Avoid Shame by Study
A POPULAR fable tells us of a donkey that yearned to be like the ferocious lion that could rush out and roar mightily and scatter people in a panic. One day this donkey came upon a lion’s skin. He saw his chance. He draped it over his frame and charged into a group of men. They scattered in a most gratifying way, and in his elation the donkey forgot himself and thought that he would roar like a lion. But he only brayed like an ass. The masquerade was over. The men knew him for what he was and returned and gave him a good beating.
Proverbs 17:28 (Mo) declares: “Even a fool may pass for wise, if he says nothing; with closed lips he may be counted sensible.” Proverbs 18:6 (Mo) states: “A fool’s talk gets him into trouble, his tongue brings him a beating.” The donkey looked the part of a lion and as long as he kept quiet he fooled the men, but when he opened his mouth he betrayed his true identity. His asinine tongue brought him a beating.
So it is with many who claim to be ministers of God. They dress the part. For outward show many overdress the part, seeking to advertise their supposed piety. They are like the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus described: “All the works they do they do to be viewed by men; for they broaden the scripture-containing cases that they wear as safeguards, and enlarge the fringes of their garments.” (Matt. 23:5 NW) If they kept quiet and were content to dress and pose the part of ministers, they might fool even informed persons into thinking them representatives of the lion of the tribe of Judah. Instead, they open their mouths and bray out ancient paganisms and creeds, or modern philosophies and politics, and expose themselves as impostors and bring down upon their heads a beating from God’s Word.—Jer. 23:25-32.
These professed ministers of God spurn his unadulterated Word, yet in their worldly-wise speeches try to twist and distort his Word into supporting their lies. Of such Jehovah says: “My people know not the ordinance of the LORD. How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’? When lo, the lying pen of the scribes has turned it into a lie! So the wise shall be abashed, they shall be dumbfounded and taken; for lo, they have spurned the word of the LORD, and what wisdom, then, have they?” (Jer. 8:7-9, AT) Their unscriptural utterances put them more and more in line for a beating from God’s Word, and as their exposure increases their shame will mount: “It shall come to pass on that day, that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; nor will he clothe himself with a hairy mantle [the prophet’s garb] in order to deceive people. And he will say, ‘No prophet am I! I am a tiller of the soil. The land has been my occupation from my youth.’”—Zech. 13:4, 5, AT.
What a reversal! Now they seek a disguise to hide their former pretense of being a minister! Just as two wrongs do not make a right, so two disguises do not make a right identity. First they pretend to be ministers of God, next they pretend to be tillers of soil, while all the time they are ministers of Satan. It is no cause for wonder. “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness.” (2 Cor. 11:14, 15, NW) But when they fail in this deception, they shift to another disguise, rather than admitting their falseness.
If they had studied God’s Word in sincerity, they could have spoken in a way that would have proved their ministerial claims true. Their lack of study in a spirit of meekness and humbleness has brought them to shame. It should be an object lesson to true ministers. It should make them realize the necessity of diligent study of God’s Word. When you arm yourself with “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word”, and go on the streets and from door to door and into the homes of the people, preaching the gospel as Jesus did, you appear to be his follower, a minister of God. (Eph. 6:17, NW) Then persons ask you questions about the Bible. No longer can you merely appear to be a minister. You must open your mouth and talk. Will your words expose you as an impostor, or will they confirm you as a well-informed minister of Jehovah? Will you be like the donkey in the lion’s skin, or like the clerical wolves in sheep’s clothing? You will if you have not studied to answer.—Matt. 7:15.
But if you have done what Jehovah God has told you to do, you know how to answer and avoid shame. “The righteous man studies what he should answer.” Do this, “so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” You will be “always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you”. Without shame you will be able to handle the truth expertly and accomplish your ministry, even in a time when people prefer to have their ears tickled by empty speeches and unhealthful teachings: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright. But shun empty speeches that violate what is holy; for they will advance to more and more ungodliness. For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled, and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories. You, though, keep your balance in all things, suffer evil, do missionary work, thoroughly accomplish your ministry.”—Prov. 15:28, AT; Col. 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:15, 16; 4:3-5, NW.
Let the clergy of Christendom, to their ultimate shame, specialize in studying the foolish wisdom of this world. (1 Cor. 3:19) “You, however,” like young Timothy, “continue in the things you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from what persons you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:14-17, NW) Then you can both look and sound like a true representative of Christ the Lion of the tribe of Judah, instead of being found an impostor through asinine braying.