There is a story of three little boys. They all three played baseball and they had the same coach. Two of the boys were on the field practicing while the third was sitting on the ground, slacking off and not practicing. The coach watched all three of them and came up to the two boys practicing and told them what they were doing wrong. He critiqued them on their form, how they threw the ball, and how they hit the ball. One of the boys threw his bat down on the ground in rage, yelling at the coach, screaming, “How dare you tell me what I can and cannot do, I do not need you or your advice!” And stormed off. The kid playing around and slacking off saw the commotion and heard what happened. Even though he did not receive the criticism, because he was not doing his part for the team and instead, being silly, foolish, and unlearned, he still was aware of what happened and gained a small amount of wisdom. The third boy, the other one who received the rebuke but did not storm off, stood calmly and welcomed it. He knew he could learn from his mistakes and grow stronger from them, forcing him to do better for his team.
How do you respond to rebuke? Solomon presents three different outcomes to his son about rebuke and instruction. We find this lesson in (Proverbs 19:25)—“Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.” In this verse, as mentioned already, there are three different individuals: the Scoffer, the Simple, and the Man of Understanding. Before we look at the three different mindsets of how to receive rebuke, let us first define our words so we can have a full understanding of what this text teaches us. “Strike [to smite, punish, beat, or hit] a scoffer [mocker or scorner, one who is reckless, wild and rebellious], and the simple [silly, foolish, ignorant, or unlearned] will learn prudence [be prudent; shrewd; be the wiser; be aware]: and reprove [convince; judge; correct; argue with; instruct; construct critically] a man of understanding [discern; perceive], and he will gain/ understand [discern; perceive] knowledge.” Now that we have defined our words, let us discuss our three attitudes and learn a valuable lesson.
The Scorner— The first one we see is the scorner who completely rejects godly wisdom and hates righteous instruction. The heart of the scorner is completely against what God says and has no respect for human authority. He is defiant, utterly unteachable, and “does not listen to rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1). The one who is a scoffer rejects those who correct him because he does not care and has no desire for spiritual council. “A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise” (Proverbs 15:12).
The Simple— The second individual is the simple man. Even though he is silly and foolish, he observes the punishment of the scoff- er and is made the wiser. He will gain wisdom in the situation and be more aware of how to conduct himself in the next occurrence.
The Man of Understanding— The third individual is described as having understanding. He heeds to the advice of the one giving the rebuke and is made wise by godly counsel. Unlike the foolish man or the scorner, he is open-minded and open-hearted to constructive criticism, always looking for ways to improve so he might be able to glorify God all the better. He does not think of himself and dismisses authority, but rather seeks out the godly wisdom. He seeks out and welcomes with open arms advice from those full of wisdom and experience.
Application— So, how can we apply this proverb to our lives today? We have to re- member, Solomon’s counsel, wisdom, and great advice written in this text and the book as a whole was directed to his son who one day would take the throne and reign as king. Our nation’s leaders, judges, teachers, lawgivers, and rulers would be wise to take into consideration the constructive criticism and corrective discipline for the Spiritual well-being of the country they lead. But not only should those in higher office heed to rebuke that builds up, but we too should do the same. When one receives criticism or rebuke from those who try to help or have the authority to do so, we can only be as those spoken of in this lesson. Which one are we? Are we the scorner, the one who looks in the eye of authority and spits in its face? Do we completely reject the advice given to us because we have no desire to live godly, and instead desire to live worldly with our own lusts? Are we the simple? The one ignorant and silly who just sits by and observes, becoming more aware? Or are we the one who is actively seeking the advice of the godly, and receiving constructive criticism? Are we excepting of improvement, so we may be better equipped to teach others, grow spiritually, and worship God? Which one are you?