How much do I care what you think?

Making Godly choices in seeking or accepting advice or correction.

Have you noticed how there are hosts of people that want to give you advice or commentary on how you should be living or in regards to things you have done?  Some is welcome, deserving, and perhaps even asked for, not to mention carefully and lovingly worded.  Far more seems to come from ostensibly random sources.  Their typically unsolicited recommendations, rebukes, scorn, and sugar-wrapped barbs often hurt.  Sometimes it's easy to dismiss their criticisms and input, other times it's more difficult to let their words or actions go.  In wisdom we want to listen to advice.

Proverbs 19:20   Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.  (NIV)

Not all advice and instruction is equal or worth listening to.  Ultimately we all develop a personal system of priority where we hold some of this counsel in high esteem and relegate much of it to lesser import or outright irrelevancy.  Doing so is a Biblical course of action and yet many of us have not stopped to consider our Scriptural reasons for who we choose to listen to or whose counsels we minimize or fully disregard.

In recent months, God brought this subject to the forefront in my own life.  In some very different settings I was personally condemned or rebuked for choices I had made and acted on, some being decisions which incorporated previous advice I had been given and valued.  While one occurrence was slanderous and upsetting, it was very easy to dismiss because of who was doing it.  Another incident was equally insulting and hurtful but it took weeks for me to finally let it go - following a careful introspection to see if there was any validity in what was said and if, for any reason, I should accept their assessment over that of many others.  In a third circumstance I was quite willing to listen to concerns being carefully and lovingly expressed, yet still a reprimand.  Why did I react so different in each setting? 

It became clear that there are some in my life who have full right to voice their concerns and advice, but even among them I needed an order of priority as to whom I hold in higher worth and if their advice is justified or applicable in all or some areas of my life.  I used this awareness to evaluate my final conclusions in the aforementioned circumstances and to create a written list itemizing with certainty the priority I should be giving to all advisors and often impromptu counselors  that will continue to fill my life. 

Proverbs 11:14   Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.  (ESV, also Proverbs 15:22)

So how much do I care what you think?  In descending order, with the most important at the top, these are the ten levels by which I'll be weighing any guidance, direction or rebuke.     

#1. God (Bible).  God is our ultimate teacher.  His rebuke, his correction, his direction has to always be at the forefront. 

Psalms 32:8   I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.  (NIV)

Isaiah 48:17b   "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  (NIV)

God revealed what we need to know about what is right and what is sin throughout the pages of His book, the Bible.  It is through this wonderful revelation that God is making His people holy (John 17:17).  This living word deals with not only my actions and thoughts, but even my very motives.

Hebrews 4:12-13   For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.  (NIV)

Psalms 119:24   Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.  (NIV)

To ignore God's infallible counsel comes with potentially grave and serious peril (Hebrews 12:25).

#2. Me (Conscience/Faith/Holy Spirit led).  As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been cleansed from a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22) and now have a conscience that is being made good by God (1 Peter 3:21).  While my conscience is not perfect or infallible (1 Corinthians 4:4) I must strive to keep it clear (Acts 24:16).   During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther expressed this well:

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.  - Martin Luther

It is also evident that we must be acting out of the faith God has given us.  And God gives faith in varying measures.  What one person can do, proceeding out of their faith, another cannot.  As they grow in grace and God gives greater faith, their maturing faith may allow them to later do, in good conscience, what before they could not.  Faith and conscience are definitely tied together in Biblical description (e.g. 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 3:9).

Roman 14:23b  ... everything that does not come from faith is sin.  (NIV)

Unquestionably, the Holy Spirit that dwells within every believer has been given to guide us individually into all truth (John 16:13).  His leading will always be in accordance with God's revealed Word and it's our responsibility to search this out.  It is the Holy Spirit who continuously helps us to evaluate even our consciences and as well as to exercise our growing faith.

Romans 8:14, 16   those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. ...  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (NIV)

To ignore my conscience, what I can do in faith, and where the Holy Spirit is leading, is (in the words of Martin Luther) neither right nor safe.

#3. Family (Spouse / Godly Children).  God's creation of the family is the greatest human authority structure under Him.  Biblically, this must be kept in perspective though; something Jesus was good at doing.  He made it clear that our love for God needs to supersede even these vital human relations to point that our love for God could be contrasted as hatred towards the others. 

