Be Balanced in All Things
“So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons.”—Eph. 5:15.
1, 2. How can a Christian be compared to a tightwire walker?
MANY have been the circus-goers who have sat in awed silence while a tightwire performer went through his act high above their heads. He moved about on a thin wire as surely as if he were walking on the ground. It required effort and many years of training for him to develop this keen sense of balance. It is a skill that had to be worked on, and it continues to demand close attention. While walking his wire he has his mind on what he is doing. He does not permit it to wander to other things, but rather he concentrates on keeping his balance.
2 This circus performer well illustrates the Christian who is walking the narrow way of Christian integrity. Jesus spoke about this way when he said: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” (Matt. 7:14) The dedicated Christian is one of those few. To stay on that narrow road he must develop good mental and spiritual balance, just as the tightwire performer must develop good balance to stay on his wire. As one slip can be disastrous for him, so can it be for the dedicated Christian.
3. If a Christian should fall, how may he save himself, and why should a fall be avoided?
3 A safety net stretched beneath the performer can save his life, but he has a long climb to get back to his wire, and when he reaches it he may be so shaken that he has difficulty regaining his confidence and sure-footedness. The Christian who loses his balance and falls from the way of Christian integrity that is high above the world’s swamp of improper conduct may save his life by sincere repentance. But his climb back is a long and very difficult one. Some who have fallen have not been able to make it. The course of wisdom would be to avoid falling in the first place. But this requires good spiritual balance on the Christian’s part and constant attention to how he walks.
4, 5. How is balance defined, and how can a Christian lose his equipoise?
4 The tightwire performer has a physical balance that is admirable, but good spiritual balance is much more desirable. But what is balance? According to Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged, it is a state of “equipoise or equilibrium of any opposing forces, physical or otherwise; equilibrium; steadiness; stability; equal or harmonious effect; even adjustment; also, a position where such equipoise exists.”
5 For the tightwire performer it is a state of equilibrium or steadiness on his wire. If he were to lean too far either one way or the other he would lose his equipoise and fall from the wire. The same is true with the Christian. He can lose his spiritual equilibrium by being an extremist, or by being careless, or by being indifferent to the need of cultivating good spiritual balance.
6. What governs a Christian’s sense of balance, and how does his mental attitude affect that balance?
6 The physical balance of the tightwire walker is governed in his head, and it can be improved with training. The same is true with the Christian. His balance is also governed in his head, but it is not physical. It is spiritual. It too can be improved through proper training, by developing a good mental attitude. If he has a bad mental attitude his spiritual steadiness is affected, and he will eventually lose his footing on the narrow way of Christian integrity. Persons who are cynical, hypercritical and complainers should take warning. Their mental attitude is not good. Their Christian balance is endangered.
EVIDENCE OF BALANCE LACKING
7. What should a person do if he spots a weakness in his spiritual balance?
7 The Christian who steps out on the narrow way of Christian integrity must be alert to any signs that indicate a lack in good spiritual balance. If he spots a weakness he must concentrate on overcoming it. Unless he does he may not reach the other end of the narrow road to life. When a tightwire walker sees a weakness in his sense of balance he works on it until he has overcome it. Does not a Christian have even more reason to do the same with his weaknesses? He is not seeking good balance to earn a living, as the tightwire walker is, but rather his objective is eternal life. Is that not of much greater value?
8, 9. What are six principal symptoms of poor balance, and how is unsteadiness manifested?
8 There are a number of principal symptoms that reveal whether a Christian lacks good spiritual balance. The outstanding ones are: unsteadiness, unstableness, improper view of material things, being undependable, unreasonableness, and placing too much importance on social activities.
9 A dedicated Christian has the responsibility of following Christ’s example of preaching and of associating with fellow servants of Jehovah God. If he is irregular in his public ministry, doing it spasmodically, he manifests the symptom of unsteadiness. His mental attitude toward his responsibilities as a Christian is not good. He does not manifest joyful obedience to God’s commands.
