Self-Examination Vital to Fight Materialism
1. Why is self-examination so necessary, and where must it begin?
AS SEEN from the previous article, materialism is subtle and can appear as a benefactor. Hence we must examine our motives. Self-examination is very necessary. While we favor ourselves by nature, nonetheless Jehovah has provided a splendid means of self-scrutiny. First of all, we must ask ourselves, “Where is our heart?” Jeremiah understood how wicked the heart could be: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Jehovah, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”—Jer. 17:9, 10, AS.
2. What proves whether we have a new love or not?
2 Where is your heart? Is your first love still the priceless possession of the truth, or have you a new love, materialism? We may say we do not have a new love. But what do our actions show? Do we still get that incomparable joy from field service? Or have we begun to crowd out that joy by spending more hours at leisure, being entertained and satisfied by materialistic pleasures and possessions and spending less hours in field service? Remember, a covetous heart seeks materialism, but a loyal heart shuns it.
3. How can the organization’s resources aid us in a fight against materialism? What are some of these resources?
3 To continue our self-appraisal we ask, “Are we utilizing the resources of the organization to fight materialism?” Such resources are the qualifications that the “faithful and discreet slave” possesses and that can aid us to progress to maturity and successfully resist materialism. Do you recognize the wisdom of the organization in publishing wholesome information that will help us successfully resist these encroachments? For example, among the organizational resources from which we may benefit today are the years of Christian growth and experience of the organization, its example in the proper use of time, faculties, abilities and aptitudes; and its providing of a deep and detailed understanding of Jehovah’s Word, with proper enlightenment as to right doctrine and organization. These are valuable assets and well qualify Jehovah’s New World society to aid us in our fight against materialism.
4. Why are Christian growth and experience invaluable in fighting materialism? Illustrate this point.
4 Are we making daily application of the good things learned in the Watch Tower Society’s publications? Are we letting them help us make our minds over? To illustrate the point, a young teen-age brother may be quite intelligent, get good grades in school and feel that he has the answers to many problems. However, because he lacks experience and has not dealt with the problems of life to any great degree, he can go off on a tangent. His father, a mature, well-qualified man, recognizes this, sits down with his son and gives him practical wisdom that will aid the boy to make right paths for his feet. These sound principles that the father has learned by a progressive application of Jehovah’s Word can be of great value to the son in making a success out of life and not leaning on his own understanding. This is how the organization should be viewed—as an “older man” full of wisdom, maturity, good judgment, sound balance and discernment.
5. Of what value are today’s “gifts in men”?
5 How do you view the theocratic organization with its appointed servants and with various ones placed in positions of responsibility? Do you view them as “gifts in men”? Do you fully appreciate them? At times they act as a rescue team retrieving wayward ones from the undertow, always ready and willing to serve. Here is another of the resources we can tap to aid us in our fight against materialism. Do not neglect this life line. Your mature Christian brothers can help you to direct your mind and heart in the right channel. Otherwise you might find yourself floundering in the sea of materialism, too weak to resist any longer. This could be disastrous.
6. In our continued self-examination, what part do meeting attendance and participation play?
6 Next in our self-examination we ask, “Are we attending and participating in the meetings?” Not only is it important to attend but it is very important to say something constructive while we are there. This enables us to become more qualified to teach. At the meetings matters are discussed and one acquires wisdom and understanding. We become fortified with sayings from Jehovah’s mouth; and since Jehovah is unalterably opposed to materialism, then an application of the principles in his Word will aid us to fight this menace. Hence the value of attending and participating in the meetings. And is it not good and encouraging to hear the expressions of the newer brothers? Nothing is so heart-warming as to hear the comments of those new in the truth and to watch them grow to maturity, transforming their mind and heart from this old system to the new. This is indeed good insurance against materialism. Keep your love where their love is and you will please Jehovah.
7. How can one discern whether he is setting a good example for his family in resisting the encroachments of materialism?
7 Also, it is good to examine what we think and talk about. What do we talk about when we are at home with our children? What kind of an example are we setting for them? Do we always talk about things that we plan on purchasing for the home or developments we wish to pursue in connection with our home? What do we discuss with our family, our mate and our children? Do we discuss spiritual things such as improving our sermons and how to give better comments at the meetings? Is our example a good one? Will they profit from it? What will they learn from us that is practical and of theocratic value?
