1. To what insidious snare do imperfect humans easily fall prey?
“NEVER a power without the lurk of a subtle snare.” Those words of a 19th-century poet call attention to an insidious danger: the misuse of power. Sadly, imperfect humans all too easily fall prey to this snare. Indeed, throughout history “man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) The exercise of power without love has resulted in untold human suffering.
2, 3. (a) What is remarkable about Jehovah’s use of power? (b) What may our power include, and how should we use all such power?
2 Is it not remarkable, though, that Jehovah God, who has unlimited power, never misuses that power? As we have noted in the preceding chapters, he always uses his power—whether creative, destructive, protective, or restorative—in harmony with his loving purposes. When we contemplate the way he exerts his power, we are moved to draw close to him. That, in turn, can motivate us to “become imitators of God” in our own use of power. (Ephesians 5:1) But what power do we puny humans possess?
3 Remember that man was created “in God’s image” and likeness. (Genesis 1:26, 27) Hence, we too have power—at least a measure of it. Our power may include the capacity to accomplish things, to work; the possession of control or authority over others; the ability to influence others, particularly those who love us; physical strength (might); or material resources. Concerning Jehovah, the psalmist said: “With you is the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9) Therefore, directly or indirectly, God is the source of any legitimate power we might have. We therefore want to use it in ways that please him. How can we do so?
Love Is the Key
4, 5. (a) What is the key to using power aright, and how does God’s own example demonstrate this? (b) How will love help us to use our power aright?
4 The key to using power aright is love. Does not God’s own example demonstrate this? Recall the discussion of God’s four cardinal attributes—power, justice, wisdom, and love—in Chapter 1. Of the four qualities, which one predominates? Love. “God is love,” says 1 John 4:8. Yes, Jehovah’s very essence is love; it influences all that he does. So every expression of his power is motivated by love and is ultimately for the good of those who love him.
5 Love will also help us to use our power aright. After all, the Bible tells us that love is “kind” and “does not look for its own interests.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5) Hence, love will not allow us to act in a harsh or cruel manner toward those over whom we have a measure of authority. Instead, we will treat others with dignity and put their needs and feelings ahead of our own.—Philippians 2:3, 4.
6, 7. (a) What is godly fear, and why will this quality help us to avoid misusing power? (b) Illustrate the connection between fear of displeasing God and love for God.
6 Love is related to another quality that can help us to avoid misusing power: godly fear. What is the value of this quality? “In the fear of Jehovah one turns away from bad,” says Proverbs 16:6. The misuse of power is certainly among the bad ways from which we should turn away. Fear of God will restrain us from mistreating those over whom we have power. Why? For one thing, we know that we are accountable to God for the way we treat such ones. (Nehemiah 5:1-7, 15) But godly fear involves more than that. The original-language terms used for “fear” often refer to a profound reverence and awe of God. The Bible thus associates fear with love for God. (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13) This reverential awe includes a healthy fear of displeasing God—not simply because we fear the consequences but because we truly love him.
7 To illustrate: Think about the wholesome relationship between a little boy and his father. The boy senses his father’s warm, loving interest in him. But the boy is also aware of what his father requires of him, and he knows that his father will discipline him if he misbehaves. The boy does not live in morbid fear of his father. On the contrary, he dearly loves his father. The youngster delights in doing what will bring his father’s smile of approval. So it is with godly fear. Because we love Jehovah, our heavenly Father, we dread doing anything that would make him feel “hurt at his heart.” (Genesis 6:6) Rather, we long to make his heart rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11) That is why we want to use our power aright. Let us take a closer look at how we may do so.
Within the Family
8. (a) What authority do husbands have in the family, and how is it to be exercised? (b) How can a husband demonstrate that he honors his wife?
