Do Not Deceive Yourself With False Reasoning
“WHAT is this you have done?” God asked Eve after she had eaten from the forbidden tree. “The serpent—it deceived me and so I ate,” she replied. (Gen. 3:13) Satan, the crafty serpent who led her to disobey God, was later called “the original serpent, . . . who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.”—Rev. 12:9.
This Genesis account presents Satan as cunning, as one who spins lies with the intention of deceiving the unwary. Eve certainly succumbed to his deceit. Nevertheless, we should not think that Satan is the only one who can mislead us. The Bible also warns about the danger of ‘deceiving ourselves with false reasoning.’—Jas. 1:22.
The thought of deceiving ourselves may seem highly improbable or even impossible. The divine warning, however, is obviously there for a purpose. So we would do well to consider how we might deceive ourselves and what sort of false reasoning could mislead us. A Scriptural example can help us.
Self-Deception in Action
About the year 537 B.C.E., Cyrus the Great of Persia issued a decree for the Jews exiled in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. (Ezra 1:1, 2) The following year, in accord with Jehovah’s purpose, the people laid the foundations for a new temple. The returnees rejoiced and praised Jehovah for blessing the initial stage of this important project. (Ezra 3:8, 10, 11) But soon, opposition to their rebuilding arose and the people became disheartened. (Ezra 4:4) About 15 years after their return, the Persian authorities banned all construction work in Jerusalem. To enforce the ban, regional officials arrived in Jerusalem and “stopped [the Jews] by force of arms.”—Ezra 4:21-24.
Faced with this serious obstacle, the Jews deceived themselves with false reasoning. “The time has not come, the time of the house of Jehovah, for it to be built,” they told themselves. (Hag. 1:2) They concluded that God did not want the temple built immediately. Instead of seeking a way to do his will, they abandoned their sacred assignment and became absorbed in improving their own homes. God’s prophet Haggai pointedly asked them: “Is it the time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house [Jehovah’s temple] is waste?”—Hag. 1:4.
Do you see a lesson in this example? A wrong view of the timing of the divine purpose could lead us to lose sight of the importance of our spiritual activities and become sidetracked with personal interests. To illustrate, imagine you are expecting guests. Anticipation of their visit may lead to a flurry of activity as you attend to necessary household chores related to their stay. However, then you receive word that your visitors are delayed. Will you abandon the preparations?
Recall, though, that Haggai and Zechariah helped the Jews to understand that Jehovah still wanted the temple rebuilt without delay. “Be strong, all you people of the land, . . . and work,” Haggai urged. (Hag. 2:4) They needed to get on with the work at hand, confident that God’s spirit would back them up. (Zech. 4:6, 7) Can this example help us avoid reaching wrong conclusions about Jehovah’s day?—1 Cor. 10:11.
Replacing False Reasoning With Sound Thinking
In his second letter, the apostle Peter considered Jehovah’s timetable for establishing a “new heavens and a new earth.” (2 Pet. 3:13) He noted that some ridiculers raised doubts as to whether God would ever intervene in human affairs. They wrongly argued that nothing would happen, that “all things [were] continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.” (2 Pet. 3:4) Peter wanted to counteract such faulty reasoning. He wrote: “I am arousing your clear thinking faculties by way of a reminder.” He reminded fellow Christians that the ridiculers were mistaken. God had previously intervened in mankind’s affairs, bringing a catastrophic global deluge.—2 Pet. 3:1, 5-7.
Haggai gave a similar exhortation to the disheartened, inactive Jews in 520 B.C.E. He admonished them: “Set your heart upon your ways.” (Hag. 1:5) To arouse their thinking abilities, he reminded his fellow worshippers of God’s purposes and promises with regard to His people. (Hag. 1:8; 2:4, 5) Soon after that encouragement, construction work restarted—despite the official prohibition. Once again, adversaries tried to scuttle the building project, but they were unsuccessful. The ban was rescinded, and in five years the temple was completed.—Ezra 6:14, 15; Hag. 1:14, 15.
Setting Our Hearts Upon Our Ways
Do you think that like the Jews in Haggai’s day, we could become disheartened when difficulties arise? If that happened, we might find it hard to maintain our zeal for preaching the good news. But what might cause us to be disheartened? Well, we might find ourselves suffering because of the injustice of this system of things. Think of Habakkuk, who asked: “How long must I call for help before you listen, before you save us from violence?” (Hab. 1:2, Today’s English Version) In view of what some might consider a delay, a Christian could lose his sense of urgency and instead give priority to a comfortable lifestyle. Could you see that happening to you? If we followed this line of reasoning, we would be deceiving ourselves. How vital that we heed the Scriptural counsel to ‘set our hearts upon our ways’ and ‘arouse our clear thinking faculties’! We could ask ourselves, ‘Should it surprise me that this wicked system of things has lasted longer than I expected?’
A Period That the Bible Anticipated
Stop to consider Jesus’ words about the conclusion of this system of things. Mark’s account of Jesus’ prophecy of the last days reveals that Jesus repeatedly admonished us to keep alert. (Mark 13:33-37) We find a similar warning in the middle of the prophetic description of Jehovah’s great day at Armageddon. (Rev. 16:14-16) Why the repeated warnings? Such reminders are needed when as a result of waiting over what seems to be an extended period, people are at risk of losing their sense of urgency.
Jesus illustrated the need for us to be continually vigilant as we await the end of the system of things. He referred to a householder whose home had been burglarized. How could he have avoided being robbed? By staying awake through the whole night. Jesus concluded this illustration by counseling us: “Prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Matt. 24:43, 44.
That illustration shows the need for being prepared to wait, even for a considerable length of time. No, we should not be overly concerned that this wicked system may have lasted longer than we expected. We should not deceive ourselves by falsely reasoning that ‘Jehovah’s time has not come.’ Such thinking would dull our desire to preach the good news of the Kingdom.—Rom. 12:11.
Weeding Out False Reasoning
With regard to false reasoning, the principle at Galatians 6:7 applies: “Do not be misled . . . Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” If a plot of soil is left unsown, weeds easily take over. Likewise, if we do not arouse our clear thinking faculties, false reasonings can take root in our minds. For example, we might tell ourselves, ‘Jehovah’s day is undoubtedly coming—but not immediately.’ Such a shift in expectations could lead to a relaxed approach toward our theocratic activities. In time, we could begin to neglect our spiritual routine. Jehovah’s day could then catch us unawares.—2 Pet. 3:10.
However, false reasoning will not take root in our minds if we constantly prove to ourselves “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) Regular reading of God’s Word is one of the best helps to this end. The Scriptures can strengthen our conviction that Jehovah always acts at the appointed time.—Hab. 2:3.
Our study, prayers, faithful meeting attendance, and preaching, along with loving acts of kindness, will enable us to ‘keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.’ (2 Pet. 3:11, 12) Jehovah will notice our constancy. The apostle Paul reminds us: “Let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Gal. 6:9.
Now is certainly not the time to allow false reasoning to deceive us into thinking that Jehovah’s day has been postponed. Rather, it is the time to make our hearts firm, for Jehovah’s day has drawn close.
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Haggai and Zechariah urged the Jews to build
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What if the householder had known that the thief was coming?