Vol. 5, No. 2
~ Page 15 ~
A minister who taught about teaching Bible classes once had a gem of a piece of advice. Noting that certain age groups become very defensive when their behaviors or beliefs are challenged, he recommended having students read Proverbs 12:1, then ask a simple question. Proverbs 12:1 reads, "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid" (NKJV). The question was, "Now, you're not stupid, are you?"
How the approach worked for him I never noticed, but it has worked well for me on a few occasions. People don't want to admit stupidity, much less when the Holy Bible indisputably points the accusing finger. Many, when finally seeing the import of this verse as compared with their actions, have responded much better to loving rebukes. They have thought over again the issues that were so sacrosanct in their minds. They were willing to look again at the firmness of their beliefs. After all, they finally noted, someone who thinks they are above correction would certainly fall into the category of people denounced in Proverbs 12:1.
The wise sayings that are the Proverbs develop this as a recurring theme.
Proverbs 15:5 -- "A fool despises his father's instruction, But he who receives correction is prudent."
13:1 -- "A wise son heeds his father's instruction, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke."
15:10 -- "Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way, And he who hates correction will die."
15:12 -- "A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, Nor will he go to the wise."
15:14 -- "The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness."
15:31-32 -- "The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding."
These jewels apply to all ages. It has been my experience that young people can handle constructive criticism fairly well. It is often the adults who reject any type of correction. Sometimes, they justly brush off a faultfinder. Other occasions witness plain stubbornness. Each circumstance has its variables. The point here is a general observation for all boys, girls, men and women: People who excuse themselves from even the possibility of needing new knowledge and/or correction are, well, in the words of the Scriptures, "stupid." That's easy to write about. When the onus comes back on me, though, it's a little tougher to swallow.
Isn't it a grand principle to dwell upon? Christians are to be a humble, serving people (Mark 10:42-45; Luke 14:11; Philippians 2:5-8, etc.). None who believe in themselves so highly as to feel above mistakes fit this description. These passages serve as gentle reminders to the conscientious to pay attention in order to learn. People's criticisms may be genuinely needed, or they may be vain, meddling and even cruel attacks. God can help us have the wisdom we need to discern between the two (cf. James 1:5). It is wise to remember, though, that there is the possibility that, as a human being, I just might be wrong once in a while.
Indeed, such an attitude is vital to the godly life. "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom. And before honor is humility" (Proverbs 15:33).