8. Is faithful, regular field service of value in minimizing the inroads of materialism? How?
8 Moreover, it is good to analyze our ministerial service record. What kind of an example are we setting for our family as far as service is concerned? We may say we are not materialistically inclined. If one’s service record is slipping, it is time to analyze why it is being minimized. Perhaps materialism is making inroads to a greater extent than one has ever realized. Regular field service is very valuable. When we engage in the field service regularly we are forming good habits. We place literature, and if we are interested in the growth of the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses we will make back-calls. Then, if conscientious, we will try to start a home Bible study. This is not difficult, for even the newest publisher can do it with a little training. Such is developing a pattern of right works. It means we are gaining maturity, and with increased maturity we shall more properly evaluate things. We shall think twice before taking one step backward. We shall treasure our service, knowing that it leads to life. We shall then resist any philosophy that would upset our trend in the right direction. Hence, if we would but follow the leading of the “faithful and discreet slave” and form good service habits it would crowd out materialistic tendencies.
9. Why is proper association vital?
9 Also vital is our association. When Paul said: “Bad associations spoil useful habits,” how well this applies to materialistically-minded brothers! (1 Cor. 15:33) A Christian who has wandered from the narrow path of proper theocratic activity to the wide path of materialism is bad enough; but when that same one either by example or by word subtly entices his brother to join him, it is much worse. Therefore, keep company with brothers whose conversation is uplifting, whose service activity is exemplary and whose New World outlook is bright. Remember, false friendship is like the ivy vine that decays and ruins the wall it embraces, but true friendship is mutually strengthening and upbuilding, giving new life and vigor to its participants.
10. Should prayer be employed in the fight against materialism? How?
10 After this careful self-examination, should there be any symptoms of materialism, then set out to conquer such by immediate forthright action. Paul said: “Do this, too, because you know the season, that it is already the hour for you to awake from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers.” (Rom. 13:11) It would be a shame if some who have been faithful for many years would now weaken to the subtle temptation of materialism. It is best not to say, “It will not happen to me”; rather, pray that it does not. Prayer cannot be overemphasized. It enables one to communicate with one’s God. We should daily petition Jehovah to aid us to overcome materialistic tendencies. Imperfect as we are, it requires constant alertness to guard against the inroads that materialism can make; and, coupled with our prayers, we should keep on increasing our spiritual maturity, which will truly aid us to conquer the menace of materialism.
11, 12. What examples are provided in (a) our brothers in Russia? (b) our sisters in Korea?
11 We should fight it like our brothers in Russia and our sisters in Korea. What a wonderful example we have in these brothers and sisters! The 1957 Yearbook speaks of one Polish brother who spent fifteen years in Russia and fourteen years in the camps. After much torture and much trial and persecution he came out alive, singing songs of praise to Jehovah’s name. His love for the truth kept him alive. Is our love for the truth that strong? How can we guard ourselves for the turbulent time ahead? Certainly not by spending all our extra time relaxing before TV or working extra hours for the luxuries of this life.
12 Then too, our sisters in Korea are an inspiration. Many find that they can vacation-pioneer for three months in a year. One sister with an opposing husband and three small children answered the call. With one tied to her back, one carrying the bookbag and the other holding on to her hand she witnessed. She had her hands full, but at the month’s end she had made her time and kept up her humble home. She had no modern conveniences and was up before daylight, carried water, did the chores in connection with her home. Poor in this world’s goods, but she was rich spiritually. She also kept her five studies going even after vacation-pioneer service ended. So it is with the missionaries and other full-time servants. They are setting a good example in putting first things first, spiritual above material. Real happiness and many blessings await those who seek first the Kingdom by entering the full-time service. If you cannot be a pioneer, at least you can have the pioneer spirit. It can aid you in overcoming materialistic desires.
13. Because of the blessings gained by serving where the need is great, what should we resolve? What example is cited?
13 Consider the joys and blessings of serving where the need is great. These cannot be enjoyed by Kingdom publishers who are engrossed in materialistic desires. For example, after one of the 1957 district assemblies in the United States a brother came to one of the Society’s representatives and asked him if he could inform him right then and there as to where the need was great. This brother had a family of five, was a congregation servant and had recently sold his home. He truly wanted to enlarge his Kingdom service privileges. Hearing the talk on serving where the need is great, he decided that this was just what he wanted. On his way home after the assembly he stopped off at the Society’s office and obtained more information on his future assignment. Upon returning home he bought a truck, loaded his furniture and household goods and, together with his family, headed off to the South. The Society assigned this brother and his family to a small town. Would secular work be a problem? This brother had the right mental attitude when he said, “If this town can provide for 5,000, then it can provide for 5,007.” Today this faithful brother and his family are a source of encouragement to the brothers and a blessing to men of good will. There are many other experiences just like this one being daily enjoyed by your brothers who are putting spiritual values first. These faithful brothers are not permitting materialism to make inroads. They are fighting it, resisting it at every turn, and are not being drowned in the swirling sea of materialism.
14. How closely must we follow the guide to avoid the treacherous quicksand of materialism, and how should we respond to the call for added privileges of service?
