“Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, ‘How do you advise me to answer this people?’ And they said to him, ‘If you will be good to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.’ But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Rehoboam was an idiot. But, he was an idiot with a lot of copycats around today. We live in a culture that celebrates youth as one of the highest goods a person can achieve. For those who don’t have it by calendar years, there are many measures that can be taken to maintain its appearance. For those who do have it, though, they are given a seat at the cultural table that tends to be far closer to the head than they should be given. See how many of the cable news channels have as anchors folks who are in their early 30s or even into their 20s. While there are very many young people who are incredibly intelligent and articulate, there is something important and powerful to be said for the perspective and even wisdom that can only be attained by a breadth of experience that only comes with years.
To put that perhaps a good deal more bluntly and in my own disfavor as one who hasn’t quite crossed the line of 35, young people are often dumb. And this isn’t entirely their own fault. Their (our) brains are still developing and the number of experiences from which we can draw to gain important perspective on many issues is far fewer in number than is necessary to make decisions as fully informed as they need to be in order to ensure their wisdom and reasonableness.
Still, there’s nothing quite like an overall lack of experience to give one a great deal more confidence in his conclusions than someone with a deeper well from which to draw would understand to be prudent. In other words, young people are often too dumb to know what they don’t know.
Rehoboam discovered this the hard way. After receiving advice from the older advisors who had counseled his father, recognized some of the mistakes his father had made, and wanted to see him avoid them, Rehoboam felt they didn’t ring with the kind of smart power he wanted to project as the new king on the block. As a result, he turned to the buddies he’d grown up trusting, and to the surprise of exactly no one, got advice entirely more suited to his liking. He drew from a shallow well and got shallow advice. The result was the loss of most of the kingdom his father and grandfather had spent almost a century building.
We may not lose a kingdom, but if we lean into our culture’s foolish worship of youth, we will indeed risk losing something. Possibly much. Wisdom is always the better path to travel, and while age doesn’t guarantee it, it certainly raises the likelihood of its appearance.
Next time you have a big decision to make and you are under 40, listen to someone over 60 before you make it (80 if you can find someone). If their advice contradicts what you thought at first, you may want to reconsider your first plan. The Spirit should be your ultimate guide, but don’t miss out on His speaking just because the source has some years on it.