In a Multitude of Counselors There Is Safety
What does the Bible have to say about listening to counsel? Is there ever a time when we should avoid counsel? Why is a multitude of counselors important?
“Follow your heart.” “Let your heart be your guide.” “Listen to what your heart tells you.”
Phrases like these should make Bible students groan. They sound good on the surface and are often packaged as helpful wisdom, but in reality, they contradict the Bible’s teaching on the nature of the heart and the danger of using it as a guide.
God lays out a vital truth through the prophet Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Fortunately, there is a basis for our decision-making that avoids the danger of relying on gut instinct.
The ancient book of Proverbs shares this insight: “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
So, how important do you think counsel is? How can you put this verse into practice in your own life?
What does “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” mean?
Why is getting counsel so important?
No human being ever reaches a point in age or educational level where he or she makes only right decisions in life.
If there is one thing that can be said with absolute certainty about the past 6,000 years of human history, it is that we are woefully bad at making good choices.
God offers the means to avoid making bad decisions. But that’s not to say we are unable to make good choices.
Actually, God offers the means to avoid making bad decisions. He gives His Holy Spirit as a guide to those He calls. He gives the Bible as an instruction manual for life. And He supplies us with counselors.
It’s true that many acknowledge the value of counselors in theory, but how many people actively search them out and involve them when they say things that are hard to hear?
The Bible is not short on commentary on the importance of counsel.
How can you get counsel from God?
Notice Psalm 1:1-2: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.”
So, a blessed person is someone who actively learns from God’s law—His instruction and counsel—and applies it in everyday life.
If we want to prosper—if we want to truly succeed in life—then we have to pay attention to and really seek God’s counsel. The good news is that His counsel is available on demand through the pages of the Bible.
Many neglect that counsel at their own peril, but it is still accessible to anyone who chooses to use it.
For more insight on the Bible as a counselor, read “Why Study the Bible?”
How can you get good counsel from other people?
The book of Proverbs tells us, “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:5).
Rather than constantly being taught by the cruel teacher of experience, we can choose wisdom. We can seek wise counsel.Notice carefully, the proverb does not encourage just any kind of counsel. It instructs us to seek out wise counsel.
The opposite then must also be true: a foolish man will refuse to look for wise counsel.
So, finding counselors is encouraged, with the caveat that they should be wise.
And again, God says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15).
Repeatedly throughout Scripture, a person who looks beyond himself or herself and consults others is viewed as someone doing the right thing, someone who is wise.
Rather than constantly being taught by the cruel teacher of experience, we can choose wisdom. We can seek wise counsel, a key to avoiding unnecessary pain and grief in life.
But does that mean that finding one wise counselor is all you need?
Why we need a multitude of counselors
The risk of ignoring this principle is one of many warnings we can take away from the Bible.
King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor, was somebody who learned the need for a multitude of counsel the hard way.
Rehoboam came to the throne during a time when the people of Israel were disaffected. Apparently, Solomon’s self-indulgent reign had led to conscripted service for various projects and heavy taxation
So, Rehoboam traveled to northern Israelite territory to try to make peace with the people.
The representative for the group, Jeroboam, gave it to him straight: “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you” (1 Kings 12:4).
To put it another way, “Your dad was too tough on us. If you give us a break, then you will have our loyalty.”
Rehoboam began his decision-making process on the right foot. He didn’t respond with an impulsive “yes” or “no” to their request; he simply said he would take three days to think over the situation.
In the recess, Rehoboam took another step in the right direction and “consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived” (verse 6). He looked for guidance from individuals who had experience and wisdom.
The elders gave the new king wise counsel: “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (verse 7).
Accepting advice strictly from people who share the same viewpoint is often just another way to rubber-stamp what our gut already told us.So far, Rehoboam was on the right track for making a good decision: he took time to think, sought counsel and asked experienced counselors.
But what he did next was disastrous—he “rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him” (verse 8).
His mistake was dismissing the advice from experienced advisers—men who had personally seen King Solomon make bad decisions—and opting to follow the advice of his buddies.
Proverbs 11:14 says, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety,” not “in the counselors you like and already agree with, there is safety.”
It would have been one thing if Rehoboam had considered the elders’ advice while searching for other opinions to weigh, but Scripture indicates he had already rejected their advice before going to his friends.
Rehoboam evidently was not keen on hearing from “a multitude of counselors,” which implies diverse and varied viewpoints.
To make a long story short, his friends encouraged him to crack down on the Israelites and be even harsher than Solomon, something that ultimately resulted in a divided kingdom and a brief reign, among other bad things.
Rehoboam’s experience teaches us that not all counsel is good counsel, and that we should carefully consider the wisdom and experience of our counselors before embracing or rejecting their advice.
Accepting advice strictly from people who share the same viewpoint is often just another way to rubber-stamp what our gut already told us.
How does a “multitude of counselors” bring safety?
Going back to Jeremiah’s comment on the deceitfulness of the heart, we should remember that he made that statement during a time when he could personally observe what happens to a nation when its people stubbornly reject wise counsel.
With devastation and destruction looming, Jeremiah cried out, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Proverbs reiterates, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
So, it’s clear through these scriptures and examples that God expects us to look beyond ourselves when we are confronted with choices.
Instead of listening to a deceitful heart for a sound decision, rely on prayer and Bible study—God’s counsel—and the knowledgeable input of a multitude of wise counselors.
In that route there is safety.
For more guidance on making good decisions, read “7 Steps for Making Wise Decisions.”