8 Consider first the family circle. “A husband is head of his wife,” says Ephesians 5:23. How is a husband to exercise this God-given authority? The Bible tells husbands to dwell with their wives “according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel.” (1 Peter 3:7) The Greek noun rendered “honor” means “price, value, . . . respect.” Forms of this word are translated “gifts” and “precious.” (Acts 28:10; 1 Peter 2:7) A husband who honors his wife would never assault her physically; neither would he humiliate or disparage her, causing her to feel worthless. Rather, he recognizes her value and treats her with respect. He shows by his words and deeds—in private and in public—that she is precious to him. (Proverbs 31:28) Such a husband gains not only his wife’s love and respect but, more important, God’s approval.
9. (a) Wives have what power in the family? (b) What can help a wife to use her abilities to support her husband, and with what result?
9 Wives too have a measure of power in the family. The Bible tells of godly women who, within the framework of proper headship, took the initiative to influence their husbands in a positive way or to help them avoid errors in judgment. (Genesis 21:9-12; 27:46–28:2) A wife may have a keener mind than her husband has, or she may have other abilities that he does not have. Yet, she is to have “deep respect” for her husband and to “be in subjection” to him “as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22, 33) Thinking in terms of pleasing God can help a wife to use her abilities to support her husband rather than belittling him or trying to dominate him. Such a “truly wise woman” cooperates closely with her husband to build up the family. She thereby maintains peace with God.—Proverbs 14:1.
10. (a) God has granted what authority to parents? (b) What is the meaning of the word “discipline,” and how should it be administered? (See also footnote.)
10 Parents also have authority granted them by God. The Bible admonishes: “Fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) In the Bible, the word “discipline” can mean “upbringing, training, instruction.” Children need discipline; they thrive under clear-cut guidelines, boundaries, and limits. The Bible associates such discipline, or instruction, with love. (Proverbs 13:24) Therefore, “the rod of discipline” should never be abusive—emotionally or physically.* (Proverbs 22:15; 29:15) Discipline that is rigid or harsh with no sense of love is an abuse of parental authority and can crush a child’s spirit. (Colossians 3:21) On the other hand, balanced discipline that is properly administered conveys to children that their parents love them and care about the kind of person they are becoming.
11. How can children use their power aright?
11 What about children? How can they use their power aright? “The beauty of young men is their power,” says Proverbs 20:29. Surely there is no finer way for young people to use their strength and vigor than in serving our “Grand Creator.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Young ones do well to remember that their actions can affect the feelings of their parents. (Proverbs 23:24, 25) When children obey their God-fearing parents and hold to a right course, they bring joy to their parents’ hearts. (Ephesians 6:1) Such conduct is “well-pleasing in the Lord.”—Colossians 3:20.
Within the Congregation
12, 13. (a) What view should elders have of their authority in the congregation? (b) Illustrate why elders should treat the flock with tenderness.
12 Jehovah has provided overseers to take the lead in the Christian congregation. (Hebrews 13:17) These qualified men are to use their God-given authority to provide needed assistance and to contribute to the welfare of the flock. Does their position entitle elders to lord it over their fellow believers? Not at all! Elders need to have a balanced, humble view of their role in the congregation. (1 Peter 5:2, 3) The Bible tells overseers: “Shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:28) Therein lies a powerful reason for treating each member of the flock with tenderness.
13 We might illustrate it this way. A close friend asks you to care for a cherished possession. You know that your friend paid a high price for the item. Would you not treat it delicately, with great care? Similarly, God has entrusted elders with the responsibility to care for a truly valued possession: the congregation, whose members are likened to sheep. (John 21:16, 17) Jehovah’s sheep are dear to him—so dear, in fact, that he purchased them with the precious blood of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jehovah could not have paid a higher price for his sheep. Humble elders keep that in mind and treat Jehovah’s sheep accordingly.
“The Power of the Tongue”
14. The tongue has what power?
14 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 18:21) Indeed, the tongue can do much damage. Who of us has never felt the sting of a thoughtless or even disparaging remark? But the tongue also has the power to mend. “The tongue of the wise ones is a healing,” says Proverbs 12:18. Yes, positive, wholesome words can be like an application of soothing, healing balm to the heart. Consider some examples.
15, 16. In what ways may we use the tongue to encourage others?
