Who would we be –and where– without those individuals who gave us the guidance and benefits of their wisdom accrued over the years of their experience. The powerful influences of those who have been our benefactors have left an indelible mark upon our lives in more ways than we often can be thankful for.
Of course, not all influences are of the same caliber. The Scriptures remind us of those powerful influences which may tug at our hearts and emotional fixations. Let us look at a few examples of counsel poorly chosen; then reflect upon choosing those wonderful influences which will improve our lives.
Counsel Poorly Chosen
(A) Enabling Wrong Doing to Satisfy an Obsession
Emotional fixations are very dangerous if left to fester and grow into obsessions. There are some who would do anything to help you gratify your desires.
No one knows this tragic lesson better than Amnon who had an obsession for his beautiful half-sister Tamar (2 Sam 13). Apparently, Amnon’s vexation was so apparent that his cousin Jonadab counsels him to pretend an illness, so that he may request the nursing care of his unsuspecting victim Tamar in his isolated chambers.
The results were a horrific incestuous rape, Amnon’s assassination at the hands of Tamar’s brother Absolam, and in turn an attack upon the throne of David as further expression of his vengeful defiance. Absalom would lose his life in his insurrection.
(B) Leaning Upon the Ambitions of the Power Hungry
In the transitional moments following King Solomon’s death and the rise of his successor Rehoboam, the young king had a choice to make: should he be a heavy handed king like his father, or relieve the people of their plight (1 Kings 12.1-5)?
Rehoboam seeks the counsel of two groups of men, “the old men” (12.6-7) and “the young men” (12.8-11). The “old men” who had seen the oppression of his father were moved with compassion and propose that the new king’s reign be based upon the welfare of his people, not upon an “iron fist”.
Unfortunately, Rehoboam listened to “the young men” with whom he had grown up. They propose an intensified cruel reign (12.9-11). The new king must be vindictive and cruel; his subjects ought to live in fear.
Little wonder that the majority of the Israelite tribes (10 of 12) secede to follow a new claimant king – Jeroboam. The results were disastrous, for his idolatrous influence plagued the Northern Kingdom of Israel until its demise in 722 BC (2 Kings 17-18). This too was predicated upon Jeroboam’s fear of losing power over his subjects only that instead of listening to the counsel of others “he had devised [this] from his own heart” (1 Kings 12.25-33).
(C) Accepting False Teaching Affects Moral Purity
False teachers are tremendous influences of evil upon our lives. In order to shake up the Corinthian congregation to reject false teaching regarding the resurrection (i.e. that it had already occurred, 1 Cor 15.12-32), Paul quotes the playwright Menander’s comedy Thais (c.300 BC):
Bad company ruins good morals. (1 Cor 15.33 ESV)
By this quote, Paul argues against making associations with false teachers (false mentors); the influence would be, he argues, disastrous upon their morals (v. 34).
“What could have been” enters the mind when considering the tragedy of Tamar, if only Jonadab had counseled his cousin in another direction.
One ponders, “if only Rehoboam had listened to the wise counsel of the ‘old men’” instead of submitting to the influence of his power grabbing childhood “friends”?
Too, why did Jeroboam reject the religion of the Lord after all that the Lord had promised to make a covenant with him as king (1 Kings 11.29-39)?
When the foundation of the Christian message is founded upon the resurrection from the dead according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15.1-11), what could be so tempting in the notion that the dead do not rise (15.12-)? There is nothing to gain if there is no resurrection. Why move from hope to hopelessness?
Influence and Personal Responsibility
As they say, “hind-sight is 100%.” The Monday morning quarterback is always a pro-bowler, and the “back seat” driver should be authorized to distribute driver licenses. I bring out these clichés because they are pertinent to this discussion.
The matter is not that we are “back seat” drivers telling another how they should have done better. We learn from the mistakes of the past in order to inform our own decisions so that we may not repeat their failures.
This is a matter regarding personal responsibility in light of those moments we allow others into our decision making process.
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. (Prov 1.5-6 ESV)
God calls us to seek His Word, warning us of the consequences of “ignoring” His counsel and reproof (Prov 1.25).
Like Amnon, Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and the Corinthians there may be temptations which vex us and those enticing us to embrace it by conspiring (via advice or false teaching) a way to experience it; however, like Joseph we need to keep our principles realizing that to satiate a sinful desire betrays God and those who would be destroyed by such an action (Gen 39.6-10).
When we are lost in the possibility that “we could” do something and never stop to think about whether we should, we have left the hallmarks of responsibility behind. Proverbs 7.1-27 reminds of this truth, as Solomon speaks to the dangers of irresponsibility. Seeking counsel does not absolve us from the importance of making the right decision (Prov 11.14), nor from taking responsibility should our “counselled” decisions return to us as a mistake (Matt 5.23-24).
To be continued…
- Marion L. Soards, 1999, 1 Corinthians, New International Biblical Commentary, New Testament Series edited by W. Ward Gasque (Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson), 339.
- This is a play on a scene from the sci-fi film Jurassic Park (Universal, 1993) where Dr. Ian Malcolm reacts to the reckless behavior of geneticists in the film who were cloning dinosaurs for an amusement park. Here is the dialogue courtesy of IMDB.com:
Dr. Ian Malcom: If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now
[bangs on the table]
Dr. Ian Malcolm: you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…
John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.