It can be greatly beneficial to receive words of counsel from a fellow Christian. Obviously, we must be careful what we take on board as not all counsel is good, well-intentioned, or necessary. But that which is, the Bible instructs us to receive. Prov 11:14, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Prov 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” Prov 19:20, “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.” I am not however, encouraging us to counsel others. We should all be counsellors in the sense that we are responsible to counsel ourselves. Before we ever consider anyone else, how much counselling do we undertake in our own lives? This idea is presented to us on numerous occasions in the Bible. Two examples:
Matt 7:3-4, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?” The word translated “consider” means to observe, comprehend, understand. Christ is saying that if we don’t know what we ourselves are like, it leads to judgmentalism. We may want to counsel someone over the speck in their eye when we have not counselled ourselves over the plank in our eye. Our perspective is flawed because in looking at them, we have failed to see ourselves. Consequently, we exaggerate their sin and minimize our own. How much damage is done by overzealous counselling in this manner.
Gal 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Who is suitable to counsel others? Those who are spiritually mature. The spiritually mature person is aware of their own weaknesses and failures. The word translated “consider” is similar to Matt 7:3, it means to take aim, take heed, look upon. It denotes the idea of being realistic about ourselves. We are under no illusions that we fail just as others do. Counselling ourselves, we are then gentle in relating to them. It is not unusual for people to take the moral high ground, only to succumb to the same kind of temptation – in some instances they already have!
Counsel wisely and lovingly given is the blessing of God, but we should not assume the role of counsellor unless we are having honest conversations with ourselves. Where does counselling begin? It begins with self-examination. It begins by applying the Word of God personally. It begins with self-rebuke. It begins with confession of sin. It begins with humility. The Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians in 1:4-5, “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers……..” There were plenty of people willing to instruct (counsel), but so few who act in a fatherly (filial) way – with care, wisdom, love, understanding, meekness etc.
We are to watch out for one another, but first we must watch out for ourselves. We are to speak the Word of God to one another, but let us first speak it to ourselves. Let us not be afraid to offer Godly counsel if an occasion calls for it, but not before we have counselled ourselves.