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Walking Wisely in a Wicked World
WALKING wisely has much to recommend itself. Why? Because, as it has well been said, walking wisely means “the ability and inclination to use one’s knowledge to carry out one’s purpose to the best effect.” Not, of course, without keeping God in mind, for “the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom” and “knowledge of the Most Holy One is what understanding is.”—Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10.
Walking wisely means exercising wisdom, and regarding it a wise king long ago wrote under inspiration: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for the gaining of it is better than the gaining of silver and the produce of it even than gold. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it. Length of days is in its right hand; in its left hand there are riches and glory. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.”—Prov. 3:13-18.
Underscoring the truth of all the foregoing are the further inspired words: “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad. Although a sinner may be doing bad a hundred times and continuing a long time as he pleases, yet I am also aware that it will turn out well with those fearing The true God, because they were in fear of him. But it will not turn out well at all with the wicked one, neither will he prolong his days that are like a shadow, because he is not in fear of God.”—Eccl. 8:11-13.
WHY SO DIFFICULT
How few today are walking wisely! How few enjoy wisdom’s rewards of peace, pleasantness and happiness! And no wonder. Walking wisely is not easy, for fulfillment of Bible prophecy shows that now is the time when Satan the Devil has “great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” A short period of time for what? To prove his boast that he can turn all mankind against God, even as illustrated by his attack upon Job’s integrity. Should he ever succeed in corrupting all mankind he would consider himself superior to Jehovah God. There is, however, no danger of that ever happening, even though at the time of the Noachian flood only eight humans had successfully resisted him by walking wisely. Jesus foretold that a comparable condition would exist in our day.—Rev. 12:12; Matt. 24:37-39.
The activity of Satan and his demons accounts primarily for the fact that in these last days “critical times hard to deal with will be here.” They are chiefly responsible for men today being “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, without gratitude, with no loving-kindness, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with self-esteem, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
How accurately that prophecy describes present conditions and how well the facts demonstrate that this is the day of its fulfillment! Thus for years now it has been noted that big business uses sex to sell everything from automobiles to cigarettes, but early in 1959 a leading United States radio and television producer created a sensation by exposing the policy of some big business firms of hiring prostitutes to influence sales. It was claimed that clients are invited on weekend cruises and given the intimacy of charming prostitutes. This makes it so much easier to persuade the client to place his order, and, if he is reluctant, the hint of his being exposed is sufficient to make him deliver the deal, even though it may be contrary to the best interests of his or his firm’s business. Could anything be more ruthless and degrading? What a commentary on modern civilization!
Then too, as God’s Word so clearly points out, we have enemies within ourselves, fallen tendencies. “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” That is why the human “heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.” David found that out to his sorrow, causing him to say, “With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” The apostle Paul likewise keenly appreciated this fact, for he wrote: “What I wish, this I do not practice; but what I hate is what I do.” Clearly, with superhuman foes plotting our downfall, with selfish men setting snares for us and with our own inherited weaknesses, we have no small difficulty in walking wisely.—Gen. 8:21; Jer. 17:9; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 7:15.
AIDS TO WALKING WISELY
Where can we get help to walk wisely? From higher schools of learning? One might think so in view of their claims. But not so. We need more than human wisdom in order to combat superhuman foes. We need “the wisdom from above.”—Jas. 3:17. While man cannot guarantee wisdom, Jehovah God, the Source of all true wisdom, can. That we may walk wisely he has provided a number of aids, foremost of which is his Word, the Bible. As called to our attention throughout Psalm 119, and especially in verse 105 of that psalm, ‘God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our roadway.’ And as the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “From infancy you have known the holy writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus. 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.”—2 Tim. 3:15-17.
A study of God’s Word educates and strengthens our conscience, our moral sense. It sets out guiding principles, making clear what is right and what is wrong and demonstrates that “whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” By acquainting us with our Maker and Lawgiver it instills in us a wholesome fear of displeasing him, which is the beginning of true wisdom. Further aiding us are the convincing Scriptural assurances of resurrection and of everlasting life in a righteous new world for all who walk wisely.—Gal. 6:7; 1 Cor. 15:20, 21, 58; Rev. 21:4.
