How Do You Give Advice?
Has anyone ever asked you for advice? For example, have you been asked such questions as: ‘What should I do? Should I go to this gathering? Should I choose this as my career? Should I date this person?’
A person may ask you for help in making a decision that may influence his or her relationship with friends, family, or even Jehovah. Will you base your advice on your own opinion or on the Bible? How do you usually help people to make decisions? Whether the person’s question seems to be important or not, Proverbs 15:28 says: “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.” Think about how the following five Bible principles can help us to give good advice.
1 Understand the Situation Well.
“When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.”—Proverbs 18:13.
If we want to give a person good advice, we must understand the way he thinks and understand his situation. For example, if someone called you and asked how to get to your home, what would you need to know to help him? You would need to know where he is so that you can give him good directions to your home. In the same way, if you want to give proper guidance, you need to understand the person’s situation and what he is thinking. Could there be things about his situation that you are unaware of and that might affect your advice? If we do not understand a person’s situation well, we might give advice that causes him to become confused.—Luke 6:39.
Find Out How Much Research He Has Done. It may also be wise to ask the person such questions as: “What Bible principles do you think can help you make a decision?” “What is good and what is bad about the options you have now?” “What research have you already done?” “What help have others, such as the congregation elders, your parents, or your Bible teacher, already given you?”
The person’s answers to these questions may help us to know how much effort he has put into making a decision and if he has already asked other people for advice. We may also learn if the person just wants us to tell him what he wants to hear.—2 Timothy 4:3.
2 Avoid Quick Responses.
“Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking.”—James 1:19.
Sometimes we may think that a quick response would be helpful to the person asking for advice. But giving a quick response is usually not wise, especially if we have not done thorough research on the person’s question. Proverbs 29:20 says: “Have you beheld a man hasty with his words? There is more hope for someone stupid than for him.”
Make sure that your advice is based on the wisdom from God’s Word. Ask yourself, ‘Have the thinking and attitude of this world influenced my thinking?’ (1 Corinthians 2:12, 13) When Jesus said that he must suffer and die, Peter advised him: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.” What can we learn from Peter’s response? If we are not careful, we may base our advice, not on “God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matthew 16:21-23) It is good to be helpful, but we need to remember that God’s wisdom is much greater than our own experience. So it is important that we think before we speak.—Job 38:1-4; Proverbs 11:2.
3 Be Humble and Apply God’s Word.
“I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.”—John 8:28.
Will you say, “If I were you, I would . . .”? Even if the person’s question seems easy to answer, it is good for you to follow Jesus’ example by being humble and modest. Even though he had much greater wisdom and experience than any other human, he said: “I have not spoken out of my own impulse, but the Father himself . . . has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak.” (John 12:49, 50) Jesus’ teachings and advice were always based on his Father’s will.
For example, we read at Luke 22:49 that Jesus’ disciples asked for direction on whether they should fight when he was about to be arrested. One disciple used a sword to defend Jesus. A similar account at Matthew 26:52-54 tells us that even in that situation, Jesus took the time to help the disciple understand Jehovah’s will. Jesus knew the principles found at Genesis 9:6 and the prophecies of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, so he was able to give wise direction that saved lives and made Jehovah happy.
4 Use the Publications.
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?”—Matthew 24:45.
Jesus has appointed “the faithful and discreet slave” to give us Bible publications. Before you give someone advice about important matters, do you take time to do thorough research in Bible-based publications?
We can find much information by looking in the Watch Tower Publications Index and the Watchtower Library.* (See footnote.) We should not forget to use these tools. They list thousands of topics, with many articles to help someone looking for advice. Are you able to help others use these tools to study and compare Bible principles so as to make a good decision? Just as a map can help a person decide which way to go to reach his destination, the publications can help a person make decisions that will help him reach his goal of everlasting life.
Many elders have shown publishers how to use the Index or the Watchtower Library. This helps publishers to find articles so that they can study and compare the Scriptures when they make decisions. They learn to do research and to rely on the publications Jehovah provides not only when solving problems but also when going about everyday life. By doing this, they “have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
5 Avoid Making Decisions for Others.
“Each one will carry his own load.”—Galatians 6:5.
Jehovah gives all of us the freedom to decide whether we will follow his principles or not. (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) In some situations, a person may need to apply many Bible principles, but he is the one who must make the final decision. If someone asks us for advice, we may need to ask ourselves, ‘Do I really have the authority to answer this question?’ At times, it would be best for the elders to help him. Or if he is a young person, it would be better for his parents to help him.
The Watchtower Library on CD-ROM is currently available in 39 languages. The Watch Tower Publications Index is currently available in over 45 languages.
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Base your advice on the wisdom from God’s Word
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Follow Jesus and be humble
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We do not make final decisions for others
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We are thankful to Jehovah that he has used his organization to help us both to give and to receive the best advice. Ecclesiastes 12:11 states: “The words of the wise ones are like oxgoads, and just like nails driven in are those indulging in collections of sentences; they have been given from one shepherd.” “Oxgoads” are pointed sticks that are used to guide animals. Good and loving advice is like an oxgoad because it guides us in the right direction. And just as “nails” are used to build stable, solid buildings, good advice helps a person make good, solid decisions. Those who are wise are happy to follow the “collections of sentences,” or wise advice, from their “one shepherd,” Jehovah.
We should imitate our Shepherd, Jehovah, when we give advice. We are happy to listen to those who ask us for advice and help them whenever we can. If we base our advice on Bible principles, it will benefit others and help them to gain everlasting life.
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Research Project for Family Worship
As a study project, you might want to do research on a question that someone has asked you recently. What articles and Bible principles can you find that could help the person answer his question? For example, a brother or a sister may ask you about someone they would like to date and perhaps marry. In the Index or the Watchtower Library, you might look up the topics “Dating” or “Marriage.” Then look for a subtopic that applies to the person’s situation. You may find the “See also” topics found under the main heading helpful because they may lead you to more information about the topic you are researching.