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Avoiding Bad Advice

Listen to advice and accept discipline so that you may be wise the rest of your life.

Many plans are in the human heart,

but the advice of the Lord will endure.

The fear of the Lord leads to life,

and such a person will rest easy without suffering harm.

If you stop listening to instruction, my son,

you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19:20-21, 23, 27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 19:15-29 GW)


Unsolicited advice is cheap and plentiful. Just like opinions, everybody seems to have advice to give about—life, diet, exercise, business, politics, religion… you name it.

Equating advice as wisdom would be an oxymoron. Not all advice is wise. Go to a racetrack and ask for tips on which horse to bet on. You’re sure to get plenty of advice but the majority of it is useless or worse.

This is true for many other scenarios in life. And yet, people keep handing out free advice that others try to follow. I suppose some of the advice may be useful but I wouldn’t count on it.

So, how can anyone be sure of any advice? Of course, it’s important to consider the source of the advice. Is the person trustworthy? Does the one giving advice follow it themselves?

GIGOGarbage In, Garbage Out. This term was coined in the late 50’s as computers began to make their impact in mathematics, science, and business. Simply put, sloppy input produces unreliable output.

Just because a computer spits out calculated information, no one should blindly accept its output as true. Look at all the political and election polls and how skewed or far off they are from actual results or from one poll to another.

If the data input is incorrect, the output will also be incorrect. If the program calculating or analyzing the data is flawed or susceptible to glitches, then the output shouldn’t be trusted.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The only way to avoid bad advice is to be discerning enough to know the difference between what’s good or bad or questionable advice. Understand the origin of the advice. Where is it drawn from and who is giving it?

As explained before, the Proverbs of Solomon are often expressed as guidance from a father to a son. Solomon, the primary author, sees God as the father and Bible narratives provide scores of life examples of sons to learn from—both good and bad.

Here is reliable guidance for avoiding bad advice based on these 4 selected verses—

verse 20– Two things are recommended to gain lifelong wisdom—listen to good advice and make a continuing commitment to apply it in daily life.

verse 21– Others may have advice to offer and our own heart will generate plenty of plans and ideas but only advice that originates from the Lord will last.

verse 23– Good, reliable advice is grounded in a genuine awe and respect for the Lord. The fear of God leads to life because of the confident trust we have in Him.

verse 27– Commitment and discipline to the truth of God are essential for us to maintain the discernment needed to avoid listening to bad advice and holding to good, reliable guidance for our life.

Reflection—

Avoiding bad advice requires discernment to know the difference between what’s good or bad or questionable. When you listen to good, reliable advice and commit yourself to follow it, you can gain a life guided by sound wisdom.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God for discernment to help you know what is good advice to follow. Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom daily and for understanding of what you read in the Bible.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Slippery Places

Jealousy is called "the green-eyed monster." The expression was coined by Shakespeare but the emotion has existed since the first humans on earth.

Jealousy or envy includes a range of emotions, all of which bring a sickness of the soul. Left unchecked it breeds greed and lust that are akin to idolatry (Eph 5:5; Col 3:5).

It is a destructive feeling and has no upside. Adam and Eve believed the serpent's lie because they thought God was holding back something good (Gen 3:4-6). Today we characterize it as FOMO—the fear of missing out.

Life Before Death

People have differing views on destiny. Some see it as set in stone. Others challenge what seems to be their fate throughout life. I'm sure there are those who try to ignore it altogether.

It's been said that the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes. I don't know if taxes are that certain, but death claims us all. We just don't know when and how not that most of us want to know.

Looking for Answers

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

What do you think? Are people by nature good or bad? Wait! Before you answer, consider that this is a centuries-old debate.

People with credentials may speak with authority when they give their opinion, but it's still just their opinion. Opinions don't resolve debates, they tend to polarize the debate.

An important part of the discussion, if you want to move beyond mere debate, is to define terms. What's the basis for goodness? How do you define human nature?

