Conduct Showing Practical ‘Love of Neighbor’
1. Why is a Christian’s maintaining proper conduct among the nations so important?
CONDUCT “worthy of the good news” is not limited to just inside our home, within the family circle, but extends to everything we do, at all times and in relationship with all persons. 1 Peter 2:12 instructs us: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” This shows us why our conduct is important. It is because men of the nations, by seeing our fine works, may be led to glorify God. They come to see the difference between the conduct of dedicated Christians and the conduct of the world. They wonder why this is so, and when they look into the matter they find it is because these ones have become dedicated witnesses of Jehovah, living with a sure hope of life in a new world. They see that the conduct of these servants of Jehovah is not out of a hypocritical desire to please men and get honor from men, but they are doing things “whole-souled as to Jehovah.” (Col. 3:23, 24) Such fine works are really an expression of love for Jehovah and love for neighbor.
2. In what two principal ways does a Christian show love of neighbor?
2 Jesus said we must ‘love our neighbors as ourselves.’ Since we seek what is good for ourselves, seeing that we have enough to eat, a place to live, and taking hold of the grand hope of everlasting life for ourselves in the new world, we want to do the same for our neighbor. The Christian’s nearest “neighbors” are his fellow witnesses in the New World society and, of course, those of his own family, but he is also under orders to seek the good of all men as he has opportunity. Preaching the good news is certainly an expression of love for neighbor, but a Christian also shows love of neighbor by backing up his preaching with a fine example in his personal conduct. If he just preached and then, in his personal life, did not live up to what he preached, he would be a hypocrite, and this could stumble others, causing them to turn away from the Kingdom message; and that would not be an expression of love, would it? Hence, the need for conduct “worthy of the good news.” “See that no one renders injury for injury to anyone else, but always pursue what is good toward one another and to all others. Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine. Abstain from every form of wickedness.”—1 Thess. 5:15, 21, 22.
3. Under what circumstances and why must the servant of Jehovah “abstain from every form of wickedness”?
3 In his personal dealings with his neighbors, or at home, in the Christian congregation, at his place of employment, wherever he is and under whatever circumstances he may find himself, the dedicated servant of Jehovah must always strive to conduct himself in harmony with the Bible, abstaining “from every form of wickedness,” if he wants to have Jehovah’s continued blessing and be counted along with God’s people for life in the new world.
HONESTY AND TRUTHFULNESS
4. What do willful liars show themselves to be, and what judgment is due to come upon them?
4 Honesty or truthfulness in dealing with others is an essential requirement. In this old world honesty and truthfulness are sadly lacking. Because of this people no longer trust one another. They are constantly on guard, cautious in their business dealings, expecting others to trick them. Many people tell a lie as easy as they tell the truth, without feeling any shame. This world or “system of things” is under the control of “the god of this system of things,” Satan the Devil, whose ‘spirit now operates in the sons of disobedience.’ Satan is “a liar and the father of the lie.” So lying and other forms of dishonesty are products of Satan, and liars are really showing themselves to be “sons of disobedience.” We can understand, then, why God’s Word lists unrepentant “liars” along with “murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism” as being worthy of eternal destruction.—2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; John 8:44; Rev. 21:8.
5. What is one of the common reasons for lying, but what course does Ephesians 4:25 counsel?
5 The telling of lies or practicing dishonesty brings hurt to others. A lie is the opposite of what is true. Lies are told by people who wish to hide the truth for some reason—their wish to keep some wrong act from being found out, and thus to escape punishment or reproof, being one of the most common reasons. Some persons lie in order to deceive for personal advantage. But whatever the reason, the facts eventually come to light, leading to disappointment on the part of the one deceived and thereafter his distrust for the one who deceived him. The sound counsel of the Scriptures is: “Wherefore, now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.”—Eph. 4:25.
6. What kind of people will live in the new world, and so what will those who want to live in that new world now do?
6 Honesty is shown, not only by what one says, but also by what one does. If one accepts responsibility for some property or money and then uses it in a wrong way, for his own personal use instead of the way authorized by the owner, that would be dishonest. Really it amounts to stealing, that is, taking something that belongs to another without the consent of the owner. It is because we live in a world of dishonesty and stealing that people find it necessary to lock up their houses, or lock up valuable things such as money and even to lock up food; but the new world, which is due shortly, will not be a world like that, because the people living in it will be honest, trustworthy and dependable. So those who look forward to living in that new world need to demonstrate these qualities now, putting out of their lives stealing and other dishonest practices, which are part of the old-world personality, “which conforms to [their] former course of conduct.” (Eph. 4:22) The Bible command is: “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work, that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.”—Eph. 4:28.
7. (a) How could one steal time? (b) What kind of work should a Christian do?
