Watch Yourself and Your Teaching
“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 Tim. 4:16.
1. (a) Who created speech, and what was it used for? (b) How did the first man use this gift of communication?
JUST a few words after its account begins, the Bible says that God spoke. He issued creative instructions. He named his works. He gave his creations work to do and assigned limits of operation. (Gen. 1:1-25) Within a few sentences we read that Jehovah created man and his wife. God gave Adam instructions concerning “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” (Gen. 2:16, 17) Adam talked; Eve later repeated the instruction. “Now Jehovah God was forming from the ground every wild beast . . . and every flying creature . . . and he began bringing them to the man,” and the man talked: “So the man was calling the names of all the domestic animals and of the flying creatures of the heavens and of every wild beast of the field.” (Gen. 2:19, 20) When Jehovah brought the first woman to the man, he talked: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one will be called Woman, because from man this one was taken.” (Gen. 2:23) And from there on through the years people have talked.
2. Is language valuable to man? In what ways?
2 Communication between human creatures has been essential to man all these years. It promotes learning. It is necessary in teaching. By language man is able to come into mental contact with his fellow creatures. It is through language that we make known what we think as well as use it as an instrument to determine what the other person has on his mind. The ability to communicate through the spoken language increases with the growth of the individual. It is even said that babies acquire ability to pronounce more clearly as they eat more solid food and exercise the muscles of their tongues. The apostle Paul, one who was an expert in use of words, said: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe.” (1 Cor. 13:11) Generally man likes to talk, and many do so just for the pleasure of talking. One could not possibly in his short life-span examine all the words of men that have been written down and preserved to this time. But through time, examination and use you become more capable in using words, and, as in any other activity, increased ability brings greater satisfying pleasure.
3. (a) What makes speech possible? (b) How can our ability to speak be used beneficially?
3 Jehovah, the master designer and maker of man, is the one who gave you the essentials for speech: lips, tongue and a throat, backed up by your body as a sounding board that could produce rich, pleasant communication that would bring upbuilding information to others and also give praise to God. “Language as well as faculty of speech was the immediate gift of God,” said Noah Webster. The prophet Isaiah long ago recorded: “The Lord Jehovah himself has given me the tongue of the taught ones, that I may know how to answer the tired one with a word.” (Isa. 50:4) The writer of Psalm 71:8, 15, 23, 24 pinpoints one of the valuable uses of this wonderful equipment: “My mouth is filled with your praise”; “my own mouth will recount your righteousness”; “my lips will cry out joyfully when I am inclined to make melody to you”; “also, my own tongue, all day long, will utter in an undertone your righteousness.”
4. (a) Can we use speech the way Paul urged Timothy to use it? (b) What effect can words have?
4 Over 500 years later Paul stressed the right use of our speaking instrument: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29) At 2 Timothy 2:2, 24 Paul talks to Timothy and now to us: “And the things you heard from me with the support of many witnesses, these things commit to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others. . . . a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach.” Your language is your tool for teaching. Words may by themselves have little significance but, grouped together, and given feeling, can be bitter, severe, hard, cold, mean, or they can be gracious, tender, loving, kind and gentle.
NEED OF VOCABULARY
5. (a) What does faltering or stumbling in speech usually indicate? (b) Does that mean there is a shortage of words? (c) Why should man talk?
5 Does your vocabulary supply you with enough words to teach others in a gentle way? Are you satisfied just barely to communicate, to get by rather than experience the pleasure of having words work for you? William Armstrong wrote in Study Is Hard Work, page 39: “Mental laziness and limited vocabulary are usually bedfellows in the same brain.” A few hundred words may get you by, but a few thousand will add life, color and greater satisfaction to your work of gently teaching others. If you find yourself faltering and stumbling as you read, or groping for words when you speak, it is probably due to limited vocabulary. This can be remedied with more interest in the tools we use every day and with putting forth an effort to understand them better. Solomon, noted for wisdom, made such an effort, as we notice at Ecclesiastes 12:10: “The congregator sought to find the delightful words and the writing of correct words of truth.” Examine the storehouse of available words in your language and you will find many to add to your vocabulary; for example, the English language has over 450,000 words. (Webster’s New International Dictionary, page six) Why fail in presenting your idea fully when there is such a rich supply of words just waiting to be put to use? This does not mean we have to be walking dictionaries, but rather follow the good example of Bible writers who wrote in simple, easy-to-understand language, yet with conviction and meaning. Neither is there a shortage of wisdom. Paul exclaimed: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!” (Rom. 11:33, 34) Notice how far Christ Jesus progressed under this master teacher, as Paul further revealed, saying: “Carefully concealed in [Christ] are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” (Col. 2:3) With such an unlimited storehouse of wisdom and the enormous means of expression available, man should talk. He should communicate.
