maintaining our faith and our freedom to partake of it. The person I responded to, however, was not reasonable and they didn’t really care why we were doing what we were doing because they hated what we did anyways. Now they just figured that they had opportunity to be vocal about it. What I found myself doing was trying to correct a scoffer, and all that scoffer was going to do was mock us for what they didn’t understand.
Now, I shared what I shared at the beginning about Jesus and then the story for a very specific purpose. To tie it all together what we need to understand is this, not every person will be open to our faith, and so we must learn to be led by God‘s spirit to the ones who are. We have been given instruction to go into all the world and preach the gospel but that does not necessarily mean to each and every person. If that were the case, we would never get very far because there’s a lot of people in a short space of time. How much time would be wasted on people that never want to hear? I have found way more effect when we spend time with God and then go where He wants us to be, looking for those who want to hear. How can we know who they are you might wonder? You can never know in of yourself, but the Lord knows and if you are interested, He will show you.
The interesting thing is, He may surprise you. I had no idea of whether or not the woman who became my wife would want anything to do with God. She was raised an atheist, and I didn’t have much to offer her. Not knowing how I knew, I was drawn to her by God’s spirit. In time our relationship would truly glorify God, but I had no possible way of knowing this when she was a waitress bringing me my coffee.
The truths that are presented to us in these scriptures are that every person will not receive truth. Those who will are wise and those who won’t are not and it’s important for us to seek out them that will. It’s also important for us to recognize that when we are talking to somebody and they are just mocking us, it is not our place to continue. When we do so, we do it to our own frustration.
Following God and living humbly will lead us to the people and places we need to be. There will be times when the Lord will lead us to a mocker for the purpose of being a witness to them at judgement. We should not however, make it a practice to just say everything to everyone. This is not an excuse to be lazy with our faith or to suppress it, but to be purposeful in His purpose as we walk it out.
Matthew 7:6 (NASB)
“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.”