Resisting Entanglement with This World’s Interests
1. What three obstacles are there to friendship with God?
KEEPING Kingdom interests first requires not just positive acts of obedience. It requires also restraint from wrongdoing. It is clear from God’s Word that friendship with the world is enmity with God. “Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4) This means that the Christian who is interested in doing the divine will must learn to recognize the three main obstacles to friendship with God and avoid them. These are Satan the Devil and his demons, man’s own imperfection of flesh and the world of which Satan is the god.—2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12; Matt. 26:41.
2. How did Jesus resist the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life?
2 Jesus himself recognized that “everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:16) His example in resisting these temptations is a model for us to follow. After spending forty days and nights in the wilderness in the study of God’s Word he was tempted by Satan to satisfy the desire of the flesh by performing a miracle in his own behalf, turning the stones in the wilderness to bread that he might eat. Jesus rebuffed Satan by turning to God’s Word, from which he emphasized the superior quality of spiritual food above that food for the flesh. He was next tempted to make a spectacle of himself, thus yielding to the desire of the eyes, by hurling himself from the battlement of the temple. To Satan’s subtle twisting of the Scriptures in suggesting that God’s power would protect him he replied: “You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.” Finally Jesus was offered great power and position as ruler of this world’s governments in return for an act of worship to Satan. But he refused to become entangled and said: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”—Matt. 4:1-11.
3. What counsel is given in James 4:7, and how are barriers to be overcome?
3 Just as Satan withdrew temporarily from Jesus because of his faithful stand, so it is true of us. “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas. 4:7) Most persons have problems that are very serious to them, and the only way many know to solve them is by getting even more deeply entangled in this world’s interests. If these barriers are to be overcome and an interest in the only real hope for mankind is to replace them, then the strangle hold that this world has on man’s interests must be loosened.
4. What was Martha’s complaint to Jesus, and what were the circumstances that prompted it?
4 This experience of Jesus and the counsel he gave illustrates how subtly even ordinary duties of life can encroach on opportunities for spiritual advancement and entangle us in unnecessary details. “Now as they were journeying he entered into a certain village. Here a certain woman named Martha received him as guest into the house. This woman also had a sister called Mary, who, however, sat down at the feet of the Master and kept listening to his word. 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.’”—Luke 10:38-42.
5. (a) In what regard did Martha show lack of appreciation, and in what way did Mary choose the better portion? (b) How can Mary’s example be followed today?
5 According to the custom then, and even now in many homes, Martha’s hospitality prompted her to prepare a very elaborate meal for her distinguished guest and to see to many other details designed to make his stay in her home more enjoyable and more comfortable. The result was, though, that because of her earnest attention to all these details she was losing out personally on the benefits to be derived from Jesus’ visit. Jesus did not scold her for her hospitality. Neither was he telling Martha that she too should sit idle and do nothing at all to provide for their physical needs. Notice he did say: “A few things, though, are needed, or just one.” His admonition to Martha was that, since this was her home and she had a guest, it was proper for her to prepare something for him and for her household to eat, but elaborate preparations were unnecessary on this occasion. Therefore Mary had chosen the better portion because she realized the value to be gained by Jesus’ presence. Had Martha had this same appreciation she would have been content with preparing just those things essential, leaving unnecessary details for another occasion when she would not have this opportunity of hearing the words of Jesus. Mary’s position in seeking Kingdom information is the example that people in this spiritually starved world would do well to follow. When a caller comes to the home with nourishing spiritual information, those of that household would do well to set aside, momentarily at least, those nonessential matters that can be done on another occasion and avail themselves of all the advantages to be had in the visit of this one representing God’s theocratic government.
6. What selfish interests should be avoided in the practice of religion, how did Jesus warn of such, and when are personal interests proper?
6 Failing to do so, one might become like seed sown among thorns. “This is the one hearing the word, but the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of wealth choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22) On the other hand, Christians should not practice their religion simply for personal gain. Some who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ will join a particular church because of certain advantages to be gained. Others believe they can use their religion to gain power with God or for other personal advancements. Such an interest in religion is a selfish one and should be avoided, just as Jesus warned those whom he had miraculously fed with loaves and fishes when they came looking for him the next day. “Most truly I say to you, You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied. Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you, for upon this one the Father, even God, has put his seal of approval.” (John 6:26, 27) Personal interests are necessary and proper only when controlled and directed to advance the interests of God’s kingdom.