7 These words of the apostle Paul lead on to another form of stealing or dishonesty, that is, in the way we spend our time. Yes, it is possible to steal time. How? For example, a person who has entered into a contract of employment to work a certain number of hours per day at an agreed wage would be stealing the time of his employer if he used his employer’s time for his own personal affairs, neglecting his work. The apostle says that the Christian should do “good work,” yes, “hard work.” That is, he must give honest work, being a conscientious and reliable workman, as though he was rendering his service to Jehovah. The apostle Paul wrote, at Colossians 3:22: “Be obedient in everything to those who are your masters in a fleshly sense, not with acts of eyeservice, as men pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Jehovah.” Likewise, an employer should be honest in his dealings with his employees, being fair to them. “You masters, keep dealing out what is righteous and what is fair to your slaves, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”—Col. 4:1.
8. How is doing reliable and honest work an expression of love of neighbor?
8 This course shows practical love. How? If one, claiming to be a Christian witness of Jehovah, proved to be a worker who was unreliable and dishonest, would that not make it difficult for his employer to listen to the “good news” preached to him by other witnesses of Jehovah? Without a doubt it would. So the one who truly loves his neighbor avoids “every form of wickedness,” so that he puts no stumbling block in the way of his neighbor’s accepting the truth. “Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor,” wrote the apostle Paul.—Rom. 13:9, 10.
9. What counsel is given on borrowing?
9 To borrow money without the sincere determination to pay it back according to the agreement made is also dishonest and is similar to stealing. To sponge on the good nature and kindness of others with no intention of paying back what is borrowed is really wicked. For “the wicked one is borrowing and does not pay back.” (Ps. 37:21) This matter of borrowing and not paying back is a source of many difficulties. Indeed it is better, whenever possible, never to be a borrower; but if one is forced by circumstances to ask for a loan from his Christian brother or a neighbor, then he should work diligently to repay what is borrowed within a reasonable time.
SPEECH THAT IS UPBUILDING
10, 11. (a) Explain the difference between old-world and new-world standards as to speech and self-control. (b) How did Jesus set a fine example in this regard?
10 Practical “love of neighbor” is shown even in the way we speak. This world is full of harshness and bitterness. People try to show that they are superior and stronger than others by speaking abusively to them. We often see people lose their tempers, becoming very angry, even to the point of screaming at one another. Surely, such kind of conduct does not express ‘love of neighbor.’ When you read about Christ Jesus in the Bible, ‘you do not learn the Christ to be like that,’ do you? (Eph. 4:20) While he was very courageous and strong in support of God’s kingdom, and at times gave strong reproof to those who opposed the truth, he never lost his temper or his self-control. Always he was calm and, when dealing with his followers, kind, considerate and patient, even when having to correct them. So, then, the followers of Jesus are counseled: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers. Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all injuriousness. But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”—Eph. 4:29, 31, 32.
11 What a difference in speech and conduct between the old world and the standard God sets for those who will gain life in his new world! And how such good conduct is really showing love in a practical way! How upbuilding it is to have someone speak to us in a kind way! How comforting to experience loving forgiveness for some wrong we may have done to another! The exercise of these qualities of kindness and forgiveness makes for peace, and that is why the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses enjoys such unity and harmony.
12. What did the Bible writer James have to say about the wrong use of the tongue?
12 All this means a big change in our lives and requires sincere effort. This is especially so in learning to control the tongue. Certainly it cannot be pleasing to God for the tongue at one moment to be praising Jehovah and for it in the next moment to be speaking abusively of one’s brother or neighbor. If that were to happen, then it would be true that “out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing.” Is that proper? “It is not proper, my brothers, for these things to go on occurring this way,” says the inspired writer James. “A fountain does not cause the sweet and the bitter to bubble out of the same opening, does it? My brothers, a fig tree cannot produce olives or a vine figs, can it? Neither can salt water produce sweet water.”—Jas. 3:10-12.
13. How does one demonstrate that he is truly wise and understanding?
13 God’s Word the Bible guides you in the proper use of the tongue, just as it also guides you in how to act. It is by a study of God’s Word and getting the understanding of it that you can become truly wise. The proof that you have gained such wisdom and understanding is seen in the course of conduct you follow, by what you do and what you say. The Bible writer James, who was the half brother of Jesus, continues: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a meekness that belongs to wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts, do not be bragging and lying against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. . . . But the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical. Moreover, the fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.”—Jas. 3:13-18.
UNDERSTANDING AND OBEYING THE WORD OF TRUTH
14. What does it mean to study, and what does this require?
14 These words show the need for a continual study and feeding upon God’s Word, for it contains the wisdom from above. To study is not just a matter of reading something and then letting it slip out of the mind. Nor is it learning some information, as a child may do at school, that can be remembered and repeated word for word yet without understanding. To study means to read with a purpose, with the desire to learn and understand. It means an earnest seeking to grasp the meaning of the written word, to appreciate the reasons why certain counsel is given, to see how one teaching of the Bible is related to and in harmony with the rest of the Bible. This requires mental effort, the kind of effort that many find hard to make. But this is part of the challenge of the good news.
15. (a) What should we appreciate as to the need for understanding and doing what Jehovah commands? (b) How did Jesus illustrate this at Matthew 7:24-27?
