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Beware of Bad Advice
Advice can be a blessing or a trap, depending on who gives it. As the saying goes, “consider the source.” How does one know when advice is good advice and when one should beware? Young people are especially vulnerable in this area. Lacking in experience and eager for popularity, they often become prey to bad advice.
In the book of Kings, the Kingdom of Israel was divided because of a young king’s lack of discernment.
1Kings 12 1-16
1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. 2 So it happened, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard it (he was still in Egypt, for he had fled from the presence of King Solomon and had been dwelling in Egypt), 3 that they sent and called him. Then Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”
5 So he said to them, “Depart for three days, then come back to me.” And the people departed.
6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?”
7 And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”
8 But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. 9 And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?”
10 Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! 11 And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’”[a]
12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had directed, saying, “Come back to me the third day.” 13 Then the king answered the people roughly, and rejected the advice which the elders had given him; 14 and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!”
Unfortunately, Rehoboam wanted to serve his ego more than do what was right for the kingdom he was now in charge of. Rehoboam rejected what was excellent advice, because he, like many young men, wanted to impress his friends and play the tough guy, he felt that mercy was for the weak and he was going to show them what a mighty king he was. Mighty stupid, given the results of his disastrous decision to go with his friends advice instead of following the advice of men, who were more experienced, and understood how people would react if given mercy.
One might wonder, how could Rehoboam, son of Solomon, the wisest king of Israel and possibly the wisest man living at that time come to such a foolish decision. Rehoboam’s decision caused a civil war and divided the kingdom of Israel. Israel later suffered disastrous consequences both spiritually and politically; as an indirect result of this decision.
Even though Rehoboam's father was the wisest man of his time, Rehoboam grew in household where he was not given guidance, or a good example. Solomon is known by many for his numerous wives and concubines. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, he didn't just practice polygamy, he had enough women to fill a small amphitheatre.
Kings 11: 3-8
3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Having many wives had a bad effect on King Solomon. This wise king, was given the privilege of building the temple, which David his father, longed to build to honor the Lord, and he was given the gift of wisdom. Wisdom so great that it astonished many, yet he failed to advice his son and teach him discernment. He was too busy minding his own affairs to be mindful of one of his greatest responsibilities and that was grooming his son Rehoboam for the great responsibility of ruling over the people of Israel. He also set a very bad example for his son. His spending on so many women had created a great burden for Israel and this meant forced labor for its citizens.
Rehoboam then came to his moment of decision, his defining moment as king and his defining moment in history. Rehoboam failed because of a lack of discernment. He also lacked mercy and the humility to listen to those who knew better than he. Rehoboam did not value wisdom and like many people, valued showing of his might and decided to lord it over his subjects, rather than show compassion and avoid disastrous consequences.
How can we learn from the example of King Rehoboam? When one is faced with a crucial decision one should first pray and ask God for direction. Another way to avoid following bad advice is to find others who have lived successfully and ask their advice. Be careful when choosing your friends. The company you keep says a lot about you. If you keep excellent company you will have many good influences. On the other hand, if you run around with the wrong crowd then you have chosen to have trouble lurking in every corner.
To increase your knowledge read books written by individuals, who have overcome life’s greatest challenges and learn from their example. When choosing what to read for guidance, I recommend the Bible. Proverbs is bounty of excellent advice, so are the many examples in the Bible of men and women, who have succeeded and failed. Also consider books that are have stood the test of time. A good example would be Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People, although this book was first published in the 1930s, the advice in it still rings true and it will for generations to come.
When looking for advice in periodicals, consider the seriousness of journalism. I would never recommend taking advice from trendy publications that contradict themselves six months later. A good source of advice from a periodical is "Ask Laskas" in Reader's Digest. I have read her solutions to many of the reader's issues and I tell you, the woman is brilliant.
It is also important that you look at your attitude towards advice. If you are some tough, know it all, then you may be headed for trouble. It is better to be humble and realize that there is a lot you don’t know and be willing to listen to those who can give you good advice, than to insist on having your way and suffer the consequences. The heart with which you receive advice is just as important as the advice itself. Attitude is everything!
In today’s world young people are often pressured by friends, the media and to make matters worse they have the threat of having their private business aired across all the social networking sites. In a world that is consumed with image, it is tempting to follow one’s friends. After all, who want to be labeled by others as some loser? The pressure that most young people face today is even worse than it was twenty years ago. It is also important to realize that along with these pressures there are also many risks, therefore following good advice is important.
Students if you find yourself in tough spot, find someone besides your friends to give you advice. Go to your parents, even though you feel they won’t understand, they have been through many of the problems you are facing, they can help. If your problem is domestic violence then it is wise to talk to a school counselor, don’t keep it to yourself this type of secret could be fatal! If your problem is being bullied by other students, please talk to your parent or a counselor, don’t keep it to yourself, again it could be fatal if you do! Don’t do things just for popularity; it will often lead to error in the long run.
In our lifetimes we will all need some advice. It‘s just a matter of knowing which advice is the right kind. So when seeking answers “consider the source.”