The internet is full of advice. Take this blog for example. I want to offer stories, Bible teaching, devotional thoughts, helpful pieces of information along with my advice on Christian living. This little blog is just of the thousands out there who are offering their advice to you. I read hundreds of them and much of the information I read I am in agreement, but sometimes I read something and think, “I don’t agree with that” and other times I think, “That is just wrong.”
The good news is that often I am challenged by reading things I don’t agree with to think differently. Sometimes it causes me to ask questions of myself and my actions. These posts are beneficial even when I don’t agree.
This has me thinking about the grid of ideas and questions I use to evaluate the advice I receive. So here are my essential questions about the advice I receive, whether I agree with it or not.
1. Does the Bible say anything about this topic? Is there any direct teaching? Is there any situations or stories that address it? Does the Bible touch on this in any way?
2. Was this article written by a Christian? This helps to understand the authors motives and ideas in writing the article. It can also reveal both positive and negative bias that the author might have in his thinking. I don’t read exclusively Christian material, but I do want to know the authors convictions.
3. Is the author an expert? Some people have earned the right to be heard simply because they have the education and experience. Also I am leery of any advice that comes from unknown places. The follow-up question expands this idea: What field is the author most qualified to speak to? A financial expert does not always give the best parenting advice and counselors do not always give the best financial advice. An expert in one field does not make a person an expert in every field.
4. Do other Christians agree or disagree with what the author is saying? Sometimes even great minds have lapses in their thinking. Take a look at the whole of faith and see what others are saying about a topic.
5. Is my experience similar or different? This is a final question for me and not the first. I have come to realize that what is true in New York, NY is not usually true in Adrian, MO. People are different in all parts of the country and my experience of life might be different. Do I find what is written communicating a common experience or unique?
When I finish reading I have the ultimate test of information: What does this material cause me to think, feel or do? Has the article expanded or challenged my thinking? Has it made me feel a new or different way? Has it inspired or instructed me to act?
I read a lot of stuff and I realize that there is a lot of bad advice out there, and some of it even comes from well-intentioned people. Often I read or hear something and think, “That is bad advice or wrong thinking,” only to have someone from the Church tell me the same info later. We need to be careful about the voices we listen to from the web. There is so much helpful material if we look in the right places and ask the right questions.
So my advice is always to read, listen and learn, but be sure the advice you receive is good Godly advice.