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On the surface, it may appear that Proverbs 13:13 and Galatians 6:7 are about different things. The proverb, for instance, is in the midst of others that compose a compilation of advice from a father to a son. Galatians 6:7, on the other hand, follows an admonition to spiritual students to share their wins with their instructors. But I believe these two verses are connected through a broader spiritual principle.
Why Disciples Should Not Despise Instruction
Proverbs 13:13, like many other proverbs, is structured to compare two extremes. On the one hand, those who despise instruction will pay a penalty, On the other, those who respect a command will get a reward. How does this apply to Christians today?
He who despises instruction will pay the penalty, but the one who respects a command will be rewarded.
Like many of the proverbs, the author doesn't give any specifics. He doesn't define what the penalty is for despising instruction, nor does he state what reward will be received for sons who respect their fathers' commands. He also doesn't tell us what despising instruction and respecting commands look like. Is he talking about obedience?
On the surface, it may seem so. But I don't think that's what the proverbial author has in mind.
To be sure, despising instruction could lead to disobedience, but the act of despising itself is a matter of heart. One can despise instruction and still yield to it, perhaps out of a sense of obligation or to prevent oneself from some punishment one may expect for one's disobedience. In spiritual terms, the son who despises his father's instruction, even if that instruction is adhered to in a strict and legalistic sense, will still be subject to the penalty. Likewise, the son who respects his father's command, though he may not obey that command strictly, will receive a reward.
I've spent some time in the military. I know that there are times when a command from a superior must be understood in terms of expected outcome. The soldier who understand the intent behind a command is more apt to meet his superior's expectation. If events change between the time the command is given and the moment of its execution, the soldier must be able to take those changes into consideration and take the appropriate action to meet the outcome his superior envisioned. Then he must be able to defend his decision. The military calls this initiative.
That is not to say that there aren't times when strict orders ought not to be carried out strictly. There certainly are. But the soldier must be able to discern those times and respect his superior's authority.
The soldier who despise authority may strictly follow orders, but he'll likely do so in a way that leads to failed missions. Likewise, the son who despises his father's instruction could sabotage familial relations even in strict obedience. The same is true of Christ's disciples. Discernment, initiative, and the ability to think critically regarding the church's mission on this earth are paramount.
Penalties, Rewards, and Reaping and Sowing
God cannot be mocked. The creator of the universe understands our hearts better than we do. He knows when we are strictly obeying commands and hoping for a reward rather than applying His principles to the ever-changing always-moving circumstances of our lives. In Galatians 6:7, the Apostle Paul was addressing a group of Christians who had become legalists. They were trying to follow the letter of the law rather than live within its spirit.
They had been deceived into believing that was the proper way.
The rewards and penalties of spiritual obedience—that is, "walking in the spirit", or not—are not necessarily eternal. The legalist tends to think in terms of heaven and hell, but the spiritually wise must think in terms of cause and effect, action and consequence. Let us ask: Is this thing I'm about to do, this thing that I'm thinking about doing, good for me and everyone else around me?
If we answer this question simply in a materialistic sense, not thinking of the spiritual consequences, we will surely go astray. That is why scripture encourages us to "crucify the flesh" and its passions. We do not simply obey commandments without understanding the purpose behind them. Instead, we discern how our words and actions will impact others, whether they will lead us deeper into God's presence, or whether they will bury us in a pile of guilt.
In the words of Jesus,
The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
If you're busy following rules, I exhort you today to seek an extra portion of God's spirit. If you find yourself trying to live by the spirit and breaking things, ask God to straighten your path. The reward you receive may be better than you ever expected.
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