Chapter 13:

Wisdom of God to Guide Your Life

wis·dom: 1. Understanding of what is true, right, or lasting; insight. 2. Common sense; good judgment. —The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

In this world there is constant intense debate over what is true and what is the right way to go. Talk shows on TV and radio vigorously promote many opposing views. (These are loosely divided into "liberal" and "conservative" camps, with views ranging from anarchic hedonism to totalitarian puritanism.) If we look to the world's "thinkers" for wisdom and guidance, we will end up discouraged and confused, because every viewpoint may seem plausible when considered in isolation— until the opposing argument is presented. We may become convinced that there is no truth, no one "right" way. This will then make us receptive to the heavily promoted view to "follow your heart, trust your feelings, be true to yourself, don't try to be someone you are not." This is in fact the diametric opposite of true wisdom. It is the original lie of the snake in the garden. It sets us up as our own god. It in effect says that we, despite our limited knowledge and experience, can just mysteriously "sense" what is good and bad. What most actually end up doing is rationalizing justifications for what makes them feel good in the short term. Such self-centeredness has led to much heartbreak, broken families and violence. Despite the path of destruction it leaves behind, it remains a very popular view, because it is so alluringly flattering and seemingly so liberating.

True wisdom gives better results. Rather than "follow your heart", Proverbs 28:26 bluntly warns us: “He who trusts in his own heart is stupid, but the one who walks in wisdom will escape.” A wise person will be honest with himself, know his limits, admit his faults, and try very hard to be someone that he is not (yet): the person he ought to be. He will not be taken by the trap of self-worship that Satan sets.

Solomon, said to be the wisest person of ancient times, said: "Wisdom is the prime thing." Is it really that valuable? He continued: “Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding. Highly esteem it, and it will exalt you. It will glorify you because you embrace it. It will place an attractive wreath on your head; it will adorn you with a crown of beauty.” —Prov 4:7-9.

Where does true wisdom come from? The Bible answers: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Most Holy One is real understanding.” (Ps 111:10, Prov 9:10) The true "fear" of God is far from a dark dread. It means to understand his greatness, his supremacy, to accord him utmost respect. We prove we have such proper fear when we seek out and carefully heed his instruction. “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight. Do not become wise in your own eyes. Fear Jehovah, and turn away from bad.” “For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and discernment. He treasures up practical wisdom for the upright; he is a shield for those walking in integrity. He watches over the paths of justice, and he will guard the way of his loyal ones. Then you will understand what is righteous and just and fair, the entire course of what is good.” —Prov 3:5-7 and 2:6-9.

On the other hand, those who scoff at and ignore God will lose everything in the end. That is not very wise, is it? (Prov 1:22-33, Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13.) So an important part of gaining wisdom is being selective about the people we befriend. "The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one having dealings with the stupid will fare badly," says Proverbs 13.20. "Do not be misled! Bad association ruins good habits," warns Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:33. Proverbs 2:10-15 assures us: “When wisdom enters your heart and knowledge becomes pleasant to your soul, thinking ability will keep watch over you, and discernment will safeguard you, to save you from the bad course, from the man speaking perverse things, from those leaving the upright path to walk in the ways of darkness, from those who rejoice in wrongdoing, who find joy in the perverseness of evil; those whose paths are crooked and whose entire course is devious.” It is just human nature: we adapt to those we are close to emotionally. We conform to be accepted. Were we to choose the company of those who deny there is a God, who dismiss answerability to any superior moral authority, we would surely move toward disregarding His restrictions on our behavior as well. —Psalms 14:1, 2, Isaiah 51:6-8.. See also this research on the effect others have on our behavior.

We reveal the kind of people we are willing to be by the behavior that we seek out for amusement and relaxation. Those who choose violent games or promiscuous romance stories betray a weakness toward accepting such behavior, even if they are presently inhibited from doing such things themselves. Should the opportunity arise where they could feel justified (perhaps with a little lubrication from alcohol or drugs) they are much more likely to act violently or yield to immoral impulses. Entertainment is just another form of association. When you improve your understanding of God's wisdom, you will make more discriminating choices as to amusements. If your "friends" then criticise you, you will also have to choose new friends. —1 Peter 4:4, 5.

It is possible to be astute in one part of our life but foolish in another. That doesn’t work so well. True wisdom affects our entire pattern of life: our attitudes, priorities and interests, and all our relationships, from family to business to authority. It is not a matter of knowing a lot of rules or how-to’s. Rather, wisdom is built on a foundation of understanding human nature, including its weaknesses (such as the tendency to conform noted above), and it works with basic principles, such as trust, respect, and responsibility. We can learn these principles from scripture directly (such as in Proverbs) and by discerning the reasons for commands (such as in the Law given to Israel) and by analyzing bad examples (starting with Satan) and good examples (the best being Jesus). At first we may not understand or be inclined to accept some of God's wisdom, but knowing he is God keeps us from ignoring what puzzles us. Rather, we will study on it and discern why his direction is superior to our own inclinations. —see Prov 11:2 and 8:13.

The wisdom of God is the highest education, not available in any of the finest universities of the world. They can teach you how to advance in the world, but some of the human "wisdom" taught there will ruin your life in the long run. Godly wisdom directs you to a life of satisfying purpose, one that lasts forever. We can’t do everything, so we have to make choices and set priorities. Give this spiritual education priority over all other endeavors, ambitions, and opportunities that would compete with it. Jehovah says: “My son, if you will accept my sayings and treasure up my commandments within yourself, by paying attention to wisdom with your ear, and by inclining your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding and raise your voice for discernment, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and you keep searching for it as for hid treasures, then you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:1-4; see also 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) And his Son added: “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able, after the householder has gotten up and locked the door.” (Luke 13:24, 25) The "householder" is God himself, who will eventually "lock the door" to those who have wasted their opportunities to seriously work at learning from him.

Where to begin? Let us start with James 3:17, which says: “The wisdom from above is first of all pure.” "Pure" means morally clean, innocent. By definition, this cannot be a false front. It has to be whole-hearted, sincere. According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.”—Matthew 22:35-40.

What is love? Put simply, it means loyalty plus kindness. It requires an object; we could love only ourselves, as a narcissist, but that is misdirected love. We could love things, as a materialist, but that leaves us empty. We can love our tribe, clan, country, race, above all else, but that limits us terribly. But if we love God, that is, really desire to be what He wants us to be, really care about what he cares about, loyally refuse to do anything we know offends him, we have access to the universe. Now, love without knowledge is more akin to infatuation. For our love for God to be well-directed and strong, we have to accurately know what he really wants us to be, what he cares about, what offends him. So let us return to this matter of purity. This is an area of life that gives many people trouble.

Sex, Morality and Family

A central weakness that Satan exploits is our desire for sensual pleasure. God designed us to have sexual desire and the equipment to satisfy it. Animals indulge whenever urge and opportunity coincide, and Satan says to us, "You are an animal. Enjoy!" Our Creator, on the other hand, says that our procreative power is a sacred privilege to be used with respect for its purposes. One of these is indeed pleasure; He made it so. But another is reproduction, and in that it must consider the fundamental needs of the generation it produces. Children need faithful, trustworthy, nuturing parents in a longterm commitment, through fat times and lean. They must not be treated as incidental and inconvenient consequences, which is what happens when the "parents" are focused on pleasure alone.

Nor does marital loyalty end when the kids are grown and gone. God regards infidelity as treachery. Your mate depends upon your faithfulness; betrayal is violence to the heart just as surely as blows to the face. If you act so hatefully toward your mate, Jehovah says, he will refuse to hear any request for favor from you. —see Malachi 2:13-16, 1 Peter 3:7, Hebrews 13:4..

It is stupid to incite wrong desires in our flesh and then expect to resist them. Do not fantasize about illicit relationships. A basic of human nature is that we cannot think longingly about a treat within reach and resist it for more than a short time. As scripture puts it, "Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin." (James 1:14; see also Matt 5:27, 28.) The key to success, then, is to see sex as God intended for humans to see it: a privilege of a loyal pair-bond, to time indefinite. Remember, we were designed for unlimited lifespan; until God says otherwise, we are to regard marriage relationships as unending.

What about perverted sex? Although scripture does not spell out the limits of activity between married persons, wisdom does not require rules— it applies principles. God clearly excludes homoerotic acts as unnatural. (See Romans 1:24-27.) Ejaculating into orifices not designed for fertilization is not the male organ’s intended usage; would God countence such disrespect for it? Semen is comparable to blood in that it carries the future generation; blood was to be treated with respect, never used for an improper purpose, such as common consumption; it follows that semen should not be wantonly distributed, nor in a manner incompatible with its purpose.

Another principle that applies: "Seek not your own advantage, but that of the other person." (1 Corinthians 10:24) If you desire to do something erotic that your mate finds disgusting, who are you thinking of if you press for it anyway?

This principle also applies to normal intercourse: as Paul said, ‘Do not deprive each other [of sex], except by mutual consent for an appointed time.’ That is, do not hold out on your mate, perhaps trying to extort a favor. Really, whether indulging or refraining, it should be by "mutual consent." Thus the husband respects and loves his wife and confirms the bond as it should be, by not demanding sex, and the wife respects him and herself by not using her availability as a item of trade. —1 Corinthians 7:2-5.