6. When does speech bring happiness?
6 Accomplishments, whether in constructing a house, sewing a dress, planting corn, or playing a musical instrument, bring a feeling of satisfaction and contentment. The same is true when you explain God’s kingdom to someone. When your words get the idea into the other person’s mind and he acknowledges the idea, you are happy, and the Bible says you would be: “A man has rejoicing in the answer of his mouth, and a word at its right time is O how good!” (Prov. 15:23) Jehovah sets the perfect example in getting results with his words: “So my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”—Isa. 55:11.
7. (a) When should we stop improving our vocabulary? (b) Explain what Jesus did in the sermon on the mountain.
7 Of course, this means work and study. Some may respond: “I am too old to learn,” or, “I am too busy to study.” A printing trade magazine said: “Out of a group of the 400 most famous statesmen, painters, warriors, poets and writers, 35 per cent of their greatest achievements were accomplished between the ages of 60 and 70; 23 per cent between 70 and 80; and 8 per cent over 80.” (Printing Impressions, July 1966, page 74) Over 300 years ago, Shakespeare wrote: “Some men never seem to grow old; always active in thought, always ready to adopt new ideas, never chargeable with fogyism . . . They will always enjoy the best of what is and are the first to find the best of what will be.” Or, as stated by Tryon Edwards: “Age does not depend upon years, but upon temperament and health—some men are born old, and some never grow so.” (The New Dictionary of Thoughts by Tryon Edwards, pp. 13, 15) It is a sad thing to see an old man who has traveled life’s hard complicated road and who, for lack of opportunity, has not gained wisdom. Yes, but sadder it is to see an old man with the opportunity to gain real wisdom who says: “I am too old to learn.” The Bible abounds with reports of faithful men and women who continued learning as long as they lived. You have even more reason to progress day by day; you have the prospect of everlasting life. Learning the truths of God’s kingdom or increasing your vocabulary does not come in a day. It takes time, but notice what you can do with a few words and good understanding of Jehovah’s Word. The sermon on the mountain given by Jesus in 31 C.E. in the beautiful hills of Galilee is a good example: three chapters in Matthew, five through seven, containing one hundred and seven verses. A vocabulary of six hundred and twenty-one different words (according to actual count in the New World Translation) are used by Jesus to present ideas that are still known or heard by the world of mankind. After Jesus gave this sermon, the Bible reports, “the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching; for he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matt. 7:28, 29) It has been recognized by non-Christians as an outstanding masterpiece of communication. (Mahatma Gandhi; see The Watchtower for 1958, page 139.) In the fifteen minutes that it may take you to read this sermon in your Bible, Jesus tells you many things that are beneficial to the point of meaning life to you. You will notice that this exceptional talk conveys ideas, not just words. He communicates thoughts.
8. (a) Describe the problems of present-day communication. (b) What general failing is found everywhere?
8 In spite of the carefully designed speech-forming and -producing instrument that God built into man, and despite the vast number of words, expressions and idea-conveying sounds available, one of man’s great problems is communicating. This difficulty is found everywhere. Industry complains that there is a lack of communication between management and worker, that departments do not relay vital information to their dependent neighboring departments. Leaders of religious organizations do not follow Moses’ or Jesus’ example in talking to people. There is usually more than one side or meaning to the politicians’ language; so, as far as the people are concerned, they cannot lay a finger to a sound idea that they can rely on. The commercial system with its high-pressure selling, its saturating ideas, and its aim to create desire and wants, presents a very confusing picture so that one cannot believe their sayings or say it is the truth. Other barriers are found to block ideas. Scientists talk and write, but only fellow scientists understand their language. The better educated talk over the heads of those with fewer years in colleges or universities. Those in the medical profession communicate to their own. If a patient wants to know more about his ailment, he will have to keep asking and oftentimes does not get the full picture. Husbands and wives come into view, and the same problem: “We just don’t talk.” The majority of parents have difficulty in discussing matters with their children. In fact, a large crowd of youths have and speak a language of their own, one that their parents have difficulty in understanding. Why are people not talking? Why do men with ideas that would help others keep quiet?
GIVING OF COUNSEL
9, 10. (a) How do many view giving counsel? (b) Is this viewpoint recommended in the Bible? What does it say?
9 Another facet of the same problem is that human creatures are always anxious for someone else to give counsel to those needing help to improve or to caution them on dangers lying ahead. This is found everywhere. Marriage partners seek out counselors, parents turn children over to others for instruction, industry hires mediators to communicate, and rulers send out ambassadors.
10 Even Christian ministers will hold back from giving needed advice or saying the few words that help others to avoid getting into difficulties. They may say: “It is the overseer’s responsibility to take care of such matters.” At Galatians 6:1 the Bible encourages: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to restore such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” Those having spiritual qualifications include more than the overseers in the congregations. If you were to see a sign on the road, “Danger—Bridge Out,” would you question the ability of the sign painter, or would you appreciate the warning that might save your life? When one understands God’s requirements regarding a principle governing Christian conduct, one certainly should warn one’s brother if one discerns that the brother is walking in a direction bound to violate that principle. If a brother needs help in the way of comfort or encouragement, nearly everyone is capable of giving this kind of help. Paul urges, at 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore keep comforting one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.”
INCREASING ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE
11. How does the Bible provide assistance in improving our communicating ability?
11 How can one increase communicating ability? How do you improve the tools of communication, your vocabulary? Where can one get reliable help and accurate assistance? First of all, the Bible is our best guide in this matter because it not only uses understandable language but makes its points clear, and the ideas are reliable. Since Jehovah God is its author, he certainly has protected its inspired information as well as controlled its use of fitting words and expressions. Therefore daily reading of the Bible will soon equip us with the same forceful descriptive means of communication. Yet there is more to it than just increasing word power or choice of words; one must love the truth from God’s Word to give upbuilding, life-directing information. Many people have excellent vocabularies but may be allowing their tongues to run wild, to the harm of others. The contrast is well made for us at Proverbs 12:18: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise ones is a healing.” So it is necessary to learn from God’s Word the truth about his requirements for his creatures.
12. Why is understanding of Jehovah’s requirements essential to improving our speech?
12 To relay information to others requires thought before speaking. One cannot think a matter out unless he has idea-formulating words to use. And we will not speak helpful, informative material unless we have thoughts. Notice how wisdom from God, thinking and speaking are tied together at Proverbs 5:1, 2: “My son, to my wisdom O do pay attention. To my discernment incline your ears, so as to guard thinking abilities; and may your own lips safeguard knowledge itself.” Our ignoring this good instruction would find us described at Proverbs 29:20: “Have you beheld a man hasty with his words? There is more hope for someone stupid than for him.” So the goal to have in mind is not just striving to gain a useful vocabulary, but rather, learning all we can of Jehovah’s purposes; and as we search for the treasures of truth, adding to our vocabulary words or expressions that we shall need to express the truth to others under various circumstances. That is the point Paul makes: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:16) Moses was a man well educated in the household of Pharaoh (Heb. 11:23-28); yet this same Moses was concerned about being able to communicate clearly and he said to Jehovah: “Excuse me, Jehovah, but I am not a fluent speaker, neither since yesterday nor since before that nor since your speaking to your servant, for I am slow of mouth and slow of tongue.” (Ex. 4:10) It was Jehovah that pointed out to Moses the source of upbuilding speaking ability, the One “who appointed a mouth for man.”—Ex. 4:11.
13. (a) What Scripturally described instrument sets a good example in essential communication? (b) In what ways?
13 The “faithful and discreet slave” was appointed by Christ Jesus to feed the household of domestics, and to this day it is taking the lead in teaching the truth. That body of faithful slaves sets a fine example in effectively using many languages in many lands to make known the good news of God’s kingdom. The language used in the publications written under this “slave’s” oversight is clear, understandable and presents thoughts that are continually turning people to God’s Word. The programs of meetings in the congregations everywhere in the earth are designed by this “discreet slave” to build faith, and this through increased knowledge of God. (Rom. 10:14) There is an assuring dignity and strength-imparting spirit in this faithful “slave’s” fearless stand on the principles of Jehovah’s Word. By putting the wisdom of God above the knowledge of men, this faithful “slave” stands alone in feeding spiritual food to the household of domestics, and it continues to enjoy Jehovah’s rich blessing.—Mal. 3:10.
