When listening to advice, we need to ask ourselves these 6 questions:
- Is the advice biblical?
- Is the advice factual in foundation?
- Is the advice necessary?
- Is the advice teachable?
- Does the advice acknowledge the imperfection of the individual giving the advice?
- Is the advice given in love?
“Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”- Job 5.27
This is the summation of the end of a long string of advice that Eliphaz gave to Job, when he was trying to encourage him. He came from a false assumption that Job was being punished for sin, or disobeying God. His advice was to confess, repent and beg for mercy. He told Job that God would surely deliver him out of his troubles if he would repent.
Sometimes people offer advice, meaning well, they do however not have a proper understanding of God or you, or your situation. Sometimes the advice is sought out, and sometimes it comes unsolicited. Whenever we receive advice or move to give advice, we should really examine our motivations and intent. First we need to make sure that the advice in biblical.
Advice received or given should always come from the Word of God. It should be plain and straight forward, and in context with biblical doctrine. We should always test everything against the scriptures, whether it is a sermon, Sunday school, or even advice. Even advice from a church elder of Pastor needs to be tried by the Scriptures. This means that you have to have a foundation in place, prior to your trials or testing. In order to know if the advice is biblical you need to have a familiarity and understanding of scriptures. You need to have a daily walk with the Lord. Daily prayer is a necessity to hear the Spirit of the Lord.
Daily reading and study helps to develop a foundation of faith. How can you say you believe in the Bible if you do not know what it says? In reading the scriptures we see examples of people who have gone through trials, and had to make decisions. We see how those who sought God’s counsel and searched the scriptures have been rewarded. We also see how those who did not seek God’s counsel and acted on the poor advice of others failed to overcome their trials or made poor life decisions.
While I was in the army they taught me what is called the problem solving process. It goes something like this. (1) Identify the problem, (2) Gather information, (3) Decide on a course of action, (4) Implement the course of action, and (5) Evaluate the course of action. In simple terms it would mean to gather the facts. Make sure what the problem actually is.
For instance, if there is a problem with a relationship between two individuals you would first have to determine what the root of the problem is in the relationship. The problem could be one of selfishness, pride, jealousy, or some other sin. It could also be that there is only a problem of perception on one or both sides of the relationship. If someone have been wronged in the past, they are likely to be on the watch for certain types of behavior that indicate that they may be harmed again. Getting the facts straight may be exhaustive, but it is necessary to develop possible courses of action.
When developing courses of action, one needs to take the time to consider all the options available. This is not only when giving advice, but when receiving. Seeking the scriptures, and advice from a Pastor or others who have actually been through a similar experience can show you different avenues. Seeing the different ways this trial or problem can be approached can be invaluable in later deciding on the way to handle the situation. In seeing how others have handled similar situations you will be able to further identify pitfalls and successes. Prayer, and possibly fasting, should be a part of this process.
The scripture say we should seek the Lord first. Before making a decision we should take to time to ensure that the advice is necessary. Based on the facts and scriptures, does this advice actually require action? Sometimes we receive advice on things that are not actually necessary to change. Sometimes, things will resolve themselves through natural processes. Sometimes in the process of the before mentioned considerations, the situation will reveal that the advice is bad. If considering to open your mouth, maybe you should evaluate your own reasons for offering advice.
Often times we give our opinions as advice. We assume to know more than we do about a situation. We think that we know better than someone else. We call that “giving out two cents”. Other times we have a genuine empathy for someone going through a difficult time, and inadvertently offer insensitive advice. An example would be when someone has lost a loved one, or been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and we tell them, “God has a plan”. Yes, he does have a plan, but as a friend, it is probably best just to be there. Let them know that they have support and be silent, hold them while the morn. Grief is a natural part of the healing process, and you are not there so you can feel better, but to allow them to go through the grief process with someone there to help them pass through the fire.
Something else to consider is if there is a teachable lesson in the advice. Is there a life lesson that is revealed in either the advice or the omission of the advice? When considering the advice someone gives you look if this is something that is going to have a good positive change in your life. If you are planning to give the advice, look to see if the advice you give is going to have a good impact. Is the advice teaching and edifying? Does it teach a truth about God? When teaching a truth about God, again refer back to scriptures. Does it teach a biblical truth? Is it a lesson that can then be passed on to someone else for their benefit?
Mentioned earlier is the person perspective. Consider the advice, whether it is given with the understanding that it is not infallible. Scriptures can be misquoted, and pulled out of context. Our own personal perspectives and twist our view of proper avenues. Sometimes advice, like that from an advice column, is purposely given with an end result in mind. The actual intent of the advice is to control the outcome. An example would be a young girl who, got pregnant and went to seek advice on how to best deal with the unexpected pregnancy. Questions like, “How will I get medical treatment?’; “How will I afford to raise a baby?”; “How can I ever expect to have a life again?”; “How do I tell my parents?” Would not receive the same advice from a Pastor, or a woman’s shelter as they would at a company who’s primary business is performing abortions. This brings us to the final question.
Is the advice given in love? 1 Corinthians 16.15 says that all things should be done with love. Love should be the primary motivation for everything we do. When someone gives you advice, or when you give advice make sure that the reason is that you love them. Love covers a multitude of sin. Advice given out of spite, fear, envy, or anger should always be ignored. We should never in anger curse one another, and that includes in giving bad advice. In the same measure we should never listen to advice in anger. Cool down, go through your mourning process, seek the Lord. Study the scriptures now, so that you will have a firm foundation to discern trials, and the advice that comes while your in them. Scripture tells us, to seek wisdom, pray for wisdom both before and during trials. Pray always.