“Have many Advisers (Prov 15,22)”

by John Wijngaards, GEMS OF WISDOM Series in the New Leader, 26 Octover 1975; in Telugu Bharata Mithram, 12 October 1975.

“When no counsel is taken, plans will fail. But where there are many advisers, plans succeed”. (Prov. 15, 22)

Whenever the kings of Israel were undertaking a new or difficult project, they would caII together prominent persons to ask their advice. This was the internal administration in the “king’s council”. The subject for consultation might be matters of internal administration in the country, diplomatic relationships with other countries, or questions of war. The proverb says that a king wiII succeed in his plans if he consults many persons. If he acts without consultation, or after listening to a few persons only, his plans wiII fail.

Wisdom brings victories

History has provided many examples of smaII armies winning battles over bigger armies and of weaker nations conquering strong ones. Wars are not won by mere number of soldiers. Careful planning and strategy have proved much more decisive. In drawing up his plan of action a capable general will listen to the advice of many experienced men. As it is said in another proverb: “Better the wise man than the strong, for war is won by sound thinking. Victory rests in having many counsellors” (Prov. 24, 6).

The same truth has its weight in our daily lives. In planning different aspects of our future: our job, our family, our spiritual life, we are like a general who has to win a difficult war. Jesus Himself uses this comparison when He says that His disciple must be like the king who knows that he has to face another king who is marching out against him with an army twice as strong as his own. In such a predicament, Jesus says, “Would this king not first sit down (with his council of advisers) and consider” how he can win the war? (Lk. 14, 31). Jesus wants His disciples to be like a wise king who takes advice, who thinks before he acts, who is ready to listen to many consultors.

There is a lot of scope for self-examination on this point. How many of us are so convinced of being right that we never “sit down and consider”? How many of us hardly ever take the time to listen to advice? b this perhaps one of the reasons why we fail in so many of the plans about which we were so sure they would succeed?

Advisers should be many

It is interesting that in our proverb stress is laid on the need of having many advisers. This is frequently repeated in scripture. “Safety lies in many advisers” (Prov. 11,-14). The point here is not the number of advisers as such, but their diversity and variety. When we take advice we should not just listen to one person and certainly not to the one person for whom we have a personal likmg, but we should be ready to listen also to those who have a different opinion.

King Rehoboam lost half his kingdom because he preferred the advice of. his young companions to the advice of the older counsellors (1 Kgs. 12. 13). Absalom lost his war against David because he did not listen to the advice of Ahithophel. What Hushai said was more pleasing to him (2 Sam. 17, 1-14.) Usually, the most precious advice we can receive is not the one we like most. We have good psychological reasons for paying special attention to suggestions that we have not expected or that seem to be contrary to our own conviction.

In practice this will mean that for advice we should turn to a variety of people. Instead of relying on one or two persons whom we always consult, we should go out of our way to ask advice from others too. Instead of excluding those whose views usually disagree from our own, we should draw them into our consultation. with special preference. Asking advice does not mean having our own views confirmed by “yes-men”, but submitting our views to the critical examination of independent minds.