What It Takes to Be Happy Forever
“Wisdom is for a protection [the same as] money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.—Eccl. 7:12.
1. What shows the inability of riches to bring lasting happiness?
DO YOU now have what it takes to be happy? If you do, will you have it long? Under the best of circumstances life is short. Like the grass that withers and the flower that fades and the shadow that continues not, man is of few days and returns to the dust. When life is gone happiness ends. Riches cannot preserve it. “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses,” Jesus said. And the psalmist states: “Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (and the redemption price of their soul is so precious that it has ceased to time indefinite) that he should still live forever [and] not see the pit. Do not be afraid because some man gains riches, because the glory of his house increases, for at his death he cannot take along anything at all; his glory will not go down along with him himself. For during his lifetime he kept blessing his own soul; (and people will laud you because you do well for yourself) it gradually comes only as far as the generation of his forefathers. Nevermore will they see the light. Earthling man, although in honor, who does not understand, is indeed comparable with the beasts that have been destroyed.”—Luke 12:15; Ps. 49:7-9, 16-20.
NO HAPPINESS FOREVER BY IMMORTAL SOUL
2. By means of what teaching do men refuse to face the fact of death, but what does the Bible show?
2 Unwilling to face oblivion, men have buried the fact of death in the fiction of immortality. Their religions teach that the human soul is immortal. Thus they will not be completely ground into the dust by the heel of time. The parade of the years marching over them will not trample them into oblivion. The soul will live on after the body molds in the grave. They will have consciousness after death, they say. But the Bible does not say it: “His spirit [or, breath, margin] goes out, he goes back to his ground, in that day his thoughts do perish.” They think they will have knowledge of what is happening, but the Bible disagrees: “For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, . . . for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.” Their immortal soul sets them apart from animals, so they teach. The Bible teaches differently: “For there is an eventuality as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality as respects the beast, and they have the same eventuality. As the one dies, so the other dies; and they all have but one spirit [breath, margin], so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast, for everything is vanity. All are going to one place. They have all come to be from the dust, and they are all returning to the dust.” The sinful soul is not immortal: “The soul that sins shall die.” Even the only sinless soul that lived on earth as a man died, it being written about Jesus: “He poured out his soul to death.”—Ps. 146:4; Eccl. 9:5, 10; 3:19, 20; Ezek. 18:4, RS; Isa. 53:12, RS.
3. What blessings does wisdom bring?
3 If not in an immortal soul, in what is our hope for life? In wisdom: “For wisdom is for a protection [the same as] money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.” And not just life, but happy life: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for the gaining of it is better than the gaining of silver and the produce of it even than gold. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it. Length of days is in its right hand; In its left hand there are riches and glory. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.”—Eccl. 7:12; Prov. 3:13-18.
THE WISDOM AND POWER OF GOD
4. What is the substance of 1 Corinthians 1:18-25?
4 Specifically, what wisdom delivers from death and leads to life? Whose ways are pleasant and whose paths are peace and whose possessors are happy? First Corinthians 1:18-25 reveals the wisdom that points the way to unending happiness: “For the speech about the torture stake is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power. For it is written: ‘I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and I will shove the intelligence of the intellectual aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God, God saw good through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing. For both the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks look for wisdom; but we preach Christ impaled, to the Jews a cause for falling but to the nations foolishness; however, to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men.”
5. Is all human wisdom foolish to God, and is all God’s wisdom foolish to unbelieving men?
5 Just what does this mean? That all the wisdom of men is foolishness in God’s sight? Often the application of man’s wisdom heals the sick or saves the dying. It makes machines that carry men along the ground or over the sea or through the air. It makes possible comfortable homes with many conveniences. By it men can transmit voices and music and even moving pictures over thousands of miles. When properly used the marvelous ingenuity of man is not foolishness with God. How could it be, when it was God who gave the attribute of wisdom to man? How could it be, when Jesus said that “the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are”? Nor can we say without limitation that men view all God’s wisdom as foolish. They marvel at the divine wisdom reflected in starry heavens, the green earth, the fascinating animal life and their own bodies so “fearfully and wonderfully made.” What, then, is the human wisdom that God calls foolish and the godly wisdom that many men class as foolishness?—Luke 16:8; Ps. 139:14, AV.
6. What wisdom and power of God seemed foolish and weak to men?
6 It is the speech about the torture stake that sounds weak and foolish to unbelieving men. Christ impaled, to the Jews a weak thing! Christ impaled, to the nations a foolish thing! But Christ impaled, to those being saved the power of God and the wisdom of God! Christ’s death on the torture stake is the wisdom and power of God for defeating death and ending the grave. But Christ seemed so weak to the Jews. They despised his humble origin. What good thing ever came out of Nazareth? He was not educated in their schools, he contradicted their established religions, mingled with sinners. When he was dying on the torture stake they abused and taunted him as a weak thing: “Others he saved, himself he cannot save!” And Christ impaled seemed so foolish to the Greeks. They looked down on Judea, so why expect salvation from that place? They scorned and spurned a doctrine that taught salvation from the disgraceful death of a despised Jew. They prided themselves on their philosophical chatter, were always ready to listen to some fancy speech or flowery language or high-flown rhetoric about evolution or soul immortality, but loath to listen to what they considered foolish babbling about Jesus by ignorant and unlearned Jews.—Matt. 27:42.
