“Replying in a Straightforward Way”
IN the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referred to “the Law and the Prophets.” The third section of the Hebrew Scriptures was the Writings, which included the poetic books, such as Psalms and Proverbs. (Matthew 7:12; Luke 24:44) These, too, contained God’s wisdom.
For example, the proverbs warned judges in ancient Israel: “He that is saying to the wicked one: ‘You are righteous,’ the peoples will execrate him, national groups will denounce him. But for those reproving him it will be pleasant, and upon them there will come the blessing of good. Lips will he kiss who is replying in a straightforward way.”—Proverbs 24:24-26.
If a judge yielded to the pressures of bribery or nepotism and declared the wicked one righteous, others would see him as unfit for his position. Why, even members of Gentile “national groups” who heard of such judicial malfeasance would react with disdain! On the other hand, if a judge courageously reproved the wicked man and replied in a straightforward way to the case at hand, he would win the respect and love of the people. The people at large would be moved to wish him “the blessing of good.” As the proverb further puts it: “Lips will he kiss who is replying in a straightforward way.”
Such a kiss denoted mutual respect—between the counselor and those observing his straightforward reproof. Perhaps even the one being reproved would himself respond favorably and express affection for the judge. Says Proverbs 28:23: “He that is reproving a man will afterward find more favor than he will that is flattering with his tongue.” Those serving as congregation elders today must therefore avoid allowing friendship or family relationships to pervert their judgment. By straightforwardly rendering needed counsel, elders will win the respect of the congregation.