“Wisdom Is for a Protection”
“THE getting of wisdom is O how much better than gold! And the getting of understanding is to be chosen more than silver,” states Proverbs 16:16. Why is wisdom so valuable? Because “wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12) How, though, does wisdom preserve alive its owners?
Acquiring godly wisdom, that is, gaining accurate knowledge of God’s Word, the Bible, and acting in harmony with it, helps us to walk in the way Jehovah approves. (Proverbs 2:10-12) King Solomon of ancient Israel says: “The highway of the upright ones is to turn away from bad. One who is safeguarding his way is keeping his soul.” (Proverbs 16:17) Yes, wisdom delivers its owners from bad ways and preserves them alive! The concise, wise sayings at Proverbs 16:16-33 show the positive effect that godly wisdom can have on our disposition, speech, and actions.*
“Be Lowly in Spirit”
Wisdom personified is portrayed as saying: “Self-exaltation and pride . . . I have hated.” (Proverbs 8:13) Pride and wisdom are poles apart. We need to act with wisdom and be careful not to develop a haughty, or arrogant, disposition. Especially should we be on guard if we have enjoyed success in some areas of life or are entrusted with a position of responsibility in the Christian congregation.
“Pride is before a crash,” warns Proverbs 16:18, “and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Consider the greatest crash in the universe—the fall of a perfect spirit son of God who made himself Satan the Devil. (Genesis 3:1-5; Revelation 12:9) Did he not manifest a haughty spirit prior to his crash? The Bible points to this when it says that a newly converted man should not be appointed to an office of oversight in the Christian congregation “for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed upon the Devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1, 2, 6) How important it is to guard against feeding the pride of others as well as allowing it to develop in us!
“Better is it to be lowly in spirit with the meek ones than to divide spoil with the self-exalted ones,” states Proverbs 16:19. That this is good admonition is shown in the case of King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon. He proudly set up an immense image—perhaps representing himself—on the plain of Dura. The statue may have been mounted on a very high pedestal so that it reached a height of 90 feet [27 m]. (Daniel 3:1) This towering monument was meant to be an impressive symbol of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire. While high and lofty things—such as that statue as well as obelisks, steeples, and skyscrapers—may impress humans, this is not the case with God. The psalmist sang: “Jehovah is high, and yet the humble one he sees; but the lofty one he knows only from a distance.” (Psalm 138:6) In fact, “what is lofty among men is a disgusting thing in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15) Better it is for us to “be led along with the lowly things” than for us to “be minding lofty things.”—Romans 12:16.
Speak With “Insight” and “Persuasiveness”
How does acquiring wisdom affect our speech? The wise king tells us: “He that is showing insight in a matter will find good, and happy is he that is trusting in Jehovah. The one that is wise in heart will be called understanding, and he that is sweet in his lips adds persuasiveness. To its owners insight is a well of life; and the discipline of the foolish ones is foolishness. The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness.”—Proverbs 16:20-23.
Wisdom helps us speak with insight and persuasiveness. Why? Because a person who is wise at heart tries to “find good” in a matter and ‘trusts in Jehovah.’ When we endeavor to find good in others, we are more likely to speak well of them. Rather than being harsh or confrontational, our words are sweet and persuasive. Insight into the circumstances of others helps us to understand the extent of hardship they may be experiencing and how they are coping with it.
Speech influenced by wisdom is also vital when it comes to our Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. When we teach God’s Word to others, our objective is not merely to convey Scriptural information. Our goal is to reach the heart of individuals. This calls for adding persuasiveness to our lips. The apostle Paul urged his associate Timothy to continue in the things he had been “persuaded to believe.”—2 Timothy 3:14, 15.
The Greek word for “persuade” has the meaning of “bringing about a change of mind by the influence of reason or moral considerations,” says An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine. Coming up with convincing arguments that lead to a change of mind in our listener calls for insight into his or her thinking, interests, circumstances, and background. How can we gain such insight? The disciple James answers: “Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking.” (James 1:19) By drawing the listener out and carefully paying attention to what he says, we can get to know what he is at heart.
The apostle Paul was outstanding in his ability to persuade others. (Acts 18:4) Even one of his opposers, Demetrius, a silversmith, acknowledged: “Not only in Ephesus but in nearly all the district of Asia this Paul has persuaded a considerable crowd and turned them to another opinion.” (Acts 19:26) Did Paul take personal credit for his effectiveness in the preaching work? Not at all. He considered his preaching to be “a demonstration of [God’s] spirit and power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4, 5) We too have the help of Jehovah’s holy spirit. Because we trust in Jehovah, we are confident of his help as we endeavor to speak with insight and persuasiveness in our ministry.
No wonder that “the one that is wise in heart” is called “intelligent” or “discerning”! (Proverbs 16:21, An American Translation; New International Version) Yes, insight is “a well of life” to those who have it. But what about the foolish? They ‘despise wisdom and discipline.’ (Proverbs 1:7) What results do they reap by rejecting discipline from Jehovah? As noted above, Solomon says: “The discipline of the foolish ones is foolishness.” (Proverbs 16:22) They receive further discipline, often in the form of severe chastisement. The foolish may also bring upon themselves hardship, shame, disease, and even untimely death.
Pointing further to the wholesome effect that wisdom has on our speech, the king of Israel says: “Pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24) As honey is sweet and provides quick refreshment to a hungry person, pleasant sayings are encouraging and refreshing. Honey also has health-giving and curative properties and is good for a person. So are pleasant sayings; they are healthful spiritually.—Proverbs 24:13, 14.
Beware of ‘a Way That Seems Upright’
“There exists a way that is upright before a man,” says Solomon, “but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Proverbs 16:25) This is a warning against false reasoning and the pursuit of a course opposed to divine law. A certain path may seem right from a fleshly standpoint but may really be against the righteous principles of God’s Word. Moreover, Satan may promote such deception so that a person is urged along in a course he believes to be right, whereas it actually leads to death.
There can be no better protection against self-deception than a heart that is wise and understanding and a conscience that is enlightened by the knowledge of God’s Word. When it comes to making decisions in life—whether in the matter of morals or worship or anything else—the best way to guard against self-delusion is to be guided by God’s standards of good and bad.
“The Laboring Man’s Appetite Labors for Him”
“The soul of the hard worker has worked hard for him,” continues the wise king, “because his mouth has pressed him hard.” (Proverbs 16:26) Solomon is saying that a worker’s desire for food ‘can work hard for him’ because his hunger ‘presses him,’ or motivates him. An American Translation reads: “The laboring man’s appetite labors for him; for his hunger urges him on.” Normal desire, such as our appetite for food, can motivate us to be productive. Such a desire is constructive. However, what if proper desire is allowed to become so excessive that it turns into greed? The results are similar to what happens when a campfire used to cook food becomes a full-blown forest fire. Greed is desire out of control and is destructive. Realizing the danger, a wise person keeps even his wholesome desires in check.
Do Not “Go in a Way That Is Not Good”
The words coming from our mouth can be as destructive as a blazing fire. Describing the ruinous effect of searching out the faults of others and broadcasting them, Solomon says: “A good-for-nothing man is digging up what is bad, and upon his lips there is, as it were, a scorching fire. A man of intrigues keeps sending forth contention, and a slanderer is separating those familiar with one another.”—Proverbs 16:27, 28.
A man who tries to scorch his fellow man’s reputation is “good-for-nothing.” We should try to look for the good in others and say things that build respect for them. And what about lending an ear to those who spread harmful gossip? Their words can easily arouse groundless suspicions, separating friends and causing division within the congregation. Wisdom will move us to pay no heed to them.
Warning about a seductive power that can cause one to follow a wrong course, Solomon says: “A man of violence will seduce his fellow, and certainly causes him to go in a way that is not good. He is blinking with his eyes to scheme up intrigues. Pinching his lips together, he certainly brings mischief to completion.”—Proverbs 16:29, 30.
Can violence exercise its seductive power over true worshippers? Many individuals today have been seduced into ‘scheming up intrigues.’ They promote or perpetrate acts of violence. We may not find it difficult to stay clear of such direct participation in violence. But what about being lured into it by subtle means? Have not millions of people been enticed into enjoying entertainment or sports that glorify violence? The Scriptural warning is clear: “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) What protection godly wisdom affords!
What can be said of a person who has spent a lifetime in the company of wisdom and understanding and ‘has not gone in a way that is not good’? A life spent in the way of righteousness is beautiful in God’s eyes and is deserving of respect. “Gray-headedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness,” says Proverbs 16:31.
On the other hand, there is nothing beautiful about uncontrolled anger. Adam and Eve’s firstborn son, Cain, “grew hot with great anger” at his brother Abel and ‘proceeded to assault him and kill him.’ (Genesis 4:1, 2, 5, 8) While there may be times when we rightly feel angry, we must be on guard against allowing our anger to get out of control. Proverbs 16:32 clearly states: “He that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and he that is controlling his spirit than the one capturing a city.” Uncontrolled anger is a sign neither of strength nor of virtue. It is a weakness that can ‘cause one to go in a way that is not good.’
When ‘Every Decision Is From Jehovah’
“Into the lap the lot is cast down,” says the king of Israel, “but every decision by it is from Jehovah.” (Proverbs 16:33) In ancient Israel, Jehovah at times used lots to make known his will. Lots were pebbles or tablets of wood or of stone. First, an appeal was made to Jehovah for him to decide a matter. Next, the lots were thrown into the folds of a robe and then drawn out. The result was accepted as coming from God.
Jehovah no longer uses lots to inform his people of what he has in mind. He has revealed his will in his Word, the Bible. Accurate knowledge of what is stated in the Bible is fundamental to gaining godly wisdom. Therefore, we should not let a single day go by without reading from the inspired Scriptures.—Psalm 1:1, 2; Matthew 4:4.
For a discussion of Proverbs 16:1-15, see pages 17-20 of the May 15, 2007, issue of The Watchtower.
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Why is wisdom much better than gold?
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What adds persuasiveness to your lips when you are in the ministry?
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“A good-for-nothing man is digging up what is bad”
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Uncontrolled anger can cause one “to go in a way that is not good”
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Violence has the power to seduce