Proverbs 20:18

Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.

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Good advice is necessary for good decision-making, and good advice is only gotten from good counselors. Solomon here taught you to submit your major plans to the scrutiny and criticism of wise counselors, who can save you from disappointment and trouble. This is true wisdom – to deliberate before you act, and to establish your plans by wise counsel.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, for your proud and deceitful heart convinces you that your plans are quite good and certain to succeed (Pr 16:2,25; 18:17; 21:2; 28:11; Jer 17:9). You must use a multitude of counselors for safety (Pr 11:14; 15:22; 24:6).

It is a sin to be hasty in spirit, in speech, or in action (Pr 14:29; 29:20; 19:2). Haste is destructive, as it is said, haste makes waste (Pr 21:5; 25:8). Paul condemned a sinful trait he called being heady, which is to impetuously and recklessly rush ahead in some activity or choice (II Tim 3:4). Slow down to get counsel and good advice. If you are prone to be hasty and impulsive by temperament or training, you must doubly heed this warning.

But holding back in fear and worry is also foolish and will cost you, because you will miss the opportunities of gain and success that occur in every man’s life. Paralysis by analysis is a curse of melancholies, and wise counselors can give you a kick or push to get you moving on a profitable course. Objective counselors can be a great asset.

If you neglect seeking counsel, you are foolish, lazy, or proud. If you reject counsel you have been given, you are rebellious or stubborn. If you avoid counsel for fear of criticism, your heart is already foolishly infatuated with a risky proposition – you are emotionally attached to your plan. Beware! It is foolish to get your heart involved before your head.

The only perfect counselor is the Lord (Is 9:6). But He has not left you without other counselors. You have His perfect Word, which can make you wise (Ps 19:7-11; 119:98-100). You have His ministers, who can be perfect counselors by His Word (II Tim 3:16-17; Mal 2:7). You have parents, who usually have much greater wisdom and experience, and they also have strong motivation to save you from trouble (Ex 18:13-27). You have friends and brethren who are known for wisdom (Pr 20:25; 27:9-10; Acts 15:1-6).

What kind of counselors do you seek and use for your weighty decisions? Though older men are not always wise (Job 32:9), they generally are wiser (Job 12:12). A believer is better than a pagan, if there are moral considerations; they should have God’s wisdom in their heart and the highest degree of concern for your safety and prosperity. Look for critical counselors for sure, for the landscape is littered with the corpses of optimists.

When a plan or purpose is established, it is made stable, secure, and permanent. It has a solid foundation for the future, and this is obtained by good counsel. When plans and purposes are pursued without good counsel, they are usually disappointed (Pr 15:22). How can you avoid the mistakes that so many make? By keeping this proverb diligently!

Merely seeking counsel to fulfill this proverb is not enough, for you must also listen to the advice and follow it. Otherwise, the whole mechanism of safety and success is violated and overthrown. Rehoboam sought counsel, but he rejected the advice of the wise men who had counseled his father (I Kgs 12:1-19). And he lost the kingdom for it.

A multitude of counselors is not needed for every decision, and you can see this by the inclusion of war in the proverb. War is the weightiest decision made by men, for it determines the lives and futures of whole nations and enormous hardships. It should only be pursued after thorough counsel from many angles (Luke 14:31-32). So the lesson does not apply to all decisions, but rather to larger ones with serious consequences and risk.

But matters like marriage are certainly worthy of counsel. The pain and consequences can be horrible; most people entering marriage have no experience at it, so they need the good advice of others (Pr 19:13). An uninvolved third party can save you much grief in this decision, and he or she can probably spot potential problems more easily than you.

Other matters like business ventures, employment changes, housing moves, health issues, child training, investment alternatives, and similar plans should be subject to counsel. Why would you rush ahead in such large decisions without seeking good advice? The consequences of mistakes in these decisions far outweigh the hurt pride of correction.

A multitude of counselors is wisest, for many advisors can give you much to consider from different perspectives and various experiences. Share their counsel with a wise man, and it will result in even better counsel; you will have leveraged counselors. The bottom line should be found by considering the overall weight of answers, the answers of the wisest counselors, and the advice on the most important aspects of your plan or purpose.

Your choice to seek counsel takes time, so it requires discipline and patience, which will oppose your excitement and haste to get your neat idea moving forward. It also requires humility to ask others for their opinion, implying your need of their assistance. Such caution is prudent discretion, and such humility is wisdom. Do not let anything convince you that you cannot afford the time or that you can make decisions better yourself.

Young man, you need wise counsel more than most. Folly and vanity are bound in your heart; sober counsel can save you from trouble and pain. Older man, you are not above this lesson, for the hearts of all men are deceptively dangerous (Jer 17:9). It is pride, not principle, which keeps you from seeking counsel and letting others test your plans.

The ultimate counselor is the Holy Spirit, Who guides you by the Bible, not feelings. It is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Ps 119:105). If you submit your plans to the Lord, He will establish your thoughts (Pr 16:3; 3:5-6). If your heart is in fellowship with Him, you can move ahead with plans, submitting all to His will (Pr 16:9; Jas 4:13-15).

The more you learn the word of God, the more wisdom you will have (Ps 19:7-11; 119:98-100; Is 8:20). And this book of Proverbs is filled with the wisdom of the wisest man with the most experiences in life, and he wrote by the inspiration of God (Pr 1:1-9). The Lord Jesus Christ has all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and the closer you are walking with Him, the more wisdom you will have yourself (Col 2:8).