1-3. (a) How did Solomon display extraordinary wisdom in the way he handled a maternity dispute? (b) What does Jehovah promise to give us, and what questions arise?
IT WAS a difficult case—two women arguing over a baby. The women shared a home, and each had given birth to a son, just days apart. One of the babies had died, and now each woman claimed to be the mother of the living baby.* There were no other witnesses to what had happened. The case had likely been heard in a lower court but not resolved. Finally, the dispute was taken to Solomon, the king of Israel. Would he be able to uncover the truth?
2 After listening for a while as the women argued, Solomon called for a sword. Then, with seeming conviction, he ordered that the child be cut in two, with half given to each woman. At once, the real mother pleaded with the king to give the baby—her precious child—to the other woman. But the other woman kept insisting that the child be cut in two. Solomon now knew the truth. He had knowledge of a mother’s tender compassion for the child of her womb, and he used that knowledge to settle this dispute. Imagine the mother’s relief when Solomon awarded her the baby and said: “She is his mother.”—1 Kings 3:16-27.
3 Extraordinary wisdom, was it not? When the people heard how Solomon had resolved the case, they were in awe, “for they saw that the wisdom of God was within him.” Yes, Solomon’s wisdom was a divine gift. Jehovah had given him “a wise and understanding heart.” (1 Kings 3:12, 28) But what about us? May we too receive godly wisdom? Yes, for under inspiration, Solomon wrote: “Jehovah himself gives wisdom.” (Proverbs 2:6) Jehovah promises to give wisdom—the ability to put knowledge, understanding, and discernment to good use—to those who sincerely seek it. How may we acquire wisdom from above? And how can we put it to work in our life?
4-7. What are four requirements for acquiring wisdom?
4 Must we have great intelligence or be highly educated in order to receive godly wisdom? No. Jehovah is willing to share his wisdom with us regardless of our background and education. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) But we must take the initiative, for the Bible urges us to “acquire wisdom.” (Proverbs 4:7) How can we do so?
5 First, we need to fear God. “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom [“the first step to wisdom,” The New English Bible],” says Proverbs 9:10. Fear of God is the foundation of true wisdom. Why? Recall that wisdom involves the ability to use knowledge successfully. To fear God is, not to cower before him in terror, but to bow before him in awe, respect, and trust. Such fear is wholesome and powerfully motivating. It moves us to bring our life into harmony with our knowledge of God’s will and ways. There is no wiser course that we could take, for Jehovah’s standards always promote the highest good for those who follow them.
6 Second, we must be humble and modest. Godly wisdom cannot exist without humility and modesty. (Proverbs 11:2) Why is that? If we are humble and modest, we are willing to admit that we do not have all the answers, that our opinions are not always right, and that we need to know Jehovah’s mind on matters. Jehovah “opposes the haughty ones,” but he is pleased to grant wisdom to those who are humble at heart.—James 4:6.
To acquire godly wisdom, we must put forth effort to dig for it
7 A third essential is the study of God’s written Word. Jehovah’s wisdom is revealed in his Word. To acquire that wisdom, we must put forth the effort to dig for it. (Proverbs 2:1-5) A fourth requirement is prayer. If we sincerely ask God for wisdom, he will be generous in giving it. (James 1:5) Our prayers for the help of his spirit will not go unanswered. And his spirit can enable us to find the treasures in his Word that can help us to solve problems, ward off danger, and make wise decisions.—Luke 11:13.
8. If we have truly acquired godly wisdom, how will it be evident?
8 As we noted in Chapter 17, Jehovah’s wisdom is practical. Hence, if we have truly acquired godly wisdom, it will be evident in the way we conduct ourselves. The disciple James described the fruits of divine wisdom when he wrote: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.” (James 3:17) As we discuss each of these aspects of divine wisdom, we might ask ourselves, ‘Is the wisdom from above at work in my life?’
“Chaste, Then Peaceable”
9. What does it mean to be chaste, and why is it fitting that chasteness is the first quality of wisdom listed?
9 “First of all chaste.” To be chaste means to be pure and undefiled not just outwardly but inwardly. The Bible associates wisdom with the heart, but heavenly wisdom cannot enter into a heart that is defiled by wicked thoughts, desires, and motives. (Proverbs 2:10; Matthew 15:19, 20) However, if our heart is chaste—that is, as far as is possible for imperfect humans—we will “turn away from what is bad and do what is good.” (Psalm 37:27; Proverbs 3:7) Is it not fitting that chasteness is the first quality of wisdom listed? After all, if we are not morally and spiritually clean, how can we truly reflect the other qualities of the wisdom from above?
