“Who Is Wise and Understanding Among You?”
“Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom.”—Jas. 3:13.
1. (a) What is wisdom, and how is it acquired? (b) How does one’s choice of associates affect one’s progress in acquiring wisdom?
TEEN-AGERS are often quite ready to express their opinions on any subject as to the right or wrong of the matter under discussion. When they get older, having had more experience in life, they are usually a little more hesitant to express themselves. They come to realize that there is much that can be learned if one listens and reasons things out. (Jas. 1:19) When they apply the knowledge gained, putting it to work in a beneficial way, they show that they have wisdom. But the progress one makes in acquiring such wisdom is greatly influenced by one’s choice of associates. Solomon, a wise man, wrote: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) Do you associate with “wise persons”?
2. (a) To act in true wisdom, what background is required? (b) With what kind of persons did the apostle Paul urge the young man Timothy to associate, and why?
2 The dictionary defines “wise” as meaning “discerning and judging soundly concerning what is true or false, proper or improper.” To be able to do that, a person must have a broad knowledge of God’s Word, which shows what is right and what is wrong from the viewpoint of man’s Creator, and he must have depth of understanding in applying it to the problems of life. (Deut. 4:5, 6) Is the kind of people with whom you associate wise? The apostle Paul wisely counseled the young man Timothy: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22) Heeding that advice is absolutely necessary if a person really wants to benefit himself and other people and, above all, if he wants to please God.
3. (a) How did James answer the question, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” (b) Contrast true wisdom and the false.
3 James, a half brother of Jesus, gave excellent counsel to Christians. He helps us to appreciate the difference between the true wisdom and the false. In his divinely inspired letter to Christians, James asks the question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” He answers his own question, saying: “Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom.” (Jas. 3:13) Or, as The New English Bible puts it: “Let his right conduct give practical proof of it, with the modesty that comes of wisdom.” Remember, true wisdom has to do with knowing and doing what is right, discerning between truth and error. God’s Word tells us that the “fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom,” and “the fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” (Prov. 9:10; 8:13) Wisdom is not gained by doing bad things. A person gains true wisdom by hating that which is bad. “But if you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts, do not be bragging and lying against the truth,” James counsels. “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.” (Jas. 3:14-16) Which kind of wisdom do you see among your associates? If you are associated with a religious organization, what kind of wisdom does it manifest? What about you personally?—Matt. 7:15-18.
TRUE CHRISTIANS REFLECT “THE WISDOM FROM ABOVE”
4. What is the meaning of the statement that ‘the wisdom from above is chaste’?
4 Among the millions of people who today claim to be Christians, are there many who give evidence of being guided by heavenly wisdom? There are many nations of Christendom that claim that all the people born in their countries are Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, and they are registered as such on their birth certificates. Do these people as they grow into adulthood show by their conduct that they are really Christians? James argues that “the wisdom from above is first of all chaste.” (Jas. 3:17) The first meaning of chaste is “innocent of unlawful sexual intercourse; virtuous.” It also means to be ‘pure in thought and to act modestly, free from the taint of the things that defile. To be chaste strictly implies that one refrains from all acts, thoughts, etc., that are not virtuous or in keeping with one’s marriage vows. It also implies avoidance of anything that would debase or cheapen, as in style, etc.’—Heb. 13:4.
5. (a) Does Christendom manifest such “wisdom from above”? Explain. (b) What does the Bible say about those who practice such unrighteousness?
5 Most of those claiming to be Christians certainly do not fit that description, because they choose to go along with what is called a “new morality.” Even the religious clergy who baptized these people into their denominations speak favorably of this “new morality,” which allows for adultery, fornication and homosexuality, and which gives rise to jealousy and every vile thing among those who practice it. Can all these people be called Christians? “Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) That is what God’s Word says, and still there is no effort being made on the part of the clergy of Christendom to cleanse their churches of people who practice these things. If the older men or elders of the congregations of Christendom’s religious system cleaned out of their houses that which is bad, there would not be much of an organization left.—Matt. 23:27, 28.
6. How does Revelation 17:1-6 describe Babylon the Great, and in what way does this involve Christendom?
6 The clergy of Christendom have certainly not shown that they are governed by “the wisdom from above.” Instead, they ‘lie against the truth’ of God’s Word by saying that chasteness is not always necessary in order to please God. “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, which includes Christendom, is well described by the apostle John in the Revelation. There he reports an angel of God as saying: “‘Come here, I will show you the sentence of the great prostitute seated on a great water, with whom the kings of the earth debauched themselves and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her unchaste embraces’; and he carried me away to a desert in the spirit. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast full of names of blasphemy, with seven heads and ten horns; and the woman was clad in purple and scarlet and jeweled with gold and precious stones and pearls, with a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and the filth of her prostitution, and written on her forehead a name with a secret meaning, ‘Great Babylon, mother of the prostitutes and abominations of the earth.’ And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of God’s people and with the blood of Jesus’s witnesses. And great was my wonder at seeing her.” (Rev. 17:1-6, Byington translation) Who are wise? Are those who make up Christendom?
7, 8. (a) What other qualities does “the wisdom from above” include? (b) How do the members of Christendom’s churches measure up as to being peaceable and reasonable?
