Counselors Displaying “Mildness That Belongs to Wisdom”
A CHRISTIAN congregation that has wise and understanding men within it is indeed richly blessed. For what is true of a family household is also true of the “household of God”—that “by wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established. And by knowledge will the interior rooms be filled with all precious and pleasant things of value.”—Eph. 2:19; Prov. 24:3, 4.
Those serving as Christian elders are privileged to give counsel from God’s Word to their brothers. How can an elder prove himself “wise and understanding” in doing so? The disciple James answers: “Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom [“in the humility of wisdom,” An American Translation; “with the modesty that comes of wisdom,” New English Bible].” Such mildness springs from a deep respect and appreciation for God’s wisdom, the “wisdom from above,” and a modest recognition of one’s own limitations. This humble attitude will protect the counselor from committing damaging errors. It will add greatly to the effectiveness of his counsel.—Jas. 3:13, 17.
MILDNESS OF SPIRIT GUIDES THE WISE ONE’S COUNSEL
Occasionally an individual may approach an elder, or even go from one elder to another, seeking to find someone who will give him the answer he wants—not necessarily what is right according to Scriptural principles. This is similar to the tactics of some children who pit or play one parent against another. At times it may be that the elder will first want to ask the one seeking advice whether he has talked with others or not and what counsel they gave. Humility would cause him to be hesitant to contradict such counsel, especially if he has not had opportunity to talk first with the other counselor.
Mildness does not allow for being harsh or unnecessarily blunt. Nevertheless, an elder must be on guard that he does not let concern over personal friendship or having another’s approval pressure him to give counsel designed to please, rather than straightforwardly presenting the counsel of God’s Word. (Prov. 24:25, 26) We cannot weaken the force of God’s Word to please individuals, watering down its principles to ease their conscience. What possible good could this bring, since it puts their life interests in danger? It could be like the counsel Amnon’s cousin gave him. That counsel brought Amnon momentary success in satisfying his desire, but later it cost him his life.—2 Sam. 13:1-19, 28, 29.
Rather than ‘tickle our brothers’ ears,’ we must faithfully speak “the Word,” God’s Word. (2 Tim. 4:1-4) Imitate the apostle Paul, who did not hold back from telling his brothers “all the counsel of God.” Thereby you will stay free from possible bloodguilt before God. (Acts 20:26, 27) A counselor having the “humility of wisdom,” then, will manifest godly fear and will counsel or, where necessary, reprove righteously, and, in the end, he will be more appreciated by his brothers than if he had indulged in flattery.—Prov. 28:23.
While not holding back in giving needed counsel, elders will also humbly recognize that they cannot make others’ decisions for them. Where the Bible is specific, they can also be specific. But so many things are matters where the individual’s conscience and personal judgment must determine what he will or will not do. To make his decision for him would bring the elder under responsibility for the results. He would share the blame for any bad that might come.—Gal. 6:5; Rom. 14:5, 12.
A fellow Christian may often be aided to arrive at a personal decision simply by questions that help him to think on the “pros” and “cons” of the matter and will aid him to weigh the probable outcomes of optional courses open to him.
“A TIME TO KEEP QUIET AND A TIME TO SPEAK”
An elder may simply not know the answer to certain questions put to him. Or he may be uncertain as to how Scriptural principles apply in a certain matter. What should he do?
One could easily let fear of ‘losing face’ or prestige in the eyes of the questioner pressure one to come out with some kind of answer. But this is not the ‘mildness or humility of wisdom.’ Presumption leads to dishonor; modesty shows wisdom. (Prov. 11:2) Proverbs 21:23 counsels: “He that is keeping his mouth and his tongue is keeping his soul from distresses.” Far better to acknowledge that you do not know than to give a wrong answer that could result in distressing problems. Yes, there is a “time to keep quiet and a time to speak,” and the time to speak is when you have had opportunity to find the correct answer.—Eccl. 3:7.
Actually, some questions are best left unanswered. They may be simply speculative, not dealing with any actual existing situation or problem. Such inquiries often “end up in nothing,” only furnishing “questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith,” yes, just “idle talk.” (1 Tim. 1:4-7; 2 Tim. 2:14) Even though the questioner may be quite insistent, the discreet counselor may decide to hold back from involvement.—Prov. 12:8; 17:27.
“IN THE MULTITUDE OF COUNSELORS THERE IS ACCOMPLISHMENT”
When faced with difficult questions or thorny problems, prayer and personal study are always vital. Yet, the wise man will remember also that “in the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.” (Prov. 15:22) Consulting with others produces a pooling of wisdom and experience. (Prov. 13:10) A more balanced viewpoint may well result. Then, too, if another elder is invited to share in a discussion where someone is seeking advice on a serious matter, there is protection against an elder’s later being misquoted, with resultant misrepresentation. (Deut. 19:15; compare Judges 12:1-3.) Just because you invite another elder to join you in considering someone’s question is, however, no reason to cause the questioner to feel that he or she is now being involved in some kind of judicial “hearing.” Rather, as the elder first approached, you can humbly acknowledge that you feel you could benefit from another’s assistance.
Certain elders in a congregation are charged with the duty of serving as a judicial committee, yet this certainly does not preclude their seeking aid when faced with a difficult decision. They can avail themselves of the help of other elders, even though making the final decision themselves. Interestingly, the Jewish Mishnah says that village courts in Israel varied in number according to the gravity of the case before them.—See Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 385.
There is indeed value in the “multitude of counselors.” Yet numbers alone do not guarantee rightness. A majority can be wrong. The decisive factors assuring proper decisions are always the Bible and God’s holy spirit. The mildness of true wisdom calls for humbly and modestly submitting to these.