Up to this point, in the book of Proverbs, we have seen a few themes emerge: wisdom & folly, the danger of being a mocker, how the simple need wisdom, warnings against adultery, etc. Chapter 10 begins a collection of various themes that Solomon writes about, but they’re not as defined a structure as in other parts of Proverbs or other genres of Biblical literature.
One of the main themes that stood out from this passage is how wisdom is shown by how you respond to criticism. Look at these verses:
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin. (8)
On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense. (13)
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. (17)
Why is responding well to criticism a mark of wisdom? In one sense, it goes back to the beginning of wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (9:10) Then comes another point: fearing God and fearing other things are mutually exclusive; you cannot be driven by the fear of God and fear other things (people, future, possessions, etc.) at the same time. So when you are truly fearing (loving, revering, worshipping) God and nothing else, it changes everything in your life. Instead of needing love from others, you are free to love others; instead of needing security in your possessions and positions in life, you are free to enjoy them the way God designed you enjoy them—as good gifts from a loving Father—not something worthy of worship.
If your trust is fully in the Lord, why would you mind if someone pointed out a flaw in you? If you know that God uses people to make us more like Jesus, and you probably don’t have as much together as you think you do, why wouldn’t you accept the grace that comes with becoming more aware of your faults, especially when we see through the Proverbs that this instruction is a means of grace and wisdom for us.
When was the last time you received criticism? How did you respond? If you responded defensively, what caused you to do so? What were you believing about yourself that led to defensiveness?
God’s design is that we find our hope, our trust and our worth in Christ. When we have a proper relationship to God, everything else gets into line.
By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice