Incline Your Heart to Discernment
“Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.”—PROVERBS 2:6.
1. How can we incline our heart to discernment?
JEHOVAH is our Grand Instructor. (Isaiah 30:20, 21) But what must we do to benefit from “the very knowledge of God” revealed in his Word? In part, we must ‘incline our heart to discernment’—have a heartfelt desire to acquire and display this quality. For this, we must look to God, for the wise man said: “Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.” (Proverbs 2:1-6) What are knowledge, wisdom, and discernment?
2. (a) What is knowledge? (b) How would you define wisdom? (c) What is discernment?
2 Knowledge is familiarity with facts acquired by experience, observation, or study. Wisdom is the ability to put knowledge to work. (Matthew 11:19) King Solomon displayed wisdom when two women claimed the same child and he used his knowledge of a mother’s devotion to her offspring to settle the dispute. (1 Kings 3:16-28) Discernment is “acuteness of judgment.” It is “the power or faculty of the mind by which it distinguishes one thing from another.” (Webster’s Universal Dictionary) If we incline our heart to discernment, Jehovah will give it to us through his Son. (2 Timothy 2:1, 7) But how can discernment affect various aspects of life?
Discernment and Our Speech
3. How would you explain Proverbs 11:12, 13 and what it means to be “in want of heart”?
3 Discernment helps us to realize that there is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) This quality also makes us careful about what we say. Proverbs 11:12, 13 states: “The one in want of heart has despised his own fellowman, but the man of broad discernment is one that keeps silent. The one walking about as a slanderer is uncovering confidential talk, but the one faithful in spirit is covering over a matter.” Yes, a man or a woman who despises another person is “in want of heart.” According to lexicographer Wilhelm Gesenius, such an individual is “void of understanding.” He or she lacks good judgment, and the use of the term “heart” shows that positive qualities of the inner person are deficient. If a professing Christian should carry his or her loose talk to the point of slander or reviling, appointed elders must act to put an end to this unwholesome situation in the congregation.—Leviticus 19:16; Psalm 101:5; 1 Corinthians 5:11.
4. What do discerning and faithful Christians do about confidential information?
4 Unlike those “in want of heart,” individuals of “broad discernment” keep silent when it is appropriate to do so. They do not betray a confidence. (Proverbs 20:19) Knowing that unguarded speech can cause harm, discerning ones are “faithful in spirit.” They are loyal to fellow believers and do not divulge confidential matters that might endanger them. If discerning Christians receive confidential information of any kind pertaining to the congregation, they keep it to themselves until Jehovah’s organization sees good to make it known by its own means of publication.
Discernment and Our Conduct
5. How do ‘stupid ones’ view loose conduct, and why?
5 Bible proverbs help us to use discernment and avoid improper conduct. For example, Proverbs 10:23 says: “To the stupid one the carrying on of loose conduct is like sport, but wisdom is for the man of discernment.” Those to whom loose conduct is “like sport” are blind to the wrongness of their course and discount God as the one to whom all must render an account. (Romans 14:12) Such ‘stupid ones’ become perverted in their reasoning to the point of assuming that God does not see their wrongdoing. By their actions, they in effect say: “There is no Jehovah.” (Psalm 14:1-3; Isaiah 29:15, 16) Not being guided by godly principles, they lack discernment and cannot judge matters correctly.—Proverbs 28:5.
6. Why is loose conduct stupid, and how will we view it if we have discernment?
6 “The man of discernment” realizes that loose conduct is not “sport,” a game. He knows that it displeases God and can destroy our relationship with him. Such conduct is stupid because it robs people of self-respect, ruins marriages, harms both mind and body, and leads to loss of spirituality. Let us therefore incline our heart to discernment and avoid loose conduct or immorality of any kind.—Proverbs 5:1-23.
Discernment and Our Spirit
7. What are some physical effects of anger?
7 Inclining our heart to discernment also helps us to control our spirit. “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment,” says Proverbs 14:29, “but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” One reason why a discerning person strives to avoid uncontrolled anger is that it has adverse effects upon us physically. It can raise blood pressure and cause respiratory trouble. Doctors have cited anger and rage as emotions aggravating or causing such ailments as asthma, skin diseases, digestive problems, and ulcers.
