6 November 2013

Proverbs 15:18-33

“Those who ignore instruction despise themselves, but those who heed admonition gain understanding.” (v. 32)


How do you react if someone offers you a critical comment or suggests ways in which you might live better? So accustomed are we to the objection that no-one should judge another person and that criticism is always a bad thing, that today's passage cuts across what our culture teaches us. The heart of this particular extract comes at the end in verse 32. Here the sages suggest not simply that listening to advice is a good thing, but that to fail to do so is a form of self-hatred. A more literal reading of this verse would say 'The one who casts off discipline despises his (her) own self but the one who hears reproof gains a heart'. In both the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and the New Testament the heart is much more central to human living than in our understanding today. Where we associate the heart with feeling, in Scripture the heart is the centre of will and knowledge as well - we might say the heart is the centre of the personality. We still have a vestige of this in phrases such as being 'wholehearted' about something, when we mean being fully involved and committed. Thus what the verse is saying is much deeper than simply we gain understanding - rather we gain a centre to our living, a sense of who we are. To gain a heart is to gain a stable sense of who we are and how we should live. We need to listen well in order to grow into having a heart.

To Ponder

  • Is there a particular proverb from today's passage which you can take with you to ponder during the rest of the day? What is it? And why do you think it jumps out at you?
  • How do you respond to criticism?
  • What would it mean to you to 'have a heart'? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.