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“Only the wise can give good advice; fools cannot do so” – Proverbs 15:7

31118_000_034_06At some point in our lives we seek advice from others.  Sometimes we get good advice and sometimes we get bad.  Some people mean well while others don’t.  It is up to us to decide which advice to follow.

After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became the ruler of Israel. When Jeroboam heard about Solomon’s death, he returned from Egypt where he fled to escape from the former king.  Jeroboam was summoned by the leaders of Israel and he and all of Israel went to speak to Rehoboam.  They said to him, “your father was a hard master.  Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us.  Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

Rehoboam told them to go back in three days for his answer. The people went away and the king went to discuss the matter with the older men who used to counsel his father, Solomon.  “What is your advice?” he asked.  “How should I answer these people?”

They replied, “If you are good to the people and show them kindness and do your best to please them, they will always be your loyal subjects” (2 Chronicles 10:1-7). Very sound advice.  But Rehoboam rejected it.  It wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  How many of us reject good advice because it doesn’t please us?

Rehoboam went to his friends and asked for their advice. They said to him, “This is what you should tell those complainers: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist—if you think he was hard on you, just wait and see what I’ll be like.  Yes, my father was harsh on you, but I’ll be even harsher.  My father used whips on you, but I’ll use scorpions” (verses 10, 11).  This was very foolish advice.  No one in their right mind would follow this.  But Rehoboam did.

When the people came to see him three days later he repeated the advice his friends gave him. As a result the people refused to be ruled by a descendant of David.  They shouted, “Down with David and his dynasty.”

In Rehoboam’s case, this turn of events was the will of God so that this prophecy would be fulfilled,But I will not take the entire kingdom from Solomon at this time. For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and laws, I will let Solomon reign for the rest of his life. But I will take the kingdom away from his son and give ten of the tribes to you.  His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for my name.  And I will place you on the throne of Israel, and you will rule over all that your heart desires” (1 Kings 11:34-37).

But when we make bad decisions based on bad advice we cannot blame the consequences on God or anyone else but ourselves. We are to be wise.  We are to seek godly counsel first and then it is up to God if He wants to help us through another person.  If Solomon had followed his father David’s advice and not worshipped other gods but remained faithful to God, his son Rehoboam would not have been influenced to make a bad decision which had long lasting effects.

We have to be careful whom we seek advice from. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.”  Rehoboam’s friends did not give him good advice.  He was led astray and God allowed it to happen.  Sometimes bad things are allowed to happen to teach us a lesson.

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When I read this I thought of heavenly wisdom as spiritual because it comes from God while earthly wisdom is carnal. The heavenly wisdom puts others first–before self while earthly wisdom is selfish. It’s all about self. What is best for us no matter what. It is the kind of wisdom that people use to live how they want, believing that they know best and doesn’t listen to wise counsel. They lean on their own understanding. They seek to please themselves. Take Eve for example. She wanted to be wise like God.

The wisdom she was seeking was not heavenly because it didn’t come from God. It was demonic. It was self-seeking. She was seeking it at the instigation of the Devil. The religious leaders thought they were wise in their own eyes because they didn’t allow themselves to be fooled by Jesus whom they felt was a false teacher. They rejected His teachings even though He taught with authority, something which they lacked. They thought themselves wise because they didn’t fall for His miracles and signs. They even attributed His miracles to the Devil. They envied Him and that envy led to murder plots.

Earthly wisdom leads to eternal separation from God. King Solomon, the wisest man in the world, wrote, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Eve didn’t see anything wrong with wanting to be wise like God but in her quest for godly wisdom, she had stepped outside of God’s will and smack right into the Devil’s trap. Her self-seeking led to spiritual and physical death. The kind of wisdom we should be seeking is the one that comes only from God.

James told us how we can acquire this. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Solomon said that heavenly wisdom is more precious than gold, silver and above rubies. It is precious and it gives life to those who have it (Ecclesiastes 7:12).

This kind of wisdom has many benefits and James lists them in order: pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and hypocrisy. These attributes sound very much like those of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23).

Heavenly wisdom produces good fruits because it is not self-seeking. It puts God and others before self. It is quick to listen and slow to speak. It is the soft answer that turns away wrath. It is what Jesus used when dealing with the religious leaders when they confronted Him. He countered their envy, jealousy and hypocrisy with wisdom.

Heavenly wisdom surrenders to God. It humbles itself. It accepts godly counsel, reproof, discipline and instruction. And it leads to the correct way of thinking, feeling and acting. God’s wisdom is available to us. All we have to do is ask for it.

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20).

person-listening-300x200James is saying that sometimes we need to listen more and speak less or say nothing.  King Solomon says in Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

There are times when we speak instead of listening and later regret it because our words lead to bitter quarrels and fights.  Feelings can get hurt and relationships can be jeopardized or destroyed because of words spoken in a fit of anger.  There are times when we ought to just listen and other times when we ought to speak.  We have to have the wisdom to know when to do which.

Problems arise when we stop listening to God and to each other.  Whether in the home, at work, or in the church, arguments ensue when listening stops.  When that happens, talking begins to accelerate and anger builds.  This slippery slope of sinful communication, like the uncontrolled inward desires of James 1:14, 15, can never produce the righteousness of God.  That is why James juxtaposes God’s righteousness with human wrath.  As long as we rely on what bubbles up naturally from our sinful nature, the creative power of God’s Word is blocked, and our own unhelpful or even hurtful words arise instead (The Book of James Sabbath School Quarterly, p. 26)

Notice James advises us to be “swift to hear”.  We must be quick to hear what the other person has to say first before we have our say.  In doing so, we might learn something and diffuse an otherwise volatile situation.   How many times have we been quick to speak and slow to listen and gotten ourselves in trouble?  It takes wisdom to hold our tongue.  It takes maturity to listen. 

We have to be careful of what we say.  If we have nothing good or helpful to say in a situation , it is best to keep quiet.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.  When we respond to something someone says in a quiet, non-combative way, it will diffuse the situation or prevent it from getting worse.  Once when my husband, Dave made a request, he didn’t like the tone of his co-worker’s reply but he responded in an agreeable manner.  The co-worker, initially surprised, responded positively.  Dave chose a gentle answer instead of a harsh one and turned what could have led to a bad situation into a peaceful resolution.  Both men benefitted from Dave’s wise handling of the problem.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that we should know how to speak and when to speak (Isaiah 50:4).  Paul encourages us to speak only words that will encourage and benefit others.  Our words must not be corrupt or harmful (Ephesians 4:29).  Our words should not be filthy, foolish or coarse.  They should be fitting and full of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4).  Our words should always be filled with grace, seasoned with salt so that we know how to answer people appropriately (Colossians 4:6). 

Be a good listener.  Hear what the other person has to say.  The same rule applies to God.  Too often when we spend time with Him, we have our say but don’t wait to hear what He has to say.  Be still and listen for that small, still voice.

He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 13:3)

 

 

 


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