Those who are single are especially targeted by Satan. The hormones produce strong urges and God says, "learn to control yourself." Satan says, "What for?" The answer is, "that you may live a long time and be honorable and successful." In other ambitions men can understand that self-control and measured self-denial are worthwhile: they are willing to exert themselves to the limit to achieve honor or wealth or whatever else they strongly desire. Serious athletes abstain from anything that could sap their advantage. In the same way, those who know God and see sex in its right relationship to life understand that unrestrained lust weakens not just the body but also the spirit, and most important of all, it estranges us from God. Such self-indulgence would give the Opposer a wide opening to defeat us, strong leverage to control us. Not wise! —see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

"Free love" has never been free. Those who try to live as mindlessly and promiscuously as dogs eventually discover that other feelings exist. Selfish sex alone leaves us feeling unsatisfied; we are designed to need loyal, dependable, responsible relationships. Those we have used and abandoned may discover this before we do, and can make our life very uncomfortable, to put it tactfully. Many a politician has been embarrassed by unexpected infants. Rap stars may boast of their "ho's", but end up with too many "holes"— bullet holes. How does it make you feel to realize that someone has just been using you? Satan would have you then retaliate, 'do unto others as others have done to you.' This is the way to bitterness and depression. It is not the way of God. Look down the path you are thinking* of taking; acts have consequences. God knows how we are made; his moral standards are what work, what really makes us happy deep in our soul. —see Psalm 19:7-11, Galatians 6:7, 8.

Therefore God advises us, “Deaden your body members on the earth to sexual immorality, uncleanness, passionate lust, harmful desire, and greediness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:5, 6) We should enjoy our mate's company, but in a way consistent with what is good and natural for humans. As to any other inclination, we cut that off, make it dead. If we have no mate, we do our utmost to be honorable; we stun or paralyse as best we can the desires we cannot yet honorably fulfill. Some find this more a struggle than others; staying fully occupied with other worthy interests can distract us quite effectively if we want it to. Obviously, pining away and looking longingly at other's happy fulfilled relationships will NOT help you to be steady. Satan would have you poison your mind with porn and excite your genitals by hand, the exact opposite of inspired counsel. His way is a trap: such incitement of sexual appetite is actually a form of drug addiction. The stimulated body produces brief surges of pleasure chemicals in the brain quite similar to crack or heroin. Just as with other drugs, the addict gradually has to increase the dose, find more ways to get high— and that way there be demons. The wise take heed. —see also 1 Thess 4:3-5, 7, 8 and Philippians 4:6-9, also Proverbs 7.

But what if the affection in a marriage has cooled off? Your mate no longer excites you? The romance is gone? The world would say, "You have fallen out of love, it's over, time to move on." One more truth about human nature: we are attracted to novelty. So a marriage will stay interesting if it keeps growing or adjusting, but not if it gets stuck in a tedious routine. And a marriage is far, far more than a sexual relationship; if that were all it is about, it surely would get wearisome. As noted in the first chapter of this book, your brain is designed for considerably more accomplishment than coitus. Assuming both of you are intelligent and imaginative persons with a wide range of interests both spiritual and intellectual, you can surely find ways to enjoy each other's company outside of bed, if you just try. The reason most quit trying is not that they have run out of options, not at all; rather, they have begun to nurture an illicit desire for someone else, whether real or in fantasy. The result is a dying of interest in their mate. Only thoughts of their fantasy excites them; the one they swore to love and honor seems dull in comparison. The "romance is gone" and who caused that?

The answer therefore is not candlelight dinners and soft music (a little of that wouldn't hurt, of course) but communication. A woman by nature wants to express her feelings and feel that her mate is listening with empathy (and really, he doesn't have to actually say much at all; just don't tune her out, even when she takes forever to get to any point, or never does, because doing so really isn't the point). A few pertinent comments or questions along the way to show you're still mentally present is all it takes. She will feel loved. A man, on the other hand, needs to feel respected. If he speaks, the very worst thing to do is to immediately find fault or contradict him. If he really is wrong, you will have to eventually guide him toward discovering that for himself. Not too quickly (unless it is urgent) and not too obviously. If you can do that, he will thank you for your help instead of resenting your superior brilliance. He will want to keep you around, for you are useful to him. He will fear losing you. He will be yours. And your kindness will not go unnoticed; he will know you love him. Besides that, really look for things about him that you can honestly admire and let him know you noticed. He may not seem to be listening, but he will like you for some vague reason. —Ephesians 5:33.

Plan things to do together that both of you can enjoy or at least tolerate for a while. If he likes fishing, go along for the ride, even if you can't bear to hook one yourself. Make yourself useful in some way instead of scaring all the fish off by constant squealing. At home, could you cook a meal together? Don't try to take over in her kitchen; that may not go over well. But with a little consultation, you could likely do more than watch TV while dinner is being prepared. Washing the greens, peeling the potatoes, you know, the dirty work, that might be appreciated. Is everything out of a pop-top can? You have not begun to live. Visit the green-grocer's together, widen your horizons, get interested in life. And if you have the land, growing a garden together could help you grow together.

Your marriage mate should be a trusted friend. We could say "best" friend, but we need not rank our friends one above another; each one is unique and has his/her own position in our life. A husband should not jealously expect his wife to have no other friends, nor should a wife assume his friends are rivals for his attention to her. Both should reassure the other of the secure bond of loyalty of their mutual friendship in its own special sphere. Why is this so important? Because insecurity is at the root of many conflicts in relationships. Quite often arguments over trivial things are really spurred by deeper fears: He left the light on again! (unspoken fear: he is SO irresponsible. can he keep a job? will we lose everything?; Or, he "never" remembers to turn it off no matter how much I remind him, so he obviously doesn't care about me. I'm surely nothing to him.) You're making us late! (unspoken fear: will others lose respect for me?) But if each has learned to trust that the other has only good intentions, by reassurances both verbal and visible, then feelings of insecurity will be momentary at most and not poison the marriage.

Two basic things destroy any relationship: selfishness and distrust. If one is fearful, or suspicious, or overly self-concerned, unfortunately the instinct seems to be to go on the attack, to demand an accounting, to correct, criticise, try to control. In other words, to destroy the very thing one is trying to rescue. And the reactive instinct is to defend oneself, even to counterattack. This is not the way to success. Wisdom is about what works, so what is the better way?

First, be considerate, so that your choices do not arouse reasonable insecurity in your mate. Do not think only of your own feelings and vantage point; try to see things through your friend's eyes. Do not give improper attention to another person of the opposite sex. Nothing stays secret forever, in fact, not usually very long at all. So don't even go there. Also mind your responsibilities: don't blow the paycheck on foolish things. Pay the bills. (If you can’t, don't keep that secret from your mate. She has the right to know and may have good ideas to work the problem out.) Do not buy things just because you enjoy the thrill of shopping. Plan and budget. Agree on a quite small amount for indulgences if you can, and hold that limit. You will not die. Prove yourself responsible, and you will earn trust. And put some earnest effort into remembering to turn out the light, put the seat down, whatever makes your mate happy, as often as you can. And if he forgets occasionally, let it pass! If you demand perfection, don't be surprised if your mate begins to pick at your mistakes or finds other ways to irritate you. No one wins that way. —remember 1 Corinthians 10:24.

Second, if you are prone to suspicion and insecurity (if you had an insecure childhood or previous betrayed relationships, that may be understandable) stop and think fairly: why do I feel insecure now? You trusted him enough to marry him, has anything really changed? If you extend trust, the normal person will rise to meet the expectation. If you are overly suspicious, the normal reaction is to start keeping things secret, even innocent things, just to avoid the hassle of being constantly challenged.

Third, if real cause for concern occurs: address the concern directly but respectfully, with kindness; assume that the other has not already thrown away all interest in the relationship. Maybe their care has slipped a little, but it isn’t gone; use that remaining care as a handle to guide them back to you. Do not drive them away with accusations; draw them out to open up about the matter. (By the way, this is exactly the same advice as for dealing with a child, but do not speak to your mate as if they were a child, even if they are acting like one.) If you discover that they have indeed stupidly betrayed your trust, anticipate that they may react like a cornered animal. Give them an honorable way to make it right. Do not berate them and force an "apology"— a forced apology is worthless. Step back (figuratively) and let them step forward of their own volition to make amends. They may feel that explaining and justifying their blunder or foolishness will make it right; if they prove unconvincing, resist the urge to explode. Maybe a skeptical silence will result in better effort. Whatever your style of communication, just remember you will surely be on the other side of such an exchange sometimes. "Do to others as you want others to do to you."

It is important to address the concern directly, especially with men. If he is innocent, he will probably be oblivious to oblique hints. If he is really trying to hide something, he will be on the alert to notice if you have noticed, so a hint may connect— or not. Just describe your fear plainly, without assumptions, accusations, interpretations, or other baggage. If you have evidence, present it simply. Then go quiet, and see what happens. If it's suddenly all your fault, that is a bad sign. An innocent, caring person will be reassuring; if an actual misstep has been made, it should be admitted and a solution sought; but selfish deceit will be evasive or defensive, even when properly addressed. Just keep in mind that even an innocent person may be evasive or defensive if attacked. And a practiced liar can play innocent quite well. But you should know if your mate is a liar: if you see them casually lie to others, be sure they will lie to you, no matter how much they assure you of their sincerity.*

"Love is a perfect bond of union." (Colossians 3:14) There are different kinds of love: romantic love, family loyalty, affection for friends, devotions to causes or to persons, even fondness for things. In this scripture Paul chose a word that means heartfelt devotion to what is good and true, which is shown by seeking the welfare of others because it is the right thing to do, whether they are likeable or not. It is fair when life is not fair, it sticks to standards under pressure. This is the way we can "love" our enemies even though we feel no affection for them. It is also the love that keeps the congregation together even when there are "causes for complaint," which is what Paul was discussing. And it is the love that keeps a marriage happily together even when the romantic excitement ebbs. It searches for solutions, not escape. At 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul describes this love by what it chooses and refuses: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”*

How does one learn this kind of love? Jesus answers: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” We go to Christ by closely considering his words and works that his Father had recorded for us. The entire Bible is God's letter to mankind that will over our lifetime mold us into His image, if we really want it to. Marriage partners that are in awe of the same supreme Authority will realize how little their differences are, how easily solved with the wisdom He provides. If both are truly humble before God, they cannot be self-centered—so they will be humble before each other. And as mates pray together to Jehovah* they are reminded how weak they are compared to Him, how much they need His kindness. This in turn will move them to be kind in solving any problem between them. —Matt 11:28, 29.

