Upbuilding and Positive
THE message that we have been commissioned to preach is good news. Jesus said: “In all the nations the good news has to be preached first.” (Mark 13:10) Jesus himself set the example by featuring “the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 4:43) What the apostles preached is also described as “the good news of God” and “the good news about the Christ.” (1 Thess. 2:2; 2 Cor. 2:12) Such a message is upbuilding and positive.
In harmony with the declaration of “everlasting good news” by the “angel flying in midheaven,” we urge people: “Fear God and give him glory.” (Rev. 14:6, 7) We tell people everywhere about the true God, his name, his marvelous qualities, his wonderful works, his loving purpose, our accountability to him, and what he requires of us. The good news includes the fact that Jehovah God will destroy the wicked, who dishonor him and spoil life for other humans. But it is not up to us to judge individuals to whom we preach. Our earnest desire is that as many as possible will respond favorably to the Bible’s message so that it truly proves to be good news for them.—Prov. 2:20-22; John 5:22.
Limit Negative Material. Of course, there are negative aspects to life. We do not shut our eyes to these. To start a conversation, you may raise a problem that is on the minds of those in your territory and discuss it briefly. But there usually is limited value in pursuing it at length. People constantly hear distressing news, so talking about unpleasant things may cause them to close either their door or their ears. At an early point in your conversation, endeavor to direct attention to the refreshing truths in God’s Word. (Rev. 22:17) Then, even if the person does not want to continue the conversation, you will have left him something upbuilding to think about. This may make him more willing to listen on another occasion.
In like manner, if you are invited to give a talk, do not flood the audience with negative information just because an abundance of it is available. If a speaker dwells at length on the failure of human rulers, reports of crime and violence, and the shocking prevalence of immorality, the effect can be depressing. Introduce negative aspects of a subject only if they serve a useful purpose. A limited amount of such material may emphasize the timeliness of your talk. It may also identify major factors contributing to a situation and thus be used to show why the solution set out in the Bible is practical. Where possible, be specific without dwelling at length on the problems.
It is usually neither possible nor desirable to eliminate all negative material from a talk. The challenge is to present the mixture of good and bad in such a way that the overall effect is positive. To achieve this, you must determine what to include, what to leave out, and where to place the emphasis. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonished his listeners to avoid the self-serving ways of the scribes and Pharisees, and he cited a few examples to illustrate the point. (Matt. 6:1, 2, 5, 16) However, instead of dwelling on the negative examples of those religious leaders, Jesus emphasized understanding the true ways of God and living by these. (Matt. 6:3, 4, 6-15, 17-34) The effect was overwhelmingly positive.
Keep the Tone Positive. If you are assigned to give a talk in your congregation about some aspect of Christian activity, endeavor to be constructive rather than critical. Make sure that you are doing what you encourage others to do. (Rom. 2:21, 22; Heb. 13:7) Let love, not irritation, motivate what you say. (2 Cor. 2:4) If you are confident that your fellow believers want to please Jehovah, what you say will reflect that confidence, and this will have a beneficial effect. Notice how the apostle Paul expressed such confidence, as recorded at 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:4, 5; and Philemon 4, 8-14, 21.
At times it is necessary for elders to caution against unwise conduct. But humility will help them deal with their brothers in a spirit of mildness. (Gal. 6:1) The way that things are said should show that those in the congregation are viewed with respect. (1 Pet. 5:2, 3) The Bible counsels younger men to be especially aware of this. (1 Tim. 4:12; 5:1, 2; 1 Pet. 5:5) When it is necessary to reprove, to discipline, to set things straight, this should be done on the basis of what the Bible itself says. (2 Tim. 3:16) Application of Scripture should never be forced or bent to support some idea about which the speaker may have strong feelings. Even when corrective counsel is needed, the tone of the talk can be kept positive if emphasis is placed primarily on how to avoid getting involved in wrongdoing, how to solve problems, how to overcome difficulties, how to correct a wrong course, and how Jehovah’s requirements safeguard us.—Ps. 119:1, 9-16.
When preparing your talk, give special thought to how you will conclude each main point and the talk as a whole. What you say last is often remembered longest. Will it be positive?
When Conversing With Fellow Believers. Servants of Jehovah appreciate opportunities for fellowship at Christian meetings. These are times of spiritual refreshment. The Bible urges us to have in mind “encouraging one another” when we gather at our places of worship. (Heb. 10:25) That is done not only by talks and comments during the meetings but also by conversation before and after the meetings.
While it is normal for conversation to concern our everyday lives, the greatest encouragement comes from discussing spiritual matters. These include experiences that we enjoy in sacred service. Showing wholesome interest in one another is also upbuilding.
Because of the influence of the world around us, care is needed. When writing to Christians in Ephesus, Paul said: “Now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.” (Eph. 4:25) Speaking truth instead of falsehood includes not glorifying the things and people that the world idolizes. Likewise, Jesus cautioned against “the deceptive power of riches.” (Matt. 13:22) So when speaking with one another, we need to be careful not to promote that deception by glamorizing the possession of material things.—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
When counseling on the need to be upbuilding, the apostle Paul urges us not to judge or belittle a brother who might refrain from certain things because of “weaknesses in his faith,” that is, because he does not grasp the full scope of Christian freedom. Indeed, for our conversation to upbuild others, we must take into account their background and the extent of their spiritual growth. How sad it would be “to put before a brother [or a sister] a stumbling block or a cause for tripping”!—Rom. 14:1-4, 13, 19.
Those who cope with serious personal problems—for example, chronic illness—appreciate upbuilding conversation. Such a person may put forth much effort to attend meetings. Those aware of his situation may ask: “How do you feel?” He will no doubt appreciate their concern. However, the state of his health may not be the subject he finds most encouraging to talk about. Words of appreciation and commendation may do more to warm his heart. Do you see evidence of his continued love for Jehovah and his endurance under a difficult situation? Do you feel encouraged when he offers comments? Might it be more upbuilding to draw attention to his strengths and to what he contributes to the congregation instead of to his limitations?—1 Thess. 5:11.
For our conversation to upbuild, it is especially important to take into account Jehovah’s view of what is being discussed. In ancient Israel, those who spoke against Jehovah’s representatives and complained about the manna experienced God’s severe displeasure. (Num. 12:1-16; 21:5, 6) We give evidence that we have benefited from those examples when we show respect for the elders and appreciation for the spiritual food provided through the faithful and discreet slave class.—1 Tim. 5:17.
Finding beneficial things to talk about when with our Christian brothers is rarely a problem. However, if someone’s remarks are overly critical, take the initiative to steer the conversation in an upbuilding direction.
Whether we are witnessing to others, speaking from the platform, or talking with fellow believers, may we exercise discernment so as to bring forth out of the treasure of our hearts “whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.”—Eph. 4:29.