“Everyone Shrewd Will Act With Knowledge”
THE guidance from God’s Word, the Bible, ‘is more to be desired than gold—than much refined gold.’ (Psalm 19:7-10) Why? Because “the law of the wise one [Jehovah] is a source of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14) When applied, the counsel from the Scriptures not only improves the quality of our life but also helps us to avoid snares that endanger it. How vital that we seek out knowledge of the Scriptures and comply with what we learn!
As recorded at Proverbs 13:15-25, King Solomon of ancient Israel gave advice that helps us act with knowledge so that we can enjoy a better and longer life.a Using concise proverbs, he shows how God’s Word can help us gain favor with others, remain faithful in our ministry, have a right attitude toward discipline, and choose our associates wisely. He also considers the prudence of leaving an inheritance for our offspring as well as disciplining them in love.
Good Insight Wins Favor
“Good insight itself gives favor,” says Solomon, “but the way of those dealing treacherously is rugged.” (Proverbs 13:15) The original-language expression for “good insight,” or good understanding, “describes the capacity for good sense, sound judgment, and wise opinions,” states one reference work. A person having such qualities does not find it difficult to gain the favor of others.
Consider the insightful way in which the apostle Paul dealt with his fellow Christian Philemon when sending back Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus, who had become a Christian. Paul exhorted Philemon to receive Onesimus back in a kind manner, even as he might welcome the apostle himself. In fact, Paul offered to make the payment if Onesimus owed Philemon anything. Yes, Paul could have used his authority and ordered Philemon to do the right thing. But the apostle chose to handle the matter tactfully and lovingly. In doing so, Paul felt confident that he would win Philemon’s cooperation, moving him to do even more than what he was asked to do. Should we not also deal with fellow believers in this way?—Philemon 8-21.
The way of the treacherous, on the other hand, is rugged, or “hard.” (New International Version) In what sense? According to one scholar, the word used here means “strong or firm, referring to the callous behavior of wicked people. . . . The man who is set in his evil ways, callous and indifferent to the wise instruction of others, is on a path to ruin.”
Solomon continues: “Everyone shrewd will act with knowledge, but the one that is stupid will spread abroad foolishness.” (Proverbs 13:16) This shrewd one is not a crafty person. Shrewdness here is connected with knowledge and is associated with a prudent person, who thinks things out before acting. When facing unfair criticism or even insult, the shrewd person keeps his lips in check. He prayerfully tries to manifest the fruitage of the holy spirit so that he does not get overly irritated. (Galatians 5:22, 23) The prudent one does not allow the other person or the situation to control him. Rather, he stays in control and avoids the fights that frequently befall an individual who quickly flares up when offended.
The shrewd one also acts with knowledge when making decisions. He knows that wise actions are rarely a product of guessing, acting on emotions, or simply following the crowd. Therefore, he takes time to investigate the situation at hand. He gathers all the facts and determines what options are open to him. Then he searches the Scriptures and decides which Bible laws or principles apply. The path of such a person remains straight.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
“A Faithful Envoy Is a Healing”
As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are entrusted with the proclamation of a God-given message. The words of the next proverb help us to remain faithful in fulfilling our commission. It says: “A messenger that is wicked will fall into bad, but a faithful envoy is a healing.”—Proverbs 13:17.
The emphasis here is on the qualities of the messenger. What if the bearer of the message wickedly distorts or alters the message? Will he not receive an adverse judgment? Think of the prophet Elisha’s attendant Gehazi, who greedily delivered a false message to the Syrian army chief Naaman. The leprosy that Naaman had been cured of came upon Gehazi. (2 Kings 5:20-27) What if the envoy becomes unfaithful and stops declaring the message altogether? “[If] you actually do not speak out to warn the wicked one from his way,” states the Bible, “he himself as a wicked one will die in his own error, but his blood I [Jehovah] shall ask back at your own hand.”—Ezekiel 33:8.
On the other hand, the faithful envoy is a healing to himself and to those who listen to him. Paul exhorted Timothy: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Think of the healing that faithful declaration of the Kingdom good news accomplishes. It awakens people of right heart condition and leads them to the truth that sets them free. (John 8:32) Even if people fail to give ear to the message, the loyal messenger ‘will certainly deliver his own soul.’ (Ezekiel 33:9) May we never neglect to fulfill our commission to preach. (1 Corinthians 9:16) And let us always be careful to “preach the word,” never watering it down or sugarcoating it with compromises.—2 Timothy 4:2.
‘The One Keeping Reproof Is Glorified’
Should a prudent person resent any helpful advice he receives? Proverbs 13:18 states: “The one neglecting discipline comes to poverty and dishonor, but the one keeping a reproof is the one that is glorified.” We are wise to welcome even unrequested reproof. Sound advice may be most helpful when we do not realize that we need it. Heeding such counsel can spare us heartaches and help us to avoid tragedy. Neglecting it will bring dishonor.
Commendation, when deserved, lifts our spirit and is indeed encouraging. But we also need to expect and accept reproof. Consider the two letters that the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. While commending him for his faithfulness, the letters are full of counsel for Timothy. Paul freely counsels the younger man about holding faith and a good conscience, dealing with others in the congregation, developing godly devotion and self-sufficiency, instructing others, resisting apostasy, and accomplishing his ministry. Younger members of the congregation do well to look for and welcome counsel from more experienced ones.
‘Walk With Wise Persons’
“Desire when realized is pleasurable to the soul,” says the wise king, “but it is something detestable to the stupid ones to turn away from bad.” (Proverbs 13:19) Concerning the meaning of this proverb, one reference work notes: “When a goal has been reached or a wish realized, the whole of man’s nature becomes suffused with a feeling of satisfaction . . . Since to accomplish one’s aim is a most pleasant experience, it follows that to depart from evil must be an abomination to fools. Their aspirations can only be achieved by bad methods, and were they to abandon evil, they would be denied the pleasure of ever fulfilling their wishes.” How vital that we cultivate proper desires!
What a powerful effect our associates have on our thoughts, our likes, and our dislikes! Solomon states a timeless truth when he says: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) Yes, our association, even through entertainment, the Internet, and what we read, has a bearing on what we are and will become. How important it is to choose our associates wisely!
“Leave an Inheritance”
“Sinners are the ones whom calamity pursues,” declares the king of Israel, “but the righteous are the ones whom good rewards.” (Proverbs 13:21) The pursuit of righteousness is rewarding, for Jehovah cares for the righteous. (Psalm 37:25) However, we must recognize that “time and unforeseen occurrence” befall us all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Can we do anything to prepare for untimely events?
“One who is good will leave an inheritance to sons of sons,” states Solomon. (Proverbs 13:22a) What a valuable inheritance parents leave behind when they help their children to take in knowledge of Jehovah and cultivate a good relationship with him! But would it not also be prudent to make arrangements, when possible, for the material welfare of the family in case of a parent’s untimely death? In many places, family heads may be able to arrange for insurance, make a legal will, and set aside some savings.
What can be said about the inheritance of the wicked? “The wealth of the sinner is something treasured up for the righteous one,” continues Solomon. (Proverbs 13:22b) In addition to any benefits now, this will prove to be true when Jehovah fulfills his promise to create “new heavens and a new earth” in which “righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) The wicked will then have been cleared out of the way, and “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth.”—Psalm 37:11.
A prudent person acts with knowledge even when he possesses very little. “Plowed ground of persons of little means yields a great deal of food,” says Proverbs 13:23, “but there exists the one that is swept away for lack of judgment.” Very little is made much by hard work and God’s blessings. When justice is lacking, however, unfair judgment can sweep away fortunes.
“Look for Him With Discipline”
Imperfect people need discipline, and they need it from childhood onward. “The one holding back his rod is hating his son,” says the king of Israel, “but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.”—Proverbs 13:24.
A rod is a symbol of authority. At Proverbs 13:24, it refers to parental authority. In this context, employing the rod of discipline does not necessarily mean spanking a child. Rather, it represents the means of correction, whatever form it may take. In one case, a rebuke kindly given to a child may be sufficient to correct improper behavior. Another child may require a stronger reproof. “A rebuke works deeper in one having understanding than striking a stupid one a hundred times,” says Proverbs 17:10.
Parental discipline should always be directed by love and wisdom for the benefit of children. A loving parent does not overlook his child’s faults. On the contrary, he looks for them so that they can be removed before they become too deeply rooted. Of course, a loving parent takes to heart Paul’s admonition: “Fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
What if a parent is permissive and fails to provide needed correction? Will such a parent get thanks later for his permissiveness? Hardly! (Proverbs 29:21) The Bible states: “A boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.” (Proverbs 29:15) To hold back on exercising parental authority shows indifference or a lack of love. Exercising authority kindly and firmly, however, reflects loving concern.
A prudent and upright person who acts with true knowledge will be blessed. Solomon assures us: “The righteous is eating to the satisfaction of his soul, but the belly of the wicked ones will be empty.” (Proverbs 13:25) Jehovah knows what is good for us in any area of life—our family affairs, our relationship with others, our ministry, or when we are being disciplined. And by wisely applying the counsel found in his Word, we will unquestionably enjoy the best way of life.
a For a discussion of Proverbs 13:1-14, see pages 21-5 of the September 15, 2003, issue of The Watchtower.
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In the face of unjust criticism, the shrewd one restrains his tongue
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A faithful Kingdom proclaimer accomplishes much good
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While commendation is encouraging, we must welcome correction
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A loving parent does not overlook his child’s faults