Proverbs 9:8-9 “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”
There are many different ways a person can improve himself intellectually today, and many different reasons for doing so. Some go back to school to pick up that college degree they never completed, or they take classes to earn their master’s degree. Extra years of schooling, additional alphabet soup behind your name, can be an advantage in some fields. It may make it easier to find jobs or get promotions.
But does additional schooling make us wiser? Wisdom, in the Biblical sense, means more than just packing our heads full of information. Just because a person would excel on the game-show Jeopardy doesn’t mean they are wise. Wisdom is the ability to take what we know, especially those things that have to do with our faith, and apply them to our lives. It’s a gift our Lord holds out to more than a few chosen geniuses. He makes it available to his children by faith.
The Lord’s kind of wise man knows that he doesn’t know it all. That why you can rebuke him and “he will love you.” We man not feel like giving a hug and a kiss to the person who just pointed out what a nasty, mean-spirited thing we have done. But when others rebuke us, what do we have to lose? We aren’t losing face. All we really lose is the spiritually deadening poison of our sin. We are released from the stupidity and the danger of our own immorality. The wise man loves rebuke because it gives him the opportunity to repent, and to receive forgiveness. That sets him free. He is free from his guilt. He is free to avoid that sin with all its nasty side effects. His wisdom grows, his faith strengthens, and he is better equipped to live his life. None of this would be possible if he were the know-it-all who refused to admit his mistakes. The wise man knows this.
And the wise man is always ready to learn even more. “Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” Wise people appreciate the value of opportunities to be taught by others. They know class time is never wasted time. Even the very old can become “wiser still.” Even if the teacher is covering old ground, the wise recognize that there is value in being refreshed in what we have already learned. We will not always see immediate use for what we learn of God and his word. But none of us can predict what we will face in the future. It is better to be prepared ahead of time. What we learn today may well help answer tomorrow’s question, or solve tomorrow’s problem. So wise men and women attend Bible class. They pay attention to sermons. They are not too proud to admit that they don’t know it all.
And what we do know is always worth hearing again. Isn’t everything God says to us in his grace worth repeating? Is hearing about love, or forgiveness, or a Savior’s sacrifice, or a future life of glory one time ever enough? We watch favorite movies over and over again. Millions of people will tune in to watch the same holiday classics on TV this year. We tell our husbands or wives, our children or parents, our friends and family, “I love you,” many, many times. No one complains. Perhaps some gem, some nugget of spiritual gold, is waiting to be discovered in God’s gracious promises by the people who are wise enough to listen again. Let’s be the wise ones who aren’t too smart to find out.