Does Jehovah Require Too Much?
SOME think so. Some think that abiding by all of God’s commandments is a little too much. ‘If I am a parent and have to earn a living for my family,’ some may say, ‘and if I have to take care of my house and if I am going to read and study the Bible regularly and attend the congregation meetings and make time to share the good news of God’s kingdom with others—isn’t all that too much?’
Well, does Jehovah really require too much? Let us go to the Authority on the matter of Christianity, the Lord Jesus Christ, and see how he viewed matters. He tells us: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matt. 11:28-30.
Jesus Christ, when speaking those words, was not bragging but assuring his listeners that they would get the proper treatment if they became his disciples. He described what type of teacher he was, that he was not oppressive or harsh, but kind. His words were an invitation to come to him, this mild-tempered teacher. His disciples could come and they would not have to be ill at ease to be taught by him, for Jesus showed understanding, patience, never lording it over his followers. One could approach him and cast his burdens upon Jesus himself. He would not be like the religious leaders of whom he spoke: “Woe also to you who are versed in the Law, because you load men with loads hard to be borne, but you yourselves do not touch the loads with one of your fingers!” (Luke 11:46) How different it would be for the followers of Jesus Christ! They would have a relatively easy course in life, for Jesus’ yoke would be, comparatively speaking, a light one.
Today those who are weary of the sin, greed and wickedness of this system of things find great encouragement in Jesus’ words. How weary right-hearted persons are of the burdens of false religion—the hypocrisies, the constant money-raising schemes, the traditions, rites and ceremonies that do nothing to answer their questions or impart faith! These have brought no real refreshment to the people, but true Christianity brings “refreshment for your souls.” So becoming a true follower of Jesus Christ frees one from the heavy bondage to Satan’s system of things and opens up the way to life everlasting.
NOT TOO MUCH FOR US TO EXERT OURSELVES
Now, it is to be expected that God has requirements that life seekers must meet. He sets down the requirement, for example, to take in knowledge of God and of his Son, for that “means everlasting life.” (John 17:3) This takes effort, true, but does it not require energy and effort to attain anything that is worth while? If one is too lazy to study the very words inspired of God, or if one does not make time for the Word of life, how can he please God? How can one gain “refreshment for his soul” if he spurns regular study of God’s words, both privately and in association with God’s people? The provision is there. To the extent that we personally avail ourselves of it, we will be refreshed.
Yes, anything worth while takes effort. If one wants to be an accomplished pianist, he cannot play just once a week or once a month and expect to achieve his goal. If one wants to be a good painter, it takes effort. So with meeting God’s requirements for life; it takes effort on our part. Since mankind in general is born in sin and under condemnation, is it too much for God to require us to accept his provisions for everlasting life? No, of course not. Once a certain man asked Jesus: “Lord, are those who are being saved few?” Jesus told him: “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able.” (Luke 13:23, 24) If people exert themselves vigorously in many kinds of worldly pursuits—sports, hobbies, careers, pleasures, and so on—then how much more so should one exert himself for the most worthwhile purpose in the world—faithfully doing God’s will! This brings the reward of life everlasting, “for God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work.”—Heb. 6:10.
In times past those who pleased God worked, exerting themselves vigorously in doing the divine will, but they did not feel that God was requiring too much. Take Noah, for example. He had a family, had to provide for them, yet he was told to build the ark. This was a vast ark of three stories, almost one-half the length of the Queen Mary! That would take a lot of effort. Yet Noah did not say, ‘Jehovah, I have never even built a rowboat, let alone a vast ark, a chest like this’; no, but he went ahead and worked at it. And while he was working, he did not say, ‘Jehovah, I’m just so busy working at building this ark that I have no time to preach to these people.’ No, he did not feel that way. For the Bible record is clear that he was also “a preacher of righteousness,” as well as a builder and a family provider. (2 Pet. 2:5) Do you think that was easy? Or do you think he had to exert himself vigorously? Yes, Noah exerted himself vigorously, but it was not too much. It meant preservation for him and his family.
JESUS’ MINISTRY—ONE OF EXERTION
The most striking example in the Bible of one who never complained that Jehovah required too much is Jesus Christ. Why, he himself said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) He delighted in doing the will of his Father and he worked hard at preaching the good news of the Kingdom. But some today may say, ‘Oh this is just getting to be too much, keeping up with my studies, meeting together and my ministry. If I were perfect like Jesus!’ What did you say? Jesus was perfect, true, but even he got tired out at times. He got tired physically, so much so that once he fell asleep in a boat while crossing a lake, as a result of exertion in the ministry. (Luke 8:22, 23) On another occasion Jesus wanted to take his disciples privately into a lonely place so they could “rest up a bit.” So many were coming and going that it was not even convenient to eat a meal. But the people learned where Jesus was going; so a great crowd greeted them when Jesus and his apostles arrived by boat. Now, did Jesus say, ‘Well, we are just too tired to teach all of you about God’s kingdom’? No, but the Bible account says “he was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:30-34) What a wonderful example!
