The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15
During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln once found himself wanting to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer certain Union Army regiments. When the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the president was a fool. Lincoln was told what Stanton had said, and he replied: “If Stanton said I’m a fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I’ll see for myself.” As the two men talked, the president quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake, and without hesitation he withdrew it. Though Stanton had called Lincoln a fool, the president proved wise by not digging in his heels when Stanton disagreed with him. Instead, Lincoln listened to advice, considered it, and changed his mind.
Have you ever encountered someone who simply wouldn’t listen to wise advice? (See 1 Kings 12:1–11.) It can be infuriating, can’t it? Or, even more personal, have you ever refused to listen to advice? As Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” People may not always be right, but the same goes for us! Knowing that everyone makes mistakes, only fools assume they’re the exception. Instead, let’s exercise godly wisdom and listen to the wise advice of others—even if we initially disagree. Sometimes that’s exactly how God works for our good (v. 2).
Why are you sometimes reluctant to listen to the wise advice of others? How can you be sure the advice you receive reflects true wisdom?
God of wisdom, teach me Your ways and help me to avoid folly. Thank You for putting others in my life who are in a position to offer helpful advice when I need it.
The book of Proverbs is unique among the various books of the Bible because of the way it presents its content. While most of the biblical books contain ongoing narrative stories, collected songs, continuous teaching, or connected prophetic messages, Proverbs is much more random. Though there’s continuous teaching in chapters 1–9 and 31, most of what falls in between is comprised of a collection of wise sayings. For the most part, they don’t seem to be collected thematically or presented in any kind of discernible pattern. Nevertheless, within those collected sayings are insights that present what James would later call “wisdom that comes from heaven” (James 3:17), offering guidance for living out our faith in a difficult and often dark world.