“The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”—1 COR. 3:19.
SONG 98 The Scriptures—Inspired of God
1. What does God’s Word give us?
WE CAN face any challenge—all because Jehovah is our Grand Instructor. (Isa. 30:20, 21) His Word gives us everything we need to be “fully competent” and “completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17) When we live by Bible teachings, we become wiser than those who promote “the wisdom of this world.”—1 Cor. 3:19; Ps. 119:97-100.
2. What will we examine in this article?
2 As we will see, the wisdom of the world often appeals to our fleshly desires. So we might find it difficult to resist thinking and acting like those who are part of the world. For good reason, the Bible says: “Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition.” (Col. 2:8) In this article, we will examine the history of how two empty deceptions, or lies, became popular. In each case, we will see why the wisdom of the world is foolishness and how the wisdom of God’s Word is far superior to anything the world offers.
CHANGES IN VIEWPOINT TOWARD MORALITY
3-4. What changes in viewpoint toward morality took place in the United States in the early part of the 20th century?
3 In the United States, the early part of the 20th century saw a big change in people’s viewpoints about morality. Previously, many believed that sex was reserved only for those who are married and was not a topic to be discussed in public. But those standards crumbled, and permissive views spread.
4 The third decade of the 20th century became known as the Roaring Twenties, and it was characterized by far-reaching social changes. “Motion pictures, plays, songs, novels, and advertising all reflected the market for sexually-themed entertainment,” says one researcher. During that decade, dancing styles became more sexually suggestive and clothing styles became less modest. As the Bible foretold about the last days, people would to a remarkable degree become “lovers of pleasures.”—2 Tim. 3:4.
5. What has happened to the world’s viewpoint of moral standards since the 1960’s?
5 In the 1960’s, issues such as living together without being married, homosexual conduct, and easy divorce became prominent. Many forms of entertainment featured increasingly explicit depictions of sex. In recent decades, the bad effects of loose moral standards have been felt in many ways. One author wrote that the cause of broken families, single-parent families, emotional wounds, pornography addiction, and similar woes is related to “the deregulation of sexual norms now shaping society.” The prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, is just one indication that the wisdom of the world is foolishness.—2 Pet. 2:19.
6. How does the world’s view of sex serve Satan’s purpose?
6 The world’s view of sex serves Satan’s purpose. No doubt, he delights to see people abuse God’s gift of sex and degrade God’s gift of marriage. (Eph. 2:2) Not only does sexual immorality tarnish Jehovah’s beautiful gift of procreation but it can prevent those who engage in it from inheriting everlasting life.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
THE BIBLE’S VIEW OF SEXUAL MORALITY
7-8. What dignified and healthy view of sexuality is presented in the Bible?
7 People who adopt the wisdom of this world ridicule the Bible’s moral standards, claiming that they are unrealistic. Such people might ask, ‘Why would God create us with sexual desires and then tell us not to act on them?’ That question is founded on the flawed belief that humans must act on every urge they feel. But the Bible states otherwise. It dignifies us by teaching that we can choose to control improper impulses. (Col. 3:5) In addition, Jehovah has provided the gift of marriage, an arrangement in which proper sexual desires can be honorably satisfied. (1 Cor. 7:8, 9) Within that arrangement, a husband and wife can enjoy sex without the regrets and insecurities that so often result from immorality.
8 In contrast with the wisdom of this world, the Bible promotes a healthy view of sexuality. It acknowledges that sex can be a source of pleasure. (Prov. 5:18, 19) However, the Bible says: “Each one of you should know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with greedy, uncontrolled sexual passion like the nations have that do not know God.”—1 Thess. 4:4, 5.
9. (a) How were Jehovah’s people in the early 20th century encouraged to follow the superior wisdom of God’s Word? (b) What wise counsel is found at 1 John 2:15, 16? (c) As listed at Romans 1:24-27, what immoral practices should we resist adopting?
9 During the early 20th century, Jehovah’s people were not swayed by the empty deception of those who had “gone past all moral sense.” (Eph. 4:19) They tried to stick closely to Jehovah’s standards. The May 15, 1926, Watch Tower stated that “a man or a woman should be chaste and pure in thought and in act, particularly with reference to the opposite sex.” Regardless of what was happening in the world around them, Jehovah’s people followed the superior wisdom of God’s Word. (Read 1 John 2:15, 16.) How grateful we are for God’s Word! We are also thankful that Jehovah provides timely spiritual food to help us resist adopting the wisdom of this world regarding morality. *—Read Romans 1:24-27.