10. Why can Paul and Jeremiah be pointed to as manifesting the right mental attitude?
10 The apostle Paul revealed the right mental attitude when he said: “Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” And the same is true of Jeremiah, who stated: “And if I say, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with forbearing, and I cannot contain.” (1 Cor. 9:16; Jer. 20:9, AS) Those men were not unsteady in their ministry. No one had to call on them month after month to encourage them to be active in it. They were moved from within by their own love for God and zeal for his truth. They showed willing obedience. The same must be true today with those who dedicate themselves to God.
11. How does meeting attendance reveal a weakness in spiritual balance?
11 Persons showing unsteadiness in the ministry lack good spiritual balance. They walk the Christian path as if they are not certain where they are going. Such persons are irregular not only in their field ministry but also in their associations with the New World society. Instead of being steady in congregational meeting attendance they are irregular. They fail to appreciate that regular association with the New World society is essential for their own well-being and spiritual equilibrium. In fact, it is a Scriptural requirement. “And let us consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) Those who have the bad custom of not being regular in attending congregational meetings are spiritually unbalanced.
12-14. (a) How does a person manifest unstableness? (b) Whose bad example does he follow? (c) Why should worldly companionship be avoided, and what are Scriptural instructions on this?
12 Unstableness manifests itself in persons who are not firmly grounded in Scriptural truth, who are spiritually immature. Such ones reveal by their actions and decisions that the truth is not in their hearts even though it may be in their heads. Because they have head knowledge of it they are able to give fairly good comments, but their hearts are untouched. They are not moved to be guided by Scriptural principles in everyday living. They show a lack of faith in the wisdom of God’s Word. “If anyone of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.” (Jas. 1:5-8) Being indecisive, he is unstable in the faith.
13 The unstable person permits his own wisdom and passionate desires rather than the wisdom of God’s Word to influence his decisions. He is the kind who will unwisely seek companions outside the New World society. He fellowships with worldly persons who have no interest in doing the will of God. He puts himself in the same position as the Israelites who fellowshiped with the Canaanites contrary to God’s explicit instructions. “Watch yourself that you do not conclude a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you are going, for fear it may prove itself a snare in your midst.”—Ex. 34:12.
14 It is folly to seek the companionship of worldly persons. Association with them will not help a Christian maintain his spiritual balance but rather interfere with it. He needs companions who will help him stand firm, for if he slips from the way of Christian integrity and loses his Christian identity he loses his life. If he does not want to be like worldly people who lack that identity, why fellowship with them? Why subject himself to their wrong pattern of thinking? He cannot safely ignore the Scriptural statement: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) What happened to the Israelites stands as a warning example to us. “And they went mingling with the nations and took up learning their works. And they got to be unclean by their works and kept having unfaithful intercourse by their dealings. And the anger of Jehovah began to blaze against his people and he came to detest his possession.”—Ps. 106:35, 39, 40.
15. What is the safe course for a Christian?
15 Separateness from unbelievers is the safe course for a Christian. This does not mean physical isolation. Christ and the apostles did not physically isolate themselves from unbelievers, but mingled with them in order to help such ones with Scriptural truths. They did not, however, have fellowship with them. The apostle Paul makes it clear what course Christians are to follow today when he said: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14) In obedience to such Scriptural instruction the balanced Christian will seek companions within the New World society, not outside it.
16, 17. What policy should be followed with regard to marriage? Why?
16 Certainly when it comes to marriage it is even more urgent for a Christian to follow this policy of separateness. He has to live with his marriage partner; and if that partner is not a dedicated Christian as he is and is not interested in obeying God, will he not find it more difficult to stand firm in the faith? Will there not be continual friction, difficulties and frustrations? Why bring on heartaches by agreeing to a union that is bound to cause trouble and create unhappiness? Why be disobedient to God’s commands as the Israelites were who married heathen Canaanites? “And you must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son. For he will turn your son from following me and they will certainly serve other gods, and Jehovah’s anger will indeed blaze against you and he will certainly annihilate you in a hurry.”—Deut. 7:3, 4.
