Have you ever tried teaching or correcting someone only have them make unwarranted personal attacks on you? It’s as though they think you dislike them or are disrespecting them. Learning only occurs when there has been a transfer of knowledge from the teacher to the one who is taught. If one is not willing to learn, the teacher is just wasting their time.
Sometimes the teacher is not prepared or is inept on the subject he is teaching. This is why all teachers need to be prepared to give biblical answers to biblical questions (1 Pet 3:15). 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 has ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8:8). Such was a description of Israel who were deaf but had ears to hear and blind but had eyes to see (Is 43:8). Yet to do evil they have much wisdom but to do good they have no knowledge (Jer. 4:22). Each of the letters to the seven churches of Asia concludes with the saying, “He that has 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.
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 obey and make an 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.
The fool hates reproof. He that hates reproof is brutish (Prov. 12:1). A scorner hears not rebuke (Prov. 13:1). Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuses 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 loves not one that reproves him” (Prov. 15:12).
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 reproves a scorner gets to himself shame: and he that rebukes a wicked man gets himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, unless he hates you: rebuke a wise man, and he will love you (Prov. 9:8-9).
Jesus indicated the same thing when He taught that one should not cast his pearls before swine “Unless 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).
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 receives knowledge” (Prov. 21:11 f; 1 Tim. 5:20). The person who continues to rebel against God’s word will eventually destroy himself. “Whoso despises the word shall be destroyed” (Prov. 13:13 f; 19:16). God’s law of retribution is this: “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). And the harvest is always greater than the seed that is sown (Hos. 8:7).
Conclusion: 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? Do you cease associating with the one correcting you? Or, do you listen attentively, weigh the criticism objectively, and act accordingly?
Remember this, only one who is teaching falsely will make personal attacks on those who oppose their views. Those who bear the truth allow the truth to speak for itself, but never make personal attacks on those who oppose them. 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? The answer could determine where you will spend your eternity.