Another divinely provided aid for walking wisely is God’s visible channel. Termed the “faithful and discreet slave,” at Matthew 24:45-47, it helps by publishing Bible literature, such as this magazine, and by providing Christian meetings and assemblies where Bible truths and principles are taught. More than that, it provides personal help in the form of home Bible studies and a ministerial training program. Congregational overseers and ministerial assistants are required to set the proper helpful examples and any in a congregation who flout God’s righteous requirements are excommunicated or disfellowshiped. All such is a great aid in our walking wisely.—1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 3:1-13.
God’s holy spirit or active force is another vital aid. It is received in answer to prayer and “due to obedient hearing by faith.” The apostle Paul tells us: “Keep walking by spirit and you will carry out no fleshly desire at all.” God’s impersonal holy spirit or active force may be likened to an electric current, which, though invisible, is very powerful and can accomplish many things: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts.”—Gal. 3:2; 5:16; Zech. 4:6, AS.
Nor may we overlook prayer as an aid to walking wisely. Prayer not only puts us in the right frame of mind but actually gives us wisdom and strength and whatever else we have need of, provided—an all-important condition—it is in line with God’s will.—1 John 5:14.
Mere knowledge of the foregoing aids, however, will not of itself result in our walking wisely. We must “become doers of the word, and not hearers only,” or we will be ‘deceiving ourselves with false reasoning.’ If we really have faith we will act in line with what we believe, for, “indeed, as the body without breath is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” Initial works that are in line with faith are repentance, conversion and dedication to do God’s will.—Jas. 1:22; 2:26.
God’s will for us is to follow the example set by Jesus Christ, and that means, to begin with, being baptized, even as Jesus was at the Jordan. Then what? Try to keep the Ten Commandments and go to church on Sunday? While that seems to be the prevailing thought in Christendom, the Scriptures show that Jesus and his early disciples devoted their lives to preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. (Matt. 4:17; 10:7) Jesus told Pilate: “For this purpose I have been born and for this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.”—John 18:37.
Yes, by reason of his dedication to do God’s will, each Christian is under obligation to make the ministry his vocation in life. It must take precedence, even as Jesus commanded: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” From then on we become stewards of the ministry as well as of all we possess, our time, strength, means and personal influence, and it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.—Matt. 6:33; 1 Cor. 4:1, 2.
Walking wisely, therefore, means doing God’s will. It means overcoming the opposition of the Devil and his demons, it means avoiding the snares of this wicked world, it means striving against our inherited weaknesses to the best of our ability, and it means making good use of the aids God has provided, his Word, his visible channel, his holy spirit and prayer. Regarding our chief enemy we are counseled: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” Also, “put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” That armor includes the Word of God, the hope of salvation, the shield of faith and the breastplate of righteousness or a good heart condition.—Jas. 4:7; Eph. 6:11-17.
To avoid the snares and resist the pressures of the world successfully we must keep separate from it. We must remember that “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is . . . to keep oneself without spot from the world.” In fact, “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.” So “do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” In addition to being on guard against the world’s snares, we must be fearless when confronted with its threats. Then we must answer as did Peter and the other apostles who said to their opposers: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Jas. 1:27; 4:4; 1 Cor. 15:33; Acts 5:29.
The Scriptures also give us abundant good counsel on how we may walk wisely in spite of our inherited selfish bent: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality which through accurate knowledge is being renewed according to the image of the one who created it.” All such walking wisely requires the exercise of self-control in thought, word and action. Paul appreciated that fact, for he wrote: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—Eph. 5:15, 16; Col. 3:9, 10; 1 Cor. 9:27.
Walking wisely also means having the right mental disposition. Here, too, Jesus set the example for us, being “mild-tempered and lowly in heart” and fully submissive to his Father’s will. Far from being ambitious, he manifested gratitude, appreciation and contentment regarding his relationship with his Father and the blessings bestowed upon him. He was a living demonstration of the truth that “it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency.”—Matt. 11:29; 1 Tim. 6:6.
Above all else, however, to be walking wisely we must guard our inmost thoughts and motives, our desires, feelings and affections. Not without good reason does God’s Word state so strongly: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” That is why all God’s requirements can be summed up in the two great commandments: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength,” and “you must love your neighbor as yourself.”—Prov. 4:23; Mark 12:30, 31.
Truly, walking wisely involves many things: knowing who our enemies are, appreciating the aids God has provided for our walking wisely and making good use of them. “If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.”—John 13:17.
You were once darkness, but you are now light . . . Go on walking as children of light.—Eph. 5:8.