Parenting

A fundamental responsibility of parents is to impart the wisdom of God to their children. Yet many parents prevent their children from learning essential lessons of life by being overprotective or by doing too much for them. Overcome by irrational fear, some mothers keep their children locked indoors. Children need to explore their world and learn things that can only by learned by doing, including the fact that mistakes hurt. Obviously, being immature and impulsive, they need supervision, within reason. But you want them to develop mature judgment and self control; you cannot for all time do everything for them. They need to learn to do for themselves the basic responsibilities of life. So if they make a mess, don't clean it up for them, have them do it (in an age-appropriate manner of course; don't expect the impossible.) Until they do, do not allow any other play. First things first. Not halfway, but done. Anger and punishment need not have any part in this. It's just life: if you open the gate you close it. You break it, you fix it. Irresponsible behavior has consequences— not screaming and threats, not even a raised voice— just make it right, or life loses its joy. Do not let them wear you down or wait you out; now, or the consequences get more serious.

If patiently and consistently taught from infancy, you will have a cooperative and responsible youth. Then as a teen when they want more freedom, they will in fact be ready for it, in measured steps. You will be able to loosen your supervision with confidence. They will misstep at times; just see to it they learn from it by paying the natural consequence. Not something draconian and artificial that you add, but just the natural outcome itself can make it a lasting learning experience. If they betray your trust, then don't trust them! Make them earn it again. If that takes a while, that's life. Provide opportunities to do so, so that restoration is attainable. Wise persons observe and learn from the mistakes of others, so kindly point out such lessons as they come by. Teach your children to notice how life can bite back. "The wise one sees the calamity ahead, and turns aside; the inexperienced walk straight into it." —Proverbs 22:3.

Teens do naturally develop new and intense feelings that they have no practice controlling. Wise parents, remembering their own turbulent adolescence, will maintain supervision accordingly. Not by locking their teen in a room, or worse, trying to relive their youth through them, but by communicating the wisdom of experience to them. Expect resistance, that too is natural. This is the "budding-off" time of life, when paths away from the nest are being explored. What they need the most is foresight. The last part of the brain to develop is the part that manages ability to think into the future about consequences (Google "brain teen judgment" for ample commentary.) You are responsible to guide that development toward success and away from disaster. Proverbs 29:15 says “The rod and reproof impart wisdom, but a child left unrestrained brings shame on his mother.” By "rod" this means firmness, even applied pain if necessary (Prov 23:13, 14). Would you let your son walk into the path of an oncoming truck, saying, "He will learn the hard way not to do that"? Which will hurt more, you or the truck? So act decisively to teach, with words and acts that are as strong as needed, to keep your offspring on the way of life both physically and spiritually.

Obviously, children will break things they can't fix. So another essential lesson for life is forgiveness. If God did not forgive us, we would have no hope. You want your children to look forward both with humility— no, the world doesn't belong to them, and doesn't owe them anything— and with hope, even anticipation, of what they can achieve and of what good is coming to those who do what is right. Mistakes can hurt, but they need not be fatal. Those who are shown proper mercy learn how to extend such mercy. This is the kind of person God will forgive. (Matthew 6:14, 15, James 2:13) But God will not forgive on mere sentiment; he forgives only those who want it, admit they need it, and are conscientiously trying not to need it. You teach this by doing the same.* When the young one learns this, he has gained a vital building block of wisdom. —Isaiah 55:7, Proverbs 28:13, Psalms 32:1-5, 8, 9.

Children are not dogs; you do not need to slip a treat into their mouth every time they roll over. Actually not even dogs need a material reward or even praise for obedience. They can respond quite well to a feeling of belonging. Once they understand what their pack leader wants, they feel good doing it. Humans have the same instinct (that is why we advised a wise choice of 'pack leader' earlier!). Your child will happily do what is good and responsible without effusive praise or payment, in fact overdoing such things is actually damaging. Recognition is enough praise. A child wants to be noticed and wanted. Give that, and you have him.

Your children will mirror your attitude toward work. If you avoid chores, put them off, neglect getting things done, they will do the same, even if they complain about the mess. If you are diligent and industrious and actually enjoy accomplishment, even taking out the trash, you will find it much easier to inspire a similar attitude in them. The reward should be, not money, but the result itself. Such an honorable work ethic will produce a neat and well-running household, and will prepare them for success when they establish a family of their own. —compare Proverbs 24:30-34.

Money and Morality

After sex, money is a cause for much foolishness and trouble. What is our Father's wise advice about this? He says, “Money is a protection, just as wisdom is a protection; the advantage of wisdom is that it can save your life.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12) With money, doors can open to you. But having too much can be dangerous, as it can make you a target. We may also begin to trust in it instead of God for our security. Proverbs 18:11 says: “The wealth of the rich is his fortified city; it is like a protective wall in his imagination.” The wise man also said (at Prov 23:4, 5) “Do not wear yourself out to get rich. Stop and understand: when you look at it, it has vanished. For it will surely grow wings like an eagle and fly off into the sky.” You can surely attest to that. Where does it get off to? We can depend on God; money, not so much.

Some people think the Bible says "Money is the root of all evil." Actually it says "The love of money is a root of all evil." The whole passage reads "We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having food and clothing, we will be content with these things. But those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things [=evil], and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains." (1 Timothy 6:7-10) Or as some wags put it, have stabbed themselves all over with many payments. If we get too focused on making more money, we will be tempted to make choices that would damage our honor, break our friendships, and destabilize our family. What an opening we give Satan! God cannot bless that course, but Satan dangles the come-on and may give us just enough to keep us coming— until he has us where he wants us, then springs his trap. Then to keep it we will have to pay, and dearly. Not money necessarily, but what Satan wants most to take from us: our relationship with God. If we balk, he can strip the money away in an instant, and if we are out far enough from God's protection, he may take much more. The wise see the trap and take another road. —see also Prov 30:8, 9.

The wise person knows the meaning of the proverb: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Prov 22:7) So we are not interested in being actually poor, as that is not a merit in itself. Our Father wants us to be free of chains of debt, to the extent that is possible in a modern economy. So while he does not promise us material wealth, his advice steers us away from taking on burdensome obligations to creditors. Anytime we think of pulling out the plastic, we should pause and say, "Is this wise? Do I really need to do this? What other choices will work?" Debt represents money we haven't actually earned yet; we are placing a bet that we will be able to earn it. Kept modest, this can work, but it is the poor man's way to have things. If you work only with what you have, not with what you hope to have, you have much more freedom.

Of course, some long-term debt may be necessary. If you must have a car now (if public transportation is unavailable, inadequate, even unsafe), then saving up to pay cash may not be an option. Or in choosing between owning a home or renting, here are factors to weigh: if you own, it is not so easy to move if the jobs move, but, with a fixed rate loan, the payments may be more predictable than rent, and you can keep the place up yourself* instead of depending on the kindness of a landlord who does not care. And mortgage payments on a favorable home loan can be lower than rent. You may not intend to stay there until it's paid off, so you could see it as a kind of rent, but with the possibility of getting some back when you sell. In fact, if you kept the place up and the neighborhood didn't go bad, you could actually break even. Can't do that with rent. Those who have managed their life prudently are better positioned to get that "favorable" loan. Just read the fine print, and refuse to be trapped. Low payments up front are not a good reason to gamble on being able to pay heavily later. Do not make promises you should know you will not be able to keep. —Psalms 37:21.

And with all purchases, buy quality, not glitter and flash. The cheap tools are plated to be shiny, but are of inferior metal and quickly give out. Sometimes they are not even worth free, because you can hurt yourself trying to use them. The "cool" car may be junk, or at least you pay too much for the value of "cool", whatever that is. Looking sharp has some value, but don't let it blind you to more important things, like, does it run? Can the whole family get in?

Retirement

Christians hope to never retire. We keep hoping that the Kingdom will come before we get old, and some day, it will do just that, although that part about getting old may have already come for you and me. Have we piled up the million the financial planners say we should for our dotage? Have we stepped off the treadmill and headed for the Riviera? No? Or do we open the wallet and let the moth fly out? More likely, we have to blow the dead bug out. After the near-implosion of the world economy in 2008, many who had managed to save a little something said they now expected to keep working until they dropped. That is, if there was any work. What lessons can we take from this?

Saving for contingencies is wise. A cushion of liquidity (quickly available cash) for survival of about 3 to 6 months is generally agreed to be basic common sense. (Proverbs 6:6-8) Not, of course, in "the manner to which you have become accustomed," unless barely squeaking by IS what you are accustomed to. If you have kept your obligations minimal (see above) this may not involve a big account, and you just might be able to do this. If the worst happens, what loads can you honorably shed and not be burning bridges ahead of you? What can you sell that you won't have to turn right around and buy again at a much higher price? Stay strictly away from loan sharks (payday lenders), and don't pawn anything you ever want to see again. Those who panic tend to overreact and do things they will regret. Jehovah tells us, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look around, for I am your God. I will fortify you. I will really help you. I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” —Isaiah 41:10.

