Questions From Readers
At the present time congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses are giving consideration to men who might qualify to serve as elders and ministerial servants. In connection therewith, the following questions have been asked:
● Must the minor children of a man who is recommended be believers?
Yes, Titus 1:6 says that the man should have “believing children.” This does not mean that such children must be baptized, but the indications should be that they submit to their father’s direction in religious matters. Of course, there are places where the law of the land makes it impossible for minor children to change their religion as long as the wife adheres to it. But even in such a case the father should strive to do whatever he can to impart spiritual instruction to them, and others should be able to see that his children are responding to the extent of the limits imposed upon them by the law.
● What does it mean for a man to have his “children in subjection with all seriousness”?—1 Tim. 3:4.
This signifies that, in their subjection, the children should reflect a seriousness appropriate to their age and circumstances. Their subjection would include religious matters, the most vital aspects of a Christian’s life. So the response that a man gets from his children to the instruction he gives them from God’s Word should recommend him as one who can aid others in the congregation to conform their lives to God’s righteous requirements.
● What is meant by the statement at Titus 1:6, “children that were not under a charge of debauchery nor unruly”?
This phrase has been variously translated from the Greek, “under no imputation of loose living, and are not out of control” (New English Bible) and “not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient.” (Today’s English Version) So the children in the recommended man’s home should manifest that they are submissive to their father and comport themselves in harmony with Jehovah’s righteous laws. They should not have a bad reputation in the community nor in the congregation. The conduct and habits of the children should not give a basis for serious doubt that the man is really exercising his headship in a firm, though loving, manner.
● Does the conduct of a man’s wife affect whether he qualifies for recommendation as an elder or a ministerial servant?
The wife is part of a man’s household and her conduct does reflect favorably or unfavorably upon him. But in many lands she enjoys a certain legal status that often limits what the husband can do in controlling her conduct, especially if she is an unbeliever. According to the law, he usually has far less authority toward his wife than he does toward his children. Therefore, as long as the man is controlling his wife’s conduct to the extent that the law permits, he would not be disqualified, provided that he met all the other Scriptural requirements. Of course, he himself should not be guilty of contributing toward any wayward conduct of his wife. The important thing is that the man be indeed “presiding over his own household in a fine manner.”—1 Tim. 3:4.
● May a person who has completed a period of unannounced probation be recommended for appointment as a ministerial servant?
Regarding ministerial servants 1 Timothy 3:10 says: “Let these be tested as to fitness first, then let them serve as ministers, as they are free from accusation.” An individual’s having concluded a stipulated probation period for wrongdoing does not of itself imply that he is “free from accusation.” It is not wise to entrust responsibility to such a person too soon. (1 Tim. 5:22) Enough time should have passed for him to establish that he has completely recovered himself from the weakness that was manifested in his wrong act or course. Over a sufficient period of time after the completion of the probation period he should have proved himself to be devoted to righteousness and as having genuine love for Jehovah and for his people. Others should be able to view him as a fine example in Christian conduct. So if he has really built up a fine reputation since completing his probation period, consideration could be given to recommending him to become, not an elder, but first a ministerial servant.
● What does Galatians 3:24 mean when it says that the “Law has become our tutor leading to Christ”?—U.S.A.
The Greek word rendered tutor (pai·da·go·gosʹ) literally means ‘child leading.’ It designated a man who accompanied a child to and from school. The tutor or pedagogue would turn the child over to the instructor. It was his duty to protect the child from physical and moral harm. The pedagogue also had authority to discipline the child and instruct it in matters of conduct. At times his discipline could be quite severe.
The Law given to Israel was much like such a tutor. It served to control the conduct of the Israelites and, if heeded, kept them from physical and moral harm. As Moses told the people: “If you will listen to the commandments of Jehovah your God, which I am commanding you today, so as to love Jehovah your God, to walk in his ways and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judicial decisions, then you will be bound to keep alive and to multiply, and Jehovah your God must bless you in the land to which you are going to take possession of it.” (Deut. 30:16) Additionally, the Law held the Israelites together as a people despite conquest and foreign domination. It preserved the conditions that were necessary for the appearance of the Messiah, safeguarded God’s Word of truth and prevented true worship from being totally eclipsed and lost from view.
