Offer Your Sacrifices of Praise Aright
“Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—Col. 4:6, NW.
1. What is symbolized by salt?
MOSAIC law required that sacrifices be seasoned with salt: “Every offering of your grain offering you will season with salt, and you must not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be missing upon your grain offering. Along with every offering of yours you will present salt.” Why? Salt is a preservative and prevents putrefaction. To offer anything fermented was forbidden, and salt with the offering prevented this. Forestalling change by decay, salt assured permanence, and was used in conjunction with a covenant to show the unchangeableness of it, the permanence of it. Among ancient peoples it was a sign of friendship to eat salt together and denoted perpetual fidelity and loyalty. The one sacrificing communion offerings on Jehovah’s altar was considered as a partaker with Jehovah; so the use of salt with the sacrifices indicated partaking of salt with him, which symbolized perpetual loyalty.—Lev. 2:13, NW.
2. What does it mean for Christians to season their word sacrifices with salt?
2 Because the true followers of Jesus, by example and by preaching, would be an influence to preserve from putrefaction and moral decay, Jesus called them “the salt of the earth.” Salt is also mentioned in connection with their words of preaching: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” (Matt. 5:13; Col. 4:6, NW) Christians do not offer grain or meat sacrifices to Jehovah as the nation of Israel did, but they do offer a sacrifice of praise by the words of their lips, and these are likened to bulls and fruits. Just as Israel’s material sacrifices were to be accompanied by salt, so the Christian’s words, the symbolic bulls of his lips, are to be seasoned with salt. This means the utterances are to be pure in truth, to have a preserving effect upon both the speaker and the hearer, and to be loyal and faithful to Jehovah, not despising his name or making his table appear contemptible. The words offered are to be appetizing to lovers of righteousness. Salt is an appetizing condiment in the food of both man and beast: “Is a tasteless thing eaten without salt?” “The oxen and young asses that till the soil will feed on salted fodder.” (Job 6:6; Isa. 30:24, AT) So the word sacrifices of Christians are to be seasoned with spiritual salt, not being tasteless, insipid and corrupt, but being appetizing, friendly, faithful and with preserving power.
3. Why is it necessary to give advance thought and preparation to doorstep sermons?
3 Do you know how you ought to answer, to offer spiritual sacrifices, with graciousness, seasoned with salt? Just as it was in the days of Christ and the apostles and early disciples, so today it is at the doors and in the homes of the people that these verbal sacrifices are most frequently and most effectively offered. Do you give advance thought and preparation to your doorstep sermons, “so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one” you meet at the door? On this initial visit it is especially important to find words that are plain, simple and pleasing, not controversial: “The Speaker’s aim was to find pleasing words, even as he set down plainly what was true.” If some controversy arises, however, be “always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be tactful toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed, as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—Eccl. 12:10, Mo; 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:24, 25, NW.
4, 5. What counsel about sermons as to delivery and our attitude is given, and why is it important?
4 We should not be diffident and apologetic in our manner or bearing, but remember that we represent the Creator of the universe and have his backing. You are convinced that you are speaking the truth? Then let that conviction show in your delivery. You are sincere? Let it shine through. You are enthusiastic about the truth? Make that manifest to them by your tone of voice and expression of face. Certainly you go to them as a friend; so be warm and friendly, conversational and direct. Draw them into the conversation by asking questions, by inviting their comments. Approach each door with the thought that the one behind it is a sheep, a friend, and let your interest and concern for him show. Have this positive attitude for each householder; before you think differently of him make him prove his difference. Do not let the goat at the last door sour you with a negative attitude for the next door. Each door deserves your best and should not get less just because it may be in the midst of a tough territory.
5 Have you ever read a paragraph, the eye seeing every word, yet at the end find you remember nothing of what you read? Your mind had wandered elsewhere. Or have you ever sat in a lecture hearing the words, but suddenly realize you remember nothing of what the speaker said for the past ten minutes because your mind strayed? Similarly, when a householder comes to the door he may appear to be listening to you, yet his mind is busy thinking of excuses, or noting your dress, or considering your personality. He may be forming an impression of you, without your words in his ears really registering on his mind. However, just as your mind will not wander if the paragraph you are reading is both interesting and well written, and just as it will not stray if the speaker you are hearing expresses good thoughts with earnestness and enthusiasm, so the householder’s mind will be on your sermon if it is thoughtful, clear and informative and presented with warm sincerity and deep conviction. Impressions are formed and decisions made not just by what we may say but by how we say it and how we look when we say it.
6, 7. What suggestions are given as to content of sermons?
