“The Law of the Wise One”—A Source of Life
“O THE depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!” exclaimed the apostle Paul. (Romans 11:33) And the faithful patriarch Job said: “[Jehovah God] is wise in heart.” (Job 9:4) Yes, the Creator of heaven and earth is matchless in wisdom. What can be said about the law, or the written Word, of such a Creator?
The psalmist sang: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise. The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice; the commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine.” (Psalm 19:7, 8) How King Solomon of ancient Israel must have appreciated the truth of those words! He stated: “The law of the wise one is a source of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14) In the preceding 13 verses of Proverbs chapter 13, Solomon showed how the counsel found in God’s Word can help us to improve the quality of our life and avoid endangering it.
“A son is wise where there is a father’s discipline, but the ridiculer is one that has not heard rebuke,” states Proverbs 13:1. Discipline from a father can be mild or severe. It can come in the form of training first, and if that is rejected, eventually as punishment. A son is wise when he accepts his father’s discipline.
“Whom Jehovah loves he disciplines,” says the Bible, and “he scourges every one whom he receives as a son.” (Hebrews 12:6) One way our heavenly Father disciplines us is through his written Word, the Bible. When we read the Bible with respect and we respond to what we learn there, his Word actually disciplines us. This is to our advantage, for everything Jehovah says is for our benefit.—Isaiah 48:17.
Discipline can also come to us as a correction from a fellow believer who is interested in our spiritual welfare. Any helpful advice that is in harmony with God’s Word can be viewed, not as originating with that person, but as coming from the great Source of truth. We are wise to accept it as coming from Jehovah. When we do that and allow it to mold our thinking, to improve our understanding of the Scriptures, and to correct our ways, we are benefiting from the discipline. The same is true of the counsel we receive at Christian meetings and from Bible-based publications. Responsiveness to what we learn through such written or spoken words is a splendid form of self-discipline.
The ridiculer, on the other hand, is not responsive to discipline. “Because he thinks that he knows what is best,” says one reference work, he “is not teachable.” He does not respond even to a rebuke—a stronger form of discipline. But can he ever prove the Father’s discipline to be wrong? Jehovah has never been wrong, and he never will be. By rejecting discipline, the ridiculer only makes himself ridiculous. With a few well-chosen words, how beautifully Solomon shows the value of being teachable!
Guard Your Tongue!
To show the importance of being guided by God’s Word in our speech, the king of Israel likens the mouth to a fruit-bearing tree. He says: “From the fruitage of his mouth a man will eat good, but the very soul [“soulful desire,” footnote] of those dealing treacherously is violence.” (Proverbs 13:2) Spoken words are the fruitage of the mouth. And a man reaps what he has sown with his words. “If his words are kindly intentioned and directed to the establishment of friendly relationship with his neighbours,” says one scholar, “he will eat good, enjoy a happy and peaceful existence.” The matter turns out differently for the treacherous one. He wants to commit violence and to harm others. Violence he schemes, and violence he receives. The snares of death are at his doorstep.
“The one guarding his mouth is keeping his soul,” continues Solomon. “The one opening wide his lips—he will have ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3) A ruined reputation, hurt feelings, strained relations, and even physical harm are all possible results of thoughtless, foolish speech. Lips wide open can also bring divine disapproval, for God holds everyone accountable for his words. (Matthew 12:36, 37) Indeed, keeping tight control over our mouth will save us from ruin. How, though, can we learn to guard our mouth?
One simple way to do this is not to talk too much. “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 10:19) Another way is to think before speaking. The inspired writer declares: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword.” (Proverbs 12:18) When no forethought is given to what is being said, both the speaker and his listeners can be hurt. Therefore, the Bible gives us this practical advice: “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.”—Proverbs 15:28.
“The lazy one is showing himself desirous,” Solomon states, “but his soul has nothing. However, the very soul of the diligent ones will be made fat.” (Proverbs 13:4) “The point [of this proverb] is that mere desire is utterly futile,” states one reference work, and “industry is what counts. Lazy people are victims of the desires . . . that consume them, and they simply have nothing to show for themselves.” However, the soul, or the desire, of the diligent ones is satisfied—fattened.
What can be said about those who hold back from making a dedication to Jehovah because they want to avoid responsibility? They may show themselves desirous of living in God’s new world, but are they willing to do something about it? A requirement for those who “come out of the great tribulation” is that they have exercised faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, made a dedication to Jehovah, and symbolized their dedication by water baptism.—Revelation 7:14, 15.
Consider also what is involved in reaching out for an office of oversight in the congregation. The desire to reach out for this fine work is certainly commendable and is encouraged in the Scriptures. (1 Timothy 3:1) However, showing oneself desirous is not enough. To qualify for a position requires cultivating needed qualities and abilities. That calls for diligent personal effort.
A righteous person cultivates godly qualities and speaks the truth. He realizes that lying is against Jehovah’s law. (Proverbs 6:16-19; Colossians 3:9) In this regard, Solomon states: “A false word is what the righteous hates, but the wicked ones act shamefully and cause disgrace for themselves.” (Proverbs 13:5) The righteous one does not simply avoid lies; he actually hates them. He knows that no matter how innocent they seem to be, lies are destructive to good human relationships. Moreover, the credibility of the one who resorts to lies is shattered. The wicked one acts shamefully either by lying or in some other way, and thus he causes disgrace for himself.
To show that doing what is right in God’s eyes is beneficial, the wise king says: “Righteousness itself safeguards the one who is harmless in his way, but wickedness is what subverts the sinner.” (Proverbs 13:6) Like a fortress, righteousness protects a person, whereas wickedness ruins him.