Scripture

Surely there is no one on earth who always does good and never sins. But wisdom can make one person stronger than ten leaders in a city. Don’t listen to everything people say. You might hear your own servant saying bad things about you. And you know that many times you too have said bad things about other people. [vss 19-22]

I used my wisdom and thought about all these things. I wanted to be wise, but I couldn’t do it. I cannot understand why things are as they are. It is too hard for anyone to understand. I studied and I tried very hard to find true wisdom. I tried to find a reason for everything. I did learn that it is foolish to be evil, and it is crazy to act like a fool. [vss 23-25]

I also found that some women are dangerous like traps. Their hearts are like nets, and their arms are like chains. It is worse than death to be caught by these women. God’s followers should run away from them. Let the sinners be caught by them. The Teacher says, “I added all this together to see what answer I could find. I am still looking for answers, but I did find this: I found one good man in a thousand. But I did not find even one good woman. “There is one other thing I have learned. God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad.” [vss 26-29]

(Ecclesiastes 7:19-29 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness

[bctt tweet="I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about people in general and the value of wisdom?

What advice is given about what people say, and what is the basis for this advice?

What did King Solomon find out in his search for wisdom and reason for life?

What was Solomon still looking for, and what did he learn about God and people?

Reflection...

An opinion is a belief based on a subjective point of view. Why is it subjective? Because it's a personal point of view.

In the very beginning of humanity, when God created the universe, it was all good. Not good in the way that expression is used today. Everything created was genuinely good, pristine, and in right order.

God is the only true standard of goodness. However, the world around us is no longer in pristine condition, regardless of your opinion on climate change. And, the population of the world does not live in harmony with one another or their environment.

Our view of people and life in general is jaded. It's jaded because we have a hard time seeing beyond ourselves and our own point of view. Solomon was onto something when he said— God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad (verse 29).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What is your view of human nature, God, and goodness? What do you base this on?

If you've been living for a while, how has your view of life and human nature changed?

What areas in life are you still seeking answers? What are you sure about? Why?

Where do you seek wisdom? How has the wisdom you've gained in life helped you?

From One Extreme to Another

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

Life is full of ups and downs. Some of these can be extreme, but most are not. I'm thankful for that.

I'm also thankful for the hills and valleys of life. It would get pretty boring and monotonous without these, like an unending treadmill to nowhere.

Still, some people seem to experience triumph to tragedy cycles of mood swings. They seem stuck on a never-ending, emotional rollercoaster. Then there are those who exhibit extreme attitudes and behaviors. All these extremes create tensions that can't be sustained for long.

Life is a lot harder when you go from one extreme to another.

Scripture

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. It is an advantage to everyone who sees the sun. Wisdom protects us just as money protects us, but the advantage of wisdom is that it gives life to those who have it. Consider what God has done! Who can straighten what God has bent? [vss 11-13]

When times are good, be happy. But when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one time as well as the other so that mortals cannot predict their future. I have seen it all in my pointless life: Righteous people die in spite of being righteous. Wicked people go on living in spite of being wicked. [vss 14-15]

Don’t be too virtuous, and don’t be too wise. Why make yourself miserable? Don’t be too wicked, and don’t be a fool. Why should you die before your time is up? It’s good to hold on to the one and not let go of the other, because the one who fears God will be able to avoid both extremes. [vss 16-18]

(Ecclesiastes 7:11-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—Wisdom is as good as an inheritance.

[bctt tweet="Wisdom is as good as an inheritance."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about wisdom? Why is it valuable?

In what way do good and bad experiences keep us from predicting the future?

What are we told about the righteous and wicked? Does this seem unfair to you?

What would help us avoid being too virtuous or too wicked? How does this help?

Reflection...

Religion and philosophy are often taken to extremes. In a philosophy class, taking a thought to an extreme point happens a lot. Sometimes this is exercised as if it was an olympic sport.

Religions are filled with radicals—people who take a belief well beyond its original intent. Of course, what's seen as radical or fanatical by one person is acceptable to another. Even Jesus was branded as too radical by the religious leaders of His time on earth.

How can we keep from going to extremes? We need a center point. We need something to ground and guide us. This is the benefit of godly fear.

When we see God for who He is—all-knowing, ever-present, almighty, and eternal—we gain perspective. It keeps us humble and wise (Proverbs 9:10). It will also help keep us from going from one extreme to another.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Does your life seem like a treadmill or rollercoaster? If so, have you discovered why this is so?

How do you handle the ups and downs of life? How much does it bother you when things don't go as planned?

Does it bother you when some people seem to get away with wrong doing, while others who seem innocent and good suffer?

What's your understanding of the fear of God? Does God fill your heart with awe and wonder?