Ever told someone that what he was doing was wrong, only to find yourself in the midst of a major conflict shortly thereafter?
You were simply trying to rectify a situation, but you find yourself wishing you had said nothing.
King Solomon gave us some words of wisdom on this matter:
“He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you. Reprove a wise man and he will love you.” Proverbs 9:7-8
It’s a sad reality, but often the people who most need to hear a rebuke are the very ones who refuse to hear it.
I’ve always had a penchant for philosophy, and always enjoyed a good, productive argument. And when I say productive, I mean the kind of argument where both sides are trying to arrive at a reasonable conclusion. Not long ago, I came across a forum where an ultra-arrogant scoffer was making claims about something he had “discovered”, and he dared anyone to prove otherwise.
His viewpoint disdained everything in the Bible. Further, I could see his view was his argument was full of holes and he had used multiple argumentation fallacies to make his point.
So, being a guy who loves to engage a skeptic, I jumped right in on his forum to challenge him. I wrote comments to rebut his, but soon discovered he had the power to post or not post anything from people writing in. In other words, he totally controlled the content of the argument.
To say this guy was crude is a drastic understatement. He not only intentionally misrepresented my comments (by copying and pasting them into his arguments, but only after taking out words here and there to change the meaning), he branded me with noxious names and criticized my person constantly. It was “ad hominem” argumentation at its finest.
And when I had made a sound rebuttal to one of his major points (and disproved his theory), he just stopped posting my comments and went on to write a paragraph of how he had silenced my arguments and wouldn’t waste anymore of his time with me.
Initially, I was really angry at this guy for posting his views and asking people to refute him, and when challenged and shown he was wrong, resorting to name calling, boorish criticism, and cheating. But eventually I came to a realization, and it has changed my view on debating people such as this.
Looking at this verse from Proverbs, I can see the author had probably experienced many people like my contender on the forum. Even as the foremost authority in all the world on wisdom, he likely had many opponents who had no intention of finding truth, but only promoting their own heresy, even if it made no sense. As he says here:
“When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.” Proverbs 29:9
Some people don’t want to find what is right. They want to promote their own thinking, no matter how foolish.
The scoffer is such a person. He doesn’t want authority, rules, or principles to follow. He believes he has come up with the answers in his own mind, and has no need to learn from anyone else. Including God.
It is best to leave these people alone. There’s no changing them.
On the other hand, contending with a wise man can be a very good and productive thing. Wise men are truly seeking to find the right, and wise men also understand there are things they don’t know. As humans, we all have need of growing and changing.
The Scriptures do just that: they challenge us to change our natural ways. They show us what is right and honorable. As wise people, we must submit to their authority.
“The wise of heart will receive commands, but a babbling fool will be ruined.” Proverbs 10:8