Luke 14:26   "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. (NIV)

If this list was being created for a child, this section would be different in that parental authority would be in view (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20).  For the adult, it is my spouse that now is at the forefront in this section.  This is not optional, we have become one:

Mark 10:8-9   and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."  (NIV)

I can no more ignore my spouse than to ignore myself.  This is even more so wherein my spouse is also a believer and likewise indwelled and led by the Holy Spirit.

Having adult children, also believers, comes with a level of accountability as well.  (If non-believing children, perhaps not so much as their motives and goals may be suspect: consider Matthew 10:21 and Mark 13:12.)  This is not really an issue of authority as it is wisdom.  Wherein my children have grown up into godly adults I would be foolish to not listen to their advice and insight as well.  I place their input above so many others solely because my children know me better than most everyone else beyond God and my spouse.  Accurate and valuable counsel carries with it a need for the advice giver to truly know and understand me well.   In fact, as I consider who I would want to make decisions for me if, or when, the day comes when I am incapable of doing so for myself; my children immediately come to mind.

Psalms 127:3   Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. (NIV)

Proverbs 17:6   Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.  (NIV)

To disregard one's spouse and children is to ignore these blessings from God who know you very well.

#4. Health (Doctor / Medical and Health Professionals).  By the grace of God my body is more than an all-too-soon dead sack of organic material, it's a portable temple.  Yes, God himself dwells in this sin-tainted, often malfunctioning, and certainly deteriorating creation.  With this knowledge comes responsibility.  Any temple is first and foremost something that is in service to Deity and secondly it is something that is being utilized by the one doing service. 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20   Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.  (NIV)

When I was young I never really understood this at all.  Like so many I put my body through things, by commission or omission, that caused permanent and long term damage, something that age tends to magnify.  While I cannot change the past, I must do all I can to maintain this temple for the future - with a hope that its service to God will be maximized for years to come.

Luke 5:31   Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  (NIV, also Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17 and Jeremiah 8:22; Colossians 4:14). 

My particular temple came with a hereditary genetic defect, one that automatically requires extra medical intervention and advice.  Some of my willfully ignorance to medical advice in the past now serves as a personal reminder that to ignore medical advice caries will it potential consequences. 

God uses medical professionals to aid in maintaining or restoring our health.  To ignore them is to our own peril.  And yet, for perspective, all the medical aid in the world is shown to be useless if we don't remember that it is God himself that does the healing (consider the perspective of 2 Chronicles 16:12.)

#5. Government.  In a world where many people feel that government has way too much say over our lives, it's good to be reminded that God instituted government. While it is mankind that messes government up, even in all of its disarray we're still accountable to God for obeying this authority.  As with any man-administered authority, our requirement to obey is always subject to a higher authority and this must never be misconstrued as being blind obedience wherein following this authority would violate our primary obligation to God.

Romans 13:1   Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  (NIV)

To ignore just laws of the land and decrees of governing authorities is sin and if I do so, I place at risk my life, liberty, and personal possessions (Romans 13:4).

#6. Work (Board of Directors / Coworkers).  For many people this section would feature primarily a boss and/or supervisors and perhaps some coworkers.  Whether these vocational relations are defined in modern terms or in a manner we would deem to be the worst arrangement (with masters and fellow slaves), the principle remains the same.  (The thought of being a slave was, of course, the worst possible vocational arrangement even in Biblical times.  Perhaps this is why Paul used it in three of his examples: Ephesians 6:5-8; Titus 2:9-10 and Colossians 3:22-24.) 

My need to listen to the advice or direction of those who are over me in the workplace is integral to doing a good job as unto the Lord (no matter how bad the job is.  In fact, shouldn't this be easier in better occupations?)  Of course it becomes necessary for me to place greater weight on direction that comes from those with higher authority, yet wisdom also dictates that I give ear to even my equals as they know both me and the tasks at hand.

Colossians 3:22-24   Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (NIV, also Ephesians 6:5-8; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:18)

The influence of these individuals, pertaining to my employment, is usually focused on matters directly regarding work.  One of the joys I have personally is working with a Christian Board of Directors (collectively as my boss) and as well as with other believing co-workers on a daily basis.  In this, I place even more value on their input and direction.  As some have known me for years, I have come to respect their input on personal matters, especially wherein those things may potentially impact my efforts in ministry.

In regards to my employment, to ignore or disregard my vocational masters is to sin against God.

