Wise Counsel

“Let your friends be many, but your advisers be one in a thousand” (Sirach 6:6 [NRSV])

Ben Sirach was an esteemed professor at the Jerusalem Temple Complex around 180 BCE. His classes were highly coveted and his students would generally go on to become the elite members of the scribes and sages.

He was practically a life coach, educating his students on how to excel at life, morals, judgement, and devotion to God.

Sirach states that when seeking advice, it is sometimes best to play close to the vest – at least until you know more about the character, competence, and motives behind the advice being given.

Friends are fine, he says. Have as many as you can get!

But when it comes to those all-important decisions that will affect the rest of you life, don’t listen to just anyone. Implore your trusted adviser.

Sirach also encourages the “testing” of friends, and warns about the dangers of being too trusting too fast.

How many “friends” have you had that were around for the good times, but seemed to disappeared when you really needed them?

“Every friend says, ‘I too am a friend’, but some friends are friends in name only.

Is it not a sorrow like that for death itself when a dear friend turns into an enemy?(Sirach 37:1-2)

So it pays to test them early on and learn whether or not you can truly depend on them.

Regarding the advice of others, Sirach says:

“All counselors praise the counsel they give, but some give counsel to their own interest. Be wary of a counselor, and learn first what his interest is, for he may be taking thought purely to himself.

He may cast the lot against you and tell you that your way is good, and then step aside to see what happens to you.” (Sirach 37:7-9)

“The beginning of wisdom is respect for the Lord.” (Proverbs 1:7)

God knows everything that has ever happened in the past, everything that’s happening right now, and everything that will happen in the days to come.

Seek His counsel.

And let your advisers be among those who seek His counsel, too.

Amen!

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NOTE: Sirach is among the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible, otherwise known as the Apocrypha.

These books are accepted by many around the world as the authentic word of God (especially in the Hebrew and Roman Catholic canon) but were excluded from “mainstream Bibles” during the Protestant Reformation. (Due more to political reasons, arguably, than to spiritual ones.)

The Apocryphal books contain many rich blessings and can be found in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

This is the Bible that I currently use.