“Buy truth and never sell it, also wisdom and discipline and understanding.”—PROV. 23:23.
1, 2. (a) What is our most precious possession? (b) What truths do we treasure, and why? (See opening pictures.)
WHAT is your most precious possession? Would you be willing to exchange it for something of lesser value? For Jehovah’s dedicated worshippers, the answers to these questions are simple. Our most precious possession is our relationship with Jehovah, and we would not trade it for anything. We also treasure Bible truth, which made cultivating that bond with our heavenly Father possible.—Col. 1:9, 10.
2 Just think of all that our Grand Instructor teaches us in his Word, the Bible! He reveals the truth about his meaningful name and his appealing qualities. He informs us about the outstanding provision of the ransom, which he lovingly provided for us by means of his Son, Jesus. Jehovah also informs us about the Messianic Kingdom, and he sets before the anointed the heavenly hope and before the “other sheep” the hope of the earthly Paradise. (John 10:16) He teaches us how we should conduct ourselves. We treasure these truths because they enable us to draw close to our Creator. They give meaning to our life.
3. What does buying truth not mean?
3 Jehovah is a generous God. He does not hold back good from truth-seekers. Jehovah even provided the life of his dear Son as a free gift. God would certainly not require us to pay money for the truth. In fact, when a man named Simon offered the apostle Peter money in return for the authority to impart holy spirit, Peter rebuked him, saying: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire the free gift of God with money.” (Acts 8:18-20) What, then, is the meaning of the inspired instruction: “Buy truth”?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “BUY” TRUTH?
4. In this article, what will we learn about the truth?
4 Read Proverbs 23:23. We do not find the truth in God’s Word without effort. We must be willing to make whatever sacrifices are needed to obtain it. As the wise writer of Proverbs notes, once we “buy,” or acquire, “truth,” we must be careful not to “sell,” or lose, it. Let us discuss what it means to “buy” truth and the price we may have to pay for it, so to speak. We can thereby deepen our appreciation for the truth and strengthen our resolve never to “sell” it. As we will see, buying truth is well worth the cost.
5, 6. (a) How can we buy truth without money? Illustrate. (b) How does truth benefit us?
5 Even something that is free may come at a cost. The Hebrew word translated “buy” at Proverbs 23:23 can also mean “acquire.” Both words imply making an effort or exchanging something for an item of value. We might illustrate the idea of buying truth this way. Let us say that a market advertises “Free Bananas.” Will those bananas miraculously appear on our table? No. We have to make the effort to go to the market to pick them up. Are the bananas free? Yes, but we must expend the effort and take the time to go to the market. Similarly, we do not need money to buy truth. However, we must make an effort to obtain it.
6 Read Isaiah 55:1-3. Jehovah’s words recorded by Isaiah shed further light on what it means to buy truth. In this Bible passage, Jehovah compares his word to water, milk, and wine. Like a drink of cool, clear water, God’s words of truth are refreshing. Also, just as milk strengthens us and helps children to grow, Jehovah’s nourishing words strengthen us and help us to grow spiritually. Further, Jehovah’s words are also like wine. In what way? In the Bible, wine is associated with rejoicing. (Ps. 104:15) So by telling his people to “buy wine,” Jehovah assures us that living according to his words will make us rejoice. (Ps. 19:8) What a beautiful way to illustrate the beneficial effects of learning and applying God’s words of truth! We could compare the effort to the price we pay. So, then, let us consider five things that we may have to pay to buy truth.
WHAT HAVE YOU GIVEN UP TO BUY TRUTH?
7, 8. (a) Why must we spend time to buy truth? (b) How much was one young student willing to pay, and what was the result?
7 Time. This is a price everyone who buys truth must pay. It takes time to listen to the Kingdom message, read the Bible and Bible literature, have a personal Bible study, and prepare for and attend congregation meetings. We must ‘buy out,’ or take, that time from some other less important activity. (Read Ephesians 5:15, 16 and footnote.) How much time will it take for us to gain an accurate knowledge of basic Bible teachings? That depends on our circumstances. There is no limit to what we can learn about Jehovah’s wisdom, ways, and works. (Rom. 11:33) The first issue of the Watch Tower likened the truth to “a modest little flower” and stated: “Be not content with one flower of truth. Had one been sufficient there would have been no more. Gather ever, seek for more.” We might ask ourselves, ‘How big is my bouquet of truth?’ Even with an eternity of time, we can always learn more about Jehovah. Today, the important thing is that we use our time wisely so as to buy as much truth as our circumstances allow. Consider an example of someone who longed for truth.
8 Mariko,* a young Japanese woman, came to New York City, U.S.A., to attend school. At the time, she followed a religious movement that started in Japan in the late 1950’s. A pioneer sister met Mariko in the house-to-house ministry. When she began to learn Bible truth, her joy was so great that she asked the pioneer to study the Bible with her twice a week. In spite of having a busy school schedule and holding down a part-time job, Mariko immediately began to attend congregation meetings. She also stopped spending time on some social activities in order to buy out time to learn the truth. Making such sacrifices contributed to her rapid spiritual progress. Within a year, she got baptized. Six months later, in 2006, she began to pioneer, and she is still serving as a pioneer.
9, 10. (a) How does buying truth affect our view of material things? (b) What prospects did one young woman give up, and how does she feel about it?
9 Material advantages. To buy truth, we might have to give up a lucrative job or career. When the fishermen Peter and Andrew were invited by Jesus to become “fishers of men,” they “abandoned their nets.” (Matt. 4:18-20) Of course, most of those who learn the truth today cannot simply walk away from their jobs. They have Scriptural obligations. (1 Tim. 5:8) However, individuals who learn the truth must often change their attitude toward material things and adjust their priorities. Jesus stated this clearly when he said: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures on the earth . . . Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matt. 6:19, 20) Consider the example of one young woman.
10 Maria was swinging a golf club even before she was old enough to go to school. She continued to develop her golfing skills during high school and eventually earned a university scholarship. Golf was her life, and her goal was to enjoy a lucrative career as a professional golfer. Then Maria started to study the Bible, and she loved the truths she was learning. She was pleased with the changes that the truth helped her make in her life. She said: “The more I adjusted my attitude and lifestyle to the Bible’s standards, the happier I became.” Maria realized that it would be difficult for her to pursue both spiritual and material riches. (Matt. 6:24) She paid the price of giving up her lifelong goal of becoming a professional golfer and the prospects of gaining riches and fame. However, as a result of buying truth, she now serves as a pioneer and enjoys what she describes as “the happiest, most meaningful life possible.”
11. When we buy truth, what may happen to some of our relationships?
11 Personal relationships. When we choose to live according to Bible truth, our ties with friends and relatives may change. Why? Jesus prayed regarding his followers: “Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17; ftn.) “Sanctify them” can also mean “set them apart.” When we accept the truth, we are set apart from the world because we no longer fit into its mold. People view us differently because our values have changed. We live by the standards of Bible truth. Though we do not want to cause division, some friends and close family members may distance themselves from us or even oppose our newfound faith. This does not surprise us. Jesus acknowledged: “Indeed, a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matt. 10:36) He also gave assurance that the rewards for buying truth far exceed any price we may pay.—Read Mark 10:28-30.
12. What price did one Jewish man pay for truth?
12 From his early years, a Jewish businessman named Aaron was taught that God’s name is not to be pronounced. However, Aaron had a thirst for truth. He was thrilled when a Witness showed him that by combining vowel points with the four Hebrew consonants of God’s name, it could be pronounced “Jehovah.” Excitedly, he went to the synagogue to share his wonderful discovery with the rabbis. Their reaction was not what Aaron expected. Instead of sharing his joy of learning the truth about God’s name, they spit on him and treated him as an outcast. His family bonds became strained. Undaunted, he continued to buy truth and served as a bold Witness of Jehovah for the rest of his life. Like Aaron, in order to walk in the truth, we are willing to pay the price of accepting whatever changes may occur in our social status or family relationships.
13, 14. What changes in our thinking and conduct are needed in order to buy truth? Give an example.
13 Ungodly thinking and conduct. To accept the truth and live by the Bible’s moral standards, we must be willing to make changes in our thinking and conduct. Note what Peter wrote regarding these adjustments: “As obedient children, stop being molded by the desires you formerly had in your ignorance, but . . . become holy yourselves in all your conduct.” (1 Pet. 1:14, 15) For people in the morally corrupt city of Corinth, buying truth meant making major changes in their lifestyle. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) Likewise, to be able to buy truth, many today have turned their back on ungodly conduct. Peter further reminded Christians in his day: “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have done the will of the nations when you carried on in acts of brazen conduct, unbridled passions, overdrinking, wild parties, drinking bouts, and lawless idolatries.”—1 Pet. 4:3.
14 For many years, Devynn and Jasmine were drunkards. Although Devynn was a skilled bookkeeper, his alcohol abuse prevented him from holding a permanent job. Jasmine was notorious for her aggressive, violent behavior. One day while walking drunk along the road, Jasmine met two Witness missionaries. The missionaries arranged for a Bible study, but when they arrived at Devynn’s home the next week, both Jasmine and Devynn were drunk. They had not expected the missionaries to care enough about them to come to their home. The situation was different the next time. From the first study, Jasmine and Devynn became diligent students of the Bible and started to apply what they were learning. Within three months, they decided to give up alcohol and later legalized their marriage. The changes they made became well-known, and this moved many others in their village to study the Bible.
15. What can be one of the most difficult prices to pay for truth, and why?
15 Unscriptural customs and practices. Giving up unscriptural customs and practices can be one of the most difficult prices to pay for truth. Although some may find it easy to accept the Scriptural basis for abandoning these practices, others may hesitate to pay the price because of pressure from family members, workmates, and close friends. The situation may become emotionally charged, especially if a custom involves rites in honor of dead relatives. (Deut. 14:1) The courageous example of others can help us to make the necessary changes. Consider the bold action taken by some inhabitants of Ephesus in the first century.
16. What did some in Ephesus do in order to buy truth?
16 Ephesus was renowned for its magical arts. What did newly converted Christians who had been practicing magical arts do in order to put away those unscriptural practices and buy truth? The Bible explains: “Quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody. And they calculated their value and found them worth 50,000 pieces of silver. Thus in a mighty way, the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.” (Acts 19:19, 20) The faithful Christians made this costly sacrifice and gained priceless blessings.
17. (a) What things may be included in the price we have to pay for the truth? (b) What questions will we consider in the following article?
17 What did you pay for truth? We all spend time gathering flowers of truth. Some also pay for truth by forgoing material advantages and by dealing with adjustments in their personal relationships. Many have to make changes in their thinking and conduct and must give up unscriptural customs and practices. Whatever the cost, we are convinced that Bible truth is well worth any price we have to pay. It gives us our most precious possession, a close relationship with Jehovah. When we reflect on our blessings of knowing the truth, we find it difficult to imagine that anyone would want to sell it. How could that happen, and how can we avoid making such a grave mistake? We will consider these questions in the next article.
Some names in this article have been changed.