The Value of Rebuke
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1
The Bible’s bluntness shocks me sometimes. The language in Proverbs 12:1 cannot be airbrushed. The Hebrew word translated “stupid” is ba`ar, which means “brutish, like cattle.”* In other words, anyone who refuses to learn from his mistakes is acting like an irrational, insensitive ox. Ouch!
Whatever the label—discipline, correction, reproof, or rebuke—it’s unpleasant. We all prefer compliments to complaints, commendation to criticism. But usually our faults and mistakes, not our strengths and successes, push us toward improvement.
In my thirties, I taught English at a local community college. One day as I was leaving a classroom, I encountered the professor who taught the next class in that room. When I greeted him, he demanded, “Why don’t you ever erase the whiteboard?” Red-faced, I apologized, then returned to the board and erased it. His rebuke stung, but he was right. I had been inconsiderate. To this day, after I’ve taught a Bible study or workshop, I make sure the board is clean before I leave a room.
We need to view correction as beneficial, not detrimental. People don’t always deliver the truth with kindness, but even the harshest rebuke can contain a grain of truth. I’m learning to accept criticism without comment, no matter how hurtful it may be.
Of course I want to defend myself and respond with barbed observations about the other person’s faults. And sometimes I do. But that isn’t wise, and I always regret it. Instead, I’m learning to take reproofs to the Lord. I ask Him to help me separate truth from untruth, constructive criticism from destructive nitpicking.
Proverbs 15:31-32 says, “He who listens to life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” A rebuke scrapes our egos like steel wool on rusty metal. But if we learn to accept abrasive words with grace and discernment, the Holy Spirit can buff our lives to a high-gloss shine so people can see God’s reflection in us.
And isn’t that our goal?
Read Proverbs 13:18, 17:10, 25:12 and 29:1. What do these verses teach us about the benefits of a rebuke?
Read 1 Timothy 4:11-16 and 2 Timothy 4:1-2. Leaders may have to correct and reprove those under their authority, but what else characterizes their lives and leadership?
Read Acts 15:1-29. What does this passage teach us about giving and receiving correction with a godly attitude?
Denise K. Loock
*”Hebrew Lexicon :: H1198 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 1 Nov, 2014. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1198&t=KJV