Proverbs 15:32

Refusing Instruction


1. Prov. 15:31 spoke of the person who HEARD reproof. This was the positive side.

2. Prov. 15:32 speaks of the negative side primarily: the one who REFUSES instruction.

3. Solomon speaks of this as self-destructive behavior.

32a He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul:

A. Refusing Instruction and Other Various Responses To Instruction (Cause)

1. Instruction:

a. This word is most often translated instruction, but sometimes as: chastisement, correction, discipline, rebuke.

b. In Proverbs it is often used of the corrective instructions of a father to his son.


2. Some refuse instruction.

a. Refusing: to let go; let loose; ignore; let alone.

b. Prov. 1:25 – they set at nought all my counsel. (ignored it!) [set at nought = refuse — same word]

c. They treated God’s wisdom as nothing… they treated it lightly… they turned it away as if it were of no value.

d. Prov. 1:30 – They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

e. They didn’t want it. (would = will — they were unwilling to receive it… unwilling to hear.)

f. You don’t refuse something that you really want. The fool does not WANT any instruction from others… or from God.

g. There is nothing wrong with being innocently ignorant. But there is something dreadfully wrong with being WILLFULLY ignorant!

h. There is something fatally wrong with being unwilling to learn… unwilling to be taught… unteachable.

i. This is what Solomon addresses in this proverb.

3. Some resist instruction or discipline.

a. Prov. 29:1 – some are chastened time after time… they harden their necks against it.

b. Hardening of the neck is a figure taken from the taming of a wild animal. When the animal does not want to be tamed, he stiffens his neck to resist the yoke.

c. It came to be an illustration of resisting authority… a lack of submission… refusal to cooperate.

d. That’s how Solomon uses it here. The one who resists chastening… correction… instruction… is likened to a wild animal resisting his master.

e. When some hear instruction (whether a father’s, teacher’s, government official’s, or even God’s) they resist… refuse to cooperate… and behave like a stubborn mule.

f. Prov. 15:10 – Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way.
• Just as it is grievous for the animal to submit his head to the yoke and do the work…
• It is grievous for us sometimes to submit to discipline and instruction — from man or God!
• But although discipline and instruction are grievous, they are GOOD for us… profitable.

g. God was working in the life of Saul of Tarsus…
• convicting him about his awful treatment of Christians.
• God said that Saul/Paul was also acting like a stubborn animal resisting and refusing to submit… “It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks!”

h. When someone is trying to give you instruction, discipline, reproof, or correction, don’t fight against it like mule! Take it in… receive it… give it due consideration.

i. Psalm 32:8-9 – be not as the mule! Let’s face it: we all have a little mule in us.

4. Some avoid instruction.

a. Prov. 15:12 – A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise. He avoids it.

b. WHY won’t he go to the one who reproves?
• Because he KNOWS that he is going to be reproved… and have his faults pointed out. That hurts.
• He LOVETH NOT reproof or the reprover. He avoids it at all costs.
• Often folks who need counseling say, “I’m not going to pastor. I know what he’s going to say!” They know they are in the wrong… and they know that it will be pointed out… and thus they avoid it!
• Darkness hates the light and will not go to it.
• Often believers who are not walking with the Lord stay away from church because they know that they are going to hear some form of reproof from the Word… or from a brother…
• One way to RESIST instruction is to avoid the place where instruction is likely to be given!

5. Prov. 5:12 –

a. despise: to spurn; contemn; despise; abhor.

b. Hated = to be hateful; to be an enemy.

c. Cf. Prov. 1:30 – they despised my reproofs!

d. This takes resistance to a whole new level.

e. It’s one thing to “not love” reproof. It is quite another thing to hate it.

6. I Kings 18:17 – Ahab played the “blame game.”

a. Elijah came to rebuke the king and Ahab knew it.

b. Therefore, as a defense mechanism, he shifted the focus away from himself to Elijah and blamed him for the trouble in the land.

c. Perhaps we have been guilty of this. A friend comes with the best of intentions to point out an area of your life that needs some attention—and the first thing out of your mouth is, “Oh yea! Who do you think you are! I suppose you’ve never sinned?!?”

7. Mark 6:18-19 – John the Baptist exposed the sin of Herod and Herodias.

a. Herodias developed a quarrel/ grudge against John and even wanted to kill him.

b. That is certainly not a good response to reproof.

c. We may not take to the extreme of plotting a murder, but we can develop a grudge against the one who reproves us.

d. Maybe someone here tonight has some ill will in the heart against someone who gave you some unwanted, but needed instruction…

e. Acts 7:54 – when the Jews heard Stephen’s rebuke, they gnashed at him with their teeth and stoned him to death.

B. Despising His Own Soul (Effect)

1. Despiseth =

a. Strong’s: to reject, despise, refuse

b. Zodhiates: to abhor; to refuse. The primary meaning of this word is to reject or treat as loathsome.

c. This is quite similar in thought with the previous verb: refuse. That is by design.

d. His point is this: the one who is despising or refusing instruction is despising or refusing his own soul.

e. Soul here is best understood in the sense of HIMSELF… his own life.

2. Refusing instruction is self-destructive behavior.

a. Instruction is for the benefit of the one being instructed.
• Instruction is for the health, safety, protection, prosperity, and well being of the one being instructed.
• To refuse instruction is to refuse the health, safety, protection, and prosperity of your own self!

b. Prov. 8:36 – He wrongeth his own soul.
• Wrongeth = to wrong; do violence to; treat violently.
• We use another figure of speech to say the same thing today. When someone is about to make a decision or say something that you know he will pay for down the road, we say, “He’s shooting himself in the foot.”

b. Prov. 10:17 – He that refuseth reproof ERRETH.
• refuse: depart from; leave behind; leave; let alone; to leave; abandon; forsake; neglect; apostatize.
• The one who refuses to listen to reproof and instruction errs… he wanders away…
• The instruction is designed to keep us in the straight and narrow way.
• The one who refuses is like the man who refuses to follow the directions. He will wander all over the city aimlessly until he swallows his pride and asks for directions.
• This man is working against himself… despising his own soul… making his own life miserable.

c. Prov. 29:1 – He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
• Destruction comes to the unteachable one… in many forms.
• There is a price to pay for this kind of folly.
• And the damage can be irreversible!
• Think of all the people in jail right now…
→ How many words of warning, admonition, instruction, and reproof did they receive in their lives!
→ How many times did they mock at those words of instruction!
→ Now they’re in jail, and their sentence is irreversible.
→ You can resist authority and resist instruction only so long before it catches up to you.
→ And when it does finally catch up to you… there is no remedy.

d. 13:18 – Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction.
• In the work world, a man who refuses to hear instruction will fail at whatever he does.
• Poverty will be his reminder of his folly.
• In his social life, the man who refuses to hear instruction will be brought to shame.
• He will hear “I told you so” wherever he goes!
• Sooner or later he will be ashamed of the course he took.

e. It’s hard to imagine a character flaw more damaging to one’s life than an unteachable spirit.
• No matter how far astray a person may be, no matter how ignorant he may be, if he is teachable, there’s hope for a recovery.
• But if he is unteachable… there is no hope.
• Prov. 26:12 – if he thinks he knows it all and will not submit to instruction, there is no hope for him.

32b But he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.

1. This is basically the truth we saw in the previous proverb.

a. Verse 31 speaks of the one who hears reproof and gains wisdom.

b. Verse 32b speaks of the one who hears reproof and gains understanding.

c. The person who is wise enough to HEAR reproof benefits from what he hears.