INCREASING OUR MEANS
14. How does application of the counsel at Proverbs 13:20 help us to improve our teaching?
14 Another way to watch our teaching and to increase our means of communication is that which is recommended at Proverbs 13:20: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise.” This requires more than study, as Paul wrote at Ephesians 5:15: “So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons,” but you have to recognize that “it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jer. 10:23) The Bible record reports that “the congregation throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria entered into a period of peace, being built up; and as it walked in the fear of Jehovah and in the comfort of the holy spirit, it kept on multiplying.” (Acts 9:31) Noah walked with God. (Gen. 6:9) Jesus set the example in the way to walk. (1 John 2:6) So walking with one is to be at unity with that one, to do things together, with the same thinking on the matter. Paul shows this at Ephesians 2:1-3; there among other things he says: “You at one time walked according to the system of things of this world . . . we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts.” So with God’s people, they help one another, they arrive at the same thinking on Bible principles by allowing God’s Word, his spirit and his mature people to build one up. Psalm 119:63 explains the attitude of a wise servant of God: “A partner I am of all those who do fear you, and of those keeping your orders.”
15. How does Paul explain a Christian’s progress?
15 The conclusion is Scripturally reached, then, that one does not make all this progress in his own strength; no, the molding is from God, as Paul shows at 2 Corinthians 3:5, 6: “Not that we of ourselves are adequately qualified to reckon anything as issuing from ourselves, but our being adequately qualified issues from God, who has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant.”
ASSOCIATION WITH OTHERS
16. Point out further benefits of walking with those who respect Bible principles.
16 Association with those guided by Bible principles is a valuable thing. With such persons one can really feel at home. True, even these people make mistakes and do wrong things, but you can appeal to them on the basis of Bible teaching and they will listen. In this day of proud people, it is a blessing to associate with those kinds of people who accept correction from the Scriptures and who react with a genuine ready response: “I am sorry, please don’t remember it.” These are indeed wise persons.
17. (a) Is growth in ability to express oneself rapid? (b) In what particular way should we watch to ensure growth? Illustrate.
17 Little by little we grow in every respect, and that is true of increasing knowledge as well as of the means to put it into use. This is the place to watch yourself. Watch the little things, small opportunities; these ensure gradual progress and add up to encouraging progress over the years. When you have the privilege of giving a talk on the congregation platform, do you arrange your thoughts so that they can be understood? Do you look up little-used words so that you can use them in their proper place and pronounce them right? When you read the summary at the Watchtower study, do you make sure you can pronounce all the words without stumbling? When you go from house to house, are you relying too much on the idea that we know more about the Bible than those we call on, so that preparation is cut short or eliminated? Do you parents brush aside growing a little every day along with your children, and turn them over to television training, because you do not feel like communicating? It is like learning another language; if you put forth a little effort each day by adding a word or two to your vocabulary and then using these words, it will not be long before you have a few hundred of them and can speak that language. As you continue to add expressions and words, your speech will become more colorful, full of meaning, expressive and most helpful to others. Be patient and rejoice with every little amount of progress. Remember, with time and regular training, speechless babies grow up to be talking adults.
18. (a) Where can we find a true reflection of ourselves? (b) What caution must be exercised?
18 Watch yourself by looking into the mirror that Jehovah provided for self-study, “the perfect law that belongs to freedom.” (Jas. 1:25) Be fair with yourself, not so exacting so as to drive yourself to exasperation and be worn out constantly. The Scriptural advice is to use God’s Word as a mirror, not doing as some who use other individuals as a gauge for everything they do. The only one we follow is Christ Jesus, and he said his load was light. (Matt. 11:30) If you are doing your best, do not worry about what others say or do. On the other hand, it would not be wise to follow the lackadaisical attitude so many have toward making progress in knowledge and improving their ability. To many, progress is work. In this modern world, work does not always stir up interest. To maintain proper balance in this matter requires further investigation, which we shall do in the next article.