A great verse for today:
“…they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t.”
—1 Timothy 5:13b (NLT)
If you stand up in the bathroom at church, you’ve probably been to a men’s prayer meeting. Men share prayer requests and look for other men to call down God’s help for their situation.
Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. In actuality, when men share prayer requests in an hour-long prayer meeting, they give each other advice for whatever the problems might be and spend a grand total of 57½ seconds praying about those requests—no matter how many requests were made in total.
The ladies, on the other hand, suffer from the same problem, except in a far worse form. Men tend to keep their mouths shut unless asked for advice. Women, though, sometimes go barging into other people’s lives with their “godly wisdom,” whether it is asked for or not. To their credit, women do a better job with prayer requests, bumping up the men’s 57½ seconds of total prayer time for requests to at least a minute and a half. 😉
Life is hard enough as it is, but to have judges, busybodies, and advice-givers deluging us with their man-made wisdom isn’t helping anyone. If anything, all it accomplishes is either to upset recipients or lead them down dead-end paths that eventually have those recipients questioning God’s direction (when they should have been questioning the advice-giver’s qualifications to speak).
I believe God offers us the best way:
1. If we are prone to be an advice giver, whether prompted or not, we should stop. No one needs our man-made advice. Undoubtedly, wisdom that comes from the minds of humans will fail. God says it will, so that pretty much settles it. In short, we’re not as smart as we think we are.
2. Chances are, we don’t know enough of what is happening behind closed doors to say anything about another person’s situation. Only God knows what a person truly needs. Instead, just listen and withhold judgment and advice (then consider #5 below).
3. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies to judgments and advice. Would we want to hear what we are about to share? Probably not. Then best keep quiet, especially if our advice is unsolicited.
4. In contrast to failed human wisdom, God provides perfect solutions through the spiritual gifts of word of knowledge and word of wisdom. My experience is that they are rare, but they are the only type of “advice” that is truly godly. If we are not given such a word, then we should keep still. If we are, we should not be afraid to share it gently and with tact. And also remember: Chances are, you and I were not the ones chosen to deliver that message. If we were, then we need to be humble about it.
5. Most people don’t want our judgments and advice. What they do want is us and our time. It is one thing to tell someone they need to do such and such. It is far different to actually help them do it. (Personally, I have no respect for people who tell others what they should be doing yet will not lift a hand to help them do it.) If we are not willing to help see our advice through, then we should not be giving it. All the advice in the world is nothing when compared to being there in person for someone else. Talk is cheap; walk is priceless.
In the end, talk less, listen more, and walk beside people who need help. That is the way of the Christian.