8. Being impatient can lead to what, but how can discernment help us in this regard?
8 It is not just to avoid injuring our health that we should use discernment and be “slow to anger.” Being impatient can lead to foolish actions that we will regret. Discernment makes us consider what could result from unbridled speech or rash conduct and thus keeps us from “exalting foolishness” by doing something unwise. Especially does discernment help us to realize that rage can upset our thinking processes, so that we cannot use sound judgment. This would impair our ability to do the divine will and live according to God’s righteous principles. Yes, yielding to uncontrolled anger is spiritually damaging. In fact, “fits of anger” are classed among the detestable “works of the flesh” that would keep us from inheriting God’s Kingdom. (Galatians 5:19-21) As discerning Christians, then, let us be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.”—James 1:19.
9. How can discernment and brotherly love help us to resolve differences?
9 If we do become angry, discernment may indicate that we should keep quiet so as to avoid a conflagration. Proverbs 17:27 says: “Anyone holding back his sayings is possessed of knowledge, and a man of discernment is cool of spirit.” Discernment and brotherly love will help us to see the need to control an urge to blurt out something hurtful. If an outburst of anger has already occurred, love and humility will move us to apologize and make amends. But suppose someone has offended us. Then let us speak to him alone in a mild and humble way and with the principal objective of promoting peace.—Matthew 5:23, 24; 18:15-17.
Discernment and Our Family
10. What role do wisdom and discernment play in family life?
10 Family members need to show wisdom and discernment, for these qualities will build up a household. Says Proverbs 24:3, 4: “By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established. And by knowledge will the interior rooms be filled with all precious and pleasant things of value.” Wisdom and discernment are like fine building blocks for successful family life. Discernment helps Christian parents to draw out the feelings and concerns of their children. A discerning person is able to communicate, to listen and gain insight into the feelings and thoughts of his or her marriage mate.—Proverbs 20:5.
11. How can a discerning married woman ‘build up her house’?
11 Wisdom and discernment are unquestionably vital for happy family life. For instance, Proverbs 14:1 says: “The truly wise woman has built up her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” A wise and discerning married woman in proper subjection to her husband will work hard for the good of the household and will thereby help to build up her family. One thing that will ‘build up her house’ is that she always speaks well of her husband and thus increases the respect of others for him. And a capable, discerning wife who has the reverential fear of Jehovah wins praise for herself.—Proverbs 12:4; 31:28, 30.
Discernment and Our Course in Life
12. How do those “in want of heart” view foolishness, and why?
12 Discernment helps us to maintain a proper course in all our affairs. This is indicated at Proverbs 15:21, which says: “Foolishness is a rejoicing to one who is in want of heart, but the man of discernment is one who goes straight ahead.” How are we to understand this proverb? A course of foolishness, or folly, is a cause of joy to senseless men, women, and young people. They are “in want of heart,” lacking good motive, and are so unwise that they rejoice in foolishness.
13. What did Solomon discern about laughter and frivolity?
13 Israel’s discerning King Solomon learned that frivolity means very little. He admitted: “I said, even I, in my heart: ‘Do come now, let me try you out with rejoicing. Also, see good.’ And, look! that too was vanity. I said to laughter: ‘Insanity!’ and to rejoicing: ‘What is this doing?’” (Ecclesiastes 2:1, 2) As a man of discernment, Solomon found that mirth and laughter alone are not satisfying, for they do not produce real and lasting happiness. Laughter may help us to forget our problems temporarily, but afterward they may loom up to an even greater degree. Solomon could rightly speak of laughter as “insanity.” Why? Because thoughtless laughter beclouds sound judgment. It may cause us to take very serious matters lightly. The kind of rejoicing associated with the words and actions of a court jester cannot be pointed to as producing something worthwhile. Discerning the import of Solomon’s experiment with laughter and mirth helps us to avoid being “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.”—2 Timothy 3:1, 4.
14. How does the man of discernment go “straight ahead”?
14 How is it that the man of discernment goes “straight ahead”? Spiritual discernment and the application of godly principles lead people in an upright, straightforward course. Byington’s translation bluntly says: “Foolishness is bliss to a brainless man, but an intelligent man will go straight.” “The man of discernment” makes straight paths for his feet and is able to distinguish between right and wrong because of applying God’s Word in life.—Hebrews 5:14; 12:12, 13.
