Proverbs 10:8, 17 – Wisdom for Responding to Commands & Instruction

Wisdom & Receptivity

We know that Christ sets us free from and cancels the record of our sin. This is the good news of Christianity. But there’s another dimension to consider as we study Proverbs: Christ also sets us right in terms of our folly.

As we grow as Christians, we’ll not only grow more righteous, we’ll also grow more wise. We’re going to learn how to live in this world as God created it.

The two proverbs we’ll look at are meant to help us live by the way God designed reality to operate. They’re designed to help us live wisely and not foolishly.

Receiving Commands (Not Babbling)

The wise of heart will receive commandments,

but a babbling fool will come to ruin.

– Proverbs 10:8

Being told what to do by authority figures is a huge part of life in this world. Kids have parents. Students have teachers. Employees have bosses. So, if you’re wise, you will be receptive to their commandments.

The wise person says, “I am not the highest authority. So, when authority figures command me, I will receive those commands.” But the fool says, “Nobody tells me what to do! I’m the highest authority!”

The alternative to being receptive to commandments is being a “babbling fool.” If you read through Proverbs, you’ll consistently see that foolishness is made apparent by a running mouth. Wisdom, on the other hand, shows itself in quiet, restraint and listening.

Foolish babbling can drown out the commands we’re supposed to be processing into obedience. And before we know it, we’re more opinionated than obedient. This is dangerous, and people like this “will come to ruin.”

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Heeding Instruction

Another proverb says a similar thing, but in a different way:

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,

but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.

Proverbs 10:17

So, we saw that we’re designed to receive commandments. Here we see that we’re also supposed to heed instruction. Being taught and instructed by people who know more than we do is a huge part of life. Parents, teachers, bosses, experts, authors, doctors – there are people in our lives that know more than we do. And, of course, we have God Himself, who wants to teach us in His Word.

The wise person says, “I recognize that I don’t know it all, so I’m going to learn all I can.” The fool thinks, “I already know all I need to know. There’s nothing you can teach me.”

To heed instruction is more than just to hear it. Anybody can hear instruction, but the wise person heeds it. That means to observe and to act on what you’re taught, to actually let it help you grow in your thinking and in your living.

Don’t Just Hear Instruction, Heed It

For us, we may not need to hear a lot more of God’s Word. Instead, we may need to focus on heeding what we’ve already been taught. It’s pretty dangerous to continually hear God’s Word and not learn from it.

In the American church, we have a sort of spiritual eating disorder. We come to Sunday school and enjoy tasty lessons from God’s Word. Then we have the service and cram more in. Maybe we also have a daily quiet time or listen to podcasts. But if we don’t chew, swallow, digest and metabolize, our spiritual nourishment does no good.

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Now, perhaps one reason why we don’t heed instruction is because we don’t like to be reproved. That’s the contrast in Proverbs 10:17. “Reproof” is lovingly pointing something out in the sincere hope that the person will be built up by it.

Good parents reprove their children. And God reproves His people constantly because we are works in progress. How else would we improve? We’re supposed to heed instruction and accept reproof.

When you reject reproof, it doesn’t just affect you – it “leads others astray.” The wise person remembers that he is always influencing other people. There’s always someone looking to you for an example. You also always have a (sometimes imperceptible) peer influence.

Are You Receptive? Are You Teachable?

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re wise, this is a pretty good one-question test: What do you do with reproof? Fools reject reproof, but wise people learn from it.

These are pretty simple truths God has given us in His Word. Fools live against reality by babbling foolishly and rejecting reproof. So ask yourself, “Do I act like a babbling fool? Do I reject reproof?” If yes, go to Jesus and let Him move you toward wisdom.

Are you receptive toward commands? Do receive commands from your parents, teachers, bosses and God? Do you heed instruction, typically learning as opposed to thinking you already know? As we grow as Christians, we’re going to become more and more teachable and receptive toward commands.

Discussion Starters

  • Discuss with the group what it means to be “receptive to commands,” to be a “babbling fool,” to “heed instruction” and to “reject reproof.”
  • Why is it dangerous to be a babbling fool?
  • Why is it dangerous to hear instruction but not to heed it?
  • How do you react to reproof?
  • Do you typically heed instruction, or do you ignore it?
  • What is the next step for you to take, heeding this instruction?
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