READ: Job 4-6, Psalm 1, Luke 18, Revelation 2
Bad advice can come from good people. Psalm 1:1 points out the obvious: the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly is like a tree. The less obvious is that we should also avoid the ungodly counsel of the righteous. Job’s friends are great examples of good men who give suspect advice. On the surface, Job’s counselors speak truth, even truth that is quoted elsewhere in Scripture: “Do not despise the chastening of the Almighty, for He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole…You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue” (Job 5:18, 21). These are good words, but they were totally inappropriate in context. We can give (and hear) truth at the wrong time, in the wrong way. The truisms of Job’s friends brought no help or relief. Godly counsel can not only be true; it must also be timely and kind. Sometimes the kindest speech is silence, and the kindest friends let the suffering vent without holding their anguished words against them (6:26).
In Luke 18, another desperate man receives bad advice. A blind man sits outside Jericho. He hears that Jesus is coming and begins to call out for help. Those who went before Jesus basically tell him to shut up, “but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me'” (Luke 18:39)! The urgency and agony of the plea arrests Jesus and He stands still, He takes the time to deliver. There will come a time in life for all when need overcomes propriety. Good friends will counsel moderation or restraint. In that moment it is crucial that we ignore the ungodly counsel of godly men and take on the bulldog determination of the importunate. We must beware both the counsel of the wicked and the ungodly counsel of the righteous.
In the same vein, we must beware what kind of counsel we give. We, too, are more than capable of foolish advice to others. Job’s friends were not bad men, and they deeply loved Job, yet they completely missed what God intended. The human tendency is to be too hard on the things God allows and too soft on the things God despises. It is a sin to allow evil influence to spread (Rev. 2:20), just as it is a sin to disallow God’s righteous acts to painfully run their course. We should not be quick to truncate what an ever wise God is doing, nor too slow to stand up to what an ever holy God hates. We need God’s discerning help to keep us (the godly) from receiving or giving ungodly counsel. The only way to walk this path is by delighting (meditating day and night) in the counsel of the Lord (Psalm 1:2)–God just doesn’t think like man.