Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9: 7-9
Kimberly Miller’s business trip, and resulting opportunity to witness to her coworker (see “What Happens in Vegas…” on p. X), is a good reminder that how we share the wisdom of the ages is as important – if not more important – than sharing it at all. If we leave a negative impression in our attempt to share Christ, we have done more damage than good. And I’m sad to say that many a zealous Christian has erred in this manner – myself included – read on.
As we begin to hear wisdom’s voice and submit ourselves to it and we feel ourselves gaining wisdom, we want to share this with others. Our new insights are truly exciting and our soul wells to overflowing. We have a pure desire for others to understand what we understand. This is all good, but as we read in the above scripture, we must be selective about when and with whom we decide to share our newfound insights about life.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – the beginning of wisdom – meaning we’ve just left start on the game board of life. To underscore this point God may put a fool or mocker in our path. If ever someone needed to know and understand what we know and understand, it is that poor fool, right?
“What’s this? The fool and mocker is asking my opinion? An opening? An opportunity to share with her? Thank you, Lord.”
Careful. This is not what you think. This is a learning opportunity, for sure, but it’s for you, not the fool.
I hosted a foreign exchange student from South America who was raised in a very privileged lifestyle, devoutly Catholic and sheltered from the social ills that abound in her country. Despite all her good fortune, she rebelled against the good things in her life – clashing with her mother, the church and the norms of society in general. How I wished she would have turned that passion against the corruption, poverty and illegal drugs that were destroying her country. Instead, she was raging against the very things that had provided the privileged life she took for granted.
One day in Wal-Mart, she started testing me or perhaps she was teasing me. At the time, I thought she was sincere, but I realized with some reflection, she was simply doing what a rebellious teen does for fun. She picked up a magazine and announced that she wanted to die her hair red like the actress pictured on the cover. This was one of those unnatural reds for hair, like the color of blood. I told her I wouldn’t allow it while she was with me. My reason was simple – I didn’t want my nine-year-old daughter, who admired our exchange student, to tuck a memo away in her mind, “Die hair blood red at age 17.” I should have just said that and left it alone. But I couldn’t help myself. I saw an opportunity to try to enlighten this young rebel – to share some wisdom.
A discussion about stereotypes and the importance of other people’s opinions ensued and crescendoed into a heated and loud exchange in Spanish in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. If indeed this exchange was between a wise woman and a fool, an onlooker would have had great difficulty figuring out who was which – we both looked like fools.
Fools and mockers are very useful for humbling those who are wise in their own eyes. Resist the temptation to share your wisdom with just anyone. Someone truly eager to learn will be in an open, opinion-neutral zone, not staunchly held up in the tower of a particular viewpoint. When you sense in the listener a humble willingness to learn, your few, carefully chosen words will be welcomed and effective.
Hold this thought: It’s foolish to argue with a fool.