Openness to Advice


  
According to the Book of Proverbs, one of the key differences between sages and fools is whether they are open to advice. Sages are; fools are not.
 
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid (12:1).
 
The way of a fool seems right to him,
but a wise man listens to advice (12:15).
 
A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
but a mocker does not listen to rebuke (13:1).
 
Advice, here, is more than words. It is a parental activity, words followed up with disciplinary consequences. For the proverbist, then, “advice” is parallel to “discipline,” “correction,” a “father’s instruction,” and “rebuke.” (See also 15:5, 12; 17:10; 19:25).
 
Why does biblical advice include the possibility of disciplinary consequences? Because the stakes are so high! Those who heed advice, who respond positively to discipline, will lead good lives. Those who don’t, won’t.
 
He who scorns instruction will pay for it,
but he who respects a command is rewarded.
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
turning a man from the snares of death (13:13-14; cf. 15:10, 29:1).
 
He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame,
but whoever heeds correction is honored (13:18).
 
One of the most important benefits of heeding advice is growth in wisdom.
 
He who listens to a life-giving rebuke
will be at home among the wise.
He who ignores discipline despises himself,
but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.
The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor (15:31-33; cf. 18:15, 21:11).
 
By contrast:
 
Stop listening to instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge (19:27).
 
Some people are so incorrigible, unfortunately, that not even extreme discipline will undo their stupidity:
 
Though you grind a fool in a mortar,
grinding him like grain with a pestle,
you will not remove his folly from him (27:22).
 
What makes some people open to advice but others resistant to it? Pride or humility!
 
Pride only breeds quarrels,
but wisdom is found in those who take advice (13:10).
 
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding
but delights in airing his own opinions (18:2; cf. 23:9).
 
Here, as in other proverbs, pride leads inexorably to a life of folly. Humility, on the other hand, opens the door to a life of wisdom and wellbeing.
 
The trick, then, is to learn to love the advice of the wise:
 
Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold
is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear (25:12).
 
And not merely their advice, but also their painful, constructive critiques:
 
Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses (27:5-6).
 
With all this in mind, two questions remain: (1) Are you open to good advice? And (2) are you willing to give it?
 
He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor
than he who has a flattering tongue (28:23).
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