“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance…”
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
The Bible is clear—and common sense agrees—that wise counsel is a vital step to making good decisions. However, the question remains, what determines wise counsel?"The Bible is clear – and common sense agrees – that wise counsel is a vital step to making good decisions." -Jon Smith #collegiatedisciplemaker Choosing Wise Counsel: Six Questions to Evaluate Your Advisors Click To Tweet
Reheboam’s Tragic Tale
Well… There was this one guy. Rehoboam. You might not recognize his name at first, but perhaps you’re familiar with his dad, Solomon? Three hundred wives… Seven hundred concubines… Lord only knows how many kids! Yeah, that Solomon. He knew a thing or two about wisdom. He was not, however, really good on the domestic side. Ironic, no? Anyway, he’s not the star of this show; his son Rehoboam is.
After Solomon died, Rehoboam took over the throne of Israel. Sweet gig, right? Incredible power, nicest house on the block, limitless wealth… Of course, no indoor plumbing, but literally nobody had that yet, so it’s not a big deal. You can find the full account of what happened with Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12, but the short version is this: he struggled with “wise counsel” and split the kingdom. Maybe we can glean something from that.
In the slightly longer version, Rehoboam inherited the crown of Israel and was immediately asked by the people for a break from the heavy labor his dad, Solomon, had required from them. Wisely, Rehoboam talked first to his father’s advisory council. Unfortunately, he didn’t like their answer, so he turned to some buddies he grew up with. They said what he wanted to hear, and he foolishly took their advice instead. What happened next was fairly predictable.
CRACK! One kingdom overnight became two.
Rehoboam’s Fatal Flaw
As soon as Rehoboam rendered his decision, Israel split, and ten of the twelve tribes walked away forever. It was the birth of Judea and Samaria. What exactly happened? Great question!
First, Rehoboam’s father’s advisors (you know, the guys who counseled the wisest man in history) appealed to intellect. They told him to serve, to put the needs of the people first. It would have been a high character move calculated to inspire and build trust. It would have created faithfulness among the people, but it was a message the privileged young ruler didn’t want to hear because it required a measure of humility that Rehoboam didn’t have.
Second, unhappy with their advice, Rehoboam turned to his childhood friends. They immediately appealed to his ego. Instead of serving the people, they told him to rule harshly. It was a low character move, self-centered and calculated to inspire fear and make Rehoboam feel powerful. Instead of faithfulness, it would create fearfulness among the people, a message the new king could receive easily.
It’s easy to look at this passage and make it about age—the young man listened to other young men instead of the older men he had available to him, and disaster was the inevitable result. That would be a mistaken conclusion to draw, though. Age can certainly be helpful, but it isn’t always a great indicator of wisdom. Neither, however, is proximity. Just because someone is close to you doesn’t mean they are wise either – Rehoboam trusted his friends, and the result was a hot mess.
How to Find Wise Counsel
How do we seek wise counsel? What should we be looking for in our advisors? Here are six questions that might help you find someone whose opinion is worth listening to. Not every advisor needs to meet every standard, but the more they do, the better off you are.
- Are they educated? Does this person have any formal training or education in the area in which you need help? People don’t say “knowledge is power” for no reason; formal education matters.
- Are they experienced? How much experience does this person have dealing with the area in which you need help? “Practice makes perfect” is another one of those things people don’t say for no reason, informal education matters as well.
- Are they successful? As a general rule of thumb, people with a long history of failure at something don’t make the best advisors. As an example, someone with three divorces to their name probably isn’t one from whom to take marital advice.
- Do they have your best interests at heart? This may come as a shock, but some people will tell you what you want to hear just to get rid of you. Others may stand to gain from your choice and will inform, or misinform you, accordingly.
- Are they someone who cares about you enough to tell you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear? This is about loyalty and a willingness to share hard things. Some people will shade the truth or shy away from it to avoid confrontation or hurting your feelings. Sometimes we need our feelings hurt.
- Do they share your values? Is this person someone whose character indicates that they will tell you the truth and consider the decision from a godly perspective?
Rehoboam’s Imperfect Example
Rehoboam serves as a cautionary tale, to be sure. But even though he chose poor counselors, we have to give him credit for at least making the effort to listen. Asking for input can often be a daunting task. It can feel like an admission of ignorance, failure or dependence, a bruise to your fragile ego. Asking the right people, however, about anything, is never a bad idea.