To despise a word of advice is to ask for trouble. Mind what you are told and you will be rewarded.
Proverbs, 13. 13 New English Bible
Liu Chang was a servant, one of many in the king’s household. He thought himself to be cleverer than most; he was also ambitious. He thought that if he planned all his actions carefully he could climb the ladder of seniority amongst the servants and get very close to the king. Liu Chang was not as clever as he thought himself to be. Others had noticed his ambitions and had guessed his plans. People laughed and joked about him behind his back. Liu Chang was unaware of what his fellows were saying about him. He tried to make himself popular with the senior servants by attempting to spend time with them and to fetch and carry for them whenever possible. He even anticipated what they might want and would try to impress them with his eagerness to please. Sometimes he got it right and brought the correct clothing or equipment, even before he was asked for it. At other times he made mistakes bringing the wrong tools or weapons, or the wrong costumes. The other servants would laugh at him.
‘You try too hard, Liu Chang. You should hold back and wait for instructions. You do not know the mind of the Master!’
Liu Chang paid no attention. One day he heard the other servants discussing the funeral of one of the king’s elderly relatives. Liu started to plan what would be needed for the occasion and to gather it all, ready to be supplied the instant the king required it.
The message came down to the servants’ quarters. The king required his regalia. Without waiting to hear the details Liu rushed forward with the funeral gown, boots and head attire suitable for a sombre occasion. He passed by the other servants and went straight to the king’s chamber.
‘Your regalia, your Majesty!’ said Liu, bowing low.
‘What’s this, what’s this?’ said the king. ‘Who are you that comes rushing into my chambers? What is this that you bring me? Funeral attire? Are you planning to ridicule me amongst my people? My cousin’s wedding would be blighted if I wore these raiments, you foolish servant. Get away! Do not trouble me again with your presence.”
Lui Chang bowed low, his face white with shame and fear. His mistake would ruin his ambitious plans. On his way back to the servants’ quarters he passed the king’s dresser who said:
‘Ah, it is Liu Chang carrying funeral vestments! You would not heed our advice Liu Chang, and now you have made yourself ridiculous in the eyes of the king. You would do better to keep away from the high places and forget your ambitions which are so plain for all to see. Become humble and serve the children of the courtiers. Plan ahead for them, for children do not know their own minds. Perhaps if they come to appreciate you, you will grow in wisdom and humility. You may come to serve the king again, but until you learn to follow good advice you must learn from the children.
Why do you think Liu Chang wanted to please the senior servants?
What did he do to try to please them?
Why did people laugh about him behind his back?
Why was the king so angry with him?
What was his punishment for pushing himself forward and bringing the wrong clothing to the king?
What does humility mean to you?
When a wise person gives you advice what do you do?