Contempt for the Word of God
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles to Proverbs, chapter 10, because we are studying that portion of the book of Proverbs which begins with chapter 10 and concludes with chapter 22, verse 16. You will recall that when we began our study of this portion of the book, we designated it The Personal Proverbs of Solomon . You find a designation similar to that in chapter 10, verse 1:

Proverbs 10:

1 The proverbs of Solomon…

Since the entire book of Proverbs does represent some of the proverbs of Solomon, some of the proverbs of Agur, some of the proverbs of the wise, some of the proverbs gathered together by the scribes of Hezekiah, we like to make this distinction so that you will know exactly where you are reading when you are reading the Word. We are reading in that section that is designated The Personal Proverbs of Solomon.

You have probably already noticed in your reading of this portion that the proverbs are not presented in chronological order, nor are they presented in relation to the subject matter, one proverb after another. Therefore, we have suggested to you that we have found that one of the best ways to study this section is on the basis of principle—that is, relating all of the proverbs scattered throughout this entire section according to certain principles about which they speak.

In this study, we are going to think with you about the principle that is described by the word despising , for you find this word used so often that it cannot be ignored.

Meanings of Despise

When you and I use the word despise in our ordinary, everyday English, we might have a number of things in mind. I am afraid many of us use the word very lightly without realizing its full significance. For example, sometimes we are heard to say, “I despise you,” when really we don't. Or we may hear someone say, “I despise that kind of food,” when really we don't despise it. Regardless of how the word may be used in our colloquial English, it is very important for us to know how it is used in the Word of God in this particular section.

There are four Hebrew words in this section which are translated by our English word despise . They are not all the same words, as you realize, but they do have a meaning that is similar. They are used interchangeably without any particular reason for so doing save that the Holy Spirit chose to use the word in question in each particular instance. If you were reading the words side-by-side, you would recognize a certain difference in intensity of feeling as the words are used. So that you might know what we are talking about when we use the word despise , we want you to see what we are talking about at the very outset, so we remind you that one of the Hebrew words for despise is the word buwz, which is translated by the word “disrespect,” by the word “contempt,” and by the word “shamed.”

Another word is the Hebrew word bazah , which means very literally, though it is translated by the word despise , “to think scornfully” of some particular person or object. The Hebrew word maac has a more serious meaning because it involves the idea of blasphemy, and it means “to blaspheme.” The Hebrew word maac speaks more of actual activity because it speaks of spurning, it speaks of rejecting the individual or the thing in question.

With the significance of the word despise in your mind, remembering that when you read the passages of Scripture which we are going to read, you will be reading words which include the intensity which we have attempted to illustrate for you, we would like to summarize what we are going to find in relation to these verses. We are going to call it to your attention by asking some simple questions in relation to the Word and finding out exactly what it is that God has in mind.

A Man Void of Wisdom Despises

The first thing we would ask is, who despises? Who, according to this portion of the Word of God, is guilty of the sin (because before we are through we will see that it is a sin) of despising? Who is guilty of the sin of scorning, of rejecting, of blaspheming? Who is guilty of thinking scornfully of individuals?

May I suggest that we begin our discussion by noticing what is found in Proverbs, chapter 11, verse 12, where we read:

Proverbs 11:

12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

As an answer to our question, the first thing that we say is that a man who is void of wisdom is guilty of this sin. When we say a man is void of wisdom, you understand in the light of what we have already told you about the book of Proverbs that we are speaking of the individual who has no real familiarity with the Word of God, for wisdom is used here in relation to the teaching of the Word of God. The individual who is a real student of the Word of God would never be guilty of despising his neighbor. The Word of God is important in relation to ordinary, everyday living.

A Perverse Man Despises

Turn, please, to chapter 14, and notice verse 2:

Proverbs 14:

2 He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

So the second individual who is guilty of this sin is the man who is perverse in his ways, perverse in his activities, perverse in his actions. The word perverse may need a bit of comment. It comes from the Hebrew word luwz , which may be translated by the words “to depart.” One translator has said, “A perverse man is a double dealer.” A perverse man is a man who is departing from the truth of God's Word in his everyday activities, and such an individual who does not heed the Word of God in his everyday activities most certainly will be guilty of this sin of scorn and of blasphemy.