7. How can an improperly directed interest in health cause serious harm, and into what situation can it lead the unwary?
7 A personal interest in health that is improperly directed can kill one’s desire for true spiritual healing. If that interest so controls the thinking that one seeks it to the exclusion of truth from God’s Word, then it does far more injury to the individual than his physical ailment. Because of this desire for health many persons today fail to heed Jesus’ warning concerning those who make great claims of miraculous powers. “Many will say to me in that day: ‘Master, Master, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you at all. Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:22, 23) These words should give grounds for serious doubt about so-called faith healers and should cause the honest seeker of health to weigh his own personal interest in such claims against the truth of God’s Word before he becomes hopelessly entangled in this subtle and deceptive “desire of the flesh.”
8. How was the miraculous gift of healing used in Bible times, and in what way does this expose so-called faith healers in modern times?
8 A careful examination of God’s Word reveals that acts of healing in former times were not performed on those already in the congregation. Although the apostle Paul possessed the gift of healing he told Timothy: “Do not drink water any longer, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent cases of sickness.” (1 Tim. 5:23) He did not perform an act of healing in his case. In another letter to Timothy he said: “I left Trophimus sick at Miletus.” (2 Tim. 4:20) Here again was his testimony that he had not performed a miraculous cure. Nor was this the case just in the Christian congregation. As evidence that such healings were performed as a sign to outsiders even before his day, note the following words of Jesus: “There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the man of Syria was.” (Luke 4:27) Furthermore, contrary to the general practice among “healers” today, Christians were admonished to take no money for the exercise of their miraculous gifts. Jesus told his disciples as he sent them out: “Cure sick people, raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons. You received free, give free.”—Matt. 10:8. See also the account at 2 Kings 5:15-27.
9. What did Paul reveal about miraculous gifts of the spirit, and what balanced view should the Christian take in the matter of health?
9 Having accomplished their purpose of demonstrating God’s power on his representative, Jesus, and on his disciples as the first members of the Christian congregation, these miraculous gifts were no longer needed and were withdrawn. Paul then speaks of this when he says: “Love never fails. But whether there are gifts of prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will be done away with.” (1 Cor. 13:8) The greatest gift of the spirit today is the gift of preaching, which God has seen fit to extend to all sincere persons regardless of age, nationality, race or station in life. (Acts 2:17, 18) From this it can be seen that even such personal interests as health or physical training must be secondary to the Kingdom interests. Exercise and normal care of oneself are important, but as Paul points out: “Bodily training is beneficial for a little, but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) This requires a balanced view on the part of the Christian, not neglecting himself, yet certainly not neglecting the responsibilities attached to his Christian ministry because of that personal interest.
10. What immature view do some persons take of the work of Jehovah’s witnesses, and what sometimes prompts such a position?
10 A wrong balance of interests throws one’s view out of focus. “The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sincere, your whole body is also bright; but when it is bad, your body is also dark. Be alert, therefore. Perhaps the light that is in you is darkness.” (Luke 11:34, 35) Some persons look at the work Jehovah’s witnesses are doing and for fear of bodily harm or criticism they conclude that they could not do that work themselves. Such “desire of the eyes” leads them directly into the entangling snare of the god of this world. (Prov. 29:25; Matt. 10:28) This emphasizes the need for maturity of knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. It means one’s faith must be strengthened through a regular spiritual diet. Someone without that faith might convince himself that there are more personal advantages to him in not submitting to baptism than in adhering strictly to God’s will and being immersed in water. Such a person might believe that he could not be one of Jehovah’s witnesses because he does not have faith enough to do this. He may fail to realize that faith is built on knowledge and he has made no effort to acquire such knowledge as to the meaning and reason for baptism. The foundation of knowledge must first be laid, and then in one’s exercising that knowledge faith will result.
11. Why is knowledge a necessary foundation in resisting the entanglements of this world?
11 The same is true of having a share in the witness work. Some persons will not resist the entanglements of this world even sufficiently to acquire the knowledge that must come as a necessary foundation. With such knowledge of God’s Word comes faith and with faith comes the ability and the desire to preach. “For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation. For the Scripture says: ‘None that rests his faith on him will be disappointed.’ . . . For ‘anyone that calls upon the name of Jehovah will be saved’. However, how will they call upon him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent forth?” (Rom. 10:10-15) Strengthened by his newborn faith, such one will realize that his preaching has a twofold saving quality, as pointed out by Paul: “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. 4:16.
12. What service are Jehovah’s witnesses responsible to render to persons of good will, and in what attitude of mind must this service be performed?
