Wisdom at Work

1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates reproof is stupid.

15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 12:1, 15 (ESV)

Christian life testimonies often include a word of thanks for a demanding parent, coach, or teacher. Because these mentors would not stand for shabby behavior, the child or youth got his bearings and took a happier path. Whether from a harsh word of rebuke or some sort of punishment, he came to his senses and began to act more reasonably.

For some reason, bosses get less credit for this sort of corrective help, but they can be of great assistance in character formation. As with the parent, their reproofs (12:1) can shape the worker’s life for the better—that is, if the worker will listen and learn.

The fool sticks to his own ways because they are his. He believes himself too intelligent to need the advice of others. He thinks things would go better if he were simply left to do things his own way. To him, everything he does is right (12:15). In so thinking, he demonstrates not intelligence, but stupidity (12:1).

In contrast, wise people listen to advice (12:15) and accept discipline when it is required. Indeed, they do not simply accept it, they love it (12:1), knowing that it leads to knowledge and wisdom. In Proverbs, knowledge and wisdom are primarily moral, rather than intellectual characteristics: love of wisdom and knowledge is intimately connected with fearing the Lord (1:7; 2:1-5).

Employers know that most people are works in progress. Some have yet to learn punctuality, others diplomacy. Some need to limit personal phone calls during work hours, others need to be more careful in keeping expense receipts. The typical boss is busy at insuring that productivity and quality are high and often frustrated as workers settle for second-rate performance. What a joy it is to find a worker eager to improve, not just for favors but for the love of excellence.

Church governance varies widely in Christendom, and different pastors are accountable to different people—some to elders, some to bishops, some directly to congregations, but all to God. And just as factory workers, soldiers, teachers, and clerks can find themselves resenting counsel and rebuke, ministers can behave like prima donnas, indifferent to corrective cues around them. But a fruitful ministry is full of teachable moments, a school of continuing education. By this means, the wise pastor grows and shows his people how they too might grow, if they would submit to the schooling of their employers.

Employers are not perfect. Some make unreasonable demands. Others are themselves poor performers. But Christian workers, including pastors, must assume that God will use accountability to teach them something valuable, for only with a student attitude will they manage to make the most of their lives.