As a young Christian, whenever someone came to me looking for help, either answering a question or wanting some advice or feedback, I always felt that had to come up with an answer.
Have you ever felt that way before?
Most of the time, I was able to either offer some advice that I had obtained from someone else and put it into practice in my own life and saw how it worked for me.
Other times, I was able to point the person to a scripture that directly spoke to their question.
But when I couldn’t provide any of these things successfully, or even sometimes when I just felt lazy and didn’t feel like finding the best scriptures, I found that I would say to the person two words that do more harm than good…
These two words — though very innocently intended and shared — should be avoided as much as possible.
There’s a really good reason.
Starting an answer with, “I think” is not what you want to be doing, and it’s not because you have ill intent or are about to say something that doesn’t have value.
Your opinion and insight and experience that speak to a situation are valuable, but starting our response with “I think” seems to miss the point of this fundamental Christian journey we’re undertaking — which is to point people to God as the source of wisdom and knowledge and understanding.
When someone asks for advice and you provide them a scripture that addresses that question, you are helping that person approach God for that wisdom. You are flexing and strengthening that spiritual Bible study muscle.
On the other hand, when you substitute providing a scripture to reference that with your thoughts — even if they’re great ideas, appropriately relevant thoughts, wise sage advice — you are sacrificing an opportunity to help that person build their own convictions on God’s word.
God is the source of all wisdom.
God being the source of all wisdom is what the whole first section of the Book of Proverbs is about — how we should love wisdom.
We receive wisdom when we obey God’s commands.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches that God shames the wise of this world by revealing himself in his divine wisdom to the simple-minded — the people that nobody thinks anything of, and who are discounted.
Paul even kind of pokes fun at the sage and the debaters and intellectual, saying that while it is great that they have all this wisdom, they have missed God’s wisdom. How smart and enlightened can they, or you, really be without turning to and clinging to God’s wisdom?
When you are able to point someone to the source of the wisdom that you happen to have, whether from scripture, biblical teaching, the biblical principles that underly the advice that you’re giving, you are teaching that person how to fish.
You’re teaching each person how to seek and find God’s wisdom for himself or herself — to discover the answers to the questions being pondered enough to come to you seeking some direction.
When you’re pointing people to the Bible and particular scriptures that they can read, that they can study, that they can embrace personally.
Rather than saying, “So-and-so told me this is what I should do. So that’s why I did it.” Is very different from being asked for advice and the response being, “I was given this passage or this scripture or this story, and I found it and studied it and really came to understand what God is teaching. I’ve been able to implement that wisdom not just in that one situation, but in other situations as well.”
This sort of response from the advice-seeker is golden. That’s what you want as someone who’s been sought for advice, direction, wisdom.
You want to equip people when asked for help about wisdom.
When you give someone your opinion, you’re simply just giving them a fish.
You’re only meeting their need in the moment, but not preparing them to figure for themselves next time.
When the next time comes and they need wisdom and discernment again, they haven’t learned how to find the answer from God. They come to you instead for the quick fix.
When I do give advice when somebody has asked me for advice or have a question, I always try to give them a scripture to guide the response. I don’t always have a scripture to share, but I make it my goal to provide one for each situation I’m presented with when someone comes to me for advice or direction.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:11:
“He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to maturity, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
So that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitful schemes, rather speaking the truth in love. We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head into Christ from whom the whole body joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
My personal goal that I aim to achieve whenever I am asked by someone for advice is to help them become more mature as a Christian.
You want to have a rock-solid foundation in your faith, right?
A solid sturdy foundation of faith comes only through building your convictions on scripture and does not come by following your pastor’s advice, or your best friend’s advice, or your neighbor’s advice, right?
You’re not going to grow when a person who is not God is your primary source of wisdom and advice.
Likewise, you don’t want to lead any person astray. You don’t want to lead any person who is asking you for advice towards something that’s not God.
The next time someone asks you for advice, I encourage you to use a scripture with your reply.
And when you use scripture as the source of the wisdom, it forces you to grow as well because now you’re going to the Bible to look for wisdom, and it helps the other person grow as they won’t be relying on you for simple answers to burning questions about what they should do.
Through your example of going to scripture, they will also be learning to rely on the word of God to help guide their life.