Recently, my wife and I stayed at our son’s flat in Scotland. I was making instant coffee in their small kitchen. As I reached for the VIA, I scalded my arm on the electric tea kettle, big time! I have a picture of it, if you want to see how bad it was. It looked and felt terrible. I went to several pharmacies and asked for advice on how to treat it. Some said, “keep the wound covered,” others said, “leave the burn uncovered.” I searched the internet and found varying advice on how to treat it.
It seems like we can get advice on anything – on the internet, self-help books, friends, critics but how do we know if the advice is good or bad?
The Bible shares one tragic example of bad advice giving. If you haven’t read the story lately, you can go to 1 Kings 12 and read about how Rehoboam lost the kingdom because he followed bad advice. As a new king, he was given opposite advice when the people of Israel asked him to lighten the load put on them. His father Solomon’s advisors told him to lighten their load but Rehoboam rejected it, instead listened to the advice of the young men he had grown up with. He told the people if he thought his father’s yoke was heavy, he was about to make it heavier.
Here are three questions on discerning if advice is good or bad.
- Is the advice Biblical?
Any advice that goes against God’s principles is bad advice. God doesn’t change his standards; He is never tempted to fudge a little in order to accomplish a hard-won goal. What the Bible says always trumps our feelings, our traditions, and our culture. So go to God’s Word and ask him for wisdom when making decisions. If the advice aligns with scripture you’ll know you’re ready for question #2.
- Who is giving the advice?
Is it from someone that is credible? Our natural bias is to seek out like-minded people to confirm our own opinions and validate our past choices. Are we seeking out people that simply agree with us? Notice Rehoboam’s friends had grown up with him and were serving him. Did they have an ulterior motive? Did they tell Rehoboam what he wanted to hear for their personal gain?
Maybe our friends don’t want to hurt our feelings. As hard as it is to hear from our critics, sometimes they may say things that our friends would never have the guts to say.
- What is our goal?
I’m sure you’ve heard it said to “begin with the end in mind.” That’s true here. As we sift through the advice we receive, we must consider what it is we hope to achieve. We mustn’t stop short of considering any course of action, even if it pushes us outside of the comfort of our regular routines, if it moves us toward our goal. Resist the impulse to take the simplest solution or follow the easiest course of action; instead do the courageous work of pursuing the best advice to achieve your goal.
BEFORE YOU GO…
Remember, following advice should be an ongoing concern, not a matter of one-and-done. We are wise to plan regular course assessments and seek new advice if necessary or simply adjust as needed, so follow up for further advice if it’s what the situation demands. (Circling back also provides a means to reconnect with your adviser, allowing you to give them an update on the project, expressing gratitude, and strengthening your relationship.)
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Let’s be sure to seek out Godly counsel as we lead.