Proverbs 29:19

A Servant will Not be Corrected

A servant will not be corrected by words:
for though he understand he will not answer.


1. This passage speaks of the correction of servants.

2. But in reality, it is really a study in human nature.

3. Solomon’s point is simple: Words don’t always work.

A servant will not be corrected by words:

1. “Servants” defined

a. The term used here refers either to an abject slave or a household servant.

b. It can also refer to a subject (a king’s subjects/ servants).

c. It is a term used of those who serve and worship God. (translated “servants” of the Lord).

d. In our proverb, it seems very unlikely that Solomon had servants of God in mind.

e. Rather, he is speaking of human authority – a master/slave relationship or a king/subject relationship.

f. Thankfully slavery no longer exists in the US; but some wealthy believers may still have household servants. This would apply.

g. But for the rest of us, the best application we can make is in the work world and those who work under us or provide service for us.

2. A servant “will not be corrected by words.”

a. Corrected defined: instructed; chastened; warned; disciplined.

b. Servants, employees, and subjects of a king (citizens of a country) do not always take correction well.

c. This is human nature.

d. Though correction is designed for our good, we don’t usually like being corrected.

e. Ps. 141:5 – “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil.” Correction and reproof are extremely valuable… and should not be rejected.

f. Prov. 17:10 – “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.”
• Verbal correction when received will spare us from a whipping—something more severe.

g. Prov. 13:18 – “Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.”
• Reproof and correction lead to honor and spare us from shame.

h. A servant (worker; employee; student; citizen) SHOULD respond well to correction. It is good for them.

i. However, Solomon’s proverb tells us that they don’t always respond well to correction.

3. “Words” ought to be the first method of correction.

a. Prov. 15:31 – “The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.”
• The wise servant or citizen will hear the verbal correction and respond in a right way.
• That is the way of wisdom.

b. Prov. 24:25 – “But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.”
• Words of correction ought to be a delight to those who are verbally corrected. You were just spared from something much worse!

4. But unfortunately, Solomon tells us that verbal correction doesn’t always work.

a. Some servants will NOT be corrected by words.

b. And once again, remember that these are proverbs.

c. This statement was not intended to cover every possibility.

d. Solomon is simply stating that there are cases when a servant will not be corrected by words.
• He isn’t saying that servants are never corrected by words. That is not true.
• Often servants (students; citizens; employees; etc.) are corrected by words. That’s the ideal.

e. Our proverb teaches us that the ideal is not always achieved. Sometimes people do not respond well to verbal rebuke or verbal correction.

For though he understand he will not answer

1. In this part of the proverb, Solomon inserts the fact that the lack of response to a verbal correction is not always due to a lack of understanding.

a. Some people may fully understand the correction and still not answer.

b. Answer – He may not answer (respond) in an appropriate way, which here might include a change of behavior, attitude, or a change in the way they are working on a project.

c. Not everyone responds to correction with the appropriate and obedient changes.

d. They heard, they understood, but they continued to do it their way… which just happens to be the wrong way.

e. You would not want this kind of guy folding parachutes in a factory.

f. You would not want this kind of guy preparing your medications.

2. Lessons from the proverb:

a. Don’t assume that because you have given the proper instructions and corrections that those instructions are being followed.
• Those in positions of leadership had better double check.
• Perhaps your employee heard and understood the correction but likes to cut corners.
• Perhaps he doesn’t like the way you want him to do it. It’s way too much work… so he continues to do it his way.
• Perhaps he heard and understood, and just forgot – and needs to be gently reminded.
• Don’t assume that because you gave some instructions or correction to your kids that they have followed through on them. Double check.

b. If words don’t work, though not stated, it is implied, that more drastic means may have to be used to make the corrections.
• In this case, the servant was not corrected by words because he is lazy or rebellious and refuses to work.
• Perhaps he is a procrastinator and keeps putting the corrections off until tomorrow.
• Perhaps force is the only language he will ever respond to.
• For the employee, words of correction may not work; not getting a raise might work better… or losing his job.
• For the student, verbal correction may not produce the desired results; an “F” on his report card may be a better motivator.
• For a child, words of reproof may not be as effective as a spanking.
• When words don’t get the job done, other means may be required. That’s Solomon’s implied point.
• Without the option of a more severe form of reproof (some sort of penalty), words will fall on deaf ears and those words will be hollow and empty.
• Could you imagine if there were no penalties for breaking the speed limit? Cars would fly down the highway. The words of the police and the speed limit signs would be but mere suggestions.
• This is human nature: words don’t always work.

c. And isn’t this the way God deals with us as His sons?
• God has given us His Word and He expects us to answer it right away—by obeying it.
• But if we who claim to be His servants hear His words with our ears, and understand it intellectually, yet do not obey, doesn’t God have many other means of getting our attention?
• Heb. 12:5-6 – God chastens… and He scourges… and He has 1001 other ways to “influence” our behavior.
• How much better to respond to His words of correction right away in faith and obedience!

d. The lesson we can all take from this proverb is to respond to correction the right way—in an appropriate way—by making the corrections and doing our job in accordance with the company policy and regulations.