Broken beyond healing: Proverbs 29:1



NOTE: Beginning in August 2022, Trinity Reformed Church worked through Proverbs 29 verse by verse for our confession of sin during our liturgy. This post begins a series of short articles based on those homilies.

Chapter 29 of Proverbs is a variety pack of wisdom on more than a dozen topics. Let’s start with verse 1: 

He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. — Proverbs 29:1

Broken beyond healing. That is a serious warning.

But let’s start at the beginning of this verse. 

Often reproved. Should you be concerned if you are reproved often? Maybe so! Maybe you’re kind of a mess!

But note: This verse renders no judgment on a person who is simply receiving frequent reproof. In fact, receiving reproof from a brother is God’s unmerited grace toward you to rescue you from your sin. You do not deserve such grace. That’s a great relief.

Instead, this verse focuses on the response: When you stiffen your neck.

That is a telling metaphor. When you stiffen your neck, you will not nod in agreement. You will not bow your head. You will keep your head held high and proud and say, no! I will not listen to you!

And when you constantly stiffen your neck, what is the promised outcome? 

You will suddenly be broken beyond healing.


Saints, this is downright frightening. This verse is saying that if you stiffen your neck against reproof, if you reject this gracious act brought to you by your courageous brothers and sisters, the Lord will allow you to get away with it — for a time. God will allow you to build up a store of sinful stubbornness that He then will pull down onto your head in an instant.

And unlike the discipline of reproof, which is meant to prune you so that you may burst forth with new life and love, you will be broken, that is, shattered and crushed, and without hope of restoration.

Let us repent of any stiffening of our necks against the good, faithful discipline that our gracious Father delivers to us through His children, through His church.

Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash

  • Jon Swerens is a lifelong journalist and has been an elder at Trinity Reformed Church since 2021.