17 The danger of being turned away from Jehovah God by an unbelieving marriage partner is just as real today as it was in the days of ancient Israel. Of course, those who come into the faith after marriage cannot change their status, but must continue living with their unbelieving mate, making the best of the situation. They will, however, do their utmost to keep spiritually strong. But those in the New World society who are unmarried should walk as wise persons by heeding the Scriptural principle of marrying “only in the Lord.” To ignore this principle is to reveal spiritual instability.
18, 19. (a) Explain how unstableness in a person can be revealed by public opinion. (b) What is the right mental attitude toward public opinion?
18 Another sign of unstableness is being afraid of public opinion. This is commonly seen among children who are painfully concerned over what their classmates or age group think and say about them. They fear to buck what is considered popular. They dress as the others dress, cut their hair as they do, talk as they do, and act as they do. Their fear to be different makes them slaves to conformity.
19 What difference does it make what others think or say? What of it if a person stands out from the crowd because he does not go along with them in everything they do and think? What does it matter if they think a person is peculiar for holding to Christian principles? Their opinion means nothing, but God’s opinion means everything, for he can give life; they cannot. The stable Christian will not permit the fear of what others think or say make him conform to the crowd. He will stand firm for Christian principles regardless of adverse popular opinion.
20, 21. In what way can material things be a cause of spiritual unbalance?
20 The third symptom mentioned of spiritual unbalance is a wrong view of material things. The unbalanced Christian will permit that love to get out of hand and drag him into a quagmire of debt. He does not wisely live within his means, but allows himself to become enslaved to material possessions. His secular employment becomes of greater concern to him than spiritual employment.
21 Even though his secular work may interfere with his ministry and his attendance at congregational meetings, he is unwilling to make adjustments to put spiritual interests first. The material things that can be bought with the money he earns mean more to him than the ministry and spiritual health. He puts God’s interests and his own spiritual welfare second to such things. He is walking not as a wise person but as the unwise, who do not watch how they walk. He is unbalanced and is in danger of falling from the narrow way of Christian integrity.
22. How is the fourth symptom of spiritual unbalance manifested?
22 Those who manifest the fourth symptom of unbalance lack a sense of responsibility. Their word cannot be relied upon. They will quickly make a promise and just as quickly break it. Since they cannot be depended upon to keep promises to fellow Christians, how can they be depended upon to keep promises to God? Does their agreement to do God’s will really mean anything? By being unfaithful in small promises, will they not be unfaithful in this most important one?
23. (a) How should overseers view an undependable person? (b) What are some of the ways he shows his irresponsibility?
23 An undependable Christian is an unbalanced Christian. He cannot be of real service to the theocratic organization. Because he is undependable, overseers in the organization refrain from giving him responsibilities. He is the type of person who will register in the theocratic ministry school for training in the ministry, but when he is given an assignment to give a student talk he fails to be present when it is due. Or he may fail in fulfilling an assignment on the congregation service meeting. When he does this repeatedly he shows that he is undependable and cannot be trusted with responsible assignments. He will show the same irresponsibility when he makes promises to be at a contact point for field ministry or tells a person of good will that he will call back. His promises are empty words.
24. How does a person prove himself worthy of service privileges?
24 When a Christian makes an agreement he should keep it. If he does not keep it he makes himself a liar. The balanced Christian is a person of his word. He keeps his promises and honors his agreements. Since he proves faithful in small things he is given bigger and more responsible things to do. Christ pointed this out in his illustration about the talents. The slave that made good use of the five talents entrusted with him proved to be dependable. He was blessed with greater service privileges. “His master said to him: ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! you were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’”—Matt. 25:23.
25. What is most likely the future of those who have the symptom of undependability?
25 How can undependable Christians expect to stay on the narrow road to life? How can they expect to reach its end when they lack proper balance? Like an unskilled tightwire walker, their chances of slipping are very great.
26, 27. Why should a Christian be reasonable?
26 The person who is spiritually well balanced is reasonable in all that he does. He is neither a faddist nor an extremist, but is one who lives moderately. He obeys the command: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” (Phil. 4:5) He manifests it by walking as a wise person, showing by what he does and by what he says that he is guided by Scriptural principles.
