“Incline your ear and listen to the words of the wise.”—PROV. 22:17.
SONG 123 Loyally Submitting to Theocratic Order
1. What form might counsel take, and why do we all need it?
ALL of us need counsel from time to time. In some cases, we may take the initiative to ask someone we respect for advice. In other cases, a concerned brother may approach us and point out that we are about to take “a false step”—one that we will regret. (Gal. 6:1) Finally, counsel may come to us in the form of correction after we have made a serious mistake. Whatever form it takes, we should listen to counsel. Doing so is good for us and could save our life!—Prov. 6:23.
2. In harmony with Proverbs 12:15 and footnote, why should we listen to counsel?
2 Our theme text encourages us to “listen to the words of the wise.” (Prov. 22:17) No human knows everything; there is always someone who has greater knowledge or experience than we do. (Read Proverbs 12:15 and footnote.) So listening to counsel is a sign of humility. It indicates that we are aware of our limitations; we realize that we need help to reach our goals. Wise King Solomon wrote under inspiration: “There is accomplishment through many advisers [or “counselors,” ftn.].”—Prov. 15:22.
3. In what ways may we receive counsel?
3 We may receive indirect or direct counsel. What do we mean by indirect counsel? We may read something in the Bible or in one of our publications that makes us stop and think about the course we are taking and moves us to adjust our course. (Heb. 4:12) We could call that indirect counsel. What do we mean by direct counsel? An elder or another qualified brother might point out something that we need to work on. That could be called direct counsel. If someone loves us enough to share Bible-based counsel with us, we should show our appreciation by listening to what he has to say and taking the counsel to heart.
4. According to Ecclesiastes 7:9, what reaction should we avoid when we receive counsel?
4 Realistically, we may find it especially difficult to accept direct counsel. We might even become offended. Why? Although we readily admit that we are imperfect, we might find it challenging to accept counsel when someone points out a specific flaw in us. (Read Ecclesiastes 7:9.) We might justify ourselves. We might question the counselor’s motives or take offense at the way he gave the counsel. We might even find fault with the counselor himself, reasoning: ‘What right does he have to counsel me? He has his own flaws!’ Ultimately, if the counsel we receive does not suit us, we might ignore it or look elsewhere for counsel that is more to our liking.
5. What will we consider in this article?
5 In this article, we will discuss Scriptural examples of those who rejected counsel and those who accepted it. We will also consider what will help us to accept counsel and benefit from it.
THEY REJECTED COUNSEL
6. What do we learn from the way King Rehoboam reacted to counsel he received?
6 Consider the example of Rehoboam. When he became king of Israel, his subjects came to him with a request. They asked him to lighten the load that his father, Solomon, had laid upon them. Commendably, Rehoboam consulted with the older men of Israel to see how he should reply to the people. The older men advised the king that if he did what the people asked, they would always support him. (1 Ki. 12:3-7) Apparently, Rehoboam was not satisfied with that advice, so he consulted the men who had grown up with him. Those men were likely in their 40’s, so they must have had some experience in life. (2 Chron. 12:13) But on this occasion, they gave Rehoboam bad advice. They counseled him to add to the burdens of the people. (1 Ki. 12:8-11) Faced with two different viewpoints, Rehoboam could have approached Jehovah in prayer and asked Him which advice he should follow. Instead, he decided to accept the advice that appealed to him and listened to the younger men. The consequences were disastrous for Rehoboam and for the people of Israel. In our case, the advice we receive may not always be what we want to hear. Still, if it is based on God’s Word, we should accept it.
7. What does King Uzziah’s example teach us?
7 King Uzziah rejected counsel. He entered a section of Jehovah’s temple where only the priests were allowed to be, and he attempted to offer incense. The priests of Jehovah said to him: “It is not proper for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to Jehovah! It is only the priests who should burn incense.” How did Uzziah react? If he had humbly accepted the counsel and left the temple immediately, Jehovah might have forgiven him. Instead, “Uzziah . . . became enraged.” Why did he reject the counsel? He evidently felt that as king, he had the right to do whatever he wanted. But Jehovah did not see it that way. As a result of his presumptuous act, Uzziah was struck with leprosy and “remained a leper until the day of his death.” (2 Chron. 26:16-21) Uzziah’s example teaches us that, no matter who we are, if we reject Bible-based counsel, we will lose Jehovah’s approval.
THEY ACCEPTED COUNSEL
8. How did Job react to counsel?
8 In contrast to the warning examples just discussed, the Bible provides good examples of those who were blessed because they accepted counsel. Consider Job. Although he was God-fearing, he was not perfect. Under intense pressure, he expressed some wrong viewpoints. As a result, he received straightforward counsel, both from Elihu and from Jehovah. How did Job react? He humbly accepted the counsel. He said: “I spoke, but without understanding . . . I take back what I said, and I repent in dust and ashes.” Jehovah blessed Job for his humble reaction.—Job 42:3-6, 12-17.
9. How did Moses set a good example when it comes to accepting counsel?
9 Moses is a good example of someone who accepted correction after he had made a serious mistake. On one occasion, he lost his temper and did not honor Jehovah. Because of this, Moses lost out on the privilege of entering the Promised Land. (Num. 20:1-13) When Moses expressed his disappointment over this decision, Jehovah told him: “Never speak to me again about this matter.” (Deut. 3:23-27) Moses did not become bitter. Rather, he accepted Jehovah’s decision, and Jehovah continued to use him to lead Israel. (Deut. 4:1) Both Job and Moses are good examples for us to imitate when it comes to accepting counsel. Job adjusted his viewpoint; he did not make excuses. Moses proved that he accepted Jehovah’s counsel by remaining faithful even after he lost a privilege that was precious to him.
