If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 36, John 15, Proverbs 12, Ephesians 5. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Proverbs 12.
Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge….” There are two kinds of discipline: self-imposed discipline and authority-imposed discipline. Solomon has the latter in mind, as we’ll see in the 2nd line of the verse, but both are sources of knowledge. A student who wants to master a subject will discipline herself to study. A musician who wants to know music will discipline himself to practice his instrument and learn music theory. A Christian who wants to know God’s word will discipline himself or herself to read God’s word each day as well as think about it and even study it. One of the keys to knowledge is self-mastery. It requires us to discipline ourselves. I recently heard an excellent definition of discipline: “to do what you don’t want to do in order to get a result that you want to get.” It's tough to do but essential for learning "the easy way."
Then there's "the hard way," namely, the second kind of discipline, the kind imposed on us by an authority outside of us. This is the one Solomon has in mind here in Proverbs 12:1. We see this in the latter half of the verse which says, “… but whoever hates correction is stupid.” The word “correction” in the second half of the verse echoes the word “discipline” in the first half of the verse. This indicates the contrast between two types of people who both receive correction / discipline from an authority. The person who receives (“loves”) discipline is the one who learns. She is the one who grows when corrected because she receives the correction and changes her ways. By contrast, the person who can’t stand to be corrected, who would do anything to avoid looking bad, is the one who is “stupid.” That is not an assault on the intelligence of the person who refuses correction; instead, it is a description of the state that person stays in from refusing to receive correction. He is not “stupid” because he has low IQ; he is stupid because he never learns when an authority tries to correct him.
NOBODY “loves discipline” in the sense that he or she receives pleasure from having their ignorance or sin exposed. It is always embarrassing to be called out for not knowing something you should know or for doing something wrong. But we need to learn that discipline is an essential part of the learning process. If we can swallow our pride and really listen to the correction, we can grow wiser and stronger morally. But if we are so eager to protect our ego at all costs that we will not receive correction, then we remain in a state of ignorance. That is foolishness. So it takes humility to learn because receiving correction requires a humble heart. One of my favorite artists, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, once said, “The humble improve.” At least, he said that according to this Starbucks cup I once drank from in 2006:
And, he’s right. Of course, the reason that the humble improve is that they can take criticism from a wise teacher and make changes. This is true in all of life:
- You won’t get smarter if you don’t let the teacher find and fill in the gaps where you are ignorant.
- You won’t get wiser unless you change your ways when your foolishness is exposed. And,
- you won’t become more like Christ if you don’t allow God to discipline the sin from your life so that godliness can replace it.
Remember, too, when God does allow you to be disciplined, it is the clearest indication that you belong to him by faith. Listen to the words of Hebrews 12:5-11:
“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
If you’ve been humbled recently, it is natural to feel wounded. But don’t let the negative feeling of woundedness keep you from growing. If God has been working in your life by painfully bringing discipline on you, remember that it is proof that you belong to him (Heb 12:8). So, welcome God’s work in your life as an act of love not an expression of anger or hatred. After all, "the humble improve."
Care to share a time when you were disciplined—either by God or some other authority figure? Leave a comment. Or, share your thoughts on Proverbs 12 or any of the other passages we’ve read today: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.