Proverbs in 365 Devotions

Proverbs 19:25 Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.

Dealing With The Scoffer

R Aylor

This verse has been a puzzle for me to some extent… not so much standing alone but in parallel with other verses in Proverbs.
Well let’s take a closer look. For starters the word scoff carries with it the idea of mocking someone with ridicule. There are some people who just enjoy putting others down… In public they try to make them look foolish and ignorant and thereby hoping to look superior to them.

In this verse striking a scoffer is put in parallel and contrast to reproving a man of understanding. Doing both can be beneficial. It does not indicate that the scoffer will gain instruction… I assume this is a hardened habitual scoffer and in him being stricken is instruction for those who have been watching him belittle some other person publicly. There are surly times we should stand up for the defenseless… and there are even systems within our laws that do this kind of protecting for the vulnerable and helpless. We should never stand by when someone is being abused… And the type of striking we administer should not begin with our hands but we must be discerning and when we correct others it should be done towards them in love. All things should be done in love and lawfully to the glory of God. So then our correcting is at least mainly for the benefit of those in the world who are watching that they might learn righteousness and truth. Now though a scoffer may not admit their wrong…  though they may refuse to humble themselves and learn what is right… the man of understanding… when reproved will gain knowledge… He humbles himself in repentance and learns truth and righteousness and justice.

Proverbs 21:11 goes along nicely with todays verse. It also seems to say how punishing a scoffer is good because it makes the simple onlookers wise: When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.

But there is another passage that on first glance may seem to counteract todays verse… but lets look a little closer and see if it actually supports it: Proverbs 9:7-8… Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

So which should you do? Correct and reprove a scoffer or not.

I think the answer can be found in asking a couple of discerning questions: 1 - Is the scoffer in question is a hardened proud mocker or does he still think he does not know it all? Can he learn wisdom? If so he still may benefit from reproof. But if he is proud to the core… Jesus words in Matthew 7:6 come to mind: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.". In this case we should not instruct a scoffer with correction.

2 - However if others have been watching and learning from a scoffer as he belittles others… there are times he should be rebuked publicly. Not for his instruction but for those who may have been watching and learning bad habits from the scoffer.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.