12 It is to enable sincere persons to gain a proper balance of interests and to put all aside for the Kingdom that Jehovah God sends his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Through Isaiah the prophet centuries ago he commands them: “Pass out, pass out through the gates, you men. Clear the way of the people. Bank up, bank up the highway. Rid it of stones. Raise up a signal for the peoples.” (Isa. 62:10) Our setting aside these stones of stumbling that are in the way of persons sincerely interested in God’s service is not done to cause injury to such persons or to ridicule their beliefs. In order to recognize these stones that are in the way, the Kingdom minister must have an accurate knowledge of God’s Word; and if he is to clear them out, he must have confidence in his position and must be tactful and poised as he goes about his work. The minister takes the position that his hearer has an honest desire for better things and a sincere love of righteousness. He will therefore appeal to his reason rather than attempt to frighten him. In this way he will not lose his spirit if the person he addresses does not immediately appreciate the real purpose in his call. It is not the purpose or intention of Jehovah’s witnesses just to win an argument. Their interest is to demonstrate the sincere love that God has for his sheep. Their aim is to present the truth from God’s Word in such a way that their hearers will accept it or at least be prompted to a further consideration of the heartcheering good news of the Kingdom. This will give them a real vision of that kingdom and how important it is to serve its interests. This will help persons of good will to be drawn to the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses in order to learn more of the life-giving hope of God’s new world, thereby equipping them to keep Kingdom interests first.
13. What model course did Jesus set, and how do Jehovah’s witnesses follow it?
13 That is the course Jesus Christ set as our model to follow. Paul quotes him as saying: “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.” (Heb. 10:7) Throughout his whole ministry Jesus made his own interests God’s interests. Fully dedicated to his Father and baptized in water in symbol of it, he set the pattern for all who would keep the Kingdom interests first. A complete dedication to God followed by water baptism is a necessary beginning to their doing the divine will. As Jesus preached, they preach in fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) Nor will they be turned aside by objections, ridicule or persecution. They will persist in their preaching until the end comes.
14. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses continue to call at many homes, and how long is the work to continue?
14 As they increase in number and their calls become more frequent at the homes of the people they will continue to call because they realize it means life to their hearers to recognize and accept God’s kingdom as their hope. They realize that everyone must be given an opportunity to hear and accept that good news. They realize, too, that not all in the same household feel alike about their visits. Whereas one might object and forbid the Witnesses to return, another in that same household might welcome a return visit. On this chance Jehovah’s witnesses persist in their labor of love for those who truly are God’s sheep. All the sheep must be found and it will not be done simply by calling once or twice. The persistency of God’s searching methods is written in Jeremiah’s prophecy. “‘Here I am sending for many fishers,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and they will certainly fish for them; and afterward I shall send for many hunters, and they will certainly hunt for them from upon every mountain and from upon every hill and out of the cleft of the crags.’” (Jer. 16:16) That the work must continue until all the sheep are out of this old world is clearly seen in the answer to a question by Isaiah centuries ago. “I said: ‘How long, O Jehovah?’ Then he said: ‘Until the cities actually crash in ruins to be without an inhabitant, and the houses be without earthling man, and the ground itself is ruined into a desolation; and Jehovah actually removes earthling men far away, and the deserted condition does become very extensive in the midst of the land.’”—Isa. 6:11, 12.
15. How is one certain to become entangled with this world’s interests, and how can it be avoided?
15 Those that incline at all to the thinking, the practices, the ideals of this present world are certain to become engulfed by the anxieties and cares of this world and will lose their standing with God and any ability they may have to help those that sorely need help. No one should permit himself to be deluded or stampeded into the fatalistic view of this world that men can or will survive only by their own efforts, that unless men work out the solution to these problems there will be no solution at all. The truth of God’s Word speaks plainly that this is a time of trial by fire and every man’s works will be made manifest by the searching tests of this time of the end. Only by maintaining strict balance and keeping Kingdom interests first can the Christian resist entanglement with this world’s interests and stand as a real bulwark against the rising tide of godless materialism that is now flooding the earth.
16. In what additional way can efficiency in preaching be gained, and what view must always be maintained?
16 If the Christian is to be convincing in the words that he speaks, then he must live according to the expression of his belief. He must constantly apply in his life those principles learned from God’s Word and then continually seek to expand that knowledge. He should try to make each day count for theocratic advancement, not leaving necessary work undone, not overlooking any opportunity to break down the wall of misunderstanding that the god of this system of things has built up around Jehovah’s purposes. If he keeps Kingdom interests first he will not walk carelessly, just putting in time in his field ministry because he feels an obligation to do so. He will realize that the complete end of this system is near and those who remain in it will perish. He will recognize that diligent effort and improved efficiency will be required to finish the job of warning persons of good will to come free of the entanglements of this world and flee to the place of refuge Jehovah has lovingly provided. Doing so, he will insure his own place in that righteous new world and he will have the unspeakable privilege and joy of being used by Jehovah to magnify his name and to hold out the only proper example to be followed by persons of good will, that of keeping the interests of Jehovah God’s kingdom first in their lives.