Monday, April 29, 2013

Scoffers, the gullible and the discerning

The old term "Scoffer"(to speak derisively; mock; jeer) was used in the Bible I used to read when I was growing up many moons ago. I liked the sound of the word because it reminded me of someone grunting, turning their head away and rolling their eyes "yeah right, as if". Grunt. Scoff. Scoooffff.

In the world at large it is sometimes seen as 'wise' to be cynical, to mock, to jeer, to scoff. The accusation of '"gullible" or "stooooopid idiot" is something all self-respecting educated man, woman or child wants to sidestep in big strides. You only need to be a part of an Internet forum to meet 'scoffers'. It doesn't matter if you are discussing philosophy or the raising of pansies - every forum seems to have built in at least one 'scoffer'; one person who infers that everyone is stupid - particularly new people on the forum. There is also at least one in every pub, in every workroom. The built in cynic at every party who rains on the parade and criticises every idea in a brainstorming session. You know who I mean.

The Bible's response is surprisingly balanced: Obviously being gullible is taught against in a big way in the Bible -most of the teachings are to make us wise and world-ready. There are whole books of wise sayings (Proverbs, Ecclessiastes) and if you read the recorded words of Jesus Christ - he is no fool - he was very, very observant and aware, perceptive and gifted in communicating. Jesus appealed to anyone who had "ears to hear" I'm not talking about the 'stain glass' Jesus- but the one recorded in the Bible. I still find his words powerful to this day. So being a gullible is strongly taught against in the Bible. We are encouraged to find wisdom and to not trust mere mortals at face value.

The road of careful observation and discernment is applauded in the Bible. Use your head. Listen to your heart. What are you observing? What do you see?

The writer of the book of Acts gives the thumbs up to people who - researched for themselves - to see if the Christian message was true - they took the time and effort:

"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."
(from Acts 17:11 in the Bible, my italics)
Jesus often preached against the thin veneer of human beings - here is just one example:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (from Matthew 7:15-20 in the Bible)

Of course, there are many, many, many examples in the Bible of using "discernment" and not taking human beings on face level only. 1 John 4:1talks about 'testing' and so on and so on.

So where does that leave "scoffing" or cynicism? In the Bible  scoffing is considered foolish. That's right - not wise - but foolish.

Read it for yourself:

“‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”Acts 13:41

  "O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge”1 Timothy 6:20

 "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers"  Psalm 1:1

“He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself."  Proverbs 9:7
"Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you." Proverbs 9:8

"A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." Proverbs 13:1

"A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, Nor will he go to the wise."Proverbs 15:12

"He who begets a scoffer does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy." Proverbs 17:21

"Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And beatings for the backs of fools" Proverbs 19:29

"A proud and haughty man— “Scofferis his name; He acts with arrogant pride" Proverbs 21:24

 You get the picture - being perceptive and discerning is encouraged but being a mocker, cynic or 'scoffer' is considered extremely unwise in the Bible.
For those who have once considered themselves 'scoffers' but want to change - there is some great news: the answer is fantastic- God is very generous and wants to give you wisdom. Ask for it.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5

"For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding". Proverbs 2:6

"In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:6

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Matthew 7:7 

Don't be gullible - we live in a world full of untruth and hearsay. Don't be a scoffer or too cynical - it is a thin veneer of really being a fool and missing out on a lot of the good life. Be discerning. Be humble and look to God for all the wisdom he wants to give."Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

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