10. (a) What does Proverbs 4:10-13 indicate about the benefits of accepting counsel? (b) What fine attitude toward counsel have some displayed?
10 We benefit when we imitate the example set by such faithful men as Job and Moses. (Read Proverbs 4:10-13.) Many of our brothers and sisters have done just that. Note what a brother named Emmanuel, who lives in Congo, says about a warning he received: “Mature brothers in my congregation saw that I was about to suffer spiritual shipwreck, and they came to my rescue. I applied their counsel, and it helped me avoid a lot of problems.”* A pioneer in Canada named Megan says regarding counsel: “It hasn’t always been what I wanted to hear, but it has been what I needed to hear.” And a brother from Croatia named Marko says: “I lost a privilege, but when I look back, I realize that the counsel I received helped me regain my spiritual balance.”
11. What did Brother Karl Klein observe about accepting counsel?
11 Another example of someone who benefited from accepting counsel was Brother Karl Klein, who served as a member of the Governing Body. In his life story, Brother Klein related a time when he received strong counsel from Joseph F. Rutherford, with whom he had a close friendship. Brother Klein admitted that at first he did not react well to the counsel. He said: “The next time [Brother Rutherford] saw me, he cheerily said, ‘Hello Karl!’ But because of still feeling hurt, I just muttered a greeting. He countered, ‘Karl, watch out! The Devil’s after you!’ Embarrassed, I replied, ‘Oh, there’s nothing, Brother Rutherford.’ But he knew better, and so repeated his warning, ‘That’s all right. Just watch out. The Devil’s after you.’ How right he was! When we harbor resentment against a brother, especially for saying something he has a right to say . . . , we leave ourselves open to the Devil’s snares.”* (Eph. 4:25-27) Brother Klein accepted Brother Rutherford’s counsel, and their warm relationship remained intact.
WHAT CAN HELP US TO ACCEPT COUNSEL?
12. How can humility help us to accept counsel? (Psalm 141:5)
12 What can help us to accept counsel? We need to be humble by remembering just how imperfect we really are and how foolish we can be at times. As discussed earlier, Job had the wrong viewpoint. But he later adjusted his thinking, and Jehovah blessed him for it. Why? Because Job was humble. He proved his humility by accepting the counsel that Elihu gave him, even though Elihu was much younger than he was. (Job 32:6, 7) Humility will likewise help us apply counsel, even when we feel that we do not deserve it or when the one giving it is younger than we are. An elder in Canada says, “Since we do not see ourselves as others see us, how can we progress if no one counsels us?” Who among us does not need to make progress in cultivating the fruitage of the spirit and in carrying out the Christian ministry?—Read Psalm 141:5.
13. How should we view the counsel we receive?
13 View counsel as an expression of God’s love. Jehovah wants what is best for us. (Prov. 4:20-22) When he counsels us by means of his Word, a Bible-based publication, or a mature fellow believer, he is expressing his love for us. “He does so for our benefit,” says Hebrews 12:9, 10.
14. What should we focus on when counseled?
14 Focus on the content, not the delivery. At times, we may feel that the counsel we received was not given in the best manner. Of course, anyone giving counsel should try to make it as easy as possible to accept.* (Gal. 6:1) But if we are the one being counseled, we do well to focus on the message—even if we feel that it could have been delivered in a better way. We might ask ourselves: ‘Even if I do not appreciate the manner in which the counsel was given, is there some truth to what was said? Can I look past the imperfections of the messenger and benefit from the message itself?’ It would be wise on our part to find a way to benefit from any counsel we receive.—Prov. 15:31.
ASK FOR COUNSEL AND REAP BENEFITS
15. Why should we ask for counsel?
15 The Bible urges us to ask for counsel. Proverbs 13:10 says: “Wisdom belongs to those who seek advice.” How true that is! Those who ask for counsel rather than wait for someone to approach them will often make greater spiritual progress than those who do not seek advice. So take the initiative by asking for counsel.
16. In what situations might we ask for counsel?
16 When might we ask for counsel from fellow believers? Consider some situations. (1) A sister asks an experienced publisher to join her on a study and later asks for advice on how she can improve her teaching methods. (2) A single sister would like to purchase a pair of slacks, so she asks a mature sister for her honest opinion about the selection. (3) A brother is assigned to give his first public talk. He asks an experienced speaker to listen carefully to his talk and offer him some constructive counsel on how he can improve. Even a brother who has given talks for many years does well to ask for such feedback from experienced speakers and then to apply the counsel he receives.
17. How can we benefit from counsel?
17 In the coming weeks or months, all of us will receive counsel—either direct counsel or indirect counsel. When that happens, recall the points we have just discussed. Remain humble. Focus on the content, not on the delivery. And apply the counsel you receive. None of us are born wise. But when we “listen to counsel and accept discipline,” God’s Word promises that we will “become wise.”—Prov. 19:20.
SONG 124 Ever Loyal
Jehovah’s people recognize the value of listening to Bible-based counsel. At the same time, it is not always easy to accept counsel. Why is that the case? And what can help us to benefit from the counsel we receive?
Some names have been changed.
In the next article, we will discuss how those who give counsel can do so in a tactful manner.