Do you know any troublemakers? You know, the kind of people who just love to sit around, planning some kind of misbehavior, waiting for the moment to spring it on someone? In the most literal sense, a troublemaker is anyone who causes difficulties, distress, or worries - kind of out of habit and with a desire to bring injury, harm, or suffering to another. The point here is that this individual makes a habit of living to life miserable for others. These are definitely not the kind of people we want to associate with on a regular basis! Another word for this individual is "instigator" - wherever trouble seems to be brewing, you can pretty much be assured they had something to do with it! So, out of respect for yourself, you might want to learn how to avoid these individuals as much as possible - because the end they desire differs from the end God desires for your life!
A person who plans evil will get a reputation as a troublemaker. The schemes of a fool are sinful; everyone detests a mocker. (Proverbs 24:8-9 NIV)
The difference between an occasional misadventure caused by just not thinking something through and the trait of being a troublemaker is this whole idea of scheming and planning to create evil - through either foolish intent, or outright attack designed to ridicule and bring contempt. The troublemaker has a heart bent on evil. To engage in "trouble-making" once in a while doesn't suggest a heart bent on evil, but just a human heart! To engage in this way of life all the time indicates intent - and intent is what is our focus here today in this passage. The heart schemes in order to taunt another with either verbal, physical, or emotional distress - in order to bring some pleasure to the troublemaker.
I like the way the Message translates this as a troublemaker getting the reputation as "prince of rogues". A rogue is one who is both dishonest and mischievous. In scientific terms, when a "rogue" organism is found, we call it that because it differs so much from the original it just stands out. In the most literal sense, this individual is untrustworthy - just because of all the ways they manipulate and scheme to work whatever plan it is they have in mind. This is a way of life for them and it should not surprise you that the rogue personality they have is also described as a fool and a mocker. The three go hand-in-hand. One who schemes and plots to bring about a particular end is given to foolish thought and finding ways to point out the faults of another (even if is through sarcasm).
So, how do we avoid keeping company with these troublemakers? First, we have to recognize their heart. God gives us the ability to be able to look at the behaviors of another, listening also to what their words betray about their heart, and when these things point clearly to this type of behavior, it is probably because there is at least a little pleasure in it for the one who engages in this behavior routinely. Since we can all be engaged in a little bit of trouble-making on occasion, we can all say we have a little bit of the "rogue" in each of us, but these individuals just don't vary in their practice. They are easier to spot than some may think because their actions and words give them away.
Some may think when we engage with a troublemaker, we actually give them more fuel for their fire. If we ignore their behavior, not allowing their words to affect us, they get flustered with being ignored, but this doesn't shut down their behavior. In fact, being ignored is not what the troublemaker wants - they want to cause their upheaval and see those who they target respond to it. When they are ignored, they often just scheme a little harder and find new ways to begin their trouble-making schemes again. Maybe the better way to deal with the troublemaker is to return good for their evil. Isn't that the lesson Jesus was teaching when he said to turn the other cheek. The troublemaker will be caught off-guard by receiving a blessing when he brings forth a curse. We almost put him in a place of being put "off-balance" because his scheme did not have the effect he designed. Return enough blessings in the face of his schemes and he will be shut-down. He may not stop being a troublemaker, but he will move on because he knows he cannot beat you! Just sayin!