Perhaps you remember the history. Solomon had died and his son Rehoboam became king. The people of Israel came to him and asked that he lighten the burden that Solomon had placed on them. Rehoboam had an important decision to make. So, he went to the old men and consulted them. They advised that he speak a good word to the people and in so doing win their loyal servitude. He then turned to the young men and they advised that in a show of strength and authority he should increase the burden to show the people who was boss. Tragically, we read, Rehoboam “abandoned the counsel” of the older and favored the advice of the younger. Providentially, this bad counsel became the dividing point of the kingdom of Israel.
Biblically, it’s a wise thing to receive counsel. King Solomon — a man who would have had a lot of experience with needing counsel — wrote: “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). He also said: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). That's a fascinating thought. Solomon, you remember, was blessed by God with wisdom: "I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you" (1 Kings 3:12). Undoubtedly, he was the wisest person of any room he walked into. Yet, part of his wisdom was to know that he too needed counsel.
But, getting advice isn’t all that matters. The quality of that advice does, too. Again, the Wise King reflects: “The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (Proverbs 12:5). It’s too bad that Rehoboam didn’t heed his father’s wisdom, but chose the advice of young, foolish, and stupid men.
Now, there’s some practicality in this. Actually, there’s a lot. We live in a society that has built a flourishing environment for “Yes Men.” What is a Yes Man? Its basic definition is a person who agrees with everything someone says or does, or supports them without criticism. There’s even some dictionaries that add a flare of color, defining a Yes Man as a “weak person who always agrees.” Even the simplest definitions don’t indicate that being a Yes Man is a commendable trait.
To be someone who is always affirming and validating others demonstrates a tremendous lack of wisdom, discernment, courage, and honesty. It’s also not a God-honoring way to love your neighbor. That’s because the heart of being a Yes Man is the sin of flattery. And the Bible is clear, you can’t trust a flatterer. Again, as Wisdom warns: “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet” (Proverbs 29:5). What a picture! A person who is only agreeable and never objects or challenges isn’t a true friend but one who is preparing for your ruin. It’s why in graphic judgment we pray that God would “cut off all flattering lips” (Psalm 12:3).
Yet, we build a kingdom of Yes Men. We want weak people in our lives who will simply affirm us and pat us on the back without objection or challenge. Make an honest assessment. When is the last time you actively sought the counsel of someone who would give you a radically different perspective than your own? When is the last time you welcomed pushback? How did you respond the last time someone said something critical about one of your social media posts? What thoughts went through your head the last time someone told you “No”? We all love to be affirmed and applauded. In fact, Paul cautions that this is one of the signs of the times: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
This isn’t the way we’re meant to live as Christians. We all need the eye of criticism. Not the ungodly and unspiritual kind of criticism, but the criticism that is seeking to do us good and to glorify God. We need friends who have the wisdom, discernment, courage, and strength to challenge our thoughts, words, and actions. We need to stop living in the crippling fear that the worst thing someone could do is tell us “No.” J Gresham Machen once wrote: “There is one word which every true Christian must learn to use. It is the word ‘not’ or the word ‘No.’” If I can tweak that a little I would say: “Every true friend must learn to use the word ‘No.’”
It’s not always easy to hear. Even some of the most straightforward and unflattering people I know don't like, for themselves, to be challenged. But those that have done me the best good in my life are those friends who can lovingly challenge and object. Again, as Solomon said: “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue” (Proverbs 28:23). We need more “No Men” in our lives.