On October 10th, 1975 Liz Taylor and Richard Burton celebrated their second wedding. It was Taylor’s sixth marriage and Burton’s third. It was a disaster and their decision to get married was described as the “triumph of hope over experience.” History and experience had told them this was not a good decision, yet they decided to go with their guts. Ten months later they were divorced.
Chip and Dan Heath in their book, “Decisive” raise the problem of just making decisions with our guts. In their argument they cite statistics that an estimated 61,535 tattoos were reversed in the USA in 2009, and a British study of 3,000 people which found 88% of people do not keep their new year resolutions. Their point is that we can’t trust our guts alone in decision making.
In Ancient Israel if you were to go to the gate of any town you would find a group of men, usually in their forties or older. By that age they had usually trained their sons in the family business, and would have handed the running of the business over to them. On occasion they might help their sons if things got busy, for example if they were farmers they might help at harvest or if they they were carpenters they might help out during a particularly busy time, otherwise their working days were done.
This group of men had a very important and fundamental role to play in the community. Their role was now to assist community members make good and Godly decisions. Whenever someone in the town had a moral or ethical dilemma, whenever there was conflict in a family, or whenever an individual needed wisdom in making a difficult choice they would come to the elders.
The idea was simple. This system recognised that collectively you can arrive at better decisions through the wisdom of the group. Individually we have our biases, and individually our guts are not always the best way to make a decision.
This is one of the benefits of doing life with others and engaging in community, whether this is being part of a Connect Group or having a mentor, or simply inviting others to speak into your life. Who are the elders at the gate for you? Who do you invite into your decisions so that you don’t end up with a tattoo you regret? Who are you being an elder at the gate for, where you make yourself available so that they can make the wisest and most Godly decisions possible?