King Solomon wrote about how vain it can be trying to build up your estate and your business because you don’t know what will happen when you die. The person following in your footsteps may be a fool, and destroy all that you worked so hard to build up. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-21).
How little did he know that his son Rehoboam would prove that very point. After Solomon died, the people came to Rehoboam and said, “Your father treated us harshly. But if you treat us better than he did, then we will serve you.” (I Kings 12:4)
Rehoboam turned to his father’s advisors and asked them what to do. They replied,
If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants. (I Kings 12:7)
Very good advice. In fact, their advice mirrored the words of Jesus when he said,
You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45)
But Rehoboam didn’t like their answer. You notice in this passage that it wasn’t that there were two competing pieces of advice, and he just happened to choose the wrong one. Rather, advice was given and he didn’t like it, so he rejected it out of hand. He then turned to people who he knew would give him advice he liked. He turned to the friends he grew up with. And they told him, “Oh don’t listen to the people. Show them who’s boss! Tell them if they thought your dad was rough, they haven’t seen anything yet!” (I Kings 12:10-11)
And that’s what Rehoboam did. But by listening to only what he wanted to hear, he lost most of his kingdom.
Later, to his credit, he did listen to the prophet Shemaiah who warned him not to attack the Israelites who had broken away from his kingdom. But it was too late. The damage was already done.
There are times when people tell us things we don’t want to hear. We know in our hearts that they’re right, but we don’t want to hear it. What do we do in that situation? Do we reject what they say out of hand? Or do we take in what they say, hard though it may be, and let it change us?
It’s a difficult pill to take sometimes. It can be very bitter. But if we are willing to take in that pill, it can make our lives healthier and much more fruitful as well.
But if we only hear what we want to hear, it can lead to disaster. Rehoboam listened only to what he wanted to hear and he lost almost everything as a result.
May we be humble enough to listen not only to what we want to hear, but what we don’t want to hear as well.