Always Look to Jehovah for Discernment
15. What do we learn from Proverbs 2:6-9?
15 To follow an upright course in life, all of us need to acknowledge our imperfection and look to Jehovah for spiritual discernment. Says Proverbs 2:6-9: “Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment. And for the upright ones he will treasure up practical wisdom; for those walking in integrity he is a shield, by observing the paths of judgment, and he will guard the very way of his loyal ones. In that case you will understand righteousness and judgment and uprightness, the entire course of what is good.”—Compare James 4:6.
16. Why is there no wisdom, discernment, or counsel in opposition to Jehovah?
16 Acknowledging our dependence upon Jehovah, let us humbly seek to discern his will by delving deeply into his Word. He possesses wisdom in the absolute sense, and his counsel is always beneficial. (Isaiah 40:13; Romans 11:34) In fact, any advice that stands in opposition to him is valueless. Proverbs 21:30 states: “There is no wisdom, nor any discernment, nor any counsel in opposition to Jehovah.” (Compare Proverbs 19:21.) Only spiritual discernment, developed by a study of God’s Word with the help of publications provided through “the faithful and discreet slave,” will help us to pursue a proper course in life. (Matthew 24:45-47) Let us therefore direct our way of life in harmony with the counsel of Jehovah, knowing that no matter how plausible contrary advice may seem, it cannot stand against his Word.
17. What can result if the wrong counsel is given?
17 Discerning Christians who give counsel realize that it should be based solidly on God’s Word and that Bible study and meditation are required before answering a question. (Proverbs 15:28) If questions about serious matters are wrongly answered, great harm can result. Hence, Christian elders need spiritual discernment and should pray for Jehovah’s guidance when endeavoring to assist fellow believers spiritually.
Abound With Spiritual Discernment
18. If a problem should arise in the congregation, how can discernment help us to maintain our spiritual balance?
18 To please Jehovah, we need “discernment in all things.” (2 Timothy 2:7) Avid study of the Bible and compliance with the direction of God’s spirit and organization will help us to discern what to do when we face situations that could lead us into a wrong course. For example, suppose something in the congregation is not handled as we think it should be. Spiritual discernment will help us to see that this is no reason to stop associating with Jehovah’s people and to quit serving God. Think of our privilege to serve Jehovah, of the spiritual freedom we enjoy, of the joy we can derive from our service as Kingdom proclaimers. Spiritual discernment enables us to get the right perspective and to realize that we are dedicated to God and should cherish our relationship with him, regardless of what others do. If there is nothing that we can do theocratically to handle a problem, we need to wait patiently for Jehovah to remedy the situation. Instead of quitting or yielding to despair, let us “wait for God.”—Psalm 42:5, 11.
19. (a) What was the essence of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians? (b) How can discernment help us if we do not fully understand something?
19 Spiritual discernment helps us to remain loyal to God and his people. Paul told Christians in Philippi: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment; that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:9, 10) To reason properly, we need “accurate knowledge and full discernment.” The Greek word here rendered “discernment” denotes “sensitive moral perception.” When we learn something, we want to perceive its relationship to God and Christ and to meditate on how it magnifies Jehovah’s personality and provisions. This enhances our discernment and our appreciation for what Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have done for us. If we do not fully understand something, discernment will help us to realize that we must not cast aside our faith in all the important things we have learned about God, Christ, and the divine purpose.
20. How can we abound with spiritual discernment?
20 We will abound with spiritual discernment if we always harmonize our thoughts and actions with God’s Word. (2 Corinthians 13:5) Doing this in a constructive way helps us to be humble, not opinionated and critical of others. Discernment will help us to benefit from correction and make sure of the more important things. (Proverbs 3:7) With a desire to please Jehovah, then, let us seek to be filled with accurate knowledge of his Word. This will enable us to discern right from wrong, determine what is truly important, and loyally cling to our precious relationship with Jehovah. All of this is possible if we incline our heart to discernment. Yet, something else is needed. We must let discernment safeguard us.
How Would You Respond?
□ Why should we incline our heart to discernment?
□ How can discernment affect our speech and conduct?
□ What effect can discernment have on our spirit?
□ Why should we always look to Jehovah for discernment?
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Discernment helps us to control our spirit
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Discerning King Solomon realized that frivolity is not really satisfying