By Mike Willis
Learning only occurs when there has been a transfer of knowledge from the teacher to the one who is taught. This transfer of knowledge is sometimes stifled by traits of the teacher. His teaching can be impaired by speaking in a monotone, teaching too long at a time, boring presentation, or discussing topics of no relevance.
However, sometimes the process of learning is impaired by the hearer. Jesus, the perfect Teacher, was unable to teach some people. He warned that men should be careful to hear. He said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8:8). Each of the letters to the seven churches of Asia concludes with the saying, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). In order to benefit from the revelation which God has given to man, an individual must have the proper attitude to learn.
The Attitude Toward Instruction
An individual must have a burning desire to know God’s will. The wise man said, “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23). This proverb recognizes the preciousness of truth, the willingness to sacrifice in order to obtain it, and the obligation to cling to it at all costs. Jesus taught the same lesson in comparing the kingdom of heaven to a treasure hidden in a field and to a goodly pearl (Matt. 13:44-46). The man who accidentally discovered the hidden treasure and the man who found the goodly pearl for which he had been searching sold all that they had in order to obtain it. The Bereans displayed this attitude toward learning God’s will when they “searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
A wise man is marked by this attitude toward learning the will of God. He will listen to instruction.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Prov. 9:9).
The wise in heart will receive commandments . . . (Prov. 10:8).
The instruction which they hear, they will keep (i.e. obey, make application to their lives – Prov. 10:17). Having this attitude toward learning makes them increase in wisdom (Prov. 12:1; 15:31; 19:20). They will love the man who reproves them for their sin (Prov. 9:8). This disposition perceives that anytime a man has the opportunity to rid himself of some incorrect belief or practice in “change for a correct belief or practice, he is wise to exchange the bad for the good.
By contrast, the fool hates reproof.
. . . he that hateth reproof is brutish (Prov. 12:1).
. . . a scorner heareth not rebuke (Prov. 13:1).
Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regarded reproof shall be honored (Prov. 13:18).
Frequently, he will hate the one who brings it. Paul asked the Galatians if he had become their enemy because he told them the truth (Gal. 4:16). “A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him” (Prov. 15:12).
Do Not Waste Your Time Teaching One Who Hates Instruction
What should be our attitude toward an individual who refuses to learn? Should we continue trying to teach him?
The scornful man has hardened his face against the truth (Prov. 21:29). The wise man said, “Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words” (Prov. 23:9). Not only will he harden his face against the truth, he will maliciously attack the one teaching it.
He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee (Prov. 9:8-9).
Jesus indicated the same thing when He taught that one should not cast his pearls before swine “lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matt. 7:6). The early apostles learned this lesson well enough to shake the dust off their feet when one refused God’s word (Acts 13:45-46; 18:6). A scornful man should be left alone in his sin (Matt. 15:14).
Learn By Instruction Or By Stripes
The man who rebels against God’s divine word will suffer the consequences of his action. Under the theocratic government in Israel, a scornful man was punished, sometimes by a beating (Deut. 25:1-3). Civil punishment would teach a man what he was too foolish to learn by instruction.
. . . a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding (Prov. 10:13).
Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools (Prov. 19:29).
Yet a fool will learn less from his punishment than the wise will learn from instruction (Prov. 17:10).
Sometimes a person will rebel against God’s law and civil law to the point that he is put in prison. Prison is for the man who cannot learn any other way. Yet, in prison, some men learn only how to be better criminals. Such a man is a fool.
To punish these individuals is necessary, not only that justice might be served, but that others will learn not to conduct themselves in the same way. “When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge” (Prov. 21:11; cf. I Tim. 5:20).
Continued Rebellion Leads To Destruction
The person who continues to rebel against God’s word will eventually destroy himself. “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed. . . ” (Prov. 13:13; cf. 19:16). God’s law of retribution is this: “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). And the harvest is always greater than the seed that is sown (cf. Hos. 8:7).
Most of us have seen how this rebellion destroys lives. I remember a young lady who was especially skilled in her trade. She turned to drugs and drinking, destroyed her mind, and eventually committed suicide. Young executives sometimes trample underfoot their subordinates until they are fired. The man who obstinately refuses to heed the word of God will suffer the consequences of his actions, both in this life and in that which is to come.
The Bible Calls This Man A Fool
Because of the foolishness of this action, the Bible calls the man who refuses to listen to instruction a fool (Prov. 15:5). Even as the man who says there is no God (Psa. 14:1) and the man who knows God will but does not obey it are fools (Matt. 7:24-27), so also is the man who refuses to listen to instruction and correction.
What is your attitude when someone corrects you? Do you swell up with anger? Do you lash back with attacks against the one correcting you (some store up a list of grievances for use at a time like this)? Do you cease associating with the one correcting you? Or, do you listen attentively, weigh the criticism objectively, and act accordingly?
The young person needs to learn to profit from criticism. Parents help mold their children into scornful fools when they allow the character to develop in a manner that correction is not well received. Pouting, anger, and retaliation are sinful responses to correction.
Few things test one’s character more than how he reacts to criticism. What would be your reaction should someone say, “You are doing this wrong; I will show you a better way”? Suppose someone tried to show you that something you believed about salvation and God was wrong. Could you listen, weigh the evidence, and make an objective judgment? Are you a foolish man or a wise man?
Guardian of Truth XXX: 13, pp. 386, 405
July 3, 1986