6 Assuming that we dress neatly but not gaudily, and that we forget ourselves and let our friendly interest, sincerity, conviction and enthusiasm shine through to the householder, the content of the sermon itself demands our attention. It must be good in our own eyes, must make us enthusiastic with its points, if we are to pass on any enthusiasm to others. If it leaves us cold it will never warm up anyone else. So for the sake of your delivery get a sermon that pleases you very much. You may get ideas from others, but do not use them unless they fill you with enthusiasm. Otherwise you will give it spiritlessly and it will be received the same way. Have a theme, keep directing your points to this one target. Make it practical, of personal application to the householder. Everyone is interested in himself; many are not deeply interested in others. You may talk about world conditions—wars, famines, pestilences, calamities—but if these things have not touched the householder personally or do not threaten to soon he will not be too concerned. People have become calloused to large-scale suffering, to mass misery. If they or members of their immediate family suffer from these woes they take a personal interest. So if you talk on world woes try to bring them down to the personal level of the householder. If you discuss widespread juvenile delinquency, for example, bring it home to him by showing the way to safeguard his own children from it. The Kingdom is the remedy for all troubles, but show them it will solve their little personal worries, not just the big worldwide woes. Oftentimes the latter are too big and gigantic and staggering to be grasped.
7 In the sermon on the mount Jesus considered the everyday worries and anxieties that were troubling the people, what they would eat and drink and wear. Jehovah knows these things are needed and will supply them to humans just as he does for birds and even vegetation, Jesus said. “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” Doing this, personal anxieties will vanish and instead you will have “the peace of God that excels all thought.” So, as Jesus did, we must note the personal, individual worries and concerns of the people and embrace them in our sermons. These sermons should be adaptable to the mental levels and attitudes of our hearers, as were those of Paul: “I have become all things to people of all kinds, that I might by all means save some.”—Matt. 6:33; Phil. 4:7; 1 Cor. 9:22, NW.
8. After our sermons are prepared, how should we fix them in our mind for presenting at the door?
8 If we memorize our sermons they will lack flexibility and adaptability. If they are to be versatile and maneuverable to conform to the different situations that arise at the doors we should memorize no more than a brief outline. There are many familiar texts that we can discuss for a few minutes without notes. We talk about them on the spur of the moment with ease and confidence. So pick out three or four of these very familiar scriptures, memorizing only their location in the Bible. Then look them up in order at the door, reading and commenting briefly on each one. Unburdened by memorized words that would sound mechanical, your mind is free to cope with ideas as you supply the necessary words extemporaneously, just as you do daily in conversation. Only then will your sincerity and enthusiasm be manifest; only then can your natural personality and warmth and friendliness shine through. You can have alternate texts for use in different situations. You can list in the back of your field-service Bible several groupings of texts, each group comprising your notes for a sermon.
STARTING YOUR SERMON
9. What suggestion is given for coping with common excuses?
9 Many persons go from door to door for a variety of purposes, and when the bell rings the householder is often somewhat annoyed by the interruption and comes to the door determined to dismiss you quick. She has several stock excuses, but probably does not settle on one until she has taken a quick look and listened and jumped to a conclusion about you. Then she will break in with one. You have heard them often and may be able to refute them very logically, but after she has said it she is likely to stick to it, pride not letting her back down on it. If you could foresee the excuse and refute it before she voices it her pride would not be involved and she might hear you out. Perhaps after a very brief introduction of yourself you might abruptly say, before she has selected one of the common excuses: “You know, when we call at the door some people immediately say, . . .” and state one of these excuses. It may not be the one she would have used this time, but very likely she has often used it and may be taken aback momentarily when you cite it. She may be a bit curious about your next words dealing with this excuse she sometimes uses. Make them good, catchy, to hold her interest, and perhaps she will hear your sermon through.
10. How might you deal with the statement, “I don’t need anything today”?
10 After briefly stating why you are calling, you might say: “You know, when we call like this some persons say, ‘Oh, I don’t need anything today.’ But listen to what Jesus said about those who say they need nothing: ‘You say: “I am rich and have acquired riches and do not need anything at all,” but you do not know you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.’ He didn’t mean they are literally, of course, for that would have been obvious to them. He meant that in a spiritual way they were in this destitute condition.” Then, after using Revelation 3:17 (NW) to cope with the excuse, you use two or three additional texts to complete your sermon. You might use Amos 8:11 to show that the spiritual famine is widespread and that despite the existence of many churches the people are not being spiritually fed, though many think they are. Read Matthew 5:3 to show that those conscious of their spiritual need will be satisfied. At this point you might present the literature offer and state that these publications provide spiritual food, and prove it to them by having a specific paragraph picked out to read, one that contains a particularly tasty point of information.