10, 11. (a) Why is it important that we be peaceable? (b) If you sense that you have offended a fellow worshiper, how can you prove yourself to be a peacemaker? (See also footnote.)
10 “Then peaceable.” Heavenly wisdom moves us to pursue peace, which is a fruit of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22) We strive to avoid disrupting the “bond of peace” that unites Jehovah’s people. (Ephesians 4:3) We also do our best to restore peace when it is disturbed. Why is this important? The Bible says: “Continue . . . to live peaceably; and the God of love and of peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) So as long as we continue to live peaceably, the God of peace will be with us. The way we treat fellow worshipers has a direct bearing on our relationship with Jehovah. How can we prove ourselves to be peacemakers? Consider an example.
11 What should you do if you sense that you have offended a fellow worshiper? Jesus said: “If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and you there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away; first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift.” (Matthew 5:23, 24) You can apply that counsel by taking the initiative to go to your brother. With what objective? To “make your peace” with him.* To that end, you may need to acknowledge, not deny, his hurt feelings. If you approach him with the goal of restoring peace and maintain that attitude, likely any misunderstanding can be cleared up, appropriate apologies made, and forgiveness extended. When you go out of your way to make peace, you show that you are guided by godly wisdom.
“Reasonable, Ready to Obey”
12, 13. (a) What is the meaning of the word rendered “reasonable” at James 3:17? (b) How can we demonstrate that we are reasonable?
12 “Reasonable.” What does it mean to be reasonable? According to scholars, the original Greek word rendered “reasonable” at James 3:17 is difficult to translate. Translators have used such words as “gentle,” “forbearing,” and “considerate.” A footnote in the New World Translation indicates that the literal meaning is “yielding.” How can we demonstrate that this aspect of the wisdom from above is at work in us?
13 “Let your reasonableness become known to all men,” says Philippians 4:5. Another translation reads: “Have a reputation for being reasonable.” (The New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips) Notice that it is not so much a question of how we see ourselves; it is a question of how others see us, of how we are known. A reasonable person does not always insist on the letter of the law or on having his own way. Instead, he is willing to listen to others and, when appropriate, to yield to their wishes. He is also gentle, not rough or harsh, in his dealings with others. While this is essential for all Christians, it is especially important for those serving as elders. Gentleness attracts, making elders approachable. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8) We all do well to ask ourselves, ‘Do I have a reputation for being considerate, yielding, and gentle?’
14. How can we demonstrate that we are “ready to obey”?
14 “Ready to obey.” The Greek word rendered “ready to obey” is not found elsewhere in the Christian Greek Scriptures. According to one scholar, this word “is often used of military discipline.” It conveys the idea of “easy to be persuaded” and “submissive.” One who is governed by the wisdom from above readily submits to what the Scriptures say. He is not known as one who makes up his mind and then refuses to be influenced by any facts that contradict him. Rather, he is quick to change when he is presented with clear Scriptural evidence that he has taken a wrong stand or has drawn erroneous conclusions. Is that how you are known by others?
“Full of Mercy and Good Fruits”
15. What is mercy, and why is it fitting that “mercy” and “good fruits” are mentioned together at James 3:17?
15 “Full of mercy and good fruits.”* Mercy is an important part of the wisdom from above, for such wisdom is said to be “full of mercy.” Notice that “mercy” and “good fruits” are mentioned together. This is fitting, for in the Bible, mercy most often refers to an active concern for others, a compassion that produces a rich crop of kindly deeds. One reference work defines mercy as “a feeling of sorrow over someone’s bad situation and trying to do something about it.” Hence, godly wisdom is not dry, heartless, or merely intellectual. Instead, it is warm, heartfelt, and sensitive. How can we show that we are full of mercy?
16, 17. (a) In addition to love for God, what motivates us to share in the preaching work, and why? (b) In what ways can we show that we are full of mercy?
