(31) The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
(32) He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
God gives us His wisdom to lead us on the paths of righteousness, but human nature being what it is, we’re more content to learn things the hard way.
My wife and I have three daughters. In their much younger years two of them, the oldest and the youngest, went through that stage where they decided to cut their own hair. Our middle daughter did not. When our little ones decided to cut their own hair, they didn’t follow good styling principles. They just grabbed a handful of hair and snipped. My oldest daughter did this on just one side. Apparently that lopsided look is all the rage today. It wasn’t then. And she did this right before school picture day. Our youngest used this technique on her bangs resulting in a daring upside-down “U” shape to the hair across her forehead. Quite the statement, though it’s never caught on. She did it a few days before she was supposed to be a flower girl in my brother Greg’s wedding. Both ended up with emergency repair haircuts and short-ish hairdos. It’s funny now. It wasn’t so funny then. When Jane and I reminisced over those episodes, we wondered why our middle daughter never did that. Of the three, she is the most mischievous. How did that antic skip her? Then we remembered. Our middle girl was old enough to remember the trouble her older sister got into for cutting her own hair and drew wisdom from it. Our youngest girl was still an infant. She had no idea what happened and never benefited from that “reproof of life.”
When Proverbs 15 talks about the “ear that heareth the reproof of life,” it’s not talking about someone who has learned from the school of hard knocks (though many of us are graduates). It is talking about someone who hears rebuke and wise counsel and learns from it without entering the halls of the school of hard knocks. Someone who observes, listens to and learns from the wisdom he/she receives “abides among the wise.” They save themselves and others from a lot of setback and heartache. It’s why the following verse says: “He that [refuses] instruction [despises] his own soul.” When we choose to ignore sound counsel, we think we are benefiting ourselves. We “just want to have fun.” We “just want to live a little.” What we fail to see is that those careless indulgences do us some serious soul damage.
“But he that [hears] reproof [gets] understanding.” The Christian walk requires self-denial, constraint, and discipline. To the world it appears dull and restrictive and for those who have no eye for eternity, it would certainly seem that way. A dedicated believer can receive a lot of grief for choosing God’s way over the world’s way. (See 1 Peter 4:12-14) But believers serve a risen Savior and their eyes are on that Eternal City. Given what is at stake, we do not have time for detours.