What Exactly is a "Scoffer"?
What Exactly is a "Scoffer"?
Laura Bailey iBelieve Contributor
1 Timothy 6:11 instructs us to "walk in the way of the righteous, flee from evil and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness," lest we become no different from wicked scoffers who foolishly mock our Creator and His creation.
What's your go-to response when you come across an unfamiliar word? Do you skip over it or pause to determine its meaning from contextual clues? Or perhaps you actually take a minute or two to look up the definition.
When reading works of fiction or certain non-fiction pieces, it may suffice to ignore or speculate about the meaning of unfamiliar words, but what about when it comes to the Bible? Skipping over certain words in Scripture can completely change the intent and purpose of the text, leaving us with an incorrect interpretation of God's Word.
While reading the book of Proverbs, I realized that I continually skipped over a repeatedly used word, "scoffer." Eventually, I succumbed to consulting Mr. Webster to properly educate myself on its meaning. A scoffer is a person who mocks or makes fun of someone, typically for religious or moral reasons. Although the writer of Proverbs frequently warns about being like a scoffer, after reading Webster's definition, I failed to see any similarities in myself to one. But in truth, a deeper look at Scripture revealed that, at times, my life more closely resembled that of a scoffer than the righteous person Proverbs encourages us to be.
Let's examine the book of Proverbs to uncover what God says about scoffers and how that looks in our lives.
As previously mentioned, a scoffer is someone who mocks or ridicules others for their beliefs, but what exactly does that mean? The Hebrew word for "scoffer" can also be translated as "ambassador"; therefore, one may engage in mocking others to represent an opposing idea or argument. He is vocal in his disagreement, and specifically, in the Bible, he is one who openly opposes God: "In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 10:4).
Characteristics of a scoffer:
They Despise Godly Wisdom and Look to the World for Truth
Proverbs 1:22, "How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?"
In these verses, wisdom is personified as a woman calling out to those around her to heed her words. But the simple-minded and mockers ignore her; they don't just ignore godly wisdom but actually delight in their wicked ways. Scoffers reject the wisdom and truth found in Scripture. Instead of biblical knowledge and godly wisdom, they rely on their own intuition, feeling, and experiences. Without hesitation, they reject anything that contradicts their personal beliefs, choosing to accept only the things that align with their own narrative and sense of entitlement.
They Resent Instruction and Ignore Correction
Proverbs, 13:1, "A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes."
According to Proverbs, learning from others' failures and successes isn't just wise but necessary for a balanced, happy, and prosperous life. Scoffers reject wisdom from the spiritually mature, ignoring good advice and sound counsel. Pride keeps them from heeding the advice of others, leading them to believe that they are beyond reproach. Proverbs continually reminds us that the scoffer not only avoids godly counsel but resents it (Proverbs 15:12). He dismisses biblical principles, responding to godly correction with nothing but disdain.
They Stir Strife and Sew Discord
Proverbs 22:10, “Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.”
Scoffers tend to cause strife and problems wherever they go, for they are quick to anger and engage in arguments filled with insults and careless chatter. Instead of promoting peace and unity among God's people, they incite division, dissension, and discord. Scoffers are openly abusive, hurling insults and uncharitable words to those around them. They find pleasure in disrupting society and creating unrest. As Proverbs 24:9 plainly states, "people detest a mocker"; they are an abomination to God and man. It's often difficult not to take personally the rejection and backlash from people who are unwilling to repent and turn from sin, especially when their mission is to ridicule and jeer at those who pursue a life of godliness and righteousness.
Not surprisingly, we read in Proverbs 9:7-8, "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”
Conversely, how does the Bible define a wise and righteous person?
Zephaniah 2:3 admonishes, "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord." In short, wise and righteous persons heed the ways of the Lord. They pursue holiness as God is holy and daily strive to honor God with their time, words, and actions (Psalm 33:18). On our own, however, humans don't possess the power to be righteous to any degree or please God in any way; only by grace through faith in the atoning power of Christ's death for our sins and His resurrection from the grave are we made righteous before God, thereby able to glorify Him.
So how do redeemed, righteous saints deal with sinful, scornful scoffers?
Scripture is replete with examples of both the scoffer and the righteous. The great book of Psalms opens with, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night" (Psalms 1:1). Here we read that there will always be those who mock Christ and His followers, but graciously the Bible instructs us in dealing with them.
First, the Psalmist acknowledges how quickly a godly person can fall prey to sin and those who have chosen to rebel against God. Thus, the righteous must avoid associating with the wicked or mockers; instead, they must stay firmly rooted in God's Word and His church. This is not to say that, as believers, we must avoid all situations where there are non-believers or those who openly deny Christ and defy God. Jesus calls Christians to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:15-16), for engaging with unbelievers as Jesus often did Himself can provide an opportunity to share the Gospel. However, we must be careful of regularly entrenching ourselves or entangling our lives with those who openly oppose the Lord, lest we fall victim to our own sinful nature.
What extraordinary love and amazing grace our Heavenly Father demonstrated toward us by transferring His own righteousness to us through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ! Those of saving faith have been cleansed by the blood of Christ and regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit. Notwithstanding, while we live in this world, we daily deal with the effects of sin and our fleshly desires. Although we may not outwardly claim there is no god or openly ridicule those who walk humbly before the Lord, we may easily fall into the sin of following worldly wisdom instead of godly counsel. 1 Timothy 6:11 instructs us to "walk in the way of the righteous, flee from evil and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness," lest we become no different from wicked scoffers who foolishly mock our Creator and His creation.
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