“Who Is Wise and Understanding Among You?”
IF WE were to ask a half-dozen people this question propounded at James 3:13, we would probably get as many different replies. One might answer: A truly wise man is a man of letters, a man who has gone through college or university and earned a degree. Another might tell us that the truly wise man is one who has the interests of his country at heart and who therefore takes up politics as a career and then devotes all his efforts to reaching some high political office in which he can help shape the course of his country and the destiny of his fellow men. Still another would reply: Money is security! Therefore the wise course is to enter commerce and then accumulate as much material wealth as possible. This path, he says, means security for himself and his family.
All of these men may be wise according to the wisdom of this world, but in taking up their life’s work their relationship to the Creator is not taken into account. One and all are motivated by self-interest in one form or another. If they believe in the existence of a Creator they do not stop to consider what their Creator expects of them nor how best they can please him. They may succeed in gaining wealth, power, influence or popularity, but what does it profit them? Jesus answered that question at Matthew 16:26: “For what benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?” In the end it profits them nothing. Furthermore, their wisdom is not of an enduring nature. Much of it is not in harmony with God’s standards, nor with the righteous principles set forth in his Word. Accordingly ‘the wisdom of their wise men shall perish.’ (1 Cor. 1:17-27) The reasonings of those who leave God out of account are futile and of no permanent value.
Who, then, is truly wise? The wise man is the one who seeks wisdom from above. (Jas. 3:15-18) Jehovah God is the source of all true wisdom. His thoughts and ways are very much higher than man’s. Wisdom is one of his cardinal attributes. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”—Isa. 55:8, 9, AV.
How can such wisdom be gained? One is not born with it. It must be acquired. (Deut. 17:18, 19) Such was true even of the Son of God himself. (Luke 2:52) His knowledge was obtained by studying his Father’s Word. He became very familiar with it. As a result of his study he could clearly see why he had been sent to earth and what his Father’s purpose for him was. Jesus did not choose his own course in life. He appreciated his relationship to his Father, as the one sent, and that his mission in life was to do his Father’s will.
Because Christ Jesus recognized his Father’s position as the great universal Sovereign and because he appreciated the creature’s obligation to obey the Creator, Jesus made a dedication to Jehovah: “Lo, I come . . . to do thy will, O God.” (Heb. 10:7, AV) What was that will? “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18:37, AV) Throughout the three and a half years of his ministry Christ Jesus devoted himself to doing that very thing. As a perfect man he could have made a name for himself at anything he put his hand to, but he did not take the course of worldly wisdom. Instead, he took a course that the worldly-wise considered foolish and that eventually led to his death on the torture stake.
Sufficient it was for Christ Jesus that this was his Father’s will for him. The thought of selfish gain was entirely absent. His work was to proclaim the truth concerning his Father and his Father’s purposes that others might come to know him and serve him. The central truth he proclaimed was concerning his Father’s kingdom, which was to be set up in the future and which would bring the blessings of life to obedient creatures. Many of his parables were illustrations of various aspects of that kingdom. He taught his followers to pray for it. He trained them to preach the good news of the Kingdom and to carry forward this work after his death. Why? Because “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”—1 Cor. 1:21, AV.
KNOWLEDGE AND RESPONSIBILITY
Appreciating the fact that Christ Jesus left an example that should be followed, the honest-hearted one will wish to acquire knowledge in order that he may serve God acceptably. Where can such knowledge be gained? He soon finds that it is not to be had from the orthodox religious organizations. Without exception they have watered down or even abandoned the Bible. (Jer. 8:9, AV) They teach for doctrines the commandments of men. Only in the Bible may anyone get the information as to the creature’s proper relationship to his Creator and how to become truly wise.
As he studies with the helps provided by God’s theocratic organization he grows in knowledge and soon reaches the point where he realizes that knowledge brings responsibility. There is something to be done. And so he inquires of Jehovah: “Lord, what will you have me to do?” And he receives the reply: “Dedicate yourself to me.” Yes, the very same is required of him as from Christ Jesus. His privilege and obligation is to make a dedication to Jehovah to do his will, and then symbolize such dedication by water immersion. By taking such steps he reveals that he is acting on the wisdom he has received from above. He has gained understanding. He sees that God requires exclusive devotion.
But what is God’s will for him? Just the same as for Christ Jesus, namely, to bear testimony to the truth, to preach the Word, to diffuse the knowledge of God and Christ and to tell others of the glories of God’s kingdom and of his wonderful works. That the dedicated Christian has received this commission to preach is fully borne out in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Jehovah puts his spirit upon him and anoints him to preach good tidings to the meek.—Isa. 61:1, 2; 43:10-12, AV; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 22:17.
