Divine Requirements Resting on Servants
1. How do servants prove their love for the Shepherd, happily?
AS THE Lord gathers more and more sheep into his fold he adequately provides for their every need by appointing servants who lovingly help and assist the flock in the way the Lord directs. Such Theocratic way is set forth in the Bible. The apostle Peter, it will be remembered, had very forcefully impressed on his heart and mind the necessity for him to prove his love for Christ by feeding and caring for the Lord’s sheep. Peter never forgot this truth, for, thirty years later, he earnestly exhorted other servants of the Lord to likewise prove their love by feeding the “sheep. This letter of Peter’s, as well as Christ’s direct commandments to servants in general, has been preserved for the instruction and guidance of those having special responsibilities in the Theocratic organization today. Servants do well, therefore, if they both study this counsel and put it into practice. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them,” said Jesus.—John 13:17; Phil. 4:9.
2. Who are the “elders” whom Peter tells to feed the flock?
2 “I appeal therefore to those who are elders among you; I am their brother-elder,” is the way Peter begins his counsel. (1 Pet. 5:1, An Amer. Trans.) The “elders” (Greek: presbytérous, older ones) do not refer to “elected elders” made so by the popular vote of some congregation after a heated political campaign. Peter is addressing himself to the older or elder ones in Christian growth, to those that are mature and well versed in Theocratic law and organizational requirements. They are not necessarily those old in body and mind or those who have been a very long time in the truth, but rather those mature in spiritual growth and development. Timothy, though a youth perhaps in his late teens, was nevertheless mature in spiritual growth, hence an elder. It is such mature ones that are chosen for the more responsible duties as servants among the Lord’s “sheep”. So whether you are appointed to care for the Kingdom interests as a company servant in a congregation of the Lord’s people or as some assistant servant assigned to look after other organizational details, you do well to take special heed to what Peter says, for he speaks as your brother elder, a fully matured servant of the Lord.
3. How should such elders take up their duties as servants?
3 “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:1-3) You who are servants should not accept the appointment “by constraint”, “as though it were forced upon you” (An Amer. Trans.), “reluctantly” (Weymouth), “because you are compelled” to do so. (20th Cen. New Test.) Rather, take up the duties as a servant “willingly, of your own free will, with eagerness and alertness, glad and happy for the privilege of serving in any capacity in which the Lord can use you. Those seeking the office of a servant seek a good thing. They must also accept the responsibilities that go with it.—1 Tim. 3:1.
4. What should those feeling incapable do, and remembering whom?
4 But what if one who receives a servant’s assignment feels he is incapable of handling the duties? What should he do? The answer is simple: Accept the appointment as from the Lord, and pray for God’s spirit and power to be upon you to help you handle the job faithfully and efficiently. Remember, Jehovah’s wrath was kindled against Moses when he protested that he was unfit for his assignment. Appointed by God as a special servant and witness to go before that wicked Pharaoh of Egypt, Moses in substance replied: ‘Who? Me, Lord? I can’t talk! Send someone else.’ (Ex. 4:10-14) Remember also the case of Jeremiah. When appointed as the Lord’s servant and prophet, Jeremiah threw up his hands and cried: ‘O Lord, I am but a child; I can’t speak; better send someone else.’ (Jer. 1:6, 7) In both of these cases, complaining that they were unqualified for the assignment was the same as telling the Lord He had made a mistake in choosing them.
5. What illustrates servants need no college, seminary training?
5 Few of the Lord’s servants are college graduates, trained and qualified for handling the duties that fall on servants in the Lord’s organization. (1 Cor. 1:26-29) Many—are farmers, carpenters, fishermen and factory laborers by trade and training. But call to mind that Noah was not chosen for his special work because he was a shipbuilder by trade. Moses was not selected because he was an eloquent orator who could persuade and overpower the mighty Pharaoh with cunning speech-making. The apostles were not appointed as the Lord’s special ministers and servants because they were graduates of a great rabbinical school of theology. Moses and David and Amos were stock-raisers by occupation. (Ex. 3:1; Ps. 78:70-72; Amos 7:14, 15) Peter and Andrew and other apostles were fisherman by education. (Mark 1:16-20) Luke was a physician by schooling. (Col. 4:14) And Jesus, the Chief Servant of the Lord, was only a carpenter’s helper by training before his anointing. (Matt. 13:55) In each and every one of these cases it was Jehovah’s holy spirit or active power and force upon them that enabled them to take up and carry out their new assignments as the Lord’s special servants. They cultivated the gifts that they received, and the Lord blessed them. The same holy spirit of God will be upon any servant of the Lord today if he willingly accepts his assignment and diligently works at it, trying faithfully to perform the assigned duties.
6. For what purpose should servants not handle “sheep”? Why not?
6 Peter cautioned those that are servants among the flock of God not to accept an assignment “for filthy lucre”, “not for base love of gain” (1 Pet. 5:2, An Amer. Trans.). Servants among God’s flock (Knox’s New Trans.). Servants among God’s flock are not to fleece the flock or feed themselves instead of feeding the flock. They are not to plunder the flock as thieves who enter in “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10) They are not to assume the attitude or follow the sinful course of Christendom’s lucre-loving clergy, who abuse and destroy the “sheep”, scatter the flock, and even rob and devour widows’ houses to satisfy their lustful and greedy appetites. (Matt. 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47) Make no mistake: if any servant within the Lord’s fold would prey upon his brethren or in any wise follow such a course of iniquity, the Good Shepherd’s holy angels would move so swiftly in casting the worthless wretch out that his teeth would start to gnash and chatter. If unrepentant his end would be the same as that of the false shepherds: everlasting destruction!—Matt. 13:41, 42.
7. Why should servants not lord it over the flock?
7 This is why Peter also warns his fellow servants not to conduct themselves as “lords” over God’s heritage, as the arrogant sectarian shepherds do over their flocks. “Not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock,” is the apostle’s good advice. (1 Pet. 5:3, Rev. Stan. Ver.) As a servant are you puffed up in your own estimation? Surely your position of responsibility is nothing to compare with that of Moses’, who headed a great nation or congregation of people numbering in the millions. Why, then, should your estimation of yourself be inflated, when it says: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth”? (Num. 12:3) If any servant thinks he is important and should be placed on a pedestal above his brethren, there to be looked up to and honored, then let him read what Paul wrote: “If anyone imagines he is somebody, he is deceiving himself, for he is nobody.” (Gal. 6:3, Moffatt) Do not let the job of being a servant go to your head. Do not be a domineering boss or a harsh dictator over the “sheep”. Do not forget that the “sheep” belong to someone else. They are not your “sheep”. They are “my sheep”, says the Good Shepherd, and as he calls them each by name “they know his voice”. “They know not the voice of strangers”; hence, if you speak to them in a bossy voice, a stranger’s voice, they will not respond. (John 10:3-5) So meekness and humility is the rule governing the Lord’s sheepfold; and all therein, servants included, must obey such law. All must imitate the perfect example of meekness and humility found in Christ the Chief Shepherd. “All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God.”—1 Pet. 5:5, 6.
EXAMPLES TO FLOCK IN CONDUCT AND ACTIVITY
8. What requirements as to overseers did Paul write Timothy?
8 The apostle Paul in his letters to Timothy and Titus sets forth the requirements that servants and overseers in the Theocratic organization must meet “The overseer [Greek: epískopos, a superintendent] therefore must be without reproach [above reproach], the husband of one wife, temperate [vigilant], sober-minded [stable-minded, sensible, thoughtful], orderly [of good behavior], given to hospitality, apt to teach [able to teach]; not quarrelsome over wine [not a hard drinker, not a drunkard], no striker [not pugnacious]; but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money [not greedy for filthy lucre]; one that ruleth [manages] well his own house, having his children in subjection [under control] with all gravity.” (1 Tim. 3:2-4, Am. Stan. Ver., margin) Moreover, Paul continues: “For if a man does not know how to conduct his own household, how can he look after a church of God? He must not be a new convert [not a novice or newly interested one], or he may grow conceited and incur criticism from slanderous people. He must also be a man of good standing with outsiders, or he may get into disgrace and be entrapped by the slanderers.” (1 Tim. 3:5-7, An Amer. Trans.) No, one appointed as an overseer should not be a newly interested person, but rather should be one showing growth and maturity, one that is fully consecrated to God and his service, and hence one that is baptized by water immersion.
9. What requirements did Paul write him as to assistant servants?
9 After detailing the requirements that overseers of the Lord’s flock must have, Paul next points out to Timothy that assistant servants must meet the same high standard in spirituality and conduct. “So, too, Assistant-Officers [Greek: di·áko·nos, attendants; hence servants among the flock of God] should be serious and straightforward men, not given to taking much drink or to questionable money-making, but men who hold the deeper truths of the Faith and have a clear conscience. They should be tested first, and only appointed to their Office if no objection is raised against them. It should be the same with the women. They should be serious, and not gossips, sober, and trustworthy in all respects. [Phebe, being such a woman, was appointed as a servant in the congregation of Cenʹchre·ae. (Rom. 16:1, also subscription to Romans)] Assistant-Officers should be faithful husbands, and men who rule their children and their households well. Those who have filled that post with honour gain for themselves an honourable position, as well as great confidence through the faith that they place in Christ Jesus.”—1 Tim. 3:8-13, 20th Cen. New Test., 1904 ed.