11, 12. How might you use in your sermon and refute the excuse, “I’m busy”?
11 Another example: “So often when we call people tell us they’re busy. It’s good to be busy, because God hates idlers. But we shouldn’t be so busy with lesser matters that we refuse time to the more important things. One time Jesus was at the home of two sisters. Mary was listening to him explain the truth of God, and Martha complained because she was not helping with housework. Here’s the account: ‘Martha, on the other hand, was distracted with attending to many duties. So, she came near and said: “Master, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her, therefore, to join in helping me.” In answer the Master said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one. For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Jehovah and Jesus speak to us through the Bible. If we won’t listen to them, why expect them ever to listen to us when we get in trouble and cry out to them for help?”—Luke 10:40-42, NW.
12 Or one might say this: “Some come to the door and say they’re too busy; but you know, if I offered them a hundred dollars they wouldn’t be too busy to accept it. Yet listen to what the Bible says: ‘Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.’ If they aren’t too busy to take money, surely they shouldn’t be too busy to take in knowledge that leads to everlasting life.”—Prov. 3:13-18, RS.
13. How could you refute the excuse, “I’m not interested”?
13 After saying that many tell you, before finding out why you are there, that they are not interested, you might continue: “But do you know what the Bible says about people who answer before they hear a matter? Listen: ‘If one gives answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.’” You would not want to use this after a householder says he is not interested. It would be too blunt then; it would be like calling him foolish and shameful. But if you raise this point first you can use the text above, Proverbs 18:13 (RS), because you are applying it to other people that do this, not to the one you are addressing. The same is true of the following example.
14. What is frequently said in lands of plenty, and how can it be handled?
14 In some materialistic countries where people have plenty they brush you off by saying they are satisfied. “You know, some people refuse to listen and say, ‘Oh, I’m getting along all right; I’m satisfied.’ Well, God is not interested in people who are satisfied. He’s interested in those who are dissatisfied. Long ago he marked some for preservation, saying: ‘Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.’ Today Jehovah is interested in those who love righteousness, and such ones certainly are not satisfied with the corrupt, wicked conditions in the earth today. What decent person could be satisfied with these rotten conditions? They want clean government, an end to immorality, a halt of hypocrisy. They would also like health and life for themselves and their families, for all lovers of righteousness. The present evil conditions make them sigh and groan and long for something better.” After this use of Ezekiel 9:4 (RS), you might use Matthew 5:4 to show these mourning ones will be comforted, that now their desire for spiritual food will be supplied by God, and in the new world of righteousness all their desires will be met by Jehovah, using Psalm 145:16 and Revelation 21:4 to establish these points.
15. What further suggestions are given?
15 You might even raise common religious reactions, such as: “Sometimes persons say to us, ‘I believe if I am sincere God will save me; that’s all he requires of me, just to do what I think is right.’ But that isn’t what the Bible says: ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.’” Thereafter you might use such texts as Galatians 1:8 and John 17:3 to show we must follow truth, not human ideas of what is right. In the above refutation of this sincerity excuse, Proverbs 14:12 (RS) was used. You might use with equal fittingness such texts as John 16:2, Acts 26:9 or Romans 10:2, 3. There is much variety we can get in our sermons. Think of excuses used, of common religious objections, of anything that might catch interest, then ferret out a quick rebuttal, preferably a scripture, as that will get you into your Bible sermon quickly. The above examples are to show possibilities, not necessarily to be used by you. Work out definite approaches and develop points with scriptures that suit you, that please you, that make you enthusiastic so you can deliver your sermon with personal enthusiasm and conviction. What has been said about the doorstep sermon also applies to the back-call sermon. The only difference is that you may use one or two more scriptures and enlarge on them a bit more. The same counsel given about delivery and mental outlines of doorstep sermons applies to the longer backcall sermon inside the house.
16. What shall we now do?
16 Let us do our utmost to be approved ministers of Jehovah God, diligently studying his Word to get from it the acceptable sacrifices of praise, the unblemished bullocks and fruits of lips devoted to him. Meditate on his truth, going over it in your mind, shaping it for public presentation, putting it in the best form so that it will appeal to the yet-scattered other sheep, so that it cannot be overturned by opposition from goats. Present it with graciousness, mildness, tactfulness and with the symbolic salt ordained to accompany our spiritual sacrifices of praise. Then they will be words that are loyal and true and faithful to Jehovah, words of permanence, words with preserving power for those who hear them and accept them and obey them. With such sacrificial words we shall never be guilty of making Jehovah’s table contemptible. We shall be privileged to pass out from it Jehovah’s feast of fat things for all people of good will in all nations.