We recently bought a computer. This new computer was embedded with adware. We discovered that the hard way when every time we tried to call up a website, including this blog, we were besieged by pop-ups. If you weren’t quick enough, you clicked on something before you even realized it was there. Eventually the computer became impossible to even use. We couldn’t install programs we needed, including Bible study software, or if we did manage to install something it was pushed off the screen enough to make it unusable.
And so we called in the technicians to help us out. You know who I mean, those young people who seem to eat and breathe anything high tech, who intuitively know where to go and what to look for when you don’t even know what buttons to push to find out, who speak in a language only they can understand. And so their directions were just so much gobbled-gook to me, but at least they made enough sense to Keith for him to try it himself. Still no go. So he called in a friend, one far more tech-savvy than we, but also close to our age. He couldn’t do it either.
And so we called the technicians again and told them nothing they said to do had worked. Well, we must have done it wrong, or so their tone implied, and they went to work themselves. They accomplished this by gaining control of our computer from offsite. It’s a little spooky to watch the cursor move without you doing any of the handwork, and have it suddenly type, asking you questions. It was easy to believe the machine itself was talking instead of a young man a couple hundred miles away. But it was highly gratifying to watch him have exactly the same problems we did. I was working in the kitchen and listened to Keith and our friend laugh out loud. “Aha!” they cried with glee. “Told you it wouldn’t work!” as if the young man could hear them through all those wires, or in this case no wires.
I have had the same thing happen when I go to the eye clinic. All those good-looking young residents are sure they know more than I do about my eyes. They get ready to do something and I tell them it is impossible with my eyes. “Sure,” their smirk says, and sure enough they cannot do it and head for the big man himself who puts them in their place. Sometimes we old folks know what we are talking about. And sometimes we know enough to keep quiet too.
Which brings me to today’s point. Please be careful out there when you think you can give advice in an area of life in which you have no, or only limited, experience. I have heard young, inexperienced, and very sheltered young Christians plunge in with both feet about things like whether a woman should leave, not a philandering husband, but a controlling one; about when a woman should disobey her husband; about the point that disavowing family becomes necessary; about when to administer tough love to a wayward child, and what exactly “tough” means. These are things best left to people who have been there, or at least to older people who have seen these situations in all their various permutations and realize that circumstances can alter the answer.
When you give definite answers to things you have no real perspective on, you can damage a soul. You can give a person an out they should not use, just as Adam tried to use Eve and Eve the serpent. I can’t blame someone else for telling me the wrong thing to do. But God can blame me for causing someone else to sin with my careless, or ignorant, advice, Rom 14:13. You know how I know all this? Because I was one of those careless ignorant people many years ago who was oh so sure she knew the right answers, and many of those answers I would give anything to take back now.
Elihu came at Job as a young man thoroughly disgusted with the older “friends” because they couldn’t answer Job as he thought he should be answered. “Listen to me and learn some wisdom,” he told them in 33:33. Truth to be told, he had a few good things to say, but he was not as right as he thought he was, and Job had to offer sacrifices for his sin as well as the three older men.
Please be careful when you hand out advice that can affect not just someone’s life but their eternal destiny. Just because the answer looks pat to you does not mean it is. And can this member of a generation you probably consider ignorant beyond all measure remind you—we may well have been there before you. We have tried to help, believe it or not. We have offered careful advice, advice that considers circumstances and does not push to have its way because my way is the only right answer. It may well be that you can fix the problem we could not fix. But don’t fall into the trap of believing that makes you God’s gift to the troubled. You just might find yourself more lost than the ones you were trying to save.
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Eccl 11:9