A Foolish Man Despises

Turn to chapter 15, as we remind you that the fool or the foolish man is another individual who would despise, who would scorn, who would blaspheme. In verse 5, we read:

Proverbs 15:

5 A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.

Then look down at verse 20 where we see a companion verse. Notice:

Proverbs 15:

20 A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.

There you see one character described in two terms—the fool and the foolish man. Recognize this please: Never in the Word of God does the word fool or the word foolish speak of an individual who is not quite right mentally. Never does it speak of an individual who is silly and giggly or that sort of thing. The word fool , the word foolish, speaks of the rebel. It always speaks of the person who is in rebellion against the thing that is under discussion, and more times than not in the Word of God, the fool is the man who rebels against the truth of the Word of God. Keep that in mind as you remember that “The fool hath said in his own heart there is no God.” The only person who says such is the person who is not willing to accept God as the Lord of his life.

Men Despise the Word of God

We want to ask another question very simply to bring these truths before you, and that is, what is despised? We know who it is that despises; now what is it that these individuals despise? Let us look at the Scripture again, and you will recognize immediately that it necessitates some repetition in the reading of the Word. Please go back to chapter 12, verse 8:

Proverbs 12:

8 A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.

This is basic. The first thing that we would bring to your attention as the object of shame is the man with a perverse heart. This is very important because here we are not talking about the shame or the scorn that is related to the activity of human beings; we are talking about the shame and the scorn that is related to the activity of a Holy God. Look at verse 8 again. You will notice that a man shall be commended according to his wisdom and according to his knowledge of the Word of God; but a man of a perverse heart shall be despised. A man who deviates from the plain teaching of the Word of God cannot expect the blessing of God in his life. When God despises, God despises with a perfect scorn and a perfect rejection of which we humans are not capable.

Let us progress in our thinking, asking you to turn to chapter 13, verse 13:

Proverbs 13:

13 Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.

What is it that men despise? They despise the Word of the living God. In the light of what we suggested to you in the very beginning of our discussion, what is your attitude in relation to the Word of God? You know, it is not only unbelievers who make light of God's Word; it is not only unbelievers who scorn God's Word; it is not only unbelievers who reject God's Word. Believers are sometimes guilty of showing disrespect to the Word of the living God. When men despise the Word, it would be quite natural to despise the Lord of the Word. Notice chapter 14, verse 2:

Proverbs 14:

2 He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

Yes, people despise the Lord just as they despise His Word. Just as they scorn His Word, they could be expected to despise, to blaspheme the Lord of the Word, but we believe that basic actions of all men have their roots in spiritual relationships. We believe that when a man is right with God, then his relationships with his fellow man will be right. We believe that when a man is out of fellowship with God, he will be out of fellowship, very likely, with all who are around him. That is the reason one of the verses we have studied in the book of Proverbs, “When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him,” is an indication that physical, normal, natural activity is related to spiritual conditions. So we find a man who despises the Word and who despises the Lord, quite naturally would despise the ways of the Lord as they are plainly taught within the Word of God. His actions would indicate the condition of his heart. Notice Proverbs, chapter 19, verse 16:

Proverbs 19:

16 He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways God's ways] shall die.

If a man has no respect for the Word of God, then he would have no respect for the way God does things, for the plain commandments that are laid out in the Word of God for the individual to follow, for the word commandment in verse 16, and the word ways are used in conjunction one with the other. You recall that we told you that the first portion of the personal proverbs of Solomon are proverbs of corresponding statements and the second portion are proverbs of contrasting statements. Here, commandments and ways do correspond.

A Fool Despises His Father's Instruction

Being more thoughtful and delineating the truth even more specifically, we find that an individual who despises God and despises His Word would quite naturally despise the instruction which his father gives. Look back at chapter 15, verse 5:

Proverbs 15:

5 A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.

It might be wise, young people, to remember when you are prone to despise your father's instruction, God says that you are a fool. You are a rebel because you are rebelling against the plain teaching of the Word of God which says, “Honor thy father and mother that it may be well with thee.”