Do Not Pretend
Showing an understanding of human nature, the king of Israel observes: “There exists the one that is pretending to be rich and yet he has nothing at all; there is the one that is pretending to be of little means and yet he has many valuable things.” (Proverbs 13:7) A person may not be what he appears to be. Some poor people may pretend to be rich—perhaps to make a showy display, to give an impression of being successful, or just to save face. A rich person may pretend to be poor, simply to hide his wealth.
Neither a false display nor a concealment is good. If our material resources are low, spending money on luxuries just to appear well-off can rob us and our families of the necessities of life. And pretending to be poor though he has riches may make a person a miser, depriving him of due dignity and the happiness that comes from being generous. (Acts 20:35) To live honestly is to lead a better life.
Keep Desires Simple
“The ransom for a man’s soul is his riches,” says Solomon, “but the one of little means has not heard rebuke.” (Proverbs 13:8) What lesson is conveyed in this wise saying?
There are advantages to being rich, but having riches is not an unqualified blessing. In the troublesome times that we live in, the rich often find themselves and their families in danger of being kidnapped and held for ransom. At times, a rich man can pay a ransom to buy back his life or that of a family member. But often the kidnapped one is murdered. Such a threat is always hanging over the head of the rich.
The man of little means has no such worry. While he may not have the many conveniences and material things that the rich enjoy, he is less likely to become the target of kidnappers. This is one benefit of keeping our wants simple and not expending our time and energy in the pursuit of wealth.—2 Timothy 2:4.
Rejoice in the “Light”
Solomon continues to show that doing things Jehovah’s way is in our best interests. “The very light of the righteous ones will rejoice,” he says, “but the lamp of the wicked ones—it will be extinguished.”—Proverbs 13:9.
The lamp is symbolic of what we depend upon to light our way in life. ‘God’s word is a lamp to the foot of the righteous one and a light to his roadway.’ (Psalm 119:105) It contains inexhaustible knowledge and wisdom of the Creator. The more we improve our understanding of God’s will and purpose, the more brilliant becomes the spiritual light that guides us. What a source of joy that is! Why should we be distracted by worldly wisdom or that which is “falsely called ‘knowledge’”?—1 Timothy 6:20; 1 Corinthians 1:20; Colossians 2:8.
As for the wicked one, regardless of how brilliantly his lamp appears to shine and how prosperous he may seem to be, his lamp will be extinguished. He will end up in darkness, where his foot is bound to stumble. Moreover, “there will prove to be no future” for him.—Proverbs 24:20.
What should we do, though, when there is uncertainty as to what action we should take in a given situation? What if we are not sure if it is within our authority to act at all? Proverbs 13:10 warns: “By presumptuousness one only causes a struggle.” Acting without knowledge or outside our authority is presumptuous and is bound to cause friction. Would it not be better to consult others who have knowledge and discernment? “With those consulting together there is wisdom,” says the wise king.
Beware of False Expectations
Money can serve a useful purpose. Having adequate finances is better than having to live in an austere way or in poverty. (Ecclesiastes 7:11, 12) However, perceived benefits of ill-gained wealth can be deceptive. Solomon warns: “Valuable things resulting from vanity become fewer, but the one collecting by the hand is the one that makes increase.”—Proverbs 13:11.
Consider, for example, the lure of gambling. A gambler may spend his hard-earned money hoping to win a large sum. But how often this is done at the expense of his family! And what happens if the gambler wins? Since the money has come easily, he may have very little appreciation for its value. Moreover, he simply may not have the skill to manage his newly gained prize. Are not his riches likely to disappear as quickly as he acquired them? On the other hand, wealth gradually accumulated—little by little by doing good work—steadily increases and can be put to good use.
“Expectation postponed is making the heart sick,” Solomon states, “but the thing desired is a tree of life when it does come.” (Proverbs 13:12) Unfulfilled expectations are bound to lead to disappointments that make the heart sick. This happens in everyday life. However, this is not the case with the expectations that are solidly based on God’s Word. We can have complete confidence that they will be fulfilled. Even apparent delays are less likely to be disappointing.
For example, we know that God’s new world is imminent. (2 Peter 3:13) With eager anticipation we joyfully await the fulfillment of God’s promises. What happens as we use the waiting time to keep busy “in the work of the Lord,” to encourage fellow believers, and to build an ever closer relationship with Jehovah? Rather than becoming ‘sick at heart,’ we are filled with joy. (1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 10:24, 25; James 4:8) When the fulfillment of a long-awaited desire comes, it is a tree of life—truly invigorating and refreshing.
God’s Law—A Source of Life
Illustrating the need to obey God, Proverbs 13:13 says: “He that has despised the word, from him a debtor’s pledge will be seized; but the one fearing the commandment is the one that will be rewarded.” If a debtor despises a word by failing to repay a loan, he would forfeit what he put up as a pledge. In like manner, we would experience a loss if we failed to obey God’s commandments. What type of loss?
“The law of the wise one is a source of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14) To live without the law of the all-wise God, Jehovah, is to be deprived of the guidance that can help us lead a better and longer life. What an enormous loss that would be! The course of wisdom for us, then, is to pay close attention to God’s Word and allow it to influence our thoughts, speech, and action.—2 Corinthians 10:5; Colossians 1:10.
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Responding to Scriptural counsel is a splendid form of self-discipline
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“The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer”
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Keeping busy “in the work of the Lord” fills us with joy