Counsel—Will You Profit from It?
“WE ALL stumble many times.” (Jas. 3:2) Likely you will agree with that Scriptural truth. All humans are in need of corrective counsel. But how do most people respond to counsel? Do they profit from it? Do you?
Perhaps you have noticed the inclination of many to shift blame for mistakes onto others. This is nothing new, as can be seen from the way the first human pair, Adam and Eve, responded when God inquired about their disobediently eating certain fruit. We read:
“The man went on to say: ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate.’ With that Jehovah God said to the woman: ‘What is this you have done?’ To this the woman replied: ‘The serpent—it deceived me and so I ate.’”—Gen. 3:12, 13.
Adam, by imputing his error to “the woman whom you gave to be with me,” even implied that God was at fault. These efforts at self-justification brought no benefits, though, for God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and eventually they died in fulfillment of God’s sentence. (Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:23, 24; 5:5) Later Jehovah stated: “I shall not declare the wicked one righteous.” (Ex. 23:7) Trying to make a wrong course appear right avails nothing with God.
“THE FIRST PRELIMINARY TO FORGIVENESS”
On the other hand, great benefits come from willingness to heed good counsel and rectify a wrong course. Consider the case of David, who became involved in serious violations of God’s law. David not only committed adultery with Bath-sheba, another man’s wife, but sought to cover up his immorality by arranging for Bathsheba’s husband to die in battle. (2 Sam. 11:1-27) For this, God, through the prophet Nathan, sternly rebuked David, foretelling calamity for his house. But the Bible goes on to relate: “David now said to Nathan: ‘I have sinned against Jehovah.’ At this Nathan said to David: ‘Jehovah, in turn, does let your sin pass by. You will not die.’”—2 Sam. 12:1-13.
Concerning this experience, David later wrote: “My sin I finally confessed to you, and my error I did not cover. I said: ‘I shall make confession over my transgressions to Jehovah.’ And you yourself pardoned the error of my sins.” (Ps. 32:5) In The Soncino Books of the Bible these comments are made: “He was not giving information to God Who knew what he had done; by acknowledging it to Him he acknowledged it to himself. That is the purpose of confession and the first preliminary to forgiveness. . . . The sinner having done his part, God was ready to do His as Pardoner.” How greatly David profited from heeding reproof! Do you also profit from reproof?
WHEN NO LAW IS BROKEN
What if you receive counsel about an action that violates no law? Should you view the matter as ‘nobody’s business but your own’? With regard to just such a case, the apostle Paul wrote the following:
“Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of your conscience. . . . If anyone of the [pagan] unbelievers invites you [to a meal] and you wish to go, proceed to eat everything that is set before you, making no inquiry on account of your conscience.
“But if anyone should say to you: ‘This is something offered in sacrifice,’ do not eat on account of the one that disclosed it and on account of conscience. ‘Conscience,’ I say, not your own, but that of the other person.”—1 Cor. 10:25-29.
Did you grasp the basic principle involved in that counsel? Each Christian must respect the consciences of others. The work Word Pictures in the New Testament contains the following observations:
“Paul deftly puts himself in the place of the strong brother at such a banquet who is expected to conform his conscience to that of the weak brother who makes the point about a particular piece of meat. It is an abridgement of one’s personal liberty in the interest of the weak brother. Two individualities clash. The only reason is love which builds up ([1 Cor.] 8:2 and all of 1 Co chapter 13).”
Would you profit from similar counsel today? True, food may not involve questions of conscience in your locality. But other things may. For example: Grooming; styles of clothing; types of entertainment. If someone pointed out to you that your choice of such things troubled the conscience of a fellow Christian, would you profit from that counsel and out of love accept ‘an abridgement of your personal liberty’?
A BARRIER TO PROFITING FROM COUNSEL
How do you respond when someone points out mistakes you have made or suggests that you improve a certain aspect of your life? What if the person offering the counsel is younger or less experienced than you, or a subordinate at your place of employment? Do you experience sudden feelings of resentment that hinder your profiting from good advice? What causes these?
It is a tendency of human nature that comes up for discussion at Romans 12:3: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think.” The culprit is pride, which is an inordinate self-esteem or an unreasonable feeling of superiority over others. How can you cope with the barrier of pride?
Basic is acceptance of the truth set forth at Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Do you believe that? You may quickly answer Yes, but does your life course show that you really mean it? Not if you give the impression that you are “always right” by spurning good counsel.
And think of the tragic consequences of proud rejection of corrective advice! For one thing, there is loneliness, for who desires the association of a person who cannot admit his mistakes? Worse than that, the Creator declares: “Self-exaltation and pride . . . I have hated.” (Prov. 8:13) A haughty spirit injures one’s relationship with Jehovah. It can, therefore, result in nothing good. “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”—Prov. 16:18.
On the other hand, “the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” (Prov. 6:23) An individual who responds to counsel retains pleasant relationships with others, most importantly with the Creator. Such a person is not hemmed in by shortsightedness. He not only gains personal advantages from the thoughts of others, but, in turn, radiates to his fellowman benefits of an expanded viewpoint. Counsel indeed is profitable. The question is: Will you profit from it?