When one brother got in trouble, the other two learned something too.

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That’s how it happened in the home I grew up in.  There were three of us and my parents had their hands full. 

But there is something interesting that happens in multi-child families: when one gets in trouble, it sends a message to the others.  The message is clear: there are consequences to breaking the “rules of the house.”

Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

Proverbs 19:25
New International Version

The implication of this Proverb is not encouraging us to flog mockers (see Proverbs 19:29 for that).  It’s a statement about how discipline works.  Even if someone makes dumb decisions and receives the consequences of their dumb decisions, we can learn from that.  We can gain knowledge from watching their bad example.

The Hebrew word (the original language of the Proverbs) translated as “simple” refers to someone who is naïve or gullible.  They are easily fooled.  The idea is not that they are dumb, or unintelligent, or immoral.  Instead, they may not yet possess wisdom.  They might be inexperienced, but they are not sinful.

Even the “simple” can gain wisdom.  The wise can learn from being corrected with they are wrong.  Someone who rejects Godly wisdom cannot learn discipline.  Yet, holding even the mocker or fool accountable for their actions helps others to learn discipline, gain knowledge and wisdom.

The lesson for us is not to whip people who mock wisdom; it’s an invitation to learn from the mistakes of others—and our own.

Think of it like this.  Have you ever been driving along and see the lights of a police officer on the side of the road having pulled someone over?  Doesn’t it make you glance down at your speedometer?  Do you consider if your registration on your plate is current?  Doesn’t it make you a little more aware of how you’re driving?

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If it has, then you understand what this Proverb is saying: learn from the mistakes of others.  Learn from your own mistakes.  Gain wisdom from learning the consequences of sin or dumb choices.

And in the process, gain Godly wisdom which will help you live a better and more Christ-like life.