There are two main reasons why this commission has been given. The first of these involves the vindication of Jehovah’s name. Jehovah always gives warning of his purpose to execute judgment, to punish the wicked and to deliver the righteous. Such was true in Noah’s day; before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in Zedekiah’s day 607 B.C. and again A.D. 70. Before the present system of things is destroyed God’s Word plainly shows that the generation then living would be warned and that He would have a people on earth who would serve as his witnesses. The giving of such witness would prove God’s Word to be true and therefore be in vindication of his name.
A secondary reason for the commission to preach is the salvation of the creature. (1 Cor. 1:21) The sounding of the warning message gives all an opportunity to learn about Jehovah’s purposes and then either to act in harmony with the knowledge received or to refuse to do so. The wise and understanding ones hear and obey. The importance and necessity for preaching as a means to salvation is driven home by the apostle at Romans 10:13-17. Before one can call in faith on Jehovah he must hear and learn of God’s provision through Christ. But he cannot gain this vital knowledge unless someone is sent to preach to him and to direct his attention to what the Scriptures teach in this respect. Those sent forth and commissioned to preach are those who have already heard and obeyed the good news. Such are wise, and the sacred service they render is something beautiful in God’s sight.
It should be obvious therefore that no other activity could be more important to mankind than preaching. The “wise” according to this world may regard it as a waste of time, impractical and accomplishing nothing. But the humble and meek ones of earth appreciate the information. They seek more knowledge and, learning that it is available, will study God’s Word and associate with his theocratic organization under Christ and take advantage of every opportunity to grow in knowledge. As they take in the life-giving knowledge they soon learn that they too must preach. They must bear the fruit that Jehovah looks for. (Luke 8:11, 15, 18) Such fruitage can be produced only by preaching, and by engaging in such work they demonstrate that they are wise and have understanding.
Not all, however, obey the good news. The foolish refuse to hear. (Prov. 23:9; 28:9, AV) They are without excuse. The wise do not spend much time with such. Rather, they search out those who have the ‘hearing ear,’ those who fear Jehovah and respect his Word and who see the wisdom of acting in line with it. (Luke 11:27, 28, AV) The fact that many are indifferent and fail to respond to the Kingdom message does not prove that the message is wrong, nor that the preaching of it should not be done. The Scriptures make it clear that many will hear and find the way that leads to life in God’s new world of righteousness. (Isa. 29:18; 35:5, 6, AV) And since preaching, either orally or by means of the printed page, is God’s method the wise delight to follow it and find joy in so doing.
Some who can see clearly that Jehovah requires each dedicated Christian to be a preacher of the good news at first hold back. They feel that they are not qualified; they think that they do not have sufficient knowledge or lack the necessary education and that they will wait till later. Is this the course of wisdom? Surely not! The majority of the apostles and early disciples had no college education. They were just ordinary “common men,” but with the help of God’s spirit they soon became qualified as preachers. (Acts 4:13; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; Col. 2:8) No one is competent in himself but each dedicated servant of Jehovah may rely on Jehovah to qualify him adequately for the ministry. (2 Cor. 3:4, 5) It is Jehovah’s message. He has promised to put his words in our mouth and to back us up with his spirit. The wise take him at his word and preach.
In view of the importance of preaching, how much time shall we give to it? Jesus and the disciples devoted their full time. True, Paul made tents on occasion, but this was always secondary to his main mission in life. He made the tents so that he would not be a burden to his brothers. The wise today seek to emulate these examples. They arrange their affairs so as to be free from the entanglements and cares of the old system of things. If it is necessary to do a little ‘tentmaking,’ such is kept to a minimum to enable them to spend the maximum amount of time at their work of gospel preaching.
Opposition has always manifested itself to the preaching of the truth. Is it the course of wisdom to compromise and remain silent, hide the light under a basket, when opposition is encountered? Since the commission to preach comes from the highest Authorities in the universe it should be apparent that whatever circumstances arise there should never be any letup in our preaching activity. One may have to work underground but, whatever the conditions may be, one must “preach the word” and “keep at it in season and out of season.” (2 Tim. 4:2, Mo) Jesus’ disciples set the right example. When they were commanded not to preach they boldly replied: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”—Acts 4:18-20; 5:29, 32, AV.
Today there is an urgency to preach greater than ever before. Within the lifetime of the present generation the war of the great day of God the Almighty will be fought. (Rev. 16:14, 16) The foretold conditions prior to Armageddon have come to pass. We are in the last days of the present system of things. The worldly-wise rely on their wisdom and philosophies to create a new and better world. They turn a deaf ear to the counsel of God’s Word. Their wisdom will perish. The truly wise, those blessed with wisdom from above, will heed and without delay obey God’s command to “preach the word.” They will share in spreading the good news of God’s kingdom. They know it must be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations. They will do this from house to house, orally and by means of the printed page, from the public platform, by radio and by every other legitimate means. In so doing they will save both themselves and their hearers and share in the vindication of Jehovah’s name.—1 Tim. 4:16.