10. What requirements as to overseers did Paul write Titus?
10 In his letter of instructions to Titus the apostle Paul gave similar advice concerning those that should be given the responsibility of caring for the flock of God on the island of Crete. “My reason for leaving you in Crete,” writes Paul, “was that you might put in order what had been left unsettled, and appoint Officers of the Church in the various towns, as I myself directed you. They are to be men of irreproachable [qualities], who are faithful husbands, whose children are Christians and have never been charged with dissolute conduct or have been unruly. For a Presiding-Officer, as God’s steward, ought to be a man of irreproachable [qualities]; not self-willed or quick-tempered, nor addicted to drink or to brawling or to questionable money-making. On the contrary, he should be hospitable, eager for the right, discreet, upright, a man of holy life and capable of self-restraint, who holds doctrine that can be relied on as being in accordance with the accepted Teaching; so that he may be able to encourage others by sound teaching, as well as to refute our opponents.”—Titus 1:5-9, 20th Cen. New Test.
11. In what respects should servants be examples to the flock?
11 If servants are to be proper examples for their brethren in the church of God they must constantly and consistently bring forth “the fruit of the spirit”, which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith”. (Gal. 5:22) “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (2 Tim. 2:24, 25) “Set those who believe an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, preaching, and teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, . . . Cultivate these things, devote yourself to them, so that everyone will see your progress. Look out for yourself and for your teaching. Persevere in your work, for if you do you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Tim. 4:12-16, An Amer. Trans.) And because Timothy followed this advice, and because Paul himself practiced what he preached, Paul was able to call the Thessalonians’ attention to how he and Timothy and Silvanus had been proper examples among them. “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; because we were not disorderly among you . . . that we might give ourselves a pattern for you to imitate us.”—2 Thess. 1:1; 3:7-9, Diaglott.
12. So what exhortation does The Watchtower give servants?
12 Servants, follow the Chief Shepherd’s pattern in conduct! Imitate the apostles! Display before your brethren proper examples both in word and in deed! Be faithful, steady, regular, calm, earnest, thoughtful, humble, meek, peaceable, trustworthy, dependable, sincere. Above all, show love. Lovingly and with great mercy, tenderness and long-suffering seek out the Lord’s “other sheep” that are lost, and when you find them, feed them. Food is the important thing. As the wise man says: “Remove far from me falsehood and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me.” (Prov. 30:8, Am. Stan. Ver.) This necessary food provided by the good and righteous Shepherd is God’s revealed Word, which if any eat they are promised eternal life. (John 6:68) “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: . . . The lips of the righteous feed many.” (Prov. 10:11, 21) Feed not only the spiritually skinny “sheep” you find in the field, but also, servants, feed and take care of the flock of which you are a part. “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock of which the holy spirit has appointed you guardians.”—Acts 20:28, Moffatt.
13. How do servants show themselves true shepherds, not hirelings?
13 The Lord’s appointed servants are not hirelings. They are true shepherds and guardians of the “sheep”. Hirelings care nothing for the “sheep”, and if wolfish beasts enter in to maim and kill they run to save their own skin. (John 10:12, 13) True shepherds, on the other hand, fight for the sheep, not against them, and, like the Good Shepherd, they are even willing to lay down their lives for the sheep. (John 10:11) Like the Chief Shepherd, faithful servants are willing to put the welfare of their brethren ahead of their own comforts. Willing to lay down their lives for their brethren, they are more willing to go out of their way to help weaker ones with their problems. If publishers create burdens for themselves and for the servants, then servants, not begrudgingly, but gladly and out of love for the weaker members, offer to give aid and help as seems best under the circumstances. (Gal. 6:1, 2, An Amer. Trans.) Unlike Christendom’s hirelings and false shepherds, servants in the Theocratic organization spiritually strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the wounded, bring back the strayed, seek out the lost lambs. (Ezek. 34:4) It is God’s will that not one lamb should perish.—Matt. 18:10-14.
14. Why is so much required of servants? But with what rewards?
14 If all this seems like much to demand of servants, then it is because to them much has been given in the way of blessed privileges of service at the hands of the Lord. To whom much has been given, the rule is, much more is demanded in return. (Luke 12:48) Keep in mind that your responsibility as servants is to the Great and Chief Shepherds, and what service is rendered unto your brethren is counted as rendered unto the Lord. The “sheep” are the Lord’s. Be not therefore slothful servants or unprofitable slaves, lest you be cast out, not only out of office as a servant, but “into outer darkness” with no further opportunity for life. (Matt. 24:48, 51; 25:26) Faithfulness in performance of duties is what brings good results, results in the form of rewards, rewards now and in the ages to come both to the servants and to the flock. As long as servants and “sheep” continue to “hear” their Master’s voice and follow him there will be mutual joy and gladness, and rapid progress will be made toward that glorious new world of eternal peace and prosperity in which there are no wild beasts, parched lands or dried-up streams. What a blessed lot now is ours! What glorious prospects lie ahead of us! With voices and hearts united in thanksgiving and praise to Jehovah we sing: “We thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.”—Ps. 79:13.