Rebuke the Wise

“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.” (Proverbs 9:7-9, NIV)

One of the most difficult things for me, personally, is bringing a challenge to a person. I don’t find it terribly hard to challenge a congregation through a sermon to come into alignment with God’s Word, to turn from sin, or to change the way they think or believe. But when it comes to meeting with someone personally, bringing a rebuke is not easy!

Yet, that is something we are called to do as brothers and sisters in Christ. We should love each other enough to bring correction when needed. And, we should be humble when we receive a rebuke. When I read these verses in Proverbs 9, I found myself asking, Am I more like the mocker or the wise person? When someone brings you a challenge, do you respond with defensiveness? Do you go into self-preservation mode? Or do you humble yourself, hear the rebuke, and grow wiser as a result?

I will confess that defensiveness is often my default reaction, but I am learning to put my self-preservation aside and hear the rebuke. Usually, there is something in it I can grow from. Of course, occasionally a challenge is brought that is entirely worthless, and not offered in an “I want to help you grow” spirit, but in an “I want to tear you down” attitude. When that happens, it’s best to turn the other cheek and forget the rebuke altogether as I remember whose I am–I am His, and nothing will change that!

I have found over the years that to avoid bringing a challenge rarely helps a person. As difficult as it can be to give a rebuke, sometimes that’s precisely what’s needed to help them mature and grow. But when you do offer a word of constructive criticism, it’s best to do it with an attitude of grace, in a spirit of humility and encouragement. The goal is never to merely challenge a person and walk away; it’s to bring both challenge and support, both rebuke and encouragement, both correction and accountability. Because at the end of the day, our goal should be to see the other person grow closer to the Lord.

One of the best and simplest tools out there to help think through challenge and support is The Support-Challenge Matrix from GiANT World Wide Leadership.

My prayer for this week is that you will have the courage to bring a challenge if it’s needed in the next seven days. Or, the humility to receive a rebuke and allow the Holy Spirit to use it as a catalyst for growth in your life.