#7. Local Church (Elders / Brother and Sisters).  My spiritual family comes with a hierarchy as well.  God has placed some as elders in each gathering of His church, not to lord it over the church but rather to protect and care for the local gathering as an under-shepherd.  Those elders who are working hard to teach and safeguard God's church are to be held in high esteem and given due respect for the task God has entrusted them with. 

1 Timothy 5:17  The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13  Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. (NIV)

Hebrews 13:7, 17   Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. ...  17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (NIV)

In regards to spiritual things I would be amiss to not take into account the advice, correction and instruction of the spiritual leaders God has put in place for my good.   This does not change even as I am an elder too.  The very reason God has ordained a plurality of elders in his church is to keep one from being preeminent.  Even as all believers are to submit to the legitimate authority of the elders, so too each elder is to submit to the others.

Beyond leadership in the church, there is also a requirement to not disregard all our other Christian brothers and sisters as well.  Reflect on God's requirement that we meet together with purpose:

Hebrews 10:24-25  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  (NIV)

We can only be spurred on towards love and good deeds if we are willing to listen to other believers in our local gathering. 

#8. Christians Friends (Good Friends / Friends).  Many good Christian friends are part of the section that preceded this, being part of our local church.  Beyond those, I have a few good Christian friends that, while not be part of our local fellowship, certainly are part of Christ's body and are close confidantes.  This makes this section and the last comparable in standing.  Once again, true friends are people that know us - often all too well.  Good friends see more than our external façade or public persona, they know our flaws and are often privy to our more private thoughts.  

Proverbs 27:6   Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.  (NIV)

While a non-Christian friend may give some solidly applicable and valid advice, it is Christian friends that have a truly likeminded desire to see me growing in all aspects of my life.  Short of coming to faith in Jesus Christ, non-Christian friends will always remain more distant than the friendship that is available between believers.

#9. Christian Acquaintances.  These might also be called "casual Christian friends" as they are not truly a friend at the same level as those we interact with most, or on a regular basis, let alone on a more personal level.  Yet, even as a casual friend or acquaintance, because they are still brothers and sisters in Christ, part of His greater body, though not necessarily part of my local fellowship, I am still called to consider their input.

Romans 14:19   Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (NIV)

Ephesians 5:21   Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.   (NIV)

Keeping this in perspective, the Bible makes clear that I'm to pay attention most of all to believers who are living out lives of love - giving of their time, efforts and resources (e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:15-18).  This makes sense; it's a lot easier to listen to someone who's doing instead of those who merely think they know how everyone else should be doing it.

#10. World.  If you were counting, all that remains for this section are non-believers.  I can listen to these individuals, some of whom may be acquaintances or friends, but only with great care.  While the world can offer up nuggets of wisdom and statements of truth, this is not where I'm supposed to be going first or, in many cases, at all. 

Hebrews 12:14  Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  (NIV)

Wherein it doesn't cause me to sin or compromise, I can listen to the world's advice and recommendations and consider their point of view.  Having met these conditions I may even carefully embrace some of it in an effort to "live in peace with all men."  But holiness must remain my primary goal. 

Subtly, or not, the world and its way of thinking is at war with who I am in Christ and what God wants me to be.  

John 15:19   If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (NIV)

James 4:4   You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (NIV)

1 John 2:15-17   Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.   (NIV)

Advice from an enemy, or those who hate you, is to always be suspect and it's necessary that we constantly view input from non-believers through such a lens.  If truth is in their words we must rely on the Holy Spirit to help us distinguish it as such or discard it as worthless and contrary to God's word and plan (John 16:13). 

Psalms 1:1a   Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked...  (NIV)

Proverbs 12:5   The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.  (NIV)

There's good reason this category is last.  When any, or many, of those higher in this list express something to the contrary or in agreement, it often makes it easier to recognize or confirm these worldly words as being truth or error.

In conclusion

Your list may vary somewhat, especially within the subcategories that give more personal specifics to each of the major headings examined.  Judge wisely who you are listening to and where you are seeking advice.  Also think carefully before giving counsel to others and consider where they may place you in their personal list of influence.

Proverbs 12:15-18   The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.  16 A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.  17 A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.   18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  (NIV)

Article by Brent MacDonald, Lion Tracks Ministries (c)2013
Non-profit duplication is permitted. A courtesy email is appreciated.