Jump Start # 2695
Ecclesiastes 7:5 “It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man than to listen to the song of fools.”
Ecclesiastes is the reflective, observational book that takes a deep look into the soul of a person. Within Ecclesiastes, especially this seventh chapter are a series of upside down statements to us. At least seven times Solomon contrasts opposites and he declares which opposite is the best one. He doesn’t leave it up to us to decide. That’s good. We’d choose the easiest, safest and most convenient choice. Here are some things Solomon puts on the table:
- Good name and good ointment. Good name is better.
- Day of death and day of birth. Day of death is better.
- House of mourning and house of feasting. The mourning is better.
- Sorrow and laughter. Sorrow is better.
- The end and the beginning. The end is better.
- Patience and haughtiness. Patience is better.
- Rebuke of a wise man and the song of fools. The rebuke is better.
If we didn’t know the Bible and we went through that list and had to pick out a choice for the day, I’m certain that I’d pick the wrong choices. Who likes death? Who likes sorrow? Who wants to be rebuked? Solomon is looking beyond the moment to what those things do for us. They cause us to think. They lead us to change. They are growing moments in our spiritual journey. Feasting, laughter, songs, we are none the better after those things. We do not change. We do not look inward because of them.
Our verse today is about the rebuke. The rebuke of a wise man is better than the song of fools. Rebuke has many names. We call it criticism, reproach, censure, giving a talk to, reprimanded. And, the thing about rebukes is that they sting. They can sting worse than what a wasp can do to you. They hurt because someone recognizes that you were wrong. There are many classic rebukes in the Bible. Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves and the sea became still. Jesus rebuked a demon and he left a person. Nathan rebuked David.
Solomon’s words are not about giving a rebuke, but rather receiving one. There is a way one needs to know how to correct someone. This needs to be done in kindness and love, standing upon the golden rule as how you would want others to correct you. But Solomon is directing these words towards the one getting the rebuke. Something wrong was done. Now a person was being called on the carpet about that. And, that process is better than listening to the songs of fools.
It’s hard to listen to rebuke that is directed towards you. This is true through a sermon in which the preacher tans your hide and steps on your toes. This is true when it comes through a face to face conversation. We tend to get defensive and pull out a bag of excuses to justify what we did. We often turn the tables and point out the wrongs of others. We may even attack the person confronting us. We get angry. And, through all of this we have heard the words of rebuke but we have not listened. And, we have not changed. However, when rebuked is truly listened to, it leads to change. It leads to repentance. It leads to apologies, better attitudes and better behavior. Without the rebuke, we remain unchanged. Without the rebuke we are likely to die being wrong.
Rebuke is hard because it can ruin friendships and separate brethren. It shouldn’t be that way. We ought to be thankful for the one that loves us enough to try to help us. And, it may be we have seen so much judgmental, picky attitudes, that some folks can never be pleased. Some would rather point the radar gun at you than hold the mirror up to themselves.
None of us are without improving. Even the best and the strongest among us make wrong choices. All of us need each other. We tend to give ourselves an easy pass while holding others to the letter of the law. There is an unequal balance often in how we view others and how we see ourselves. Rebukes have a way of leveling those things out.
Here are a few thoughts:
First, when someone wants to talk to you, find a time and a place where you won’t be interrupted. Don’t keep putting this off. As painful as it may be, you need to hear what the other is saying.
Second, as you meet, begin with a prayer. Pray that you will listen honestly and not interrupt. Pray that your heart will be touched. Thank the Lord for the person who cares enough about you to come to you. Pray for wisdom. Pray for your friendship to grow through these things.
Third, listen and listen well. Some people may perceive things in their minds that really are not there. Some read motives when there were no motives. Years ago I had a guy get angry with me because I never called on him for prayer. I never put more than a half second thought into who I was going to ask. Most times, it’s whoever caught my eye before a class. He had it in his mind that I didn’t like him. He was real worked up and nearly ready to leave for another congregation. There was no motive. I just didn’t keep track of who had and who had not led prayer. It wasn’t a big deal to me. It was a huge deal to him. I apologized and wrote his name on the top of my notes so I would remember to call on him for prayer. After that, all was fine. He thought something was there. It was how he perceived it.
Fourth, don’t be too big to apologize if indeed you have done wrong. Don’t try to make something wrong right by bending the rules or pointing out the wrongs of others. Be a big person and do what is right.
Finally, as you part, pray again to the Lord asking Him to forgive you for the wrongs that you did. That’s the point of rebuke. It’s more than a listing of your wrongs, it is to move you to better behavior. Recognizing your wrongs will cause you to ask the Lord for forgiveness. It will lead you to make adjustments and changes in your life. The rebuke will turn you into a better person.
It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man…hard to do, but it’s the best thing to do.