15 If you really value the “good news of the kingdom” and the hope of living forever in a new world, you will demonstrate this by making an “earnest effort” to increase in the “accurate knowledge of God” as found in the Bible. (2 Pet. 1:2, 5) Appreciate the necessity of having an accurate knowledge of the “holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation.” (2 Tim. 3:15) The right foundation for future life is built up not by hearing only, but it is by understanding and then doing what Jehovah God commands us to do through Christ Jesus. While Jesus was on the earth he gave an illustration that very forcefully stressed this. “Everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them will be likened to a discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded upon the rock-mass. Furthermore, everyone hearing these sayings of mine and not doing them will be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and struck against that house and it caved in, and its collapse was great.”—Matt. 7:24-27.
16, 17. Why is it now most important and reasonable to subject ourselves to Jehovah as Ruler?
16 Jesus gave this illustration to show that the course of doing Jehovah’s will, which he had taught them, was really the only practical and wise course to take. The accurate knowledge of the Bible shows us how to act in a practical way for the good of our neighbor, to know what to say that “is good for building up” and “may impart what is favorable to the hearers.” But even more important, such wisdom shows us what it means to love Jehovah himself. It shows us the need, as James wrote above, to be “ready to obey” the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. It is, therefore, most important to your future hope of life that you now “subject yourselves . . . to God,” and “obey God as ruler.”—Col. 4:5, 6; Jas. 3:17; 4:7; Acts 5:29.
17 This is the course of true wisdom. Is not Jehovah God all-powerful, able to destroy and also to give life? Is not his kingdom under Christ Jesus the greatest of all kingdoms and the one that is to last forever after destroying all the kingdoms of this world? (Dan. 2:44) So it would be unreasonable, would it not, to disregard God’s law and to neglect the opportunity of learning his will from the Bible? How wise, then, is the counsel of the apostle: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.”—Eph. 5:15-17.
18. (a) How must we accept the “good news” and ‘get the sense of it’? (b) Then what course should we take?
18 What is Jehovah’s will for you? First of all, his will is that you give close attention to the “good news” preached by His servants on earth in these last days. Like the seed of corn that is sown and takes root in the earth, humbly accept the word of truth into your heart and mind. Through personal study of the Bible strive to grow in understanding of God’s Word, ‘get the sense of it,’ and thus perceive accurately what Jehovah wants you to do. As you ‘get the sense of it’ and discern God’s will, make an earnest effort to bring your life into harmony therewith. Turn away from the course of this world and follow a course of conduct in harmony with the principles of God’s new world. We sincerely hope that the information in the preceding pages will help you to follow this good advice of the apostle: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Matt. 13:23; Rom. 12:2.
19. What is meant by dedication to Jehovah, and on what proper basis can this step be taken?
19 By bringing your way of life into harmony with God’s requirements, you, as a sincere person who loves God, are now in a proper condition to make a very important step in the way of life—the making of an acceptable dedication of yourself to God to do God’s will, thereafter to be baptized in water before witnesses in symbol of that dedication. Dedication means making a solemn decision in prayer to Jehovah to do His will. This is a decision that cannot be made for you by someone else, but it is a personal matter of prayer; and the making of such dedication must be from a sincere heart, with the confidence that you are now in position to present yourself in a holy and acceptable way for Jehovah’s service. It is not a step to be taken just on a wave of emotion. It is to be taken as a result of earnest study, with the use of one’s “power of reason,” that leads to understanding and a heartfelt appreciation of the blessed privilege of serving Jehovah.—Rom. 12:1.
20. What is God’s will for those who dedicate themselves to him?
20 God’s will for those who make such a dedication is that they also become his ministers, publicly declaring the “good news of the kingdom” to others from house to house, along with “conduct worthy of the good news.” This shows a genuine love for God and one’s neighbors.
21. (a) What question is it now good for you to consider? (b) Why should you not be discouraged if the way of life may seem difficult? (c) By your doing what will the news of God’s kingdom be really “good news” for you?
21 This is the challenge of the good news. Will you answer it? Will you be one of those who will follow this course of humble obedience to the divine will and accept the responsibility that comes with hearing the good news? Perhaps you may feel within yourself that it is too hard a way for you to walk. It is true, as Jesus said, “narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” But do not let this discourage you. Those who do find the way of life and who successfully keep walking in it do not do so in their own strength. Those who sincerely want to serve Jehovah and live in the new world to praise him forever will receive the necessary guidance and strength from Jehovah to keep walking in that way, as they obediently do the divine will. In the same sermon on the mountainside Jesus said: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:14, 7) So, then, put your faith in Jehovah, the true God, and in his Son, Christ Jesus, who gave his life that you might be delivered from sin and death and who is now reigning as God’s appointed king in the heavenly kingdom. Put your faith in the promised new world. Start living now as an obedient subject of the heavenly kingdom and share in declaring to others that it is man’s only hope for the future. In all that you do, show that you love Jehovah God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and that you love your neighbor as yourself. Then, indeed, the news of God’s kingdom means “good news” for you, assuring you of everlasting life under this most blessed government of peace and righteousness.