Parents, let me say to you that obedience does not come naturally. Children are not born with a desire to obey. They are born, just like you were born, with a desire to rebel. If God's Word says a fool despiseth his father's instruction, then it would be wise for you to see to it that your child does not despise your instruction. Don't let him start out scorning your instruction, and you won't have to weep with somebody about how he scorns your instruction when he is too big for you to do anything about it.

A Fool Despises His Mother

We might remind you that problem teenagers did not get that way overnight. The problem teenagers were the problem children and if, on the basis of training in the Word of God, you eliminate the problems early in childhood, you will not have the problems when the teenage years are reached. Keep that in mind as I remind you that another suggestion is that men who have despised the Lord will not only despise their father's instruction, but will despise the mother's as well. In chapter 15, verse 20, we read:

Proverbs 15:

20 …but a foolish man despiseth his mother.

Young people, you do need to search your hearts as to how you feel about your father and mother. As you search your heart along this line, you need to recognize if there is that feeling of scorn, of disrespect for your father or mother, it is a sign of open rebellion against God, whether you realize it to be so or not.

A Fool Despises His Mother

We are getting down to practical, everyday living when we point out to you that another object of scorn is the neighbor who is described in chapter ll, verse 12:

Proverbs 11:

12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

If you are well acquainted with the Word of God, if you are well indoctrinated, you will be able to get along with your neighbor, even though your neighbor might be a most despicable character from all appearances. Still, according to the Word of God, it will not be necessary for you to despise your neighbor because you will be so indoctrinated that you will learn how to live with him in peace.

Don't Refuse Instruction

We are going to intensify our remarks and go to something that is very, very serious. What is the object of scorn? What is it we see before our eyes? It is almost unbelievable, but here it is very plainly taught in the Word of God. Some men despise their own souls. Some men scorn their own souls. It hardly seems possible that a man would be so foolish, but so says the Word of God. Notice chapter 15, verse 32:

Proverbs 15:

32 He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.

If you care about your soul, then you won't refuse instruction. If you have any interest in your soul at all, you will be glad to hear whatever instruction God is pleased to bring your way.

Ordinarily, we would immediately think about sermons and what the preacher has to say, and we would say that the thing that you ought to do is to listen well to the message of the Word of God. You should be sure that you don't refuse the plain teaching of the Word of God. We remind you that the book of Proverbs is an earthly book, and being an earthly book, it deals with earthly matters. It is emphasized that the individual who despises his own soul is an individual who refuses instruction in any fashion whatsoever. If you are interested in your life, if you are interested in God's best for you, then don't turn a deaf ear to any instruction that comes your way. Keep in mind the source of instruction may seem to you to be a bit foolish. You may find it difficult to respect the source, but don't refuse the instruction if you love your soul and if you are concerned about your soul.

Penalty for Despising

There is one other question that I would like to ask in relation to these things that we are considering in this study of the proverbs which are related to the subject of scorn or to the subject of despising. The question that I would bring to your attention last is phrased very simply: What is the penalty for those who engage in this matter of scorn? What is the penalty for those who engage in this matter of despising?

The very first thing I would draw to your attention is that we must realize that such activity is sin. Oftentimes we speak of despising this or despising that as though we have the privilege of accepting or rejecting what we will. It doesn't matter. We are clear to do what we will about anything. We need to recognize that God emphasizes in the Word that the man who engages in this business of despising is sinning, and it is almost startling to read what you do in chapter 14, verse 21:

Proverbs 14:

21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.

He that scorns his neighbor sins. Have you stopped to think that the fuss that you had with your neighbor over the fence or wherever it was located is not some minor neighborhood fuss, but it is sin in the sight of God? Have you stopped to consider that when you fuss with your neighbor about his pigs running loose in your yard, you are sinning, for you are treating him in a scornful fashion?

More closely related to the text, keeping in mind that in this portion of the book of Proverbs, there is a matter of corresponding truth within the proverbs itself. Look again at the verse:

Proverbs 14:

21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.

The corresponding statement suggests that when your neighbor comes to you with a real need and you scorn him, you are sinning. I want to make a very definite application, and I want to make the application by asking you a question. What is the spiritual condition of the person who lives to the right or left of you? Maybe you are able to say, “They are lovely believers and we have such sweet fellowship together,” or “They worship at another place, but we just have such good fellowship.” That is wonderful, but suppose when I ask that question, you would say to me, “Frankly, I don't know. I don't know whether they are believers. I think they go to such and such a church, but I don't really know.” You don't know? You haven't been that concerned? The need is there, and you haven't taken the trouble to find out? You are scorning the need of your neighbor.

Of course, we could talk about financial needs and material needs, but I don't think that is the problem. I think that most people who hear a tap on the door and the neighbor says, “I want to borrow a cup of sugar,” is usually welcome, not only for a cup of sugar, but a cup of coffee as well; but if that same neighbor were to tap on your door and say, “I am in spiritual need,” would you be able to meet that need, or should you as a believer who has the gift of eternal life at your fingertips even wait until they come and say they are in need? Should you not be concerned enough to recognize a need?

I trust that the Spirit of God will make the application in any number of ways when we read: “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth…,” and recognize that we are talking about a very prosaic thing, but a thing that amounts to sin.

Penalty for Despising God's Word is Destruction

The Bible says that every disobedience receives a just recompense of reward. The Bible teaches that sin must be dealt with. There is no way to ignore it, so as we look at the proverbs which deal with the subject of despising, we ask, “What is the penalty referred to in them?” We draw your attention to chapter 13, verse 13, where we read what we read before but with an added word. Notice:

Proverbs 13:

13 Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.

What is the penalty for despising the Word of God? Destruction—temporal and eternal. Individuals who despise God's Word can expect destruction to be their ultimate end because God operates upon the principles of His Word. We know that when we discuss the subject of Hell.

We are told if we obey certain ordinary rules of health, we will have strong bodies. If we disobey those rules, our bodies will become weak. We pay the penalty. God says, “You observe My Word, and you will be strong. Fail to observe it, and you will be destroyed.” “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

Penalty for Disrespect of God's Ways is Death

The other thing would be a normal thing to expect. The penalty for despising is not only destruction but it can and is described by the word death as well. Turn, please, to chapter 19, and notice verse 16:

Proverbs 19:

16 He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways [God's ways] shall die.

The soul that scorns the ways of God shall die. Death is the penalty. Death is the penalty for disrespect of the ways of God. Death is the penalty for disrespect to the Word of God. Death is the penalty for ignoring the plain teaching of the Word of God.

May I touch upon just one thing, though we do not have time to deal with it in detail? When we speak of death, we speak of two kinds of death. The Bible teaches that the child of God who shows disrespect for the Word and the way of God shall die physically. I Corinthians, chapter 11, verse 30, says:

I Corinthians 11:

30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Turn to I John, chapter 5, verse 16, and notice the last part of this verse:

I John 5:

16 …There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

Sometimes when we as Christians persist in disobeying the Word of God, ignoring the ways of God, God finds it necessary to chasten us. Sometimes the chastening which He brings into our lives is not sufficient to deter us; it is not sufficient to cause us to cease and desist. Finally, there is nothing left for Him to do but bring in the penalty of death, and He takes our lives.


Let me make this clear because I do not like to be misunderstood. Every Christian who dies has not disobeyed God; but remember, if you are God's child and you persist in open disobedience to Him, you are living in a precarious state, for “he that despiseth the ways of the LORD shall die.”

If we are speaking about the unbeliever tonight, should he persist in despising the ways of God and die physically in that state of scorn, then he becomes subject to what the Bible refers to as second death . He now becomes subject to what we refer to as eternal death . You see, this matter of despising is not a simple thing. It is involved. It is serious and it is something to be avoided.

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