I regularly counsel people, and one thing I've noticed is that you can only help those who want to be helped. Most say they want help, but only a few really mean it. Have you ever noticed this? Even Jesus didn't help everyone. He let the rich young ruler walk away, and it was said of Him that He couldn't minister in His home town. But how can we know who to help and who is beyond our help?
Solomon gives us insight into this question in the book of Proverbs. Throughout the book he classified three types of people who need help.
Proverbs 1:20-22 (NASB) Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
The first type of person he identifies is the Naive. The naive say things like “you’re just over reacting” and “I know it’s all going to work out.” The naive usually don't know they're naive. By the time they figure it out they aren't naive anymore. Being naive is not an insult. It's just simply a lack of experience. We all came into the world this way!
Solomon gives us a great example in Proverbs 7. He begins by telling us a story in verse 6. "For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, and I saw among the naive, and discerned among the youths a young man lacking sense, passing through the street near her corner, and he takes the way to her house." What's alarming is how he reacts to this young man's decision. Many would claim he was "over-reacting" like a parent would, that's "it's really no big deal," "it's just one time and what could it hurt?" But look at his warning in verse 22. "Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life. "
He indicates that this one time decision could cost this young man his life! Somehow the song in Solomon's head is the theme to Jaws while the song in the young man's head is Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night. How could it be so different? That's the way it is with the naive. They simply do not see the long-term consequences of their current decisions.
The second type of person Solomon identifies is the Fool. The fool says things like “I hear what you’re saying, and you’re probably right, but I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t really care.” Solomon writes about the tendencies of the fool in Proverbs 10:23 when he says, "Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool," and in Proverbs 26:11 he said, "Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly." But I think his most alarming warning about the fool is found in Proverbs 13:20. He said, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." The consequences of the fool will catch up to them and they will hurt those they love the most and will eventually end up alone.
The third type is the Scoffer. While the naive is clueless and the fool could care less, the scoffer is both careless and critical. They will make fun of your convictions, your stand, your morals and they say things like “you are so narrow minded, don’t force your beliefs on me.” Scoffers seek to control their environment and keep everyone off balance. In Proverbs 9:7 Solomon warns, "He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. " And in Proverbs 13:1 he says, "A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." But he goes even further in Proverbs 22:10 when he instructs us to, "Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, even strife and dishonor will cease. " In other words he said these are the people who are without hope and can't be helped.
When counseling someone it is good to first identify whether they are just naive, being a fool, or if they are a scoffer. This determines what kind of help you should provide or if you can even help at all. The naive just require knowledge, understanding, and to apply wisdom. The fool usually needs to hit rock bottom before they become desperate enough for help. And the scoffer? Well, these ones are beyond our help and need to be turned over to God.
Questions: Have you ever tried to counsel someone who turned out to be a scoffer? What happened? How did it make you feel? Would you do anything differently?