In Our Fearful Times, Whom Can You Really Trust?
“Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.”—PSALM 146:3.
1. What is a characteristic of our time, and what need does it show?
WHEN we were children and were frightened, we went to our caring parents for comfort and protection because we trusted them. As adults, we also need those whom we can trust. This is especially the case these days when so many frightening things are happening. Commenting on our times, a German newspaper said: “As never before, the world is full of fear.” Time and again, statesmen, journalists, and others have expressed their fears over the serious problems now facing mankind.
2. How were the fear and lack of trust foretold for this generation?
2 Such comments reflect what Jesus Christ foretold about our time when he said that it would be marked by “anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:25, 26) The Bible foretold that in these “last days critical times hard to deal with will be here” and that people would be ‘lovers of themselves, disloyal, slanderers, and betrayers.’ These expressions show that one characteristic of our age would be a serious lack of trust.—2 Timothy 3:1-4.
3. What evidence is there that trust is a casualty of our age?
3 In these fearful times, we very much need others whom we can trust, those who will be loyal, a help in time of need. But many feel let down by the ones whom they trusted. A newspaper in one land declared: “People Don’t Trust Most Public Institutions.” The least trusted were political and business leaders. Distrust has increased in the family too, as evidenced by high divorce rates. In some nations, there is one divorce for every three marriages or even one for every two. In one country, 70 percent of all new marriages end in divorce within ten years! So trust is a growing casualty. Distrust is taking its place. No longer unusual is the comment of a person who said: “I don’t trust anyone anymore.”
4. How are many young people affected by fear?
4 There is so much distrust because this is the most fearful time in all human history. This century has seen two world wars and scores of other wars that have taken over a hundred million lives. Now, nuclear weapons threaten to annihilate all life on earth. And this affects the trust of even the very young. A medical journal reported: “More and more children, even toddlers, are becoming frightened by the threat of nuclear holocaust.” A Canadian newspaper said that there is now “a cynicism, sadness, bitterness and sense of helplessness” in many young people. One youth said: “We just don’t feel protected by the adult population. We may grow up to be the most cynical generation ever.”
5. If they could talk, how might the most innocent and helpless group of young ones feel?
5 And what would another group of young ones say—if they could speak—about not feeling protected by adults? We mean those who are killed by abortions before they are born. One estimate puts the number of abortions worldwide at about 55 million every year. What a betrayal of the most innocent and helpless part of humanity!
6. How has crime added to distrust in our time?
6 Distrust has increased because of another growing fear in our day: the fear of becoming a victim of crime. Many now do like the woman who said that she sleeps with a revolver under her pillow. Another fearful woman said: “I resent it. . . . My grandmother never locked her doors.” Thus, a newspaper editorial in Puerto Rico declared: “The ones who are imprisoned are us,” yes, in our own barred and locked homes. These fears are well founded. In the United States, for example, one woman in three is likely to be assaulted during her lifetime. The surgeon general there noted that “some four million Americans fall victim to serious violence every year—murder, rape, wife-beating, child-abuse, muggings.” Such crime is common in many lands, further damaging the trust that people have in others.
7. Why do bad economic conditions contribute to distrust?
7 In underdeveloped nations, most people live in poverty. Few trust anyone to get them out of it. The president of one such country said that in one province, out of every 1,000 babies born, 270 die before they are one year old. Only one out of every 100 houses has water. Another country’s government says that 60 percent of its children are needy, and seven million abandoned children “are growing up as illiterate, alienated and unemployable outcasts.” In the United States, the number of homeless youths is estimated to be 500,000, but some say the real figure is much higher. How much trust can such young ones have in their parents, in society, in law and order, or in the promises of leaders?
8. (a) How is the stability of wealthy nations and the global economy threatened? (b) To what extent can experts be trusted to solve economic problems?
8 Economic problems plague even wealthy nations. Recently, the United States had the largest number of bank failures since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. An economist wrote: “The net result is a banking system that is surely as fragile today as it was in the 1920’s,” just before it collapsed. An observer spoke of “a potentially devastating approaching storm” in the world economy. Another said: “The feeling of urgency comes because these strains in the international system are no longer looming; they have arrived.” Can economists be trusted to guide the nations out of this trouble? One of them said that their forecasting record “is so appalling that there is no doubt they are mostly spreading confusion.”
9. (a) What has happened to the optimism that existed at the turn of the century? (b) Why would Jehovah’s Witnesses not have wanted to sign a United Nations document in 1945?
9 How different all of this is from the optimism that existed when the world entered the 20th century. There had been decades of comparative peace, and it was felt that peace and prosperity would reach new heights. But in 1914 World War I shattered that outlook. In 1945, after a more terrible second world war, the United Nations Charter was signed. The nations put into writing their vision of a postwar world of peace, prosperity, and justice. A recent report said: “The final document was signed by 51 countries, representing every continent, race and religion.” Yet there was one religion that was not represented, nor wanted to be, Jehovah’s Witnesses. They knew that those promises of peace, prosperity, and justice would not be realized by any nation of this world or by any association of them, such as the United Nations.
10. What is the reality today compared to the dream of the United Nations back in 1945?
10 That same report says: ‘Forty years later it seems appropriate to review the realities against the ideals. The evidence is sobering. A less equitable, less secure world, and growing violence, are the realities. The population lacking food, water, shelter, health care, and education is steadily growing larger. This was not in the dream of 1945.’ It adds: ‘Forty years after nations joined together to ensure that all people could live in freedom from fear and want, the real world of the 1980’s is one of crushing poverty for at least one quarter of humanity. Deaths related to hunger average 50,000 a day.’ Yet, the nations spend over a hundred million dollars every hour on war!