Beyond the contingency cushion, the world advises retirement savings, and the government (USA) may even kindly defer taxes on such accounts. After all, you are basically handing the cash straight to them on their promise to hand it back 20 or 30 years from now. Does that now give you any pause?

Or you could hand it to investors who will put it into the stock market. Do you still believe that the money will be there when you need it, or will someone have Madoff with it? (Couldn't resist.) Actually Bernie Madoff was an amateur klutz compared to the professionals who are running the system.

In some countries, support for the retired is built into the tax system, and you invest a major part of your income for that whether you have faith in it or not. In places where such saving is up to you, generally the wages are much lower for the servant classes, and retirement plans are well out of reach. But if you have found a better class of work, you may be able to weigh the question: save for the distant future, or do good with it today? What would Jesus do? More exactly, what would he expect you to do? (He knew he would be gone in less than 4 years, so we know where he put his savings. We may be stuck with this world a bit longer.)

Jesus knew that the last days would be times hard to deal with, and the majority of those putting faith in him would never be able to save very much. Did he say, follow me and your bank account will overflow? Not even close! Rather, he said “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) He criticised the man who was satisfied with his abundant savings but neglected God. He would not live to enjoy his wealth. So, save some if you can, but not if it means you do little for others now. And do not fret unduly if you cannot make enough to save anything; God assures you he will provide what you need for today, if you are firmly on His side. That's all he offers. No one can accuse him of buying our devotion; most people don't have enough faith to take this deal, they want more than that. How about you? And which choice is really the wise investment? —Luke 12:15-31, Hebrews 13:5, 6.

Of course let not your lack of savings be due to profligate spending on nonessentials. Sure, life need not be joyless and austere, but the world is set up to induce you to part with your money on frivolous things. Often you can get more bang for your buck with a little forethought and effort. A 20-cent cup of home-brewed coffee can be just as good as that 4-dollar Starbucks. When you buy packaged convenience foods, you are paying for time not spent doing it yourself. Is it a good trade? Sometimes, but not usually. A little math can make a big difference. Never learned to cook? A wise investment opportunity for you.

God is not in the least impressed by riches; he owns all the gold in the hills. So what if we can make generous endowments to the congregation? If we do, we are only doing what we should; we purchase no special merit. Or if we can easily do so but spend or hoard it selfishly instead, that money has earned us only disapproval. Rich people often feel they deserve privileged treatment; such an attitude offends God. So wealth can actually be hazardous to our spirituality. The poor—that is, through no negligent or reckless mismanagement of their own—are often more keenly aware of their dependence on God and have a better attitude, being more empathetic to the distress of others, so, although they cannot make big donations, they are closer to God. Or as Jesus put it, "Happy are you poor, because yours is the kingdom of God." —Luke 6:20-25; see also James 2:1-5, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Should we be pitied, or brushed off as parasites? The wealthy might see us that way, until they realise just how true the saying, "wealth does not buy happiness." Poverty doesn't either, but as the scripture says, “Sweet is the sleep of the one serving, whether he eats little or much, but the plenty belonging to the rich one does not allow him to sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) In the ways that really count, we are richer than they are. As Peter said to the lame beggar, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have is what I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” (Acts 3:6) We may not have silver and gold either, but we can still offer the power of God's truth, the confidence of steady faith, the strength of having God's approval. That is worth far more than any mansion.

Jesus gave a tough assignment to a nice young man who wanted to be good. He had only one problem: he was too devoted to his status as a rich person. Jesus, being able to discern what the young man needed, told him: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” But when the young man heard this, “he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions.” Turning to his disciples, Jesus commented, “Truly I say to you, it will be difficult for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to get through a needle's eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” His disciples reacted as we would have: “Who really can be saved?” Really, does Jesus expect us to give away everything we own, and become homeless street people? That cannot be what he meant. Just a few years later, when Peter was arrested, the congregation gathered to pray for him "at the house of Mary the mother of John Mark," who was well-to-do enough to have a big house and a servant girl to answer the door. So we should take Jesus' advice to the young man for its principle, not as a rule.* We should put aside anything that proves to be a hindrance to our taking the path to life. If, like Mary, we can by keeping our assets make them useful for God's interests, then that is the appropriate choice. The main thing is not to cling to possessions as if they were our salvation. —Acts 12:12, 13, Matthew 19:21-29.

Putting material and mundane/temporal things in proper perspective does not come naturally to us. We really need food and shelter, and we crave comfort and activities, and these are not free. It is easy to focus on such things and forget that there are important unseen realities which affect our lives, and especially our future, even more. No, God does not expect us to live only for the future, to be an ascetic, denying ourselves all joy in the present. He put wonderful things on this planet for us to enjoy. But we cannot now live in a carefree way as if we were in the paradise God originally made for us. We are in Satan's world now, and that must change our focus: not so much on enjoying life, rather more on proving faithful to God in a perverse world. As Paul put it, “This I say, brothers, the time left is reduced. So let those who have wives be as though they had none,* and those who weep be as those who do not weep, and those who rejoice as those who do not rejoice, and those who buy as those who do not possess, and those making use of the world as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) That was a long time ago; was it bad advice? No, the Jewish world of that time was about to experience a disastrous upheaval that would wipe out tremendous wealth. Even those there in the prosperous and libertine Grecian city of Corinth would eventually experience their own reckoning; no party lasts forever. Look at Syria in 2018 for an idea of what is to come worldwide.

Christ gave quite direct counsel on this: “Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you.” “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth . . . rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . You cannot be a slave both for God and for Riches. For this reason I say to you: Stop being anxious about your lives as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not life mean more than food and the body than clothing? Look carefully at the birds of heaven: they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are? . . . So never be anxious and say, What are we to eat? or, What are we to drink? or, What are we to wear? The nations ardently pursue all those things; but, your heavenly Father knows what you need. So put priority on seeking his Kingdom and his righteousness first, and the things you need will be provided to you.” —John 6:27, Matthew 6:19-33.

Jesus is telling us that spiritual things are more important than physical concerns. On one occasion, he visited two sisters. One wanted to be a good hostess and serve a fancy meal, a fine desire to be sure, so she busied herself with the cooking. See what happened: “He entered into a certain village [Bethany], where a woman named Martha received him as guest into the house. She had a sister there named Mary, who sat down at the feet of the Lord and kept listening to what he was saying. Martha, on the other hand, was distracted with attending to many duties. So she came to him and said: ‘Lord, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her to come help me.’ In answer the Lord said to her: ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one. For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.’” —Luke 10:38-42.

"A few things, or just one!" How do you think Martha felt about that correction? Somewhat deflated? Jesus no doubt appreciated her hospitality, but he was saying, ‘I do not need to be feasted as if I were someone great. I'm happy with simple things. Do not deny your sister the sweet nourishment of spiritual learning.’ This is a lesson that Martha surely remembered, and we are wise to learn it too. How often we look around at the piles of things we have accumulated, most of it not all that useful anymore, and wonder, "how can I simplify my life?" While it is true that modern life in a developed society cannot be as simple as in Jesus' time (he didn't have to keep up a car or fill out tax returns), it can be far simpler than most of us make it. So shed needless complications. And when tempted to get something new, stop and ask yourself: will this really simplify my life? Or will it be one more thing to keep up with? Will it enable me to do good, or will it distract me from more important things?

Most ecologists now recognize that the rate of consumption by "developed" countries is unsustainable, worsening as China and India catch up. As the article on "sustainability" on Wikipedia says, "More and more data is indicating that [many] humans are not living within the carrying capacity of the planet." To prevent ruining the earth mankind must learn to live as part of creation, not as if resources were infinite and disposable. Jesus taught this long ago, but who is listening? God is now observing to see who respects his word, and he will soon step in and rescue his planet from those who refuse to listen to him. What do your habits and ambitions say about you?

Clean Living

People ruin their lives by trying to enjoy it in foolish ways, such as with "recreational drugs." Our body is a finely tuned machine that usually works well for most of a lifetime if it is cared for and not abused. It is indeed a precious gift of God, and should be treated accordingly. If you could offer a needy family a fine house to live in, you would at least expect them to be grateful, and try to keep it clean and livable. If instead they rebuilt engines on the dining table, broke the plumbing, piled trash in every corner, let the dogs defecate on the rug. . . you get the picture. Yes, it happens. They may be as happy as pigs in a puddle, but are you? What would you do? Then you know how God feels about people who choose to trash their minds and bodies on drugs. What will he do?

Some get into drugs trying to solve pain or depression, not thinking about the devastation ahead. The pusher sure isn't going to warn them. Once hooked, they may want to pull free but find it has a strong magnetic grip. They need help. If this has happened to you, be assured that Jehovah can pull you loose, but you must really, desperately want him to, and you must yield completely to his spirit. Jesus said to be firm and decisive. (Matthew 18:8) Make a sharp break from that prison and do not go back. If you do not succeed at first, you are not angry enough at the evil. The Bible uses the word "repentance," which doesn't just mean a sorrowful feeling. Paul puts it this way: “. . . being saddened in a godly way, what a great earnestness it produced in you, yes, clearing of yourselves, yes, indignation, yes, fear, yes, longing, yes, zeal, yes, righting of the wrong!” (2 Corinthians 7:11) No self-sparing ‘maybe tomorrow, I'm not ready yet’ there!

