Proverbs 13:18 ESV
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
I don’t like being told I’m wrong. I want to be right, if only because it makes everybody else look at me with approbation, and when somebody tries to tell me I’m not, I don’t want to listen. What does he know? What business does he have reproving me? Why should I listen? The truth is, I’m wrong sometimes. More times than I’d like to admit, more times than I’ve realized. I need, therefore, somebody to point it out; otherwise, as this Proverb warns, I will come only to destruction.
Reproof, despite its pain, is an essential part of the Christian life. As 2 Timothy 3:16 informs us, Scripture itself is meant to reprove, among other purposes. Wise counsel, of which reproof is undoubtedly a component (Proverbs 1:25,30), is in the Bible repeatedly emphasized, both in Proverbs (11:14) and elsewhere (1 Sam. 16:23). Why?
The answer is simple enough: when somebody is going the wrong direction and either doesn’t see it or doesn’t want to admit it, being shown their error early will prevent a lot of pain later. Think of it like driving a car. Whether you’re driving along a smooth road through a field nearly as flat as the road itself or negotiating a back-country gravel path along the edge of a mountain in the rain, if you forget that you’re down a tire, you’ll want somebody to remind you so you can fix the problem and get back on course. The sooner, the better, really, especially on that mountain path.
Another word for ‘reproof’, in many instances, is ‘discipline’. Sometimes we need a bit more than a stern talking to; sometimes we need to experience some pain for the lesson to really sink in. Every parent knows this, and every person ought to know this. Foolishness and immorality will eventually lead to bad consequences: discipline brings those consequences (whether they’re pain from a stomach ache, the perils of unchecked lust, or the fires of Hell) into sharper view, impelling us to turn aside before we reach the finale of our sin.
And what of the man who disregards warning and despises correction? Is he honored?
Well, according to this Proverb, no, not ultimately. True, he may enjoy human accolades for a time- the history of fraudsters and politicians will prove as much-, but in the end, his refusal to listen to reproof will lead to his downfall. After all, if he refuses to listen to reproof, if he prizes his own thoughts about all others, even God’s, then he will make a lot of bad decisions. Typically, these decisions are short term, an insincere promise here, a quiet bribe there. Sometimes they are less criminal, less obviously immoral- trusting the wrong person, choosing the wrong investment, letting passions run when they should be shackled. If he is a parent, perhaps he is too lax with his children (for all his counsellors warn him) or even cruel (despite his guides’ protestations). Eventually, these bad choices pile up (though even one may be enough to bring ruin), and he is cast, as this proverb warns, into ‘poverty and disgrace’.
Another question remains: who (for people, not things, bring reproof) is the ultimate source of all right correction, of all good discipline? Who warns man of the evil which festers in his heart and shows him the course of righteousness? The answer, of course, is God. God disciplines those whom He loves; discipline is, to the Christian, a sign of his salvation, however painful it may be in the moment (Hebrews 12:6). We should therefore heed His reproof with diligence and gratitude, recognizing that it comes from God, who sent His only begotten Son to die for us, in order that we might live, and Who sent His Spirit to guide us towards eternal life, who disciplines us for our good and His glory alone.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.