16 Surely an important way is by sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom with others. What motivates us to do this work? Primarily, it is love for God. But we are also motivated by mercy, or compassion for others. (Matthew 22:37-39) Many today are “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) They have been neglected and blinded spiritually by false religious shepherds. As a result, they do not know of the wise guidance found in God’s Word or of the blessings that the Kingdom will soon bring to this earth. When we thus ponder the spiritual needs of those around us, our heartfelt compassion moves us to do all we can to tell them of Jehovah’s loving purpose.
17 In what other ways can we show that we are full of mercy? Recall Jesus’ illustration of the Samaritan who found a traveler lying by the roadside, robbed and beaten. Moved with compassion, the Samaritan “acted mercifully,” binding the victim’s wounds and caring for him. (Luke 10:29-37) Does this not illustrate that mercy involves offering practical help to those in need? The Bible tells us to “work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Consider some possibilities. An older fellow believer may need transportation to and from Christian meetings. A widow in the congregation may need help with repairs on her home. (James 1:27) A discouraged one may need a “good word” to cheer him up. (Proverbs 12:25) When we show mercy in such ways, we give proof that the wisdom from above is at work in us.
“Not Making Partial Distinctions, Not Hypocritical”
18. If we are guided by the wisdom from above, what must we endeavor to root out of our hearts, and why?
18 “Not making partial distinctions.” Godly wisdom rises above racial prejudice and national pride. If we are guided by such wisdom, we endeavor to root out of our hearts any tendency to show favoritism. (James 2:9) We do not give preferential treatment to others on the basis of their educational background, financial standing, or congregational responsibility; nor do we look down on any of our fellow worshipers, regardless of how lowly they may seem to be. If Jehovah has made such ones recipients of his love, we should certainly deem them worthy of our love.
19, 20. (a) What is the background of the Greek word for “hypocrite”? (b) How do we demonstrate “unhypocritical brotherly affection,” and why is this important?
19 “Not hypocritical.” The Greek word for “hypocrite” can refer to “an actor who played a role.” In ancient times, Greek and Roman actors wore large masks when performing. Hence, the Greek word for “hypocrite” came to apply to one putting on a pretense, or one playing false. This aspect of godly wisdom should influence not just how we treat fellow worshipers but also how we feel about them.
20 The apostle Peter noted that our “obedience to the truth” should result in “unhypocritical brotherly affection.” (1 Peter 1:22) Yes, our affection for our brothers must not be put on for show. We do not wear masks or play roles in order to deceive others. Our affection must be genuine, heartfelt. If it is, we will earn the trust of our fellow believers, for they will know that we are what we appear to be. Such sincerity paves the way for open and honest relationships between Christians and helps to create a trusting atmosphere in the congregation.
“Safeguard Practical Wisdom”
21, 22. (a) How did Solomon fail to safeguard wisdom? (b) How can we safeguard wisdom, and how will we benefit from doing so?
21 Godly wisdom is a gift from Jehovah, one that we should safeguard. Solomon said: “My son, . . . safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability.” (Proverbs 3:21) Sadly, Solomon himself failed to do that. He remained wise as long as he kept an obedient heart. But in the end, his many foreign wives turned his heart away from the pure worship of Jehovah. (1 Kings 11:1-8) Solomon’s outcome illustrates that knowledge is of little value if we do not put it to good use.
22 How can we safeguard practical wisdom? Not only must we regularly read the Bible and the Bible-based publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave” but we must also endeavor to apply what we learn. (Matthew 24:45) We have every reason to apply divine wisdom. It means a better way of life now. It enables us to “get a firm hold on the real life”—life in God’s new world. (1 Timothy 6:19) And most important, cultivating the wisdom from above draws us closer to the source of all wisdom, Jehovah God.
According to 1 Kings 3:16, the two women were prostitutes. Insight on the Scriptures states: “These women may have been prostitutes, not in a commercial sense, but women who had committed fornication, either Jewish women or, quite possibly, women of foreign descent.”—Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Greek expression rendered “make your peace” comes from a verb that means “‘to effect an alteration, to exchange,’ and hence, ‘to reconcile.’” So your goal is to effect a change, to remove, if possible, ill will from the offended one’s heart.—Romans 12:18.
Another translation renders these words “full of compassion and good deeds.”—A Translation in the Language of the People, by Charles B. Williams.