Of course emotion alone is not powerful enough. Then you have to reach out for Jehovah, the God whose name means "He causes to become." Trust him. He can do it, if you are not holding on, if you are really letting go of it. Jesus promises, "Keep on asking, and it will be given you." (Lu 11:9) Some Bible versions read here, "Ask, [like once] and you shall receive," but in the context Jesus was emphasizing persistence. So God may not set you free instantly. He wants you to prove your determination for his help. Don't get angry about that, just cry out more earnestly. When you are ready, he will produce results. He knows what he is doing. —compare Joel 2:12, 13.

The most widely used "recreational drug" in the world is tobacco. Being legal does not mean it is good for you, or not addictive. It has a calming effect*, which is why it is more commonly used by people in stressful occupations, especially in wartime. Along with the nicotine comes a full load of powerful carcinogens. Yes, many smoke or dip for decades with no more ill effect than yellow skin, a foul smell, and the quiet desperation of being hooked, but many others die of horrible cancers of the mouth, throat, lungs or gut, directly traceable to tobacco. Jehovah appeals to us: "quit touching the unclean thing, and I will take you in. I shall become a father to you, and you will become sons and daughters to me." Paul comments on this invitation: "Since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, striving to be holy and complete in awe of God." If we are unmoved by that appeal, should we really expect any favor from God? —2 Cor 6:17-7:1.

Does the very thought of quitting make you nervous? You might consider your way of life, and your occupation. You may need to quit other things at the same time to get this done. Learning other ways to be calm under pressure can replace the need for a drug. Instead of reaching for the pack, turn and reach for your Father: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (along with thanksgiving) present your requests to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and your mind, by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) "Supplication" means an earnest, heartfelt beseeching. This is no "If you have time, I would appreciate." It is pleading, begging, "please help me I'm dying, I can't do this without you." Don't be proud or self-reliant about this. It won't work.

The same principles apply to problem drinking. Here the Bible does not completely condemn alcohol; in fact it speaks favorably of responsible use of wine, both as a medicine and as a way to cheer up a meal. (Ecclesiastes 10:19, 1 Timothy 5:23) Modern research supports this recommendation. Grapes were a primary agricultural product of Israel, and raisins and wine were the two end products of the vine that kept the harvest available into the next year. It is called a gift of God. (Psalms 104:14, 15) But just like anything else, it can be misused. Hence, Proverbs 20:1 says, "Wine is a ridiculer, liquor is boisterous; anyone going astray by them is not wise." Proverbs 23:20, 21 adds, "Do not be among those who drink too much wine, nor among those who gorge themselse on meat. For a drunkard and a glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe one with rags." As that last verse shows, it's not just drink that can do you in.

Risk Taking

Everything in life involves some risk; accidents happen.* Usually the risk can be kept small by prudent attention. A wise person looks both ways before crossing the road. Before taking any action that could put your life, health or wealth at risk, you take at least a moment to analyse the risk/benefit ratio. The greater the discernible risk, the more time you put into weighing the go/no-go decision, and thinking of ways to reduce the danger involved. Reasonably modest risk should not paralyse us; if you never go anywhere you will never get anywhere. Jesus said to "Go," make disciples (and suggested taking along a sword just in case). Obeying God is the safest choice we can make, long-term, and yet doing so has definite elevated risk, short-term. (Matthew 28:19; Luke 22:35-37; Matthew 24:9.)

Some risks can only be called stupid. A wise person does not make a bet he knows he is almost certain to lose, especially when the cost of losing is high. The easiest example of this is just that: making bets, or gambling. Since the beginning of history losers have been exploited by those who push false hope of winning big. (Satan was the first cardsharp, Eve was the first mark*.) Such pushers are not your friends; do not be fooled by the bright colorful ads of people having a great time at the casino, throwing wads of money into the air. They are getting filthy rich off of you. All you get in return is a brief thrill of hope each time you pull the lever, spin the wheel, throw the dice, scratch the card. A hope that is quickly dashed, but it surges mindlessly back again and pushes you on to try again, just one more time, maybe this is the Big One... and again and again, until you have no more to lose and have to go out to find more money to throw away to these criminals*. They care only about your cash: when they have wrung you dry and destroyed your life, they are done with you, all attention turns to the next loser.

Of course, they have to let you win a little bit, or you might get wise to the con and quit. They have to keep the false hope alive. And they have to turn out a Big Winner very occasionally, to keep you worshipping the god of sudden riches. But do the balance sheet: they may call it "gaming" instead of "gambling," but they are not running this business to make you happy. They have this game rigged so they are the ones that win big. The government gets its cut too, so the casinos and lotteries can say "the money goes to the schools, so do it for the children." So, a little bit goes toward education! Meantime, are you learning anything? If the schools were really teaching, people would do the math and get wise. This "entertainment" inflames greed and selfishness, with devastating effects on families and children. This is a very costly way to have "fun". As a tax, it is the most regressive imaginable, taking the most from the poor and poorly educated. Some have rightly called it a "stupid tax," because it taxes the stupid.

Gamblers often mutter urgent prayers as the wheel spins. Who is listening? Not Jehovah, the only living God. Most such prayers are actually addressed to the wheel or the dice or to some pagan god of Luck. Only Satan is pleased with such idolatry, and if there is any supernatural help, it is from him, not from the true God. Jehovah says quite bluntly: “But you are forsaking Jehovah, with those forgetting my holy mountain, those setting a table for the god of Good Luck, and those filling up cups of mixed wine for the god of Destiny. So I will destine you to the sword, and all of you will bow down to be slaughtered, because I called, but you did not answer, I spoke, but you did not listen, and you kept doing what was bad in my eyes, and you chose what displeased me.” —Isaiah 65:11, 12.

What do you think? Was that clear enough, or should it be put more plainly?

Anger Management

Anger: an intense feeling of displeasure over something that is judged to be wrong. It can be expressed constructively or destructively. God himself can be provoked to anger; scripture declares "the burning anger of Jehovah" many times. But what provokes him, and how does he express it? What guidance does that give us when we are upset about something or someone? The apostle James wrote, “Man's wrath does not work out God's righteousness.” We tend to get mad about trivial things, act crazy and make problems worse, not better. So we need to study God's example so we can “be wrathful, but do not sin,” as Paul advised. —James 1:20, Ephesians 4:26.

Jehovah sets the ultimate standard of what is right. He does not view wrongdoing with indifference, and neither should we. In scripture he puts his feelings about evil quite strongly. For example, he gave Israel a Law to treat the weak and poor justly this way: “You people must not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict him at all, so that he cries out to me, I shall unfailingly hear his outcry; and my anger will indeed blaze, and I will certainly kill you with the sword, and your wives must become widows, and your children will be fatherless.” Would you chance ignoring that instruction? —Exodus 22:22-24; see also Deuteronomy 6:15 and 9:7, 8.

On the other hand, Jehovah controls his displeasure perfectly, in fact he is often thanked and praised for being "slow to anger" when by all rights he should be furious. (Psalms 78:37-41, Nehemiah 9:16, 17) In this too he is an example for us.

Proper anger leads to proper action. You may get angry at yourself for forgetting something important, or for carelessly breaking something. If that leads you to pay more attention, to be more careful, to take measures to remind yourself, then it has served a constructive purpose. If it has you cursing, punching holes in the wall or yelling at your kids, you have let it become destructive. What if it is someone else that did the forgetting or breaking? The temptation is to punish, berate, condemn, humiliate, embarrass . . . there are many words to express destructive angry reactions. But that is not God's way. He tells us “do not be grieving God’s holy spirit . . . Put away from yourselves every kind of malicious bitterness and anger, wrath and screaming and abusive speech, along with everything injurious. Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you. Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children.” —Ephesians 4:30—5:1.

Can it be done? If we are insecure or feel we have been treated badly, we may believe that the only way to defend ourselves is to project hostility. "Don't mess with me," is our message. It is not easy for us to transform our attitude, to let ourselves feel vulnerable, to risk being hurt again. We may even enjoy the feeling of power, that others fear us. We mistake that for respect. But after you study on it, you will find that true respect is more connected to love than fear. Having a reputation of being easily offended and dangerous is no way to be loved.

Even persons with no knowledge of God have overcome their quick temper when they saw it interfering with something they wanted to achieve, such as success at business. The immediate practical benefits of self-control motivate us too. But we have an even stronger reason: we do know the God who holds our life in his hands (Galatians 5:19-21). We want to please him, and he will help us if we let him.

Cain is the first example of anger that went wrong: Jehovah did not accept his offering, but did accept those made by his brother Abel. This made Cain feel wronged. (Genesis 4:3-5) God kindly spoke to him: “Why are you so angry and dejected? If you turn to doing good, will you not be given favor?” In other words, there is a solution to this problem: turn to doing good. Whatever Cain was doing wrong, God assured him he could correct it. Cain should have been angry with himself, accepting that it was his fault that made his sacrifice unacceptable. He should have asked, if he didn't know already, "what should I do differently so you will bless me?" Instead he let his emotions carry him to violence toward his innocent brother. That is a prime case of man's wrath not working out righteousness, and a warning to us. As they say today, "get a grip," when you feel yourself getting hot. Do not let anger subvert your judgment.

Jehovah makes succinct observations on anger in the book of Proverbs: “The one who is quick to anger will act foolishly.” “The one who is slow to anger has great discernment, but the impatient one shows his foolishness.” “An hot-temperd man stirs up strife, but one who is slow to anger calms a quarrel.” “The one slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and the one controlling his anger than the one conquering a city.” “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to overlook an offense.” “Do not keep company with anyone who is hot-tempered, or get involved with anyone prone to rage, so that you never learn their ways and ensnare yourself.” That last comment is really a command: you will lose if you admire anyone who does not manage anger properly. One easy way to do that today is by violent video games. In the game you yourself are put in the position of one who solves all problems with brutality, and all other players, whether friend or foe, are likewise ‘hot-tempered, prone to rage.’ The world insists that this has no effect on your mind, your heart, your spirit. God does not agree. Who is telling the truth? Who cares about you? —Proverbs 14:17, 29, 15:18, 16:32, 19:11, 22:24.

