DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO
You see, us human beings do not seem to like being told what to do very much. We do not mind being given advice that agrees with what we already think, but if it does not, forget about it!
I think about my relationship with my mister – if anyone feels free to offer me good advice, he does, and he does it on a fairly regular basis! Now, he is the person closest to me and I know that he loves me very much and wants the best for me. And yet, when he tells me (effectively) that I am doing something wrong and gives me some “good advice”, I sometimes struggle to respond positively at first (even when I know he is right!). I get offended that he could think he knows better than me and I tend to react in a fairly hostile, defensive way, which (more often than not) will then lead to a disagreement (we do not like to use the word fight in our relationship). Eventually, I may (or may not) come around to his point of view and I calm down again. But this is something I am still working on. I always said I want us to keep it real in our relationship, but am I always ready to hear the truth?
THE WAY OF WISDOM
Is that how it should be though? Should true friends/relationships tiptoe around each other about “blind spots” that they may see in the other? Should we respond with indignation when we are lovingly corrected? What is the way of wisdom here?
Well, I believe that wisdom comes from God since He is the one who created all things and “In Him, all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). His ways are high above ours and beyond understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9), yet he does deign to reveal some of His wisdom to us. He has even told us what wisdom is in this regard – how we are to view and receive instruction from others. In fact, there are so many Bible verses linking wisdom with accepting good advice that when I started to write them all out, I gave up because there were too many!
The essence of it is this: a wise person receives instruction. They do not ignore it. They do not get offended by it. They do not laugh at it. Instead, they view it as a kindness to them. With humility, they listen, they consider and they act upon good advice. Here are a few verses about this:
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15 “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Proverbs 13:1 “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” Proverbs 15:31 “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” Psalm 141:5 “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17.
THE EXAMPLE OF DAVID
There is a story in 1 Samuel 25 that gives us an example of what it looks like to heed “life-giving correction” and the blessing that comes from it. The story occurs during the time in which David has been anointed as the next king but is running for his life from the current king of Israel, Saul, who is jealous of him and wants him dead. David has a company of men that live with him in the wilderness and in this chapter they come across a wealthy man who also lives there called Nabal. They ask him for some food and resources since David’s men helped to protect wild beasts from tampering with Nabal’s 3 000 sheep and 1 000 goats.
Nabal is described as “surly and mean” and certainly acts this way in response to David’s reasonable request. Not only does he deny him any food, but he also insults him. David is angry when he learns of this and in response, takes 400 men with him to slaughter Nabal and every one of his household.
Fortunately, Nabal has an “intelligent and beautiful” wife called Abigail who intervenes. She meets David on his way to kill Nabal’s family and offers him food and other provisions while pleading with him not to proceed with his mission. She is wise and gentle in the way she goes about it and David not only listens to her but praises both her and God for coming to correct him:
“David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” 1 Samuel 25:22-24
In the end, God himself ends up striking Nabal dead 10 days later in judgement for the evil he committed against David. David’s response to this is interesting also:
When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”
David was truly grateful to the Lord for sending Abigail to intervene and prevent him from taking revenge on Nabal himself, a thing that would have been sin and that he would have lived to regret. He receives the correction she gives him as a great kindness and seems to be so impressed with her that he even asks her to become his wife after Nabal’s death!
THE KINDNESS OF GOD IN CORRECTING ME
I am not saying that the best response to a friend who gives some good advice is to propose marriage to them (lol!) but I think we (or at least I) can learn something from David here. When someone points out to me an error (or planned error) in my ways, it would be wise for me to stop and listen, as painful or embarrassing as that may be. How humble David was to listen to a woman’s advice (not the done thing back then) and thank her for it! I want to follow his example and not react in immediate hostility and defensiveness towards my corrector. After all, what if they are right? Let me stop and consider. It could be that God is using their advice to prevent me from making a mistake and suffering all the consequences that would follow it – and what a kindness that is to me.
Overall, my prayer is that I will follow the example of the wise and take the correction/good advice of a righteous man (or woman) as a kindness, rather than a strain on the friendship that can not be tolerated. And how much deeper and truer would a friendship that operates in that way be?