Which Part Do You Read?
WHEN you read the Bible, which part do you read? Do you pay attention to the part that applies to you, or to what applies to someone else? It is easy to think about the other person, hard to consider yourself. The other person is not your responsibility, but your own course is. When you consider Paul’s sound admonition regarding the family, which part do you read, the part that applies to the rest of the family, or the part that applies to you?
As a husband, are you concerned with the part that applies to your wife, or with what applies to you? As a wife, are you concerned with the instructions to your husband, or with the part that tells what you should do? As a parent, do you think of the instructions to your children, or about what is said to you? As a child, do you listen to your part, or to what your parents are told to do? As a slave, are you concerned with your own responsibilities, or with those of your master? Or as a master, are you concerned with the instructions to the slaves, or with those that are given to you?
What did Paul say to all these people? He said: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it. Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous. And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah. You slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters in a fleshly sense, with fear and trembling in the sincerity of your hearts, as to the Christ. You masters, too, keep doing the same things to them, letting up on the threatening, for you know that the Master of both them and you is in the heavens, and there is no partiality with him.”—Eph. 5:22, 25; 6:1, 4, 5, 9, NW.
Which part do you remember? Your wife’s responsibility? Your husband’s? Your children’s? Your parents’? Your servant’s? Your employer’s? The first part that you should remember is your own. Do you?
The person who is more concerned with another person’s responsibility than with his own is expecting an unjust advantage. He is expecting the other person to obey the instructions before he does himself, or he is attempting to justify himself for not obeying these commands, on the grounds that the other person does not obey them.
But there is nothing in these instructions that says you do not have to follow them if the other person does not. There is nothing in these instructions that says you can ignore them just because the rest of your family does, or that you can wait until the others start applying them before you begin doing so. Each person must discharge his own responsibility before God. That responsibility is not qualified by what other people do, or do not do. Let the other person read and consider his own responsibility, but each of us must read and consider the instructions that apply to us, and must discharge our own responsibilities, whether others do or not.
You might be surprised at the effect a more thorough application of these principles could have right in your own family. It would be a display of your love, and love responds to love. Only by giving it out can we really receive it back. John said of our love for God: “We love, because he first loved us.” The same applies to human relationships. Showing love, and demonstrating it through right action, as God has instructed in his Word, prompts others to love us, and can produce excellent results even in a divided family.—1 John 4:19, NW.
But whether it produces those results or not is not the really important thing. The really important thing is that you personally do what God requires, obeying his instructions and setting the right example, discharging your own responsibility before being concerned with that of others.
The Bible further shows the responsibility of taking this right course even when others do not. It says: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” And both husbands and wives are told that they must be “exercising brotherly love, tenderly affectionate, humble in mind, not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing.”—1 Pet. 3:1, 2, 8, 9, NW.
Here, again, the responsibility is to read with yourself in mind, not to read thinking of how your wife or husband, or anyone else could apply this to his life, but how you can better apply it to yours. No one is perfect in these matters, so we should not pass over such instructions as though they apply to others and not to us.
God’s Word is written for each of us. It applies individually. It tells what we should do. It shows how to receive God’s favor and everlasting life. But we must read it as though it is talking to us. We must recognize what it tells us to do. We must see when it requires us to change our own lives, and then we must change them.
We are not responsible for the other person. We cannot force him to take the right course. But we are responsible for our own action. And we can set the right example for the other person to follow. To do this we must read, not just the part of the Scriptures that applies to the other person, but primarily the part that applies to us. And then we must apply it, changing our lives to conform to its sound and godly instructions, instead of having our minds on where some other person falls short.