7 James takes wisdom’s quality farther than chasteness and says: “The wisdom from above is . . . peaceable, reasonable.” Is Christendom “peaceable”? Do its members in everyday life show that they are “reasonable”? The clergy of all of its religious denominations have taken sides in war, World Wars I and II and all the wars of the nations since then, and history is filled with details of Christendom’s religious wars and crusades. The persons who claim to be members of Christendom’s churches are not notably peaceable and reasonable among themselves either. All one needs to do is to read the daily paper to see the contentiousness in families, between students and teachers, and between employers and employees. Look at the cities. Are the administrators and the people peaceable? Christendom claims to believe the Bible’s counsel on peace and to follow the “Prince of Peace.” But does its record support its claims?
8 Paul, in writing to the Philippians, said that Christians should be doing “nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Phil. 2:3, 4) How many rulers of the nations, how many heads of organizations, or how many people themselves, are handling matters in the way that God’s Word says Christians should? Not many, are there?
9. (a) What does the expression “ready to obey” mean, and how would you say Christendom is doing in this regard? (b) What other aspects are included in “the wisdom from above?” (c) If a person wants to please his Creator, what action must he take toward Christendom, and why?
9 Another thing James said to Christians: “The wisdom from above is . . . ready to obey.” How many so-called Christians are ready to turn to the Word of God and obey what it says in regard to conduct? How many people truly hate what is bad? Do you? James goes on to say that we must be “full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.” But does that description fit Christendom? If you are a church member, does it fit your church? Mercy and goodness are notably lacking in the world. Partiality and discrimination are found everywhere. Church members themselves are among the first to admit that Christendom is full of hypocrites. Is that the kind of person that you want to be? If not, it is vital for you to heed the Bible’s urgent command: “‘Get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah.” (2 Cor. 6:17, 18) Concerning the action to take toward the entire world empire of false religion, God’s Word urges: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4) If it is your sincere desire to be well pleasing to your Creator, you will do that without delay. If you want to enjoy the benefits that come from being a “wise and understanding” person, you must make sure that you are “walking with wise persons,” those who manifest the “wisdom from above.”
10. Despite Christendom’s failure, what grand hope is there? How do you know?
10 There are such true Christians. Christendom’s failure has not made them give up and say: “What is the use? Why even try to be a Christian?” Because they look to God for wisdom they have a real hope. They look forward with confidence to the fulfillment of the prayer Jesus Christ taught his followers: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) They know that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” But they also know that “the Son of God has come, and he has given us intellectual capacity that we may gain the knowledge of the true one. And we are in union with the true one, by means of his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 5:19, 20) There are hundreds of thousands of people on this earth who have gained that “knowledge of the true one” and who believe that He as “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Dan. 2:44) They firmly believe that by means of God’s kingdom this earth will soon be made a Paradise where lovers of righteousness will enjoy eternal life. Would you like to have that kind of faith and be able to “say among the nations, ‘Jehovah himself has become king”’?—Ps. 96:10.
WHO ARE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES?
11. What accounts for the different outlook that Jehovah’s witnesses have as compared with those in Christendom?
11 A million and a half men and women are doing just that world wide today. They want to do the will of Jehovah God as he has set it forth in his written Word. They call themselves Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. (Isa. 43:10-12) Are they better than anyone else calling himself Christian? They all have the same first parents as anyone else, Adam and Eve. But they certainly have a different outlook on life than those in Christendom. They believe very deeply what God’s Word says and they know that the Bible sets out the pattern for man to follow. They have dedicated their lives to Jehovah God and have promised to do his will as stated in his written Word. They earnestly endeavor to show out of their fine conduct their works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom.
12. To be one of Jehovah’s witnesses, what viewpoint must a person have toward badness and toward “the wisdom from above”?
12 Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have a theocratic organization of more than 27,150 congregations that reach out to the ends of the earth. These congregations range in size from 25 to 200 or more persons. Each dedicated Witness fully appreciates that to be a member of such a congregation he must hate that which is bad and put into application “the wisdom from above.” He knows and agrees with the words of Jesus: “For he that practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved. But he that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.”—John 3:20, 21.
13. To what provision for salvation do Jehovah’s witnesses direct everyone, and why?
13 Jehovah’s witnesses are interested in other people. They believe and preach that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) They believe, too, that Jesus is the “light of the world,” that he was sent forth by God to save the world of mankind. Jesus Christ died upon the torture stake and poured out his blood, gave his life for the purchase or redemption of the entire human family. The provision for you to get life has already been made. But do you accept it? Jesus himself said: “Now this is the basis for judgment, that the light has come into the world but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked.” He that prefers to practice vile things hates the light. Do you?—John 3:19.
14. How does a true Christian show he is not afraid of the light but is truly “wise and understanding”?
14 True Christians are not afraid of the light. They carefully study the Word of God, from the first book, Genesis, to the last one, Revelation, and freely discuss it with others, so that they can be guided by its heavenly wisdom. They want to be in the light and live by the light of God’s Word. Is that true of you? If so, we urge you to attend the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses regularly. As you learn God’s Word, apply it. Thus show that you are truly “wise and understanding,” that your conduct reflects “a mildness that belongs to wisdom.”—Jas. 3:13.