As you read this chapter, does it feel to you like Solomon saved some of the heaviest concepts until now? It does me. Some of these reiterate thoughts he’s mentioned already, but there are a few that seem especially weighty.
Oh – the “cute one” first. I know now why I never got my way as a kid. Well that’s how it seemed. It’s in verse 15:
The rod and reproof give wisdom,
But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.
I made the mistake of praying for wisdom when I was a boy. I was reading James 1 at the time and didn’t know this was over here. Tsk – oh-well, hmm? [grin] God knew.
There is quite a bit in Proverbs 29 about correction and reproof. We’re afraid to go there, aren’t we?
Those we hardly know, we cut some extra slack, because we hardly know them.
Family and close friends we -um- cut some extra slack, because -um- they’re family, you know. Or a close friend.
Are you ready? Proverbs is going to set us straight.
A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy. (29.1)
He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue. (28.23)
Those are not easy concepts!
Let me get this right. If I venture out there, as much as I’d rather not, there’s promise of a BETTER relationship on the other side of the reproof if he hears me? Absolutely. Wisdom calls to all who will hear “Turn to my reproof! … I will make my words known to you.” (Pr. 1.23) It’s that way throughout this entire collection of wisdom we’ve been reading this month.
I remember a concept Pastor Walter Harvey of Milwaukee used at a men’s breakfast several years ago. He was talking that morning about looking out for each other over the long haul. He said:
Sometimes it comes down to “I need to correct my brother now,
or be forced to reject him later on.”
Back-track and read that once more, OK?
If you “need to go there” for the sake of a friend, do so. The tenderness and risk of the situation almost guarantees we go with humility and fear, doesn’t it?
But there’s hope. On the other side of this discomfort is favor – if he hears me. (Pr. 28.23)
And there’s warning. On the other side of much reproof is tragedy if he doesn’t. (Pr. 29.1) But it’s his call.
So how to do this? Each setting has its own set of conditions and cautions.
Each calls for intentional and deliberate prayer before-hand.
Each individual has his unique personality and ways he prefers to be approached. Study him. Pray. Practice.
But be willing to go there for the sake of your brother or sister in Christ.
Matthew 18 has a series of steps we’re to pursue when the rebuke isn’t heard at first. Too often we rush through the procedure, almost hoping for the rascal’s demise, rather than thinking and praying about how to restore (Gal. 6.1) and appeal to our brother to correct the things that are askew.
For a wonderful example of how to appeal to a brother, read and study Paul’s note to Philemon when he sends his fugitive slave, Onesimus back to him with a messenger. The note’s tucked between Titus and Hebrews in your Bible and is hardly a page long. Talk about well-chosen words! Talk about entreaty! Talk about tact and deference! Paul went there. And he went there with hope. That doesn’t mean his palms weren’t sweaty as he wrote to his friend. But that he did what was right demonstrates he had courage and truly cared about his friend. We need to do the same, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
Can I tell you something? I’ve made myself sit still and listen while the reproof came my way. I know how hard it is to just sit there. Take it. Listen. And think it through later. But Solomon talked about that too. He said “On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.” (Pr. 10.13) When you’re the one on the receiving end of the reproof, hush. Listen. Don’t scorn, don’t laugh, don’t strike back, Listen. If you can hear the wisdom from the person across from you, you are SO far ahead. Understand this was hard for them to do. They’d rather have just breathed the world’s five most expensive words (Maybe It Will Go Away) and let it be. But they care about you more than that.
Try to be receptive, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.