In the old fairy tale there is an emperor who loves new clothes so much that he spends all of his time and money getting the best. Some swindlers figured out a good con and let it be known that they could weave cloth that had the ability to test the wisdom of the people who looked at it. The Emperor, of course, needed clothes like that to discern which of his advisors were wise and which were fools. So, he commissioned the swindlers to make him an outfit. To make a short story shorter, no one dared tell the king that the swindlers had no cloth on the loom, and the king was made a fool of by all the people who were afraid to point out the obvious truth until a little boy blurted out, “But he has no clothes on.”
That emperor needed a Joab. Joab was one of David’s advisors and he wasn’t afraid to tell David that he was wrong. When David kept Absalom in banishment, Joab arranged to trick David to bring him back. After Absalom’s rebellion and the war in which Absalom died, David was weeping for Absalom wishing he himself had died. (He could have arranged that much earlier by not fleeing.) Perhaps David was lamenting because of all the mistakes he made with Absalom. Whatever the cause was, David was mourning the victory of his army, or so it seemed. Joab got in his face. “Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, ‘Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines.’” (2 Samuel 19:5)
Too often leaders surround themselves with people who will tell them what they want to hear. They no longer have advisors, they have “yes men” who will rubber stamp any decision they make and will defend even the most ridiculous decisions made by the leader. Good decisions are usually made after a lot of give and take discussion where strong and weak points of the idea are discussed. Advisors need to be able to speak out freely without fear of repercussions. Joab was that kind of leader. I dare say our current and future political leaders could use a Joab on their teams.
That being said, the same is true for each of us as we make life decisions. Who do you have that you can trust that will tell you that you’re making a mistake when you are on the verge of doing something incredibly stupid. At the same time, are you willing to warn a friend when they’re about to do something wrong? We need to develop open and honest friendships where we can warn others and accept warnings from them with the realization that those warnings are designed to prevent terrible things from happening. We need to be such good friends that when a friend says, :Here, hold my beer while I ….” we can tell them “No.”
O Lord, I have done some dumb things in my life when I failed to listen to wise advice. Keep my heart tuned to You so that I don’t get ideas that would get me into trouble and my ears attentive when friends warn me about doing something stupid.