So it is with the true followers of Jesus Christ. They have full schedules, and at times they need to get away to rest up a bit. But their main concern is the service of God, and they have deep concern for the people to whom they minister. Like Jesus, their food, the thing that sustains and refreshes them, is doing the will of their Father in heaven.
Shortly before Jesus was to go through the supreme test, he found his disciples sleeping. “Could you men not so much as watch one hour with me? Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:40, 41) Yes, though we have a desire, our flesh may be weak. But what did Jesus, a perfect man, do? He went to his heavenly Father in prayer, and the account shows he prayed three times.
So when we get a little weak and tired or discouraged because we cannot do all that we want to do and are striving to do, we should not be surprised. Why not? Because if the Son of God looked to Jehovah for strength and turned to him, why should we not expect to do the same? Prayer gives us strength to continue. Pray rather than say, ‘Jehovah, you have given us too much to do—to take in knowledge, to care for a family, to meet together and to preach your kingdom.’ Actually, what Jehovah has given us is for our protection—the abundance of Kingdom assignments and requirements keeping us so busy we have no time to get ourselves into trouble with worldly things.
Look, moreover, at the example of the early Christians. They were thrown to the lions for faithfully serving Jehovah. They could have said, ‘Well, what’s the harm in putting a pinch of incense before a bust of Caesar? That’s nothing. Jehovah is requiring too much of us.’ No, they were willing to be thrown to the lions rather than to compromise. They did not view God’s requirement of integrity as being too much. They knew that he could give them life again by a resurrection from the dead.
PAUL’S VIEW OF THE MATTER
At times we may feel it is too much to go to a meeting in bad weather or to go out in the ministry. Perhaps we do not have the best of health. But just think what the apostle Paul went through and then we will appreciate that our problems are, in most cases, molehills by comparison: “Are they ministers of Christ? . . . I am more outstandingly one: in labors more plentifully, in prisons more plentifully, in stripes to an excess, in near-deaths often. By Jews I five times received forty strokes less one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I experienced shipwreck, a night and a day I have spent in the deep; . . . in labor and toil, in sleepless nights often, in hunger and thirst, in abstinence from food many times, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Cor. 11:23-27) Yes, and Paul also said: “Besides those things of an external kind, there is what rushes in on me from day to day, the anxiety for all the congregations.” (2 Cor. 11:28) Besides all the difficulties Paul had, he was concerned with the congregations! How much like overseers and servants today who are often up late at night trying to figure out what they can do to help this one or that one, or how to care for the needs of the congregation!
Certainly it was not easy for Paul to go through those difficulties, yet he did not say it was too much. He knew he was doing God’s will, and he found satisfaction in being of service to his Christian brothers. So he said: “I am filled with comfort, I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.”—2 Cor. 7:4.
RIGHT VIEW OF GOD’S REQUIREMENTS
Sometimes we may feel that what we are accomplishing in the ministry is not enough. It is not spectacular. But Jehovah is not asking for the spectacular. He just wants us to preach this good news of the Kingdom to the best of our ability and keep on progressing in knowledge and growing in the fruitage of his holy spirit.
Yet one may say, ‘I’m so weak; I wish I had the strength. If I were young again!’ But do not feel that way. Remember how Paul expressed it: “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in cases of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.” (2 Cor. 12:10) When we have difficulties and physical weakness, is that bad? Not necessarily. When we realize we cannot do it in our own strength, then we come to be powerful in Jehovah, in his spirit and in his Word.
The fact that God has given us encouragement to do plenty in the work of the Lord requires that we be honest with ourselves. (1 Cor. 15:58) Jesus said: “Everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him.” (Luke 12:48) What have we been given in the way of assets, such as energy and health and time for Bible study and the ministry? If we have been given much, much will be required, but not too much. We are required to exert ourselves according to our peculiar circumstances, making room to do more as we are able, even praying that circumstances will favor us with the opportunity to do more.
Since the career of a Christian is likened by the apostle Paul to a race course, God requires that we “run with endurance the race that is set before us” and reach the goal line. God tells us how to run the race to win—by avoiding whatever will burden us or weigh us down. If the race is too much at times, it may be that you are making it that way by staying up too late too often for recreation, rather than making it an occasion to renew your strength. Never lose sight of the goal. Jehovah does not require too much—just enough to show where our heart is and just enough to win the prize.—Heb. 12:1.
Keep strong your appreciation for the truth; never cease to make known to God your gratitude for the privilege of being numbered among his servants and having the hope of everlasting life in his righteous new order; keep in mind the urgent need of others to learn the truth and take their stand on Jehovah’s side now. Be balanced in caring for your responsibilities. If you do, you will never get to feeling that Jehovah requires too much.