But because of the imperfection of the Israelites, the Law exposed their transgressions and showed them up to be under condemnation. The sacrifices that they had to offer under the Law were a constant reminder of their sinfulness. (Gal. 3:10, 11, 19; Heb. 10:1-4) By thus pointing out the wrongs of the Israelites, the Law was really disciplining them and showing them the need for being liberated from the bondage of sin. Those who profited from this discipline were able to identify Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ. In this way the Law, in effect, ‘handed over’ the properly disciplined Israelites to Jesus Christ, the real Instructor.
The Law, as Hebrews 10:1 states, “has a shadow of the good things to come.” It therefore had to give way to the reality that “belongs to the Christ.” (Col. 2:16, 17) Having a shadow, the Law gave an idea of the general shape or design of the reality, for Jesus put the things foreshadowed by the Law into the realm of actual truth. That is why John 1:17 declares: “The Law was given through Moses, the undeserved kindness and the truth came to be through Jesus Christ.”
These facts, therefore, show that it would be most inappropriate for anyone to insist that Christians are under the Mosaic law. As a tutor, it served its purpose well. “But now that the faith [that is, faith toward Jesus Christ] has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Gal. 3:25) The God-appointed Instructor, Jesus Christ, has taken over.
● Is there not a contradiction in the Proverbs at Pr chapter 26:4, 5? Verse four reads: “Do not answer anyone stupid according to his foolishness, that you yourself also may not become equal to him.” But verse five says: “Answer someone stupid according to his foolishness, that he may not become someone wise in his own eyes.”—F. D., Ecuador.
There is no contradiction here. Rather, the verses simply contrast the right and the wrong ways to answer a stupid person. Verse four gives instruction not to answer a stupid person in harmony with his foolishness in the sense of resorting to his degrading methods of argument—ridicule, attacks on personalities, loud boisterous talk, fits of rage, and so forth. One would thereby show oneself to be on the same level as the stupid one, and that is what the latter part of verse four warns against. So, it is the second part of the verse that indicates how the first part is to be understood.—Compare Proverbs 20:3; 29:11.
On the other hand, it would be proper to answer the stupid one “according to his foolishness” in the sense of analyzing his contentions, exposing them as being ridiculous. Showing that his arguments lead to entirely different conclusions from those he has drawn would be deterrent to his continuance in his stupid way. It should serve as a reproof and a rebuke. He should not feel so wise. Enforcing the consequences of a foolish argument, that is, demonstrating the absurdity and undesirability to which that viewpoint leads, is one of the best ways of dealing with such an argument.
For example, someone who wishes to ridicule the Bible may hold that the evolution theory makes the Bible out of date, or that the Bible consists merely of fables for the ignorant. In this case, rather than to appeal directly to the Scriptures, the believer in creation could present arguments such as are found in the book Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation? which take the beliefs, theories and statements of persons who will not accept the Bible’s testimony and point out the insurmountable difficulties that evolution presents to its believers in explaining the existence of matter, life, and so forth.
There is also another sense in which the Christian should not answer according to the foolishness of the stupid one. He should avoid empty, high-sounding phrases. He should speak, “not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, as we combine spiritual matters with spiritual words.” Therefore, when a Christian is before those who are versed in the wisdom of this world he should not be fearful or hesitant, because men relying on such wisdom are stupid, foolish in God’s eyes. He should not try to adopt their manner of speaking, nor their language, even though it may sound very polished and erudite. He should use the spiritual words of the Bible, the simple, plain truths, relying on God to open the hearts of those who may possibly listen and be moved by these words of real wisdom. Paul followed this course when in the presence of such worldly-wise men in the city of Corinth.—1 Cor. 2:1-5, 13.
The Hebrew word kesilʹ, used for “stupid” one at Proverbs 26:4, 5, carries with it the notion of impiety, ungodliness or insolence (in a religious way). The term does not necessarily refer to an ignorant person, but rather to moral stupidity, lack of understanding and wisdom. It is failure to use one’s mental faculties in a proper way, especially in matters pertaining to spiritual things.—Compare Psalm 14:1.
Men who rely on the wisdom of this world are not spiritual, but are fleshly in their viewpoint. The Bible plainly says that they are stupid. Not that they are ignorant; they are sophisticated. But what they are doing puts them on a collision course with God.—1 Cor. 2:14.