The Fear of God—“A Discipline Toward Wisdom”
TRUE wisdom has organized a great feast. It has “sent forth its lady attendants, that it may call out on top of the heights of the town: ‘Whoever is inexperienced, let him turn aside here.’ Whoever is in want of heart—she has said to him: ‘Come, feed yourselves with my bread and share in drinking the wine that I have mixed. Leave the inexperienced ones and keep living, and walk straight in the way of understanding.’”—Proverbs 9:1-6.
Feasting at wisdom’s table never leads to anything bad or hurtful. Listening to the godly wisdom contained in the inspired proverbs and accepting its discipline result only in good. The wise sayings recorded at Proverbs 15:16-33 are no exception.a Heeding the advice of these concise sayings can help us to be content with less, to be progressive, and to experience joy in living. Doing so can also help us to make good decisions and can enable us to stay on the path to life.
When Less Is Better
“Better is a little in the fear of Jehovah than an abundant supply and confusion along with it,” says King Solomon of ancient Israel. (Proverbs 15:16) To ignore the Creator and to make the pursuit of material possessions one’s chief goal in life is foolish. Such a life is full of tiresome striving and a great deal of anxiety. What a shame it would be to realize in old age that one’s whole life course has been empty and meaningless! Accumulating many possessions along with “confusion” is certainly not wise. How much better it is to learn the secret of contentment and live by it! Genuine contentment is found in the fear of Jehovah—in our relationship with him—not in material possessions.—1 Timothy 6:6-8.
Emphasizing that a good relationship with others is of greater value than material plenty, Solomon says: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.” (Proverbs 15:17) Yes, a loving atmosphere in a household is more desirable than an abundance of rich foods. In a single-parent home, resources may be very limited. In some lands simple food may be all that can be provided. However, the family thrives where there is love and affection.
Even in families where the atmosphere is generally loving, difficult situations may arise. One member of the family may say or do something that offends another. How should the offended one respond? Proverbs 15:18 states: “An enraged man stirs up contention, but one that is slow to anger quiets down quarreling.” A mild response, not an angry one, promotes peace and quiet. The advice of this proverb applies with equal force in other areas of life, including congregational activities and the public ministry.
When ‘a Way Is Cast Up’
The next proverb highlights the contrast between someone who has paid no heed to wisdom and those who have. “The way of the lazy one is like a brier hedge,” says the wise king, “but the path of the upright ones is a way cast up.”—Proverbs 15:19.
A brier hedge is a thorny, prickly barrier. A lazy person imagines all sorts of obstacles and uses them as an excuse to justify his failure to start an undertaking. On the other hand, the upright ones do not fret about barriers that might hinder them. They are diligent in their work and give attention to the task at hand. Thus they avoid many thorny problems that they might encounter if they were negligent. Their way is “cast up,” that is, progressive. They move ahead in their work and rejoice in its progress.
Take, for example, the matter of gaining accurate knowledge of God’s Word and progressing to maturity. Effort is required. A person can easily use a limited education, a lack of good reading ability, or a poor memory as an excuse for not applying himself to diligent personal study of the Bible. How much better it is not to imagine such things as roadblocks in the way of knowledge! Even with limited abilities, we can put forth the effort to improve our reading skills and our comprehension of what we read, perhaps making use of a dictionary when necessary. A positive attitude helps us to gain knowledge and make spiritual progress.
When ‘a Father Rejoices’
“A wise son is the one that makes a father rejoice,” says the king of Israel, “but a stupid man is despising his mother.” (Proverbs 15:20) Do not parents rejoice when their children act wisely? Granted, it takes parental training and discipline to obtain such good results. (Proverbs 22:6) But what a source of joy a wise son is to his parents! The foolish one, however, causes them endless grief.
Using the term “rejoicing” in another setting, the wise king says: “Foolishness is a rejoicing to one who is in want of heart, but the man of discernment is one who goes straight ahead.” (Proverbs 15:21) Those in want of heart rejoice in foolish laughter and merriment that give no genuine satisfaction or happiness. However, the man of discernment sees the folly of becoming a ‘lover of pleasures rather than a lover of God.’ (2 Timothy 3:1, 4) Adhering to godly principles helps him remain upright and keep his path straight.
When “There Is Accomplishment”
Living by divine principles brings benefits in other aspects of our life. Proverbs 15:22 states: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk, but in the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.”
Confidential talk means private but frank communication between individuals. The Hebrew word translated “confidential talk” is rendered “intimate group” at Psalm 89:7. This indicates intimacy in communication. More than mere superficial conversation, confidential talk is an exchange of genuine thoughts and feelings. When husbands and wives as well as parents and children freely communicate with one another in this way, there is peace and unity among them. But a lack of confidential talk leads to frustrations and problems in the family.
