Advice: Give and Take

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Henry Ford once said, “I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn’t need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about?”  How many times do we let worry creep into our lives only to see things work out in the end?  Tim Ferriss has a podcast where he asks well known athletes, actors, and entrepreneurs what advice they would give their 30 year old selves.  The answer is almost always to have faith, relax, and know that things will work out.  Regardless of where we are in life, or how successful we view ourselves, advice is one of those things that can be hard to take, even if it is talking yourself through a situation.

Today’s devotional from Proverbs 9 is about advice.  Who do we accept advice from?  What do we do with advice?  Who should we give advice to?  We all have opinions on these questions, but do our actions match what we “believe”?  To answer these questions from a biblical perspective lets start with the first couple verses:

“Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.” [Proverbs 9:1]
“She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city…” [Proverbs 9:3]

If we look at giving advice from a servant’s perspective it helps us understand that compassion needs to be coupled with our words.  It is really easy to talk down to people when we have an opinion on something, but very few people receive advice openly when it comes with a condescending tone.  Another way to look at these concepts is to examine the seven pillars of wisdom referenced in Proverbs 9:1, which are discussed in James 3:17: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”  At its core, good advice is best delivered with humility and honesty.

It is also important to realize some people do not want our advice.  Proverbs 9:8 helps give us peace about advice that is not received, and even helps us to realize the best thing we can do for some people is love them, and not try to change them.

“Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.” [Proverbs 9:8-9]

From these few packed verses, we learn how to give advice, and we understand that in some cases our advice is wasted, so in the balanced way Proverbs is written, the middle of Chapter 9 comes full circle, and helps keep us grounded:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” [Proverbs 9:10]

This verse helps clarify what is expected of us, which is reverence for our creator to a point of being fearful of poor behavior that would separate us from him.  Although fear is often thought of in a negative sense, in this case it is actually extremely practical, similar to natural fears such as stepping in front of a car, or being attacked by a bear.  Although unfounded fear can limit our success, Proverbs 9 respectful fear is a safety net.  It also helps us realize that our source of wisdom cannot be ourselves.

The last few verses show what a comprehensive section Proverbs Chapter 9 represents.  Not only is the source of wisdom covered, along with practical ways to share and learn, but the benefits of gaining wisdom are encapsulated as follows:

“If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.” [Proverbs 9:12]

“To those who have no sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!’ But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.” [Proverbs 9:17-18]

It is our prayer at that God will bolster your wisdom, and increase your hunger to share throughout your journey.

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