But what about justified anger? Does not God himself explode with anger at times, when it finally gets to be too much? Yes, there are a few such instances in scripture, Isaiah 42:13-15 being the most graphic (see also the other references in the link). But that is Him. He has perfect judgment and knows exactly when and how to act. For us he gives this counsel: “Let go of anger and abandon rage; do not become upset and turn to doing evil. For evil men will be done away with, but those hoping in Jehovah will possess the earth. Just a little while longer, and the wicked will be no more; you will look at where they were, and they will not be there. But the meek will possess the earth, and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Psalms 37:8-11; link provides more context)

Jehovah does not tell us here to do nothing against evil and injustice, to just wait on him to handle it. No, he expects us to do what we can rightly do. Psalms 37 simply says ‘do not fly into a rage about it and commit evil ourselves. Stick with doing the right thing and it will work out, I assure you.’ —see Proverbs 24:11, 12 and Isaiah 59:14-16.

A little more to come

The wisest choice of all is to decisively take the side of God. That is the subject of the last chapter.

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Proverbs 1:22-33
How long will you inexperienced ones keep loving inexperience? How long will you ridiculers take pleasure in ridicule? And how long will you foolish ones hate knowledge? Respond to my reproof! Then I will pour out my spirit for you; I will make my words known to you. Because I called out, but you kept refusing, I stretched out my hand, but no one was paying attention, you kept neglecting all my advice and rejecting my reproof, I also will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when what you dread comes, when what you dread comes like a storm, and your disaster arrives like a storm wind, when distress and trouble come upon you. At that time they will keep calling me, but I will not answer; they will eagerly look for me, but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge, and they did not choose to fear Jehovah. They refused my advice; they disrespected all my reproof. So they will bear the consequences of their way, and they will be glutted with their own counsel. For the rebelliousness of the inexperienced will kill them, and the complacency of the foolish will destroy them. But the one listening to me will dwell in security and be undisturbed by the dread of calamity.

Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13
Although a sinner may do bad a hundred times and still live a long time, yet I am aware that it will turn out well for those who fear the true God, because they fear him. But it will not turn out well for the wicked one, nor will he prolong his days that are like a shadow, because he does not fear God.

Psalms 14:1, 2
The senseless one has said in his heart:
“There is no Jehovah.”
They have acted corruptly, and their dealings are detestabe.
No one is doing good.
But Jehovah looks down from heaven on the sons of men,
To see whether there is anyone having insight, if anyone is seeking Jehovah.

Isaiah 51:6-8
Raise your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth below. For the heavens will be dispersed in fragments just like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die like a mere gnats. But my salvation will be everlasting, and my righteousness will never fail. Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people with my law in their heart. Do not be afraid of the taunts of mortal men, and do not be terrified by their insults. For a moth will eat them up just like a garment, and the fabric moth will devour just like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, and my salvation for all generations.

It is interesting that the foregoing is scientifically accurate: viewed over millenia, the stars do indeed drift like smoke, and the mountains wear down. God knows how impermanent creation is. How much more so mere men, who live so briefly, like gnats! Yet as he says, his truth, his law, his righteousness, is eternal and unchanging. We who adhere to it have no cause for shame before ridiculers.

1 Peter 4:4, 5
They are puzzled that you do not continue running with them in the same decadent course of debauchery, so they speak abusively of you. But these people will render an account to the one ready to judge the living and the dead.

Prov 11:2
When presumptuousness comes, dishonor will follow, but wisdom is with the modest ones.

(It would be presumptuous to assume we could dismiss divine wisdom or edit it to our liking; it is wise to be modest before the Creator.)

Prov 8:13
The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.

2 Timothy 3:16, 17
All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.

Matthew 22:35-40
One of them, versed in the Law, tested him by asking: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" He said to him: "'You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, 'You must love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments the whole Law stands, and the Prophets."

Malachi 2:13-16
This is the second thing that you people do, causing the altar of Jehovah to be covered with tears, with weeping and sighing, so that he no longer accepts your gift offering or takes pleasure in anything from your hand. And you say, “Why not?” For this: Jehovah bears witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously, although she is your partner and your wife by covenant. But there was one who did not do it, as he had what remained of the spirit. And what was that one seeking? The promised One of God. So guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and do not deal treacherously with the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce,” says Jehovah the God of Israel, “and the one who covers his garment with violence,” says Jehovah of armies. “And you must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and you must not deal treacherously.”

1 Peter 3:7
You husbands, continue dwelling in the same way with them [your wives] according to knowledge. Assign them honor as to a delicate vessel, the feminine one, since they are also heirs with you of the undeserved favor of life, in order for your prayers not to be hindered.
(In other words, mistreating your wife hinders your prayers from getting to God's ear.)

Hebrews 13:4
Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers.

Matt 5:27, 28
You heard that it was said, 'You must not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Romans 1:24-27
Therefore, God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, so that their bodies might be dishonored among them. They exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen. That is why God gave them over to uncontrolled sexual passion, for their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; likewise also the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full penalty, which was due for their error.

Leviticus 18:22, 23
You must not lie down with a male the same as you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable thing. A man must not have sexual intercourse with an animal, which would make him unclean by it; nor should a woman submit herself to an animal to have intercourse with it. It is a violation of what is natural.

Leviticus 20:13, 15, 16
If a man lies down with a male the same as one lies down with a woman, both of them have done a detestable thing. They should be put to death without fail. They are responsible for their actions.* . . . And if a man has intercourse with a beast, he should be put to death without fail, and you should kill the beast. And if a woman approaches any beast to have intercourse with it, you must kill the woman and the beast. They should be put to death without fail. They are responsible for their actions.* *[literally, "Their own blood is upon them."]

1 Corinthians 7:2-5
Because of prevalence of immorality, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband. Let the husband give to his wife her due, and let the wife also do likewise to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, so that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Every athlete competing in a contest exercises self-control in all things. They do it for just a short-lived crown, but we for a crown that will never perish. Therefore, the way I am running is not aimlessly; I am not aiming my blows to be striking the air. Rather, I discipline my body and lead it as a slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disqualified somehow.

Psalm 19:7-11
The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul.
The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.
The orders from Jehovah are righteous, causing the heart to rejoice;
The commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine.
The fear of Jehovah is pure, lasting forever.
The judgments of Jehovah are true; they are altogether righteous.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much refined gold;
And sweeter than honey, the honey that drips from the combs.
Your servant has been warned by them;
In keeping them there is a large reward.

Galatians 6:7, 8
Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because the one sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but the one sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.

John 6:63
Jesus said: "It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all. The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life."

In Christian scripture, the word "flesh" often is a metonym for a person's base animal desires, the lusts and urges and bad attitudes that must be restrained, controlled, even suppressed, in order to be truly human, civilized, and spiritual. God created us as good flesh (in subjection to a spiritual mind), but from the time the first humans abandoned subjection to God, our flesh has been "fallen," that is, prone to animalistic impulses, not fully under control. Pandering to the flesh takes one further from God, not toward him.

1 Thess 4:3-5, 7, 8
For this is the will of God, that you should be holy and abstain from sexual immorality. Each one of you should know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with the greedy sexual passion that people of the nations who do not know God have . . . 7 For God called us, not for uncleanness, but for us to be holy, clean, pure, sanctified. So, then, the man who disregards this is disregarding, not man, but God, who gives you his holy spirit.

Philippians 4:6-9
Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication along with expressions of gratitude, present your petitions before God, and the peace of God that is above all understanding will guard your heart and your mind by means of Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, are of serious concern, are righteous, chaste, lovable, and well spoken of, and whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy, keep thinking on these things. The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these, and the God of peace will be with you.

A tall order in a world of temptations, but good advice nonetheless. It is what works. Modern psychology says, ‘what you think about has strong effect on who you are.’ Healthy thoughts leads to healthy decisions, negative and destructive thoughts can send us down dark paths. God's word said it first.

Proverbs chapter 7
My son, keep my sayings, and treasure up my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live; guard my instruction like the pupil of your eye. Tie them around your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call understanding "my relative," to guard you against the wayward woman, against the immoral woman and her smooth words. From the window of my house, through my lattice, I looked down, and as I observed the naive ones, I discerned among the youths a young man lacking good sense. He passed along the street near her corner, and he marched in the direction of her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the approach of night and darkness. Then I saw a woman meet him, dressed like a prostitute, with a cunning heart. She is loud and defiant. She does not stay in her home. One moment she is outside, next she is in the public squares, she lurks near every corner. She grabs hold of him and gives him a kiss; with a bold face, she says to him: "I had to offer communion sacrifices. Today I paid my vows.* That is why I came out to meet you, to look for you, and I found you! I have spread fine covers upon my bed, colorful linen from Egypt. I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us drink our fill of love until the morning; let us enjoy passionate love together, for my husband is not at home; he has gone on a distant journey. He took a bag of money with him, and he will not return until the day of the full moon." She misleads him with great persuasiveness. She seduces him with smooth speech. Suddenly he goes after her, like a bull to the slaughter, like a fool to be punished in the stocks, until an arrow pierces his liver; like a bird rushing into a trap, he does not know that it will cost him his life. And now, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to the words I speak. Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways. Do not stray onto her paths, for she has caused many to fall down slain, and those she has killed are numerous. Her house leads to the Grave; it goes down to the inner chambers of death.