14 Some, however, may have a negative attitude toward progress in the New World society. This could allow one to relax, and it would not be good. We cannot relax our vigilance, or materialism will make inroads. Hence we must properly value our life. Christians are in a wilderness, this world. When a group is following a guide in an area where there is quicksand, the guide tells them to follow him closely, in his very steps if at all possible. Our guide through the wilderness of this world is Christ Jesus. If we follow his steps closely, we shall never get sunk in the quicksand of materialism. We shall not be drawn out of sight by this seemingly innocent force. We shall be led straight to our destination, the new world. So do not compromise your faith. Keep it alive and vibrant. Take every opportunity to grow in spiritual stature. Use spare moments to meditate and reflect on the principles of Jehovah’s Word. It will not be easy at first. Force yourself to do it, for it is conducive to spiritual health. When a call comes for added privileges of service in the congregation, such as assisting a servant, giving an instruction talk or an hour lecture or perhaps even being recommended to be a congregation book-study conductor in due time, willingly accept such and joyfully discharge your Christian responsibilities. Do not get lost in the crowd in a large congregation, being content with a minimum of service. Be progressive and up to date, reliable and enthusiastic. Otherwise your faith will weaken, your Christian vigor will diminish and wrong thinking will set in.
15. Where does materialism lead to? Is it worth it?
15 For those who think they can take a temporary holiday and get some more of this world’s goods while the secular opportunities are ripe, consider where materialism leads to. Is it worth it? Paul said: “However, those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is the root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10) So again we see that it is not the riches or what such represents that is wrong, but it is the determination to have material wealth and possessions. With such a determination a Christian places more value on the material than on the spiritual, and this is where the danger lies. Then study, meditation and field service are exchanged for longer hours and overtime secular work. Both husband and wife engage in secular work, and for what? One author stated: “Worldly riches are like nuts, many clothes are torn in getting them, many a tooth broken in cracking them and never a belly filled with eating them.” Most of all, one who pursues this course far enough will soon find himself on the outskirts and finally be on the outside of the New World society. Outside there is no contentment, only unhappiness, grumbling and despair.
16. How does Paul show the wisdom of pursuing godly devotion?
16 Knowing that materialism will perish with this world at the battle of Armageddon, gain the victory by intense love for Jehovah God and his organization. At 1 Timothy 6:6-8 Paul stated: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” Notice Paul’s argument here: there is much to be gained when a Christian pursues godly devotion. This godly devotion is related to the fear of Jehovah. So if we fear to displease Jehovah, we will not permit selfish materialistic desires to warp our thinking. No, we shall be content with only the necessary material things, which, as Paul states, are sustenance and covering.
17. What counsel of James will aid us to avoid drowning in the deep waters of materialism?
17 None should be deluded into thinking that more is meant here than what is stated. To try to make that include the very latest and best of material goods and pleasures is to wrest the Scriptures to suit our wrong desires. Jehovah is not the one who causes these wrong desires. As the disciple James states: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ No; for with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone. But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:13-15) So a true Christian will not risk the deep waters of materialism and subsequent death by drowning. He wants to live, and thus he properly controls his desires.
18. What will a Christian do today to stick close to Jehovah and his organization and not succumb to the desires of the flesh?
18 A Christian will pursue godly devotion and not materialism. Only by being aware of this satanic philosophy can he fight it successfully. He must be convinced that it is better to be in Jehovah’s organization than anywhere else. He should want to do nothing that would jeopardize his chances for life in the new world. Then he will have everything he needs. Now he does not need the finest of everything to serve Jehovah. But he does need Jehovah’s organization, and he should stick close to it. Jehovah through the organization has raised up a mighty bulwark against one of Satan’s most clever devices, materialism. Avail yourself of all the provisions Jehovah has made to fight this menace known as materialism. Keep your mind and heart on the new world with all its grand expectations. Keep abreast of the ever-expanding New World society, and have a full share in the ministry today. This will make you spiritually strong, fully able to resist successfully the subtle encroachments of materialism. Thoughtfully, a true Christian that loves Jehovah will appraise his situation. Self-examination is very necessary. Then too, he realizes that keeping pace with the New World society and growing in spiritual stature are vital in fighting materialism.
19. Is it safe to venture beyond the bounds of the New World society? Why not?
19 On this issue of life and death he will take counsel from the organization and he will apply this to his everlasting good. He will remember that godly devotion is to be pursued and not materialism. Moreover, he knows that it is not safe to venture beyond the bounds of the New World society. No, not even though he feels he may be strong enough to resist the enticing lure of materialism out there. Never forget for one moment that others have succumbed. Materialism is deadly, like the undertow. It can pull you down under and snuff out your life. Recognize its ever-present dangers. It is no respecter of persons. Therefore, in company with your faithful brothers all over the world, fight materialism for your life.