How many times have you heard someone say you, “Let me give you a piece of advice”? Ah, yes, everyone has some advice to share. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone wants to give you a piece of their mind. Everyone is an expert in an area where they think you’re deficient.
I remember going through comment cards at the end of a long week of youth camp. I’d read one card that would say the food was excellent. Just a couple of cards later some “expert” would share how terrible the food was. One would say they loved the evangelist, another would give their “advice” on where the evangelist missed it.
Whom should I listen to? Who should get my ear?
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius gives this counsel to Laertes “Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice: Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.”
Nice prose, but how do we live it out?
I like the example I see from a man named Jethro in the Bible. Jethro is Moses’ father-in-law, and he really only appears on the scene in just one chapter (Exodus 18), but his method of giving advice should be a model for us all.
Credentials—Jethro was a God-fearing man. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, weigh carefully the advice given to you by those who don’t have the same biblical foundation.
Relationship—Jethro had a personal relationship with Moses, he wasn’t just a business acquaintance. That means Jethro had a vested interest in Moses’ success or failure.
Firsthand—Jethro heard about what was happening, but he came to see it for himself. Beware of those “experts” who only have secondhand information about you or your situation.
Up-Close—Jethro spent an entire day right by Moses’ side just watching and listening. He saw what was going on from the front row.
Questions—Jethro led with questions, not with advice. Before giving Moses his opinion, Jethro asked clarifying questions.
Wisdom—Only after all of this did Jethro give his opinion to Moses. The words that he shared were then received by Moses as God-given wisdom.
Your counselors should earn the right to be heard. Just because someone has an opinion doesn’t make him an expert. And just because someone has been-there-done-that doesn’t mean that her way should be your way.
Screen out the clamoring voices by making sure they have credentials, a relationship with you, firsthand experience, and godly wisdom.