Does Proverbs 11:14 mean the more counselors you go to, the better it will be for you? How does this verse harmonize with Scripture passages that teach it is folly to put our trust in men?
This verse provides a good example of our tendency to put a certain word—in this case “counselors”—into our contemporary use of it, rather than to consider what the word meant at the time of the particular translation. Today we think of counselors as psychologists, marriage and family experts, and so forth. Back when the King James Version was translated, these fields did not exist as such. That fact does not mean that down through the centuries the principle of counseling—such as friend to friend or parent to child—has not existed. We know that in Old Testament times, for example, individuals received counsel from others. Knowing the book of Proverbs should make that principle clear as well.
Proverbs 11:14 reads, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” I do not believe that this verse means necessarily what you have suggested—that the more counselors you go to, the more safety you will have, such as in our present-day concept of counselors. We all know of people who have done that, and they ended up more confused than ever. We might better grasp the true meaning of this verse if we think of the word “leader” in the sense of a person responsible for the safety of others under him. The writer of Proverbs observed that safety exists in good leaders being over others. Good leaders are knowledgeable. They are wise.
Throughout our lives we come to appreciate more and more our trustworthy and dependable leaders. We find security in such leaders. Take the battlefield, for example. Much depends upon the integrity of the leaders in these life-and-death situations. If the leaders do not provide reliable counsel and direction, insecurity and defeat will reign.
In your question you have wisely shown the need to balance Scripture with other Scripture. Your observation that we need to temper any counsel of men with our ultimate need to trust in God, rather than people, is valid. Psalm 23 beautifully illustrates the leading of the Shepherd: “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (v. 3). We can trust the Shepherd because He is all-knowing. Human beings are finite; they fail in their counsel. But not God. Yet we know that God can use wise, Scripture-knowing, Spirit-filled individuals to help us at times. Nevertheless, we must be careful where we get our counsel. We must choose Biblical counsel, thoroughly Biblical counsel. Years before Israel’s apostasy took place, Moses prophesied that the erring nation would not only be scattered but would be characterized as “a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them” (Deut. 32:28). An absence of counsel from God’s Word and a rejection of counsel from God’s prophets brought about this condition. What a tragic scene. Yet we have a similar condition in our own country.
Just today I read about a new Index of Leading Cultural Indicators. “The condition of America is not good,” William Bennett, a former Reagan and Bush administration official, told a news conference at the Heritage Foundation. The Index showed that since 1960, violent crime increased by 560 percent, illegitimate births climbed by 419 percent, divorce rates quadrupled, and teenage suicide jumped by 200 percent. “Perhaps more than anything else, America’s cultural decline is evidence of a shift in the public’s attitudes and beliefs,” Bennett added.
Why this shift? Bible-believing Christians know that an immense drift away from the counsel of God’s Word has caused this shift in attitudes.
Also, today I heard a Christian radio personality discuss the rows and rows of books on bookstore shelves that tell people how to solve problems; yet people ignore the Book of books, the Bible. How true! We have more “counselors” than ever, more how-to books, and more family therapists, but conditions are still worsening rapidly in spite of all these “aids.” Only in a return to the right kind of counsel will we see a change for the better. Even among Christians we find too little discernment as to which counsel is Biblical and which is not.
Proverbs 19:21 states, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” This verse underscores the fact that God’s wisdom is limitless and perfect. We find true wisdom in His Word. Man’s “plans” (uncertain wisdom and knowledge) are fickle and unreliable. Even a multitude of these plans will not solve the problems of the human heart.
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