*note the pretense of religious piety, evidently a crude attempt to be disarming. As silly as it seems to us, it actually works for some.

Ephesians 5:33
Each one of you should love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.

This inspired counsel shows us the fundamental needs of men and women, which are not exactly the same: she deeply needs to feel valued, cared for, loved, while he has a strong need to be respected, seen as competent, capable. Women easily show affection and compassion, but can stumble at showing respect; men can show respect, in a gruff sort of way that other men understand, but are not so skilled at empathy and kindness. Whether this is genetic, we do not know, but clearly God knows that we can learn how to satisfy our marriage mate's needs. In doing so, we become a better person, improving all other relationships as well.

1 Corinthians 10:24
Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.

1 Timothy 1:19, 20
. . . holding faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside, causing shipwreck of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander belong to these, and I have handed them over to Satan that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme.

Matthew 6:14, 15
If you forgive men their trespasses [against you], your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses [against him].

James 2:13 For the one who does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy. Mercy is triumphant over judgment.

Proverbs 23:13, 14
Do not hold back discipline from a boy. If you strike him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you should strike him, in order to save him from the Grave. [translated literally, "to deliver his soul from Sheol."]

From chapter 10 you'll recall that "Sheol" does not mean hellfire, but simply the place of death. Parents influenced by hellfire doctrine have inflicted draconian punishments to save their children's soul from 'eternal damnation', and have caused permanent psychological injury. This verse does not justify such mistreatment! It merely says that a loving parent will steer his child away from death, being quite clear about it. The son must learn to see the danger, and if a little pain judiciously applied is required to get the word across, so be it.

Isaiah 55:7
Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts. Let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way.

Proverbs 28:13
The one covering over his transgressions will not succeed, but whoever confesses them and leaves them behind will be shown mercy.

Psalms 32:1-5
Happy is the one whose transgression is pardoned, whose sin is covered.
Happy is the man whom Jehovah does not hold guilty, in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent my bones wore out because of my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My strength evaporated like water in the dry heat of summer. Finally I confessed my sin to you, I stopped trying to hide my error from you. I said: “I will confess my transgressions to Jehovah.” And you pardoned the error of my sins. . .
[God replies (vs 8, 9):]
I will give you insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give advice with my eye upon you. Do not make yourselves like a horse or mule, without understanding, whose spiritedness must be curbed with a bridle or halter, before it will come near to you.

Proverbs 24:30-34
I passed by the field of the lazy one, by the vineyard of the man without good sense, and saw that it was overgrown with weeds. Nettles covered it, and its stone wall was fallen down. So I . . . took it to heart; I saw it and learned this lesson: A little sleep, a little slumbering, a little folding of the hands to rest, and your poverty will come like a bandit, and your neediness like an armed man.

Prov 30:8, 9
Give me neither poverty nor riches. Just let me eat my portion of food, so that I neither become [overly] satisfied and deny you, saying "Who is Jehovah?", nor that I become so poor that I steal and dishonor the name of my God.

Ecclesiastes 10:18
Because of extreme laziness the roof beams sag, and because of idle hands the house leaks.

Psalms 37:21
The wicked one borrows and does not pay back.

Proverbs 6:6-8
Go to the ant, you lazy one; see its ways and become wise. Although it has no commander, officer or ruler, it prepares its food in the summer, and it gathers its food supplies in the harvest.

Luke 12:15-31
“Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of envious desire for things, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” With that he gave them a parable, saying: “The land of a rich man produced well. So he began reasoning within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, now that I have nowhere to gather my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my storehouses and build bigger ones, and there I will gather all my grain and all my good things; and I will say to my soul: “Soul, you have many good things stored up for many years; take it easy, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.”’ But God said to him, ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?’ So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Then he said to his disciples: “That is why I say to you, stop being anxious about your lives as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: They neither sow seed nor reap; they have neither barn nor storehouse; yet God feeds them. Are you not worth much more than birds? Who of you by being anxious can add a cubit [about 18 inches (<50 cm)] to his life span? If, therefore, you cannot do such a small thing, why worry over the remaining things? Consider how the lilies grow: They neither toil nor spin; but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. Now if this is how God clothes the vegetation in the field that today exists and tomorrow is cast into an oven, how much more will he clothe you, you with so little faith! So stop anxiously seeking what you will eat and what you will drink, and stop being in suspense; the nations of the world are eagerly pursuing all these things, but your Father knows what you need. Instead, keep seeking his Kingdom, and these things will be provided to you.

Hebrews 13:5, 6
Let your way of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. For he has said: “I will never leave you, and I will never abandon you.” So we may be of good courage and say: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Luke 6:20-25
Happy are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Happy are you who hunger now, for you will be filled. Happy are you who weep now, for you will laugh. . . But woe to you rich persons, for you are having your consolation in full. Woe to you who are filled up now, for you will go hungry. Woe, you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

James 2:1-5
My brothers, you are not holding the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ while showing favoritism, are you? For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in splendid clothing comes in to your meeting, but a poor man in filthy clothing also enters, do you look with favor upon the one wearing the splendid clothing and say: ‘You take this seat here in a fine place,’ but you say to the poor one: ‘You keep standing,’ or: ‘Take that seat there under my footstool,’? If so, do you not have class distinctions among yourselves and have you not become judges rendering wicked decisions? Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he promised to those who love him?

1 Tim 6:17-19
Instruct those who are rich in the present system of things not to be arrogant, and to place their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who richly provides us all the things we enjoy. Tell them to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be generous, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, so that they may get a firm hold on the real life.

Matthew 19:21-29
Jesus said to him: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” When the young man heard this, he went away grieved, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I say to you that it will be difficult for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard that, they expressed very great surprise, saying: “Who really can be saved?” Looking them in the face, Jesus said to them: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply: “Look! We have left all things and followed you; what actually will there be for us?” Jesus said to them: “Truly I say to you, In the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down upon his glorious throne, you who have followed me will sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit everlasting life.”

Acts 12:12, 13
[Peter] went to the house of Mary the mother of John who was called Mark, where quite a few were gathered together and praying. When he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the call . . .

Matthew 18:8
If your hand or your foot makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you; it is better for you to enter into life maimed or lame than to be thrown with two hands or two feet into the everlasting fire.

Joel 2:12, 13
Come back to me with all your hearts, with fasting and weeping and wailing. Rip apart your hearts, and not your garments; and come back to Jehovah your God, for he is gracious and merciful.

It was customary in those days to rip one's clothes to express intense grief, but sometimes it was done for show, not sincerely felt. God wants our feelings to be genuine.

Ecclesiastes 10:19
Bread is made for laughter, and wine makes life enjoyable.

1 Timothy 5:23
Do not drink water any longer, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent cases of sickness.

Psalms 104:14, 15
He is making grass grow for the cattle, and vegetation for mankind's use, to grow food from the earth, and wine that makes man's heart rejoice, oil that makes the face shine, and bread that sustains the heart of mortal man.

Matthew 28:19a
Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.
Luke 22:35-37
He also said to them: “When I sent you out without a money bag and a food pouch and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said: “No!” Then he said to them: “But now let the one who has a money bag take it, likewise a food pouch; and let the one who has no sword sell his outer garment and buy one. For I tell you that what is written must be accomplished in me, namely,‘ And he was counted with lawless ones.’”
Matthew 24:9
Then people will hand you over to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be hated by all the nations on account of my name.

James 1:19, 20
Every man must be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for man’s anger does not work out God’s righteousness.

Ephesians 4:26, 27
Be wrathful, but do not sin; do not let the sun set while you are still angry; do not give the Devil an opportunity.

Deuteronomy 6:15
[Moses speaks to the people near the end of his life:] You must not follow after other gods, any gods of the peoples who are all around you, for Jehovah your God who is in your midst is a God who requires exclusive devotion. Otherwise the anger of Jehovah your God will blaze against you and he will annihilate you from the face of the earth.

Deuteronomy 9:7, 8
Remember: never forget the way you provoked Jehovah your God in the wilderness. From the day that you left the land of Egypt until your coming to this place, you have rebelled against Jehovah. Even in Horeb [where they received the covenant] you provoked Jehovah, and Jehovah was so angry with you that he was ready to annihilate you.

Psalms 78:37-41
Their heart was not steadfast toward him; and they were not faithful to his covenant. But he was merciful; He would forgive their error and not bring them to ruin. He often held back his anger instead of stirring up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were flesh, that their spirit [life-breath] goes out and does not return. How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and made him feel hurt in the desert! Again and again they put God to the test, and they grieved the Holy One of Israel.

Nehemiah 9:16, 17
Our forefathers acted presumptuously and became stubborn, and they would not listen to your commandments. They refused to listen, and they did not remember your wonderful acts that you performed among them, but they became stubborn and appointed a head to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love, and you did not abandon them.

Galatians 5:19-21
Now the works of the flesh are plain to see, and they are sexual immorality, uncleanness, brazen conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, sects, envies, drunkenness, wild parties, and things like these. I am forewarning you about these things, as I have warned you before, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.

Genesis 4:3-5
Cain then brought some fruits of the ground as an offering to Jehovah. But Abel brought some firstlings of his flock, including their succulent fat. While Jehovah looked with favor on Abel and his offering, he did not look with any favor upon Cain and on his offering. So Cain grew hot with great anger, and was dejected.

The fruit itself that Cain offered could have caused the problem, if it was not of first quality. The account says that Abel selected the very best he had to offer, which may have been meant to contrast with what Cain presented. Or it could have been something else about Cain's life that displeased God. His motive for making the offering, for example, may have been entirely selfish. In any case, it is God's response that is most instructive.