15 “Speak consolingly to the depressed souls,” urges 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Yes, even faithful servants of Jehovah may at times struggle with depression. How can we help such ones? Offer specific, genuine commendation to help them see their own value in Jehovah’s eyes. Share with them the powerful words of Bible texts showing that Jehovah truly cares about and loves those who are “broken at heart” and “crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) When we use the power of our tongue to console others, we show that we are imitating our compassionate God, “who comforts the depressed.”—2 Corinthians 7:6, New American Standard Bible.
16 We can also use the power of our tongue to provide much-needed encouragement to others. Has a fellow believer lost a loved one in death? Sympathetic words expressing our care and concern can comfort a grieving heart. Is an elderly brother or sister feeling unneeded? A thoughtful tongue can reassure older ones that they are valued and appreciated. Is someone struggling with a chronic illness? Kind words shared on the phone or in person can do much to lift the spirits of one who is sick. How pleased our Creator must be when we use the power of speech to utter sayings that are “good for building up”!—Ephesians 4:29.
Sharing the good news—an excellent way to use our power
17. In what important way can we use our tongue to benefit others, and why should we do so?
17 There is no more important way to use the power of the tongue than by our sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom with others. “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it,” says Proverbs 3:27. We owe it to others to share with them the lifesaving good news. It would not be right to keep to ourselves the urgent message that Jehovah has so generously granted us. (1 Corinthians 9:16, 22) But to what extent does Jehovah expect us to share in this work?
Serving Jehovah With Our “Whole Strength”
18. What does Jehovah expect of us?
18 Our love for Jehovah moves us to have a full share in the Christian ministry. What does Jehovah expect of us in this regard? Something that all of us, no matter what our situation in life, can give: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23) In stating the greatest commandment, Jesus said: “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.” (Mark 12:30) Yes, Jehovah expects each one of us to love and serve him in a whole-souled way.
19, 20. (a) Since the soul includes the heart, the mind, and the strength, why are these other faculties mentioned at Mark 12:30? (b) What does it mean to serve Jehovah whole-souled?
19 What does it mean to serve God whole-souled? The soul refers to the entire person, with all his physical and mental abilities. Since the soul embraces the heart, the mind, and the strength, why are these other faculties mentioned at Mark 12:30? Consider an illustration. In Bible times, a person might sell himself (his soul) into slavery. Yet, the slave might not serve his master wholeheartedly; he might not use his full strength or his full mental abilities to advance his master’s interests. (Colossians 3:22) Hence, Jesus evidently mentioned these other faculties in order to emphasize that we must not hold anything back in our service to God. Serving God whole-souled means giving of ourselves, using our strength and energies to the fullest extent possible in his service.
20 Does serving whole-souled mean that we must all spend the same amount of time and energy in the ministry? That could hardly be possible, for circumstances and abilities differ from one person to another. For example, a young person with good health and physical stamina may be able to spend more time in preaching than can one whose strength is sapped by advancing age. A single person who is free from family obligations may be able to do more than can one who has to care for a family. If we have the strength and circumstances that enable us to do much in the ministry, how thankful we should be! Of course, we would never want to have a critical spirit, comparing ourselves with others in this regard. (Romans 14:10-12) Rather, we want to use our power to encourage others.
21. What is the best and most important way to use our power?
21 Jehovah has set the perfect example in using his power aright. We want to imitate him to the best of our ability as imperfect humans. We can use our power aright by treating with dignity those over whom we have a measure of authority. In addition, we want to be whole-souled in carrying out the lifesaving preaching work that Jehovah has given us to accomplish. (Romans 10:13, 14) Remember, Jehovah is pleased when you give the best that you—your soul—can give. Does not your heart move you to want to do all you can in serving such an understanding and loving God? There is no better or more important way to use your power.
In Bible times, the Hebrew word for “rod” meant a stick or a staff, such as the one a shepherd used to guide his sheep. (Psalm 23:4) Similarly, “the rod” of parental authority suggests loving guidance, not harsh or brutal punishment.