When we make important decisions, it is prudent to heed the advice: “In the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.” For example, when we are choosing medical treatment, is it not wise to get a second or third opinion, particularly if serious issues are involved?
The value of having many counselors cannot be overemphasized in caring for spiritual matters. When elders consult with one another and utilize their collective wisdom, “there is accomplishment.” Moreover, newly appointed overseers should not hesitate to seek advice from older and more experienced elders, especially if the matter to be cared for is a difficult one.
When There Is “Rejoicing in the Answer”
What good can result from speech that is uttered with insight? “A man has rejoicing in the answer of his mouth,” says the king of Israel, “and a word at its right time is O how good!” (Proverbs 15:23) Do we not rejoice when our answer or advice is followed and good results ensue? For our counsel to be effective, however, it must meet two requirements.
First, the advice should be solidly based on God’s Word, the Bible. (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Then, it must be spoken at the right time. Even truthful words spoken at the wrong time can be damaging. For example, offering advice to someone before hearing him out is neither wise nor helpful. How vital that we “be swift about hearing, slow about speaking”!—James 1:19.
“The Path of Life Is Upward”
Proverbs 15:24 states: “The path of life is upward to one acting with insight, in order to turn away from Sheol down below.” A person who acts with insight is on the path that leads away from Sheol, the common grave of mankind. He shuns such damaging practices as promiscuous sex, drug abuse, and drunkenness—and thus avoids premature death. His path leads to life.
Note, in contrast, the way of those lacking insight: “The house of the self-exalted ones Jehovah will tear down, but he will fix the boundary of the widow. The schemes of the bad one are something detestable to Jehovah, but pleasant sayings are clean. The one making unjust profit is bringing ostracism upon his own house, but the hater of gifts [bribes] is the one that will keep living.”—Proverbs 15:25-27.
Showing us how to avoid a common pitfall, the king of Israel says: “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer, but the mouth of the wicked ones bubbles forth with bad things.” (Proverbs 15:28) How valuable the advice of this proverb! Senseless and foolish answers that just bubble forth from the mouth seldom lead to anything good. When we consider various factors that may have a bearing on a matter, including the circumstances and feelings of others, we are unlikely to say something that we may later regret.
What, then, is the benefit of fearing God and accepting his discipline? The wise man answers: “Jehovah is far away from the wicked ones, but the prayer of the righteous ones he hears.” (Proverbs 15:29) The true God is not near the wicked. “He that is turning his ear away from hearing the law,” states the Bible, “even his prayer is something detestable.” (Proverbs 28:9) Those who fear God and strive to do what is right in his eyes can freely approach him, fully confident that he will hear them.
What “Makes the Heart Rejoice”
Using a thought-provoking comparison, Solomon says: “The brightness of the eyes makes the heart rejoice; a report that is good makes the bones fat.” (Proverbs 15:30) The bones are made “fat” when they are filled with marrow. This invigorates the whole body and makes the heart rejoice. And the joy of heart is reflected in the brightness of the eyes. Such is the effect of a good report!
Are not reports of the worldwide expansion of Jehovah’s worship a source of genuine encouragement to us? Learning about all that is being accomplished in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work indeed invigorates us to have a greater share in the ministry. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) The experiences of those who make Jehovah their God and take up true worship fill our hearts with joy. Since “a good report from a distant land” has such a powerful effect, how important it is that we be accurate and conscientious in reporting what we do in the ministry!—Proverbs 25:25.
“Before Glory There Is Humility”
Stressing the value of accepting discipline in its various forms, the wise king says: “The ear that is listening to the reproof of life lodges right in among wise people. Anyone shunning discipline is rejecting his own soul, but the one listening to reproof is acquiring heart.” (Proverbs 15:31, 32) Reproof, or discipline, reaches a person’s heart and adjusts it, giving him good sense. No wonder it is “the rod of discipline” that removes the ‘foolishness tied up with the heart of a boy’! (Proverbs 22:15) The one listening to discipline also acquires heart, that is, good motive. On the other hand, to shun discipline is to reject life.
Indeed, welcoming wisdom’s discipline and accepting it in humility is beneficial. Doing so leads not only to contentment, advancement, rejoicing, and accomplishment but also to glory and life. Proverbs 15:33 concludes: “The fear of Jehovah is a discipline toward wisdom, and before glory there is humility.”
a For a detailed discussion of Proverbs 15:1-15, see The Watchtower of July 1, 2006, pages 13-16.
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A loving atmosphere in a household is more desirable than an abundance of rich foods
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Even if we have limitations, a positive attitude helps us to gain knowledge
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Confidential talk is an exchange of genuine thoughts and feelings
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Do you know how “a report that is good makes the bones fat”?