Isaiah 42:13-15
Jehovah will go out like a mighty man. He will awaken his zeal like a warrior. He will shout, yes, he will let out a war cry; He will show himself mightier than his enemies. “I have kept quiet for a long time. I remained silent and restrained myself. Like a woman giving birth, I will groan, pant, and gasp all at once. I will devastate mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation.”

Jeremiah 23:19, 20
Look! The windstorm of Jehovah will burst out in fury; like a whirling tempest it will whirl down on the head of the wicked. The anger of Jehovah will not turn back until he has carried out and accomplished the intentions of his heart.

2 Chronicles 36:15, 16
Jehovah the God of their forefathers kept warning them by means of his messengers, warning them again and again, because he felt compassion for his people and for his dwelling place. But they kept ridiculing the messengers of the true God, and they despised his words and mocked his prophets, until the rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until they were beyond healing.

Ezekiel 8:17, 18
He said to me: “Son of man, do you see this? Is it a trivial thing for the house of Judah to do these detestable things, to fill the land with violence and keep offending me? Here they are thrusting out the branch* to my nose. So I will act in rage. My eye will not feel sorry; nor will I feel compassion. Even though they cry out loudly in my ears, I will not hear them.”

*or "shoot". A wooden pole or a standing rock. It was a phallic symbol (resembling an erect penis) with which they worshipped sex.

Balancing these out we have Jeremiah 46:28: So do not be afraid, my servant Jacob, declares Jehovah, for I am with you. I will make an extermination among all the nations where I dispersed you, but you I will not exterminate. I will discipline you to the proper degree, but I will absolutely not leave you unpunished.

Psalms 37:1-20, 32-40 Do not be upset because of evil men or envious of wrongdoers.
They will quickly wither like grass and shrivel like green new grass.
Trust in Jehovah and do what is good; reside in the earth, and act with faithfulness.
Find exquisite delight in Jehovah, and he will grant you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to Jehovah; rely on him, and he will act in your behalf.
He will make your righteousness shine like daybreak, and your justice like the midday sun.
Keep silent before Jehovah and wait longingly on him.
Do not be upset by the man who succeeds in carrying out his schemes.
Let go of anger and abandon rage; do not become upset and turn to doing evil.
For evil men will be done away with, but those hoping in Jehovah will possess the earth.
Just a little while longer, and the wicked will be no more; you will look at where they were, and they will not be there.
But the meek will possess the earth, and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.
The wicked man plots against the righteous; he grinds his teeth at him.
But Jehovah will laugh at him, for He knows that his day will come.
The wicked draw their swords and bend their bows to bring down the oppressed and the poor, to slaughter those whose way is upright.
But their sword will pierce their own heart; their bows will be broken.
Better is the little of the righteous one than the abundance of many wicked ones.
For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but Jehovah will support the righteous.
Jehovah is aware of what the blameless go through, and their inheritance will last forever.
They will not be ashamed in the time of disaster; in the time of famine they will have plenty.
But the wicked will perish; the enemies of Jehovah will vanish like the grass of pastures; they will vanish like smoke.
32-40 The wicked watches the righteous, seeking to put him to death.
But Jehovah will not abandon him to the hand of that one or find him guilty when he is judged.
Hope in Jehovah and follow his way, and he will exalt you to take possession of the earth. When the wicked are done away with, you will see it.
I have seen the ruthless, evil man spreading out like a luxuriant tree in its native soil. But he suddenly passed away and was gone; I kept searching for him, and he could not be found.
Take note of the blameless one, and keep the upright one in sight, for the future of that man will be peaceful.
But all the transgressors will be destroyed; the future of wicked people will be cut off.
The salvation of the righteous is from Jehovah; He is their fortress in the time of distress.
Jehovah will help them and rescue them. He will rescue them from the wicked and save them, because they take refuge in him.

Proverbs 24:11, 12
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; and hold back those staggering to the slaughter. If you say: “But we did not know about this,” will not the One who examines hearts discern whether that is true? Yes, He who watches you will know, and he will repay each man according to his activity.

So He is watching to see if we notice injustice. Will we do anything? There are things he does not want us to do (see James 1:20 earlier: our natural indignation, if not controlled, can produce undesirable results) but there are usually considered actions we can rightly take.

Isaiah 59:14-16
Justice is forced to move back, and righteousness stands far off. For truth has stumbled in the public square, and what is straightforward is unable to enter. The truth is missing, and anyone who turns away from bad is plundered. Jehovah saw this and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man [acting against it], and he was astonished that no one interceded.

Review for Chapter 13

What is wisdom?

Why is worldly wisdom foolish?

Where does wisdom begin?

Why is our choice of friends important?

Why do the wise not need many rules?

What is the first characteristic of wisdom? Why?

Why is sexual fidelity wise?

Why does God require abstinence outside of marriage?

How can a relationship be kept strong?

What kind of love is a "perfect bond of union"? How do we learn it?

What is fundamental to raising a responsible son or daughter?

What is the "love of money"? Why does it cause trouble?

How can debt be managed wisely?

What does God assure as to basic needs, but on what conditions?

Why should we keep our life simple?

What priority should our life be centered on at this time?

What popular defilements do we reject, and why?

Why not gamble?

Compare constructive anger to destructive anger.

What provokes God?

What has he done and what will he do with his anger?

Restore Scripture View

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Actually the problem often is NOT thinking ahead. But as Proverbs 14:15 says, "the intelligent one considers his steps."

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If serious causes for concern arise too often, then you may be right to reserve your trust. A stronger form of earnest communication may be necessary. Here it may be helpful to bring in spiritually minded, mature assistance who can help the unsteady one see his ways more clearly. If their earnest caring efforts are met only by insincere professions of sorrow, followed quickly by recidivism, the congregation is obliged to take action to protect itself (as discussed here in the previous chapter). Some really have let themselves be compromised by Satan, have woven a web of deceit around their life, and no longer deserve any trust. Living by the lie, they betray and exploit any confidence put in them. They are headed for the bottom, and it may be that a hard bounce is the only way they will break loose from the web they have created for themselves. (Compare 1 Timothy 1:19, 20.) You will have to find a way not to be dragged down there with them; cutting ties may be necessary. Part of wisdom is knowing when to abandon ship. Do not try to protect such a one from the consequences of their freely chosen actions.

Other translation renderings will help you get the sense of each aspect. This link opens the "GOD'S WORD" version at biblehub.com. Use the tabs above the text to sample other translations.

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In family prayer, the Christian standard is for the family head (the father, if present) to speak. But his role is to humbly consider the needs and desires of all present in what he says, not preach a sanctimonious sermon to God or criticise anyone. In trying to remember that role as he speaks, he may find that he is correcting himself. When there is a specific matter to mention, the family can agree on that need beforehand (and of course can say their own prayer about it at other times.) Parents should listen to some of their children's prayers, but it is not for the child to actually represent the parent before God.

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God can see everything, of course, and read minds. So he always knows if a person deserves mercy. We have a harder time judging someone's motives. That is why waiting for some believable contrition is one way to decide whether forgiveness is appropriate. But that does not mean we should always withhold forgiveness until an offender earns it. Most of the time, we can discern from a person's overall pattern of life that their offenses and slights are not intentional or malicious. Inconsiderate and selfish, maybe, and perhaps a kindly consultation with them could lead to better behavior. Or we may choose just to put up with it, knowing they may be doing the same for us in ways we do not realize. Putting up with poor behavior is not actually forgiveness but forbearance, in expectation of eventual improvement of the situation if not the person. In so doing we imitate God's mercy to us.

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Which is a very serious thing to consider: can you keep a home in good repair? It can't be done for nothing. It requires constant attention and prompt action (especially for leaks; water can destroy amazingly fast). (Ecclesiastes 10:18) You can save by doing the work yourself, but doing it wrong can be worse than not doing it at all. Also, the law may not allow you to do it yourself, especially for things that could jeopardize life (such as power wiring and gas piping).

Jesus likely meant "go sell your excess belongings," not every last stitch of clothing he had. In other words, rebalance his life to streamline himself for spiritual action. On the road with Christ, he should not have his mind on business elsewhere.

Not literally, of course! It is a little hyperbole to emphasize the point: in context, Paul is saying ‘do not be so focused on your marriage (or your sorrow, your pleasures, your things, your job) that you neglect the will of God.’

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This despite the fact that nicotine is actually a stimulant. Lacking a dose, the addict becomes restless and irritable. Then when it is supplied, the restlessness abates and the mind is able to focus again on other things. The stimulative effect may provide enhanced focus for a short time, which may explain its popularity with soldiers and police. The injurious effects become evident later.

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God allows accidents; he does not cause them, nor does he predestine them. If he did either, they would not be accidents then, would they. And there would be no such thing as risk, and prudence would be useless. Some Moslem taxi drivers believe in Fate and drive with wild abandon. Look before you get in.
(Fate: the belief that all things are predetermined, including when and how you will die, so nothing you do can hasten it. Obviously foolish but widely believed. Of course they would say, if you do something stupid and get yourself killed, why, that was predetermined by God. HE made you stupid. OK, so blame everything on him. Sounds like the Devil to me, what do you think?)

Granted, in the world of plants and animals, deception and exploitation (camouflage to facilitate predation) have been around since bacteria began. Although such creation is from the hand of God, that does not mean Satan was only doing what was natural. On the level of beings in the image of God, such behavior is contemptible.

In a moral, ethical and spiritual sense. Stripping you clean may be perfectly legal, according to the government. And they often ignore what is not legal, as long as they are getting a generous cut.