The Advice of the Wicked


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December 9, 2015

The first Psalm warns us against following “the advice of the wicked”.

What is the advice of the wicked? How might it be given?

Here are some examples that come to mind:

  • It can’t be wrong, because it feels so right.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Everybody does it.
  • Let’s go get drunk together.
  • No one is looking, so go ahead.
  • Live for yourself.
  • Get all you can while you can.
  • You need to cheat to make it.
  • Do what you will.
  • Live for yourself.
  • Impress people.
  • Cheat on your taxes.
  • Look down on people who do not have as much as you do.
  • Identify yourself by fine brands and fine clothes.
  • People who are different from you are not as good as you.
  • Let the government provide for you.
  • You deserve more.
  • You have a right to have all your behavior accepted and welcomed.
  • Lord it over people smaller than yourself.
  • Just keep quiet about your convictions. Don’t offend people.
  • Your happiness is the most important thing.
  • God wants you to be happy.
  • You deserve better.

From where comes such advice?

The advice of the wicked may come from an acquaintance or a relative. It may come from a magazine article or a book, or a news commentary. The advice of the wicked may come from a politician. It may come from a well-meaning but shallow-thinking friend.

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How often does the advice of the wicked come from proclaimer in the pulpit? “It’s all about your personal comfort, wealth, and happiness!”

How often does the advice of the wicked come from a trusted teacher? Often those in authority seem to have credibility and they engender trust, so the advice of the wicked from such a source is especially pernicious.

The advice of the wicked can come in subtle ways through product placement, or plot lines, or what the laugh track cues you to think. The advice of the wicked can be subtle suggestion. It can be right in your face. How many commercials cleverly advise wicked things? How many commercials encourage sexual impropriety?

If avoiding the advice of the wicked leads to happiness and blessedness, as the Psalm says, it seems to me the avoidance of that advice is an intelligent, intentional, and constantly diligent pursuit. That’s because the advice of the wicked is standard fare.

Does this mean we need to become hermits?

That has been the answer for some people. Just withdraw from the world. Go to a mountain top. Hide away in an isolated place. Remove yourself from all contact with the world. Is that the answer?

It requires diligence to not follow the advice of the wicked, but the answer is not isolation. That in itself might be advice from the wicked. Would not the wicked prefer that those who hold to righteousness leave society? Might not the wicked themselves advise that you withdraw, isolate, and no longer let your voice be heard?

Would not the wicked hope to see those who follow righteousness disappear from the radar? Would they not be glad to have their environment sterilized of any lives around them that cause conviction and consternation in their hearts and minds?

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To not follow the advice of the wicked requires much discernment. If my own heart and mind are not grounded in truth, I will be susceptible to following the advice of the wicked.

Why is the advice of the wicked so alluring?

I believe it is because it appeals to our pride and sensuality, or it promises (temporary) fun. It is easy for us to think we deserve things. It is easy to be lifted up in our assessment of ourselves.

Much of the self esteem movement is full of the advice of the wicked.

Photos: Jamin Gray, Brian Smithson, Jack Moreh

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