7. What wisdom of men is foolish in God’s sight?
7 So the Jews might consider Jesus the Ransom as weak and the Greeks might think it foolish; nevertheless, this foolish thing of God is wiser than any scheme of men to effect salvation, and this weak thing of God is stronger than any effort by men to evade death. When wise men bring forth teachings that would nullify or replace Christ as ransom or as King, when they through their schemes propose to do what only Christ’s ransom or kingdom will accomplish, then their wisdom is foolish and futile in the sight of Jehovah. They should rid themselves of such foolishness so they can become truly wise, accepting Christ impaled, the wisdom and power of God. So Paul counsels: “Let no one be seducing himself: If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this system of things, let him become a fool, that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness.’ And again: ‘Jehovah knows that the reasonings of the wise men are futile.’”—1 Cor. 3:18-20.
8. In general, what class does God call and what class does he reject, and why?
8 Because the worldly wise viewed Christ impaled as weak or foolish, Paul went on to say: “For you behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many noble; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame, and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are, in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God.” Paul does not disparage knowledge. He was educated. He urges Christians to study. Not all man’s wisdom is foolish. But when it attempts to brush aside God’s wisdom and power it is foolish and weak and its possessor is wise only in his own conceit.—1 Cor. 1:26-29.
9. What is true of millions today that puts them in the class of the Jews and Greeks of Paul’s time?
9 Like the ancient Greeks, there are millions today who spurn the ransom as foolish and look to their philosophies and sciences for wisdom. Like the religious Jews, there are millions now who repudiate the ransom as weak and adhere to traditions and creeds for power. One religious publication says: “Strictly speaking, the death of Christ was not necessary to human salvation.” The Christian Beacon quoted the prominent minister Harry Emerson Fosdick: “Of course I do not believe in the Virgin Birth, or in that old fashioned substitutionary doctrine of the Atonement; and I do not know any intelligent Christian minister who does.” Minister Lloyd C. Douglas said in his book The Living Faith: “I have told you that this conventional view of the atonement . . . was unwarranted because there was no adequate basis for the Adam story.” For the most part, it is still “the things looked down upon, the things that are not,” persons considered to be nothings or nobodies, that believe, while “the things that are,” the somebodies in this world’s eyes, reject the wisdom and power of Jehovah.
GAINING HAPPINESS FOREVER
10. What must we do to get the merit of Christ impaled imputed to us?
10 How do we get the merit of Christ impaled imputed to us? Hebrews 5:9 states: “He became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” What commands did he give that we must obey? “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.”—Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:19, 20; 24:14.
11. To obey these commands, what must we do, and why is this wise?
11 To obey these commands we must study privately, meet and study with others, and then receive training in the work of witnessing. After receiving all of this freely, we freely make it available to others. The world in general will think this preaching weak and foolish, but in times past “God saw good through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing” and he still sees this as good. The Jews in Jesus’ time may have thought him something to stumble over and the nations may have thought his death foolishness, and peoples today may balk at the ransom provision of Jesus and modernist clergymen of Christendom may call it foolishness; but regardless of what all these worldly-wise ones say there is no other name given under heaven whereby we can gain lasting happiness, because “there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”—Acts 4:12.
12. Why is deathbed repentance too late, and what shows wealth cannot deliver at Armageddon?
12 You may be happy now. If you have food and clothing and shelter in abundance you may feel secure. But when the day of death comes for you, how happy will you be? What will you give for your life? An offering of deathbed repentance? That is as futile as the fiction of immortal soul. It is too late to store up treasure in heaven by obedient service to Jehovah and compliance with Christ’s commands, and earthly treasure of silver and gold cannot ransom you. Perhaps the time for your deathbed scene will come at Jehovah’s war of Armageddon. Wealth accumulated by materialism will not deliver its victims: “They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be as an unclean thing; their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of Jehovah.” What is the course of wisdom for now and for the future?—Ezek. 7:19, AS.
13. What do we need to be happy now, and what do we need to gain happiness forever?
13 We do not try to steer a ship on land or drive a car over the ocean or mow a lawn with a typewriter. We should not try to make ourselves do what we are not made for. Some food and drink and money are proper, but God did not design us to be gluttons or drunkards or greedy materialists. To play a little is good, but we are not to become useless playboys. We must study to gain wisdom about Jehovah, must work in his service, must act justly toward all, and must have love for self and for neighbor and for God. We need some material things, but without materialism. We need some money, but not the money itch. We need Jehovah’s spirit; so make room for it. We have the urge to worship; so respond to it zealously. Doing this, we will be happy now. But what if we die and turn to dust? What can make dust happy? Nothing, unless Jehovah returns us from the dust to life again. And he will do that only if we have availed ourselves of the only suitable, effective, powerful ransom. So what does it take to make us happy forever? It takes Christ impaled, the wisdom of God and the power of God. Embrace it now!