27 The unbalanced Christian is just the opposite. He is immoderate in his habits and unwise in his decisions. He is stubborn, not being open to agreement. His mouth is open to spout his own wisdom but his ears are closed to the wise counsel from his Christian brothers. Unless he changes and follows a reasonable and moderate course of thinking and living he will not be able to maintain his footing on the narrow way to life.
28, 29. (a) What is the sixth symptom of unbalance, and why is it bad? (b) What is the proper viewpoint?
28 The sixth listed principal symptom revealing the lack of proper balance is the placing of social interests ahead of theocratic interests. Certainly the person who thinks his social activities must come before his duties in the ministry has an improper mental attitude toward his Christian responsibilities and obligations. His evaluation of what is important is warped. He is ignoring his promise to put God’s will first in his life. He foolishly puts personal entertainment ahead of his service to God.
29 Social activities have their time and place. They should not be allowed to infringe upon congregational activities. The balanced Christian will allot them a reasonable amount of time and attention, but no more. He will do the same with any hobbies he may have. At all times he will put his Christian activities foremost.
30. What should all in the New World society do?
30 All in the New World society should take a close look at themselves to see if they have any of these or other symptoms of unbalance. Do not be convinced you do not have them before you begin the examination. Those who are so sure of themselves are often the very ones who are not spiritually balanced in all things. If a weakness is spotted, work on it.
HOW TO BECOME BALANCED
31, 32. (a) Why must a positive attitude be cultivated? (b) What was Paul’s viewpoint?
31 The tightwire walker does not step out on his wire confident that he will fall. He has instead a positive attitude. The same is necessary for the Christian. The right mental attitude is very important to cultivating steadiness. If he takes a negative attitude toward his responsibilities as a Christian minister or toward the difficulties and hardships that come with following the way of Christian integrity, he will lose his balance and fall. If he wants to stand it is essential for him to have the same positive mental attitude the apostle Paul had. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:38, 39.
32 Paul had the right viewpoint. He was determined to stay on the narrow road to life. He would let nothing stumble him and cause him to fall, neither influences outside his body nor those inside it. “The way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:26, 27.
33, 34. How does one cultivate Paul’s attitude and maintain it?
33 Gaining this right mental attitude does not come without effort. It requires diligent study of God’s Word and an accurate knowledge of it. It requires a genuine heart desire to walk in harmony with God’s expressed and righteous principles. What a person learns he must take into his heart and make it a part of him. He must meditate upon his relationship to Jehovah and to the theocratic organization. “Ponder over these things, be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 Tim. 4:15, 16.
34 By paying constant attention to himself a person watches his mental attitude, making sure that it is not becoming negative or sour. If it is he will not stay for long by the Scriptural things he has learned. He will soon fall from the narrow way to life. That is why Paul gave this admonition to be absorbed in Scriptural truths and godly service and to watch oneself. He gave similar counsel to the Hebrews when he said: “That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.”—Heb. 2:1.
35. Why should imperfections and mistakes in the organization and fellow Christians be overlooked?
35 Another factor in cultivating a right mental attitude is being able to overlook imperfections in the Christian organization and faults in fellow Christians. Although God’s spirit operates on the organization, it does not govern every decision and every movement of the human overseers. These men are free moral agents who are left to make decisions they feel are best for the New World society. They are mature Christians who are capable of letting God’s Word and its principles guide them in making wise decisions. But if one should mistakenly make an unwise decision, that should be no reason for a person to become disgruntled and sour. It should not cause him to criticize the whole organization because of this one overseer. It is no reason to become cynical. A well-balanced Christian will overlook mistakes and imperfections. He will remember that he is serving God, not men. And he will remember that except for Christ God has always used imperfect men to care for his interests in the earth. These have been men with a good heart condition and with a zealous desire to advance divine interests. Being imperfect, some have made mistakes, but their mistakes are no reason for a person to reject the theocratic organization and go back to the world. It has the words of life, not the world.
