When people are being dumb, don’t you just want to correct them, sometimes even need to correct them? People we think are wise are generally not the ones we want to just get it right. Whether it’s a political conversation, a theological one, or just a battle of opinions, we are most likely to correct those we think are being ridiculous. But strangely, that is not the advice of Solomon in his proverbs.
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.
Solomon, known for his wisdom, says that fools won’t take the advice anyway so why give it? He says that only the wise are wise enough to take rebuke and correction well. Assuming our intention is to help the person we are rebuking, the only ones worth focusing on are the wise.
But here we run into a problem. When we rebuke people, it usually isn’t for the sake of the person at all. We are seldom seeking to help our opponents find a new wisdom that we have. Instead, our arguments are usually about beating our opponents, beating them into submission to our superior opinions. Our rebuke is usually about us. If so, then it doesn’t matter who we correct because it isn’t about them anyway.
So Solomon has two pieces of advice for us today. First, don’t correct someone to show how smart your are or to win a war of words. Correct them so that they are better people, out of concern for them. Second, only rebuke the wise who can take your words and grow through them. And implied in it all, be the wise one so that when you are rebuked, you don’t hear the opening shots of a war but instead, with humility, hear a rebuke as an attempt to help you grow and be grateful.