11. How trustworthy are human promises of a better world?
11 In view of this dismal record after centuries of opportunity, can we trust human promises to solve these problems? Such promises are about as trustworthy as the words of the captain of a large ocean liner who said: “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a [large] ship to founder. . . . Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” A crew member of that vessel said to a passenger: “God himself could not sink this ship.” Yet, that ship, the Titanic, sank in 1912 with the loss of 1,500 lives. In 1931 the National Education Association in the United States said that by means of education “crime will be virtually abolished before 1950.” In 1936 a British journalist wrote that “food, clothing and shelter will cost as little as air” by 1960. Do you not agree that today’s realities belie those promises?
The One to Trust Completely
12. Whom can we trust completely, and what guide has he given us?
12 Thus, we desperately need a source that we can trust to help us through these fearful times. That source cannot be human. Mankind has brought itself into problems so huge that it cannot get itself out. The Source that can be completely trusted is the Creator of humans, Jehovah God. He knows why the world is in its present condition, where it is heading, and what he will do about it. He has also revealed this information in the book that he gave us for our guidance, the Bible. Of it, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 says: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”
13. What do Jehovah’s Witnesses appreciate about the Bible?
13 Notice those emphatic statements. God’s inspired Word sets things straight. It tells us what is right. It makes us fully competent. It equips us completely for what is good. True, many people do not accept the Bible for what it is—the Word of God. But Jehovah’s Witnesses do. (1 Thessalonians 2:13) We appreciate that the Creator of this awesome universe of billions of galaxies and quintillions of stars surely has the capacity to originate a book. He has the capacity also to see that its accuracy is preserved for the benefit of truth seekers.—1 Peter 1:25.
14. How does the Bible harmonize with the realities of today?
14 In our fearful times, what does God’s Word have to say about this matter of trust? Its comments harmonize completely with the actual conditions as they exist. Jeremiah 10:23 accurately says: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” And Psalm 146:3 correctly urges: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.”
15. What counsel does the Bible give us regarding trust?
15 God’s Word cautions us not even to trust in ourselves because humans are imperfect. (Romans 5:12) Jeremiah 17:9 notes: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else.” For this reason Proverbs 28:26 declares: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid, but he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.” Where can we find this wisdom that can provide escape? Proverbs 9:10 answers: “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Most Holy One is what understanding is.” Yes, only the Creator’s wisdom can guide us through these fearful times. Thus, Proverbs 3:5, 6 counsels: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”
God’s View of World Religion
16. What mistaken assumption do this world’s religions make, as did the Pharisees in the time of Jesus?
16 This wisdom from God will enable us to avoid the death-dealing trap that this world’s religions have fallen into. They assume that they are righteous because they are religious. Their attitude is much as described at Luke 18:9: “He [Jesus] spoke this illustration also to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” A Pharisee thanked God that he was not a sinner, but a tax collector kept begging: “O God, be gracious to me a sinner.” Jesus said: “I tell you, This man [the sinner] went down to his home proved more righteous than that man [the Pharisee]; because everyone that exalts himself will be humiliated, but he that humbles himself will be exalted.”—Luke 18:10-14.
17. How does God view the religious efforts of those like the Pharisees?
17 The Pharisee did not humble himself before God. Instead, he felt that by his own standards he was righteous. But that is not how God viewed it. (Matthew 23:25-28) It was the humble sinner who reflected what God’s Word says at Isaiah 66:2: “To this one, then, I shall look, to the one afflicted and contrite in spirit and trembling at my word.” The Jewish religious leaders did not tremble at God’s Word. They ignored it. They did what they wanted and then thought that God approved them. However, Jesus said to them: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matthew 7:21-23.
18. How will God judge religions that claim to serve him but that do not conform to his laws?
18 Those religious leaders in the first century did not trust God. Instead, they put their trust in traditions that violated God’s laws. (Matthew 15:3, 9) So Jesus told them: “Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matthew 23:38) As evidence that God had indeed abandoned their Jewish religion, in the year 70 of our Common Era they, their national capital, Jerusalem, and their temple were devastated by Roman armies. It is no different today. This world’s religions have set their own standards of worship that do not conform to God’s standards. So they are doing not his will but their own. Hence, in God’s eyes, they are considered workers of lawlessness. (Titus 1:16) As proof that God has abandoned these religions, they will soon be devastated by the nations, just as Jerusalem with its temple was devastated by Roman armies in the first century.—See Revelation, chapters 17, 18.
19. What questions may be asked regarding religion?
19 Is this assessment of the world’s religions too severe? How can we be certain that God’s judgments will shortly be against them? What must a religion do to meet God’s approval? Are there historical precedents that show that Jehovah protects those who sincerely turn to him and submit to his laws? The following article will comment on these questions.
Questions for Review
◻ What has contributed to distrust in our time?
◻ Why was this world’s optimism misguided?
◻ Whom can we trust completely, and what guide has he given us?
◻ Why should we not trust in ourselves or other humans?
◻ How does God view this world’s religions?
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The Pharisee assumed that he was righteous, but the sinful man humbly begged for God’s mercy
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God condemns religions not doing his will just as he condemned Judaism in the first century when Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem