Wise counsel is a special gift of advice that can enable the young generation of individuals to avoid some of the poor decisions and mistakes of their elders. It is absolutely necessary, because poor decisions and mistakes have consequences that affect the lives of others beyond those who just made the poor decisions and mistakes. Sometimes the consequences are very extensive and can last for a long time. Most of us can probably think of at least one example of a poor decision that affected a wide circle of individuals, perhaps even for generations.
Wise counsel must come from elders
It is the older generation of men and women who have the opportunity and the responsibility to share their wisdom with the young generation. This is how children and youth learn. This is how progress and improvements in living are made over a span of time. This is how any bad cycle of severe consequences from poor decisions and mistakes is broken or halted. It is the elders who must tell the children and youth “No!” or “that is not a good idea” when these children and youth seek to implement some dangerous or poor course of action.
Parents are usually the first set of elder counselors that anyone has in this process, and they may have this particular role and responsibility for years without much assistance from anyone else. It is nice if grandparents are around, because they can provide even a bigger frame of wisdom from a longer span of years than that which would come just from the recent generation of the parents.
Wise counsel is not always well received
Of course children and youth are not always going to like to hear “No!” or any other negative directive in regard to what they want to do. Other children and youth and even older individuals in their circles of friends may be encouraging them to go ahead with a particular course of action, to make the decision that they desire to make. Elders, including parents, do not exercise their responsibilities in a neutral environment or even one that is wisely designed or managed. There may be too many consequences of previous poor decisions and mistakes still around to make the environment of the children and youth completely safe and wholesome. And children and youth like to argue that the changes of time over the course of years invalidates the wisdom of their elders because the situation is different now than it was then and the decision that they seek to implement will not have the same consequences that it had years before.
And not all elders are wise all of the time
Some elders even seem to believe that time changes situations so that what was a poor decision years previously may be OK now, that the consequences of a chosen course of action were not as bad as they initially seemed to be. And some elders are very good at rationalizing their poor decisions and minimizing the consequences of their mistakes. Some elders still do not like to hear negative comments from others, particularly if it comes from someone in the younger generation. And most of us elders can be overly influenced by our emotions, if we are not careful.
Wise counsel is more thoughtful than good advice
A person can probably get a lot of “good advice” at the race track regarding what horse to bet on in the next race, but the best “wise counsel” that he or she might get from a mature friend is to “go home and pay off your credit card debt”. What is often passed off as “good advice”, like what one might get at a race track, is probably too often only popular opinion.
Wise counsel will come from individuals who know the difference between...
- what is ultimately good and what is just currently popular,
- what is really valuable and what is just cheap,
- a smart investment and just a quick profit,
- what is earned and what is only borrowed,
- what is achieved by hard work and what is just lucky,
- being happy and just having fun,
- what is beautiful and what just looks attractive,
- what is ultimately right and what may just be legal,
- what is really a generous gift and what is a selfish token,
- a sincere apology and a weak excuse,
- what is true and what is just a matter of opinion,
- what is to be hard sought and what is to be tolerated,
- when help is appropriate and when it should be withheld to encourage one to struggle,
- love and lust,
- what is really dangerous and what may just be somewhat risky,
- what is worth fighting against and what one should run from,
- what is a legitimate source of hope and what is a technique of mass marketing,
- a real miracle and a magic trick,
- what is wise and what is foolish,
- what is a divine blessing and what is a demonic temptation,
- what can last forever and what is only temporary,
- humble worship that glorifies God and pride-filled religious rituals that offend God,
- what is from God and what is from the world.
The source of wise counsel and its superiority
Solomon, the ancient king of Israel who was reputed to be the “wisest man who ever lived”, wrote that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). This is just one brief statement that he made regarding wisdom and its superior qualities that have been preserved in the biblical book of Proverbs. In this statement Solomon is making the point that reverence for God and one’s worship of God is the basis for wisdom in one’s life. This makes sense because it is only from such a position of humility and accountability that one can know what is wise and ultimately good. Individuals of any age who in their arrogance and rebellious refusal to worship God as their creator and ultimate ruler are left with only their poor judgments that are ultimately the foolish opinions of those who are committed to the ways of this world.
To the youth of his day, Solomon, the elder king of Israel, shared these words of advice: “...the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul” (Proverbs 2:6-10). Guarding “the course” of one’s life is one of the benefits that wise elders can give to youth of the next generation through this gift of wise counsel.
Solomon had many other things to say about the importance of youth listening to the wise advice of their elders, but he also had some important things to say about the blessings of wisdom to those who have this resource in their lives. He wrote that wisdom “is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold...is more precious than rubies” (Proverbs 3:14- 15). And he added, “Long life is in her right hand.... Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is the tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed” (Proverbs 3:16- 18).
In spite of such praise of wisdom, it should be noted that Solomon did not always behave wisely. In the midst of his great kingdom he was not able to retain the humble dependency and accountability to God with which he had begun his reign. As a young man, when he replaced David as king of Israel, he asked God to give him “a discerning heart”, and God gave him “a wise and discerning heart” (see 1 Kings 3:7-12), but with his family he failed to convince his children of the wisdom of God’s will.
The need for wise counsel
There certainly cannot be any doubt that the youth and a significant number of adults in the United States, and probably many of them in the rest of the world, need the benefits of wise counsel in the course of the lives that they are pursuing and the decisions that they are making and considering. Many of the very basic foundations of social order in the United States as well as in other countries of the world are being drastically changed or severely threatened. It may be too late to save some social structures from collapsing because of years of poor decisions that have been made in their development, but it is never too late to give the gift of wise counsel to those youth and children and others that you can reach. This gift is really GOOD, because it does have eternal benefits.
Copyright notice: "Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House."