36. What viewpoint will a Christian take with regard to mistakes by others?
36 A stable Christian knows what God’s Word says, he knows what the theocratic organization is doing, and he knows the future that lies ahead of it. Like the apostle Paul he will have a positive mental attitude, allowing nothing to dampen his love for God and his zeal for Kingdom service. Because he is not a victim of creature worship he will not stumble when an overseer makes a mistake or a wrong decision or acts indiscreetly. He will leave it to the organization to rectify such mistakes. But as for him, he will continue keeping his eye on the goal of life. He will allow nothing to distract him. The mental attitude he wants is a loving attitude with singleness of purpose. He will show understanding and reasonableness and will not be easily offended.
37, 38. What is the best way to avoid a bad mental attitude?
37 A person is greatly helped in cultivating a right mental attitude if he keeps his mind on what is good and upbuilding. This again is a matter of thinking positively and not negatively. Good advice is given in this regard at Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”
38 If a person follows this advice he will not become cynical or hypercritical about the organization and his fellow Christians. His mind will be on the good things of God’s Word and on the constructive work the New World society is doing world-wide. He will be firm in the faith.
39. What will the well-balanced Christian guard against?
39 In all things the well-balanced Christian guards against selfishness. He grows in love, not for himself, but for God and for his fellow Christians. When counsel is given him he humbly accepts it. He knows that “the way of the foolish one is right in his own eyes, but the one listening to counsel is wise.”—Prov. 12:15.
40. (a) Why should one not lean toward ideas of asceticism? (b) What course will one take?
40 A Christian cannot afford to be an extremist in anything he does. The course that is reasonable and moderate is always best. Some think the godly man should live in poverty, that he should deny himself reasonable material comforts and pleasures; but this is a wrong conclusion. Mortifying one’s body does not bring God’s approval. Those who think it does are following a line of thought that is not Scriptural but pagan, for it is common with Hindus and Buddhists. There is nothing in the Bible that justifies this idea of asceticism. The balanced Christian is capable of using material things in a reasonable way, not only for his own interests but also for God’s. He can use such things wisely and does not have to deny himself their comforts and pleasures to gain God’s approval. He will not lean to the one extreme of asceticism or to the other extreme of materialism and overindulgence, but will be moderate. The wise counsel given in the Bible to overseers well expresses the Christian position: “The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible, . . . moderate in habits.”—1 Tim. 3:2.
41, 42. What balance should be sought in the ministry?
41 Moderation in the habits of personal study and preaching are not overlooked by the effective minister. He is not the one who neglects personal study to devote a high number of hours in the ministry. Neither does he go to the other extreme, giving much time to study but little time to preaching. He knows that study is needed to reap the best results from his preaching activity as well as to stand firm in Christian integrity. The moderate course of balancing field work with personal study is the wise one to follow.
42 As the Christian grows in knowledge and maturity, so does his effectiveness as a minister. Since this brings better results and greater joys he will want to increase his preaching activity. He will not be satisfied with a meager service but will want to do as much as he can. The incentive for greater activity will come from his own heart. None of the many features of the ministry will be neglected by him, but he will seek to be balanced in them just as he has balanced his preaching with his personal study. His moderation makes him an efficient minister, doing much good with Scriptural truths.
43. (a) Why will some improve in spiritual balance but others not? (b) Why can a person not afford to be indifferent?
43 What have been mentioned are ways a dedicated Christian can cultivate good spiritual balance. Some who are spiritually unsteady in the New World society will make an effort to use them and will improve their balance. Others will not. Do the indifferent ones imagine they can stumble along and not fall from the narrow way of Christian integrity? Do they think that, merely attending an occasional meeting and occasionally preaching in the field, they will succeed in reaching the end of that narrow road and receive the gift of eternal life? If they do they entertain a mistaken view. Let them imagine how easily they can slip from a thin tightwire, and they will realize how easy it is to slip from the narrow way of Christian integrity. They cannot afford to be indifferent. Their continued existence depends upon their making every effort to become balanced in all things.