CHANGES IN VIEWPOINT TOWARD LOVE OF SELF
10-11. What did the Bible warn would happen during the last days?
10 The Bible warned that during the last days, people would become “lovers of themselves.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) Not surprisingly, the world has encouraged an inflated view of self. One reference work says that during the 1970’s “self-help books proliferated.” Some books “urged readers to know and accept themselves and to celebrate who they were.” Consider, for example, the statement made in one such book: “Be in love with the most beautiful, exciting, worthy person ever—you.” The book advocates a “religion of the self in which an individual determines his own behavior based upon his own conscience and the laws of his culture that work for him.”
11 Does that idea sound familiar to you? Satan encouraged Eve to do something similar. He said that she could “be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Gen. 3:5) Today, many think so highly of themselves that in their opinion no one—not even God—can tell them what is right and what is wrong. For example, that attitude has become especially evident in the way people view marriage.
12. What view of marriage does the world promote?
12 The Bible instructs the husband and wife to honor each other and their marriage vows. It encourages marriage mates to have a deep sense of commitment to each other, stating: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he will stick to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) In contrast, those influenced by the wisdom of the world promote a different view, saying that each spouse should focus on his or her own needs. “In some ceremonies,” notes one book about divorce, “the traditional pledge to marry for ‘as long as we both shall live’ was replaced with the more limited promise to marry for ‘as long as we both shall love.’” Such a casual view of marriage has led to countless broken families and has caused immeasurable emotional harm. Without a doubt, the world’s disrespectful view of marriage is a foolish teaching.
13. What is one reason why Jehovah detests proud people?
13 The Bible says: “Everyone proud in heart is detestable to Jehovah.” (Prov. 16:5) Why does Jehovah detest proud people? One reason is that those who develop and promote an inflated love of self reflect Satan’s own arrogance. Imagine, Satan believed that Jesus—the one whom God used to create all things—should bow down and worship him! (Matt. 4:8, 9; Col. 1:15, 16) Those with such an inflated view of their own importance confirm that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.
THE BIBLE’S VIEW OF SELF-IMPORTANCE
14. How does Romans 12:3 help us to have a balanced view of ourselves?
14 The Bible helps us to have a balanced view of ourselves. It acknowledges that a degree of self-love is proper. Jesus said: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which indicates that we should give a reasonable amount of attention to our needs. (Matt. 19:19) However, the Bible does not teach that we should elevate ourselves above others. Rather, it states: “Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you.”—Phil. 2:3; read Romans 12:3.
15. Why do you feel that the Bible’s counsel about self-importance is practical?
15 Today, many people who are considered wise would ridicule the Bible’s counsel about self-importance. They would say that considering others superior to you would make you vulnerable and that others would take advantage of you. Really, though, what fruitage has the self-centered attitude promoted by Satan’s world produced? What have you observed? Are selfish people happy? Do they have happy families? Do they have genuine friends? Do they have a close friendship with God? From what you have seen, which produces the best results—following the wisdom of this world or the wisdom found in God’s Word?
16-17. For what can we be thankful, and why?
16 People who follow the advice of those whom the world views as wise are like a tourist who asks a fellow tourist for directions when both of them are lost. Jesus said regarding the “wise” men of his day: “Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14) Truly, the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.
17 The Bible’s wise counsel has always proved to be “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16, ftn.) How thankful we can be that Jehovah, through his organization, has protected us from the wisdom of this world! (Eph. 4:14) The spiritual food he has provided gives us the strength we need to cling to the standards of his Word. What a privilege it is to be guided by the infallible wisdom found in the Bible!
SONG 54 “This Is the Way”
^ par. 5 This article will help us strengthen our conviction that Jehovah is the only reliable Source of guidance. Also, it will show that following the world’s wisdom has tragic consequences, whereas applying the wisdom of God’s Word is beneficial.
^ par. 9 For example, see Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 1, chaps. 24-26, and Volume 2, chaps. 4-5.
^ par. 50 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: We see some moments in the life of a married Witness couple through time. The brother and sister share in the preaching work during the late 1960’s.
^ par. 52 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: In the 1980’s, the husband cares for his wife during her time of illness while the couple’s young daughter looks on.
^ par. 54 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Today, the couple relive happy memories of their life spent in Jehovah’s service. Their grown daughter and her family share in the couple’s joy.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION