When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.Proverbs 21:11
I Can’t Learn That!
Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not good at that kind of thing”? Or, have you said it yourself? We probably all have at some point. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true.
Pay attention to how often people self-limit what they supposedly can and cannot do. You might be surprised by how often you hear people say they can’t do certain things. Or, how they tried something once and decided they were lousy at it and could never learn to do it well.
No one has ever picked up a pencil for the very first time and turned out an amazingly accurate architectural drawing. Or dabbled with oil painting and created something that would make Monet jealous. It takes learning and experience to build skill. Or, in the language of Proverbs, it takes knowledge and understanding to have wisdom.
“Learn a language? Not me!”
A friend of mine teaches people how to learn other languages. He was speaking to a group of missionaries when I heard him say something that has stuck with me many years later. He said that he often hears people say, “I’m no good at language learning.” To which he replies, “What language expert told you that? Or, did you decide that yourself.”
The conversation goes on and he finds out (almost every time) that they took a few classes and decided it was too hard. It’s not that the teacher told them they should quit because they were incapable of learning. It is that the student decided on their own that they could not do it.
People so easily limit themselves on what they can learn and do without regard for whether God would have them learn that skill. I wonder how many people have walked away from God’s calling on their life to be a missionary because they believed they could not learn a language?
The Best of the Best
Does everyone need to learn a language or learn to paint like Monet? No. But don’t limit God’s will in your life by saying you can’t learn something that you haven’t really put an effort to learning. Will you ever be as good as a professional translator or painter? Probably not. But you might be. You will never know if you never put in the effort to build the skills.
It would be better if you would just admit that you really don’t care about learning a certain skill. There is nothing wrong with that if that is not God’s will. Not everyone cares about being a great musician or carpenter. That’s OK.
Just don’t limit your God-given abilities due to laziness; or worse, to being a scorner. If God wants you to learn it, then it is worth the effort.
When the Scorner Is Punished
Remember that a scorner is someone who “moves the mouth in a mocking way.” If God has given you a task to do, don’t blow it off because, “I’m no good at that kind of thing.” That is like turning your back on God, rolling your eyes, and mocking God’s Word.
We’ve probably all heard preachers talk about how they ran from God’s calling on their life because they didn’t think they could do what God had called them to do. I am thankful that they eventually returned to following the Lord’s leading. But we should not glamorize that path.
I’m certain there are people in other professions who could give the same testimony. We just happen to hear preachers talk about it much more often.
What is God calling you to do? Are you like the scorner who has to be beaten to get him to do the task? Oh, how I want to be the man who is instructed by God to do something and then jumps right into the task; whether I think I am good at it or not.
In the past, you and I many not have eagerly followed the Lord’s leading, but we can start today to become like the wise one who builds the skill (wisdom) in what he is instructed to do. Don’t be like the scorner who must be punished to get him to move onto the right path.
As an aside to this post, notice the language in the verse. It says, “when the scorner is punished,” and “when the wise is instructed.” These are individual scorners and wise (“scorner is,” “wise is“). This, like almost all of Proverbs, is intended to be read by a person and applied to that person. Most of the book is not written to a theoretical “whoever.”
Proverbs is written for me to apply to me. And for you to apply to your own life. Continue to read the book with this thought in mind: “How should I apply this to my life right now?”