Proverbs 21:11

When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.

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Different strokes for different folks! A word to the wise is sufficient! You cannot argue with dumb! These and similar adages and idiomatic phrases are taken from this proverb, which was written 3000 years before modern English. There are three kinds of men here, and there are only two actions that result in the proper treatment for all three (Pr 19:25).

A scorner is an arrogant and rebellious person that ridicules and shows contempt for authority, correction, and instruction. He is so conceited in his opinions that he cannot be taught (Pr 9:7-8; 13:1; 15:12; 21:24). He must be punished and rejected (Pr 22:10). Solomon said a scorner was worse than a fool, whose sins of folly, ignorance, and sloth are less than the scorner’s proud despising of reproofs (Pr 12:1; 24:9; 26:12).

A simple man is an ignorant man without much intelligence or character. He has little knowledge or wisdom, and he reacts to what he sees and feels more than what he can understand by prudent analysis and reflection (Pr 14:15,18; 22:3). Simple men can be taught, but it is a laborious process (Pr 1:4; Ps 119:130). Because they lack in discretion and understanding, they often learn better from object lessons and experience.

A wise man fears God and keeps His commandments (Pr 1:7; 9:10; Ps 111:10). He loves correction, instruction, reproofs, and warnings; he knows that such inputs are the only way to gain understanding (Pr 1:5; 12:1). These noble men receive teaching with a ready mind, search the Scriptures to prove what they have heard is truth, and then believe and obey it (Acts 17:11). Though wise, they seek counsel for major decisions (Pr 24:6).

When dealing with people, especially those under your authority, there are two basic actions taught here. The two actions will effectively and wisely deal with the three kinds of men. You must identify the kind of person you are dealing with and apply the correct remedy. Here is the lesson: scorners cannot be taught and must be punished, which will deliver you from their strife and also give the simple an object lesson for their learning; and wise men can be directed and taught with simple reproofs or instruction (Pr 19:25).

Consider an office or home. You save yourself from contention and strife by punishing and rejecting the scorner (Pr 22:10). By punishing him before rejecting him, you give an object lesson to the simple to fear authority and avoid the scorner’s attitude and actions. Wise employees or children only need instruction or reproofs, for they will submissively learn from both. Your life has just been simplified: the scorner is gone, the simple is sobered and warned, and the wise man loves you for making him wiser (Pr 9:8-9; 28:23).

The Lord Jesus Christ knew how to perfectly use these two approaches to drive away scorners, enlighten the simple, and instruct the wise (Matt 7:28-29; 15:12-14; 21:45-46; 22:46; Mark 12:37). Learn more about Him and His wisdom from the Bible, and then ask Him to help you be more like Him discerning your audience and rightly dealing with it.