?22? Without counsel, plans go wrong,
but with many advisers they succeed. — Proverbs 15:22 (NRSV)
The final part of the Bible study method I teach, though by no means the least important, is sharing. By sharing here I don’t mean simply telling other people what you have learned, but testing your understanding by presenting it to other people, especially other Bible students, and then listening to what they have to say about what you learned. In the prior step, I’ve suggested looking at what other great leaders of the church have said over the centuries. I would suggest you talk to them, but they’ve already gone on to glory, so you can’t. But the point is the same. It’s very easy for any one of us to misunderstand something in scripture, but by sharing with one another and testing what we have learned, we can become much more confident.
Our proverb today advises us on something similar. Without counsel, without discussion and input, plans go wrong. We’ve all experienced this. Visionary thinkers are especially subject to this problem. They envision some massive project complete with all the frills and the wonderful results that are sure to follow. Often, however, they do not count the cost. I’m guilty of this. I can imagine and vision many great things, but I need others to help me flesh them out and make them work.
On the other hand there are some people who can’t imagine anything. Their vision is limited to the known, the stuff that has been proven possible. They know all the reasons something won’t succeed. To them, this sounds safe. The problem is that while they will waste less resources on their own than the visionaries, they will tend to accomplish very little.
Combine the two, and you will see great things accomplished. In order to combine them, however, you will probably need a multitude of counselors, as our text says. Even more importantly, everyone will have to learn to listen to their counsel.
Now this in itself is an important spiritual lesson. But today I’m using it as an illustration for our spiritual life and our church life. It’s a natural human tendency to listen to the people closest to us. They are familiar and safe. But they also tend to be people who already agree with us and like the things we are going to say. I’m a member of a United Methodist congregation. Our tendency can be to look around only at what other Methodist churches use for curriculum, how other Methodist churches do worship, and how other Methodist churches organize projects. You can extend the list, I’m sure. Our friends down the road, whether they be Assembly of God, Baptist, Presbyterian, independent, or wear any one of a number of other labels, will also tend strongly to learn from other people with the same label.
But just as with my personal study and life, or with any physical project, if I limit the ideas that I hear, I also limit my possibility. With many counselors, there a plan is established.
Just this week I was discussing a topic on the Internet, when suddenly somebody mentioned another tradition, in this case the Eastern Orthodox. That tradition, he told me, has something to say on the topic. I did some reading this morning and indeed, there is some wonderful new perspectives for me to consider.
I don’t know how far afield you’re ready to travel. Often we’re afraid of reading things that just might contain error. I’m not suggesting that you agree with or absorb everything someone says. Your best approach might be to argue vigorously. But you need to hear some things that are a bit off of your current path. It will help you grow.
What new thing will you learn today?
Note: This is Henry, Jody’s husband. Jody has decided to go a bit out of her comfort zone and started a blog for commentary on news that is of interest and so forth. She plans a couple of entries there a week. We will continue posting the devotionals here, and we will still share the writing duties. To check out her new blog, go to jodyneufeld.com.