Do Not Think More of Yourself than Is Necessary
“I TELL everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind.”—Rom. 12:3.
Throughout God’s Word, the Christian is admonished to acquire and maintain a balanced perspective of himself. While it is necessary for the Christian to think of himself sufficiently to take care of his mind and body and use them in the right way, it is vital for him not to go beyond that. He is not to think more of himself than is necessary.
If a person thinks too much of himself, he will be in danger of becoming conceited, proud, unloving. He will be too interested in his own desires and will not be concerned enough about others. Then he will find it difficult to obey the divine command to “love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”—Matt. 22:37-39.
CULTIVATING RIGHT QUALITIES
Among the many qualities that help the Christian not to think more of himself than is necessary are submissiveness and humility. The submissive Christian is always learning from God’s Word and applying what he learns to his own life. He eagerly does God’s will as it is progressively revealed through Jehovah’s visible organization.
To be submissive to Jehovah and his arrangements, the Christian needs humility. Being humble is the opposite of being proud. A humble person does not have an inflated opinion of himself. He is not overly assertive in manner or spirit. He is moderate, not presuming too much, not being vain or conceited. He is kind, mild-tempered.
Thus, the person who has the right viewpoint of himself, God’s viewpoint, will cultivate humility, for that is the quality that makes submissiveness to Jehovah and his arrangements a pleasure. It is the proud, arrogant person who does not want to submit to Jehovah’s righteous requirements. But “everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Prov. 16:5.
Since humility and submissiveness go hand in hand toward maintaining the balanced perspective of not thinking more of oneself than is necessary, they are qualities to strive diligently to acquire and improve. And what better time is there to begin acquiring them than in youth?
CHRISTIAN YOUNG TAUGHT TO KEEP PLACE
Christian parents have a marvelous opportunity to mold the minds of their children in the right direction in this matter. If they teach their children not to think more of themselves than is necessary, their young ones will likely grow up to be mature Christian adults who have the balanced perspective of themselves. The Bible states: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Prov. 22:6) Because “foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy,” children will need to be taught how not to think more of themselves than is necessary. As they learn this, they can be encouraged to apply it in their everyday lives.—Prov. 22:15.
On occasion, young ones who have been taught God’s purposes are in a position to make expressions in school on the Bible’s view of certain matters. These Christian children have God’s truths. They know right from wrong on many matters as a result of their Biblical training. They are able to correct certain mistaken beliefs on the part of others, including students and even teachers. However, they must be taught to make their expressions with respectfulness. Jehovah’s Word counsels: “Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.”—1 Pet. 3:15.
If the Christian youth answers in this way, others will observe that increased knowledge has not made him proud or arrogant, as it often does those not tempered by godly principles. Honest-hearted persons, young and old, who observe the humble, sincere, respectful and polite manner of the Christian youth are impressed by these qualities and may look more favorably on his Christian faith.
At times, a young person may be taught from God’s Word by one parent only, because the other parent is not a dedicated Christian. The young person needs to be taught not to become disrespectful toward the unbelieving parent. How would a father view the Bible if he observed his children studying it with the mother, yet noted that they were becoming hostile to him? No, the young Christian should grow in respectfulness toward his parents even if they do not believe as he does. God’s Word says: “You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Col. 3:20) Treating an unbelieving parent with respect may influence him to investigate the faith of the child whom he observes being changed for the better.
OLDER ONES ACQUIRE NEW PERSONALITY
Older persons also need to appreciate that the truths of God’s Word are not freely dispensed by the Creator to make persons proud or elevate them above their fellowman. They are to do the opposite. They are to make persons humble, respectful, submissive, loving. Of all Christians, regardless of age, it is true that they are not to think more of themselves than is necessary, for if the spirit of God is active in their lives, then that spirit will produce the fruitage of “love, . . . long-suffering, kindness, goodness, . . . mildness, self-control.”—Gal. 5:22, 23.
This fruitage gradually will change the personality for the good. That is why the apostle Paul could confidently recommend: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it, . . . clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. . . . But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Col. 3:9-14.
Christians who work diligently to develop such a new, godly personality will not look down on their fellowman. They will not be rude or insulting even to those who oppose them because of their bearing Jehovah’s name. Rather, they will “always pursue what is good toward one another and to all others.” (1 Thess. 5:14, 15) They will be careful not to build themselves up at the expense of others, either by competing with them or by downgrading them in the eyes of others. Neither will they strive for prominence or glory. Instead, humbly they will look for ways to build up others. “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Cor. 10:24.
AVOIDING PRIDE OF WEALTH
Some Christians have more of this world’s material goods than other Christians. Should this induce them to think they are better than their Christian brothers who have much less?
The well-to-do Christian must appreciate that his abundance of material possessions is not a direct gift from Jehovah. If this were a reward for faithfulness, then there would be no Christian anywhere in the world who would have little of this world’s goods. But those who are most active in seeking first Jehovah’s kingdom interests are usually ones who have just enough of this world’s goods to sustain their daily living.—Matt. 6:9, 10.
Paul shows how to regard material possessions when he states: “Brothers, the time left is reduced. Henceforth let those who . . . buy [be] as those not possessing, and those making use of the world as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” (1 Cor. 7:29-31) It is wise not to put too much stock in material wealth, for one cannot know if he will still have it tomorrow. And at Armageddon, all of this world’s financial systems will dissolve. (Zeph. 1:18) In Jehovah’s new system, the use of earth’s resources will be directed by God’s heavenly kingdom. Through it Jehovah will make distribution of material wealth as it pleases him for the benefit of all, not for just a few. Thus, Paul counsels: “Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, . . . to be liberal, ready to share.”—1 Tim. 6:17, 18.
So while today wealth can be used properly to advance Kingdom interests, it can also become a divisive factor. But with the right viewpoint, one who has more will appreciate that he is not better than his Christian brothers who have less, and that “even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15.
In each of the more than 25,000 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth there are men who have spiritual qualifications and who have been appointed to positions of responsibility. They are ministerial servants. (1 Tim. 3:8-10, 12, 13) These Christians particularly must be aware at all times that they should not think more of themselves than is necessary, as their conduct can affect many others.
Because of a person’s background, training, or education, he may have made rapid advancement, being appointed as a servant sooner than someone else who takes longer to mature spiritually. Never should the ministerial servant think he is better than that humble, slower one who perhaps has had less formal schooling. Accurate knowledge is a necessity, but if it does not motivate one to right conduct toward his Christian brothers, it is vain. “‘Knowledge’ breeds conceit; it is love that builds. If anyone fancies that he knows, he knows nothing yet, in the true sense of knowing. But if a man loves, he is acknowledged by God.”—1 Cor. 8:1-3, The New English Bible.
If you are one taking the lead as a ministerial servant, you should actually be “considering that the others are superior to you.” (Phil. 2:3) Jesus stated: “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them and the great men wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister.” (Matt. 20:25-27) Ministerial servants, therefore, need to be exemplary in girding themselves “with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—1 Pet. 5:5.
If you are a ministerial servant, especially one who has good ability and education, you have a wonderful opportunity to help others improve their knowledge of God. This is also true outside the congregation as you use your ability to bring the lifesaving message from God’s Word to others. But you should never permit your knowledge and ability to cause you to look down on unbelievers or be quick to condemn them. Rather, feel as Jesus did toward the common people: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) This is the attitude of Jehovah’s humble ministerial servants today.
OVERSEERS TAKE THE LEAD
Those who have the greatest responsibility to avoid thinking more of themselves than is necessary are the overseers in Jehovah’s visible organization. Whether overseers of a local congregation, or circuit or district overseers, whatever their capacity of oversight within Jehovah’s organization, they ought to set the example in not thinking more of themselves than is necessary.
The overseer acts as a shepherd. But the flock he shepherds is not his own. It is God’s. (1 Pet. 5:2) God has paid a price for it; the overseer has not. It is “the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:28) So the flock belongs to Jehovah, bought by the blood of his own Son, and is left only in trust to undershepherds, overseers.
Jesus stated this principle for these overseers: “The greatest one among you must be your minister.” “Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matt. 23:11; 20:27) Hence, Jehovah requires them as overseers to be foremost in serving, or ministering, to their Christian brothers. To do this requires great humility, for it is not common in this system of things to combine great authority with great servitude. But humble Christian overseers, trained in the wisdom coming from Jehovah, do so. They are not like worldlings who wield power and crush others beneath them. They do not seek glory or domination of others, as do the clergy.
Lowliness of mind enables the overseer, above all others, to consider ‘that the others are superior to him.’ (Phil. 2:3) He also endeavors to do as Paul stated at Romans 12:10: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.” Since the overseer takes the lead in the congregation, he also needs to take the lead in showing honor to those he shepherds, considering them as being superior to him. By his taking such lead, the spirit of brotherly love is built up. All will see demonstrated, lived, the reality of Jesus’ words when he said: “All you are brothers.” (Matt. 23:8) A young man who was a Christian overseer was appropriately admonished by the apostle Paul: “Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness. Honor widows that are actually widows.”—1 Tim. 5:1-3.
By shepherding their Christian brothers, serving and honoring them, overseers imitate the Master, Jesus, who said: “If I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” (John 13:14, 15) Although the custom of feet washing has passed, the importance of serving others, showing them honor without partiality, considering them superior, is as great as ever.
ATTITUDE TOWARD SERVANTS
What should be the attitude of all in the congregation toward overseers and ministerial servants? God’s Word says: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing.”—Heb. 13:17.
Taking the lead in the congregation requires much hard work and long hours spent in handling assignments and problems. If some do not cooperate but act contrary to godly principles, then servants may begin to be robbed of some of their joy, for it is no pleasure dealing with violators of