Has anyone ever given you really bad advice?

On the hit TV show The Office, one of the characters, Michael, runs into some trouble when his girlfriend, Jan, starts charging everything to his credit cards. He soon finds himself in deep debt. Word gets around the office, and eventually one of the workers, Creed, suggests that Michael declare bankruptcy.

You can watch the scene unfold here.

Sometimes bad advice can sound like good advice. How can we know when someone is giving us bad advice?

Solomon, probably the wisest person to ever live, wrote these words in Proverbs 4:1-9:

“My children, listen when your father corrects you. Pay attention and learn good judgment, for I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my instructions. For I, too, was once my father’s son, tenderly loved as my mother’s only child. My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. If you prize wisdom, she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will honor you. She will place a lovely wreath on your head; she will present you with a beautiful crown.””

Solomon says that wisdom, personified as a woman, will protect and guard the one who seeks her. The one who prizes wisdom will be honored like royalty. And beyond just telling us what wisdom does, Solomon told us where he received some of his wisdom: his father, King David. Read those verses again and see if you can hear the “parent voice.”

Who is the wisest person you personally know? What are they wise about? What are some of their characteristics?

There’s a big difference between having wisdom and having knowledge. Knowledge is all about facts and information, but wisdom is all about using your knowledge in real life situations. For example, Paul the Apostle knew that he could do everything (knowledge), but not everything was good for him to do (wisdom):

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.”

— 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31-33

I know that I can go anywhere I want. Wisdom tells me that some places are better to be than others. I know that I can watch anything on TV. Wisdom says that not everything is good for my eyes. I know that I can say anything I want. Wisdom says that there’s a right time and place to speak.

Ephesians 4:29-32 says this:

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

The Bible is full of advice, covering many different situations. The book of Proverbs alone contains 31 chapters of good advice and sayings. The examples of others are on full display in the stories given to us in Judges, Kings, and the prophets. And of course, Jesus himself led a life full of wisdom— his parables, the lessons to the Pharisees, and even his silence before Pilate are all filled with wisdom.

So choose one of the passages we read today and re-read it. What does it teach us about wisdom? What does it teach us about God?

What are some situations you’ve faced recently where it wasn’t easy to decide what was “good” or “evil”? What questions do you still have about what to do in those situations?

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