One who becomes stiff-necked, after many reprimands will be shattered instantly–beyond recovery.
The Hebrew literally reads, “A man of reproofs who hardens his neck shall suddenly be broken, and no healing.”
“Man of reproofs” seems to indicate those whose lives are characterized by reproofs, by offered correction and constructive criticism, and yet they simply do not respond to any of it.
“Stiff-necked” is an idiom that means “extremely stubborn.”
The obstinate person refuses to learn.
“Those who are repeatedly warned about behavior that has potentially dangerous consequences but do not listen (are stiff-necked) will find all of a sudden that the consequences have caught up with them, and they will have moved beyond the point where an easy fix is possible,” says Biblical Studies Professor Tremper Longman in his interpretation of this verse.
This proverb does not only point to the bad end of some people, but is a plea to the wise to not reject criticism.
Wise people can hear the actual content of criticism and apply it to themselves in order to learn, in order to grow. Wise people accept it because they desire to grow as a person, even if it hurts a little.
Foolish people cannot get past thinking all criticism is some sort of attack on their personality, an undermining of them as people. Sure, that might be the intent of some, but surely not all who give critique. Foolish people do not hear well. Perhaps because they have refused to listen for so long, their ability to hear anything of substance may be dulled and atrophied to the point of moral deafitude (totally made up word).
The very wise can even listen for the profitable nugget lying hidden beneath the scathing surface of vitriol from an ill-motivated attacker. They know life is deeper than than this person’s childish offering, so that is where they are always looking–the depths, where wisdom may be hiding and God is probably speaking.
I’ve always wondered why Jesus told Mary not to cling to Him. For one, He was going to see her again. This was not their final meeting. Two, she had a task to do-to tell the dudes He was going to His Father. Third, the form they had come to know and love would not be the permanent form they or all followers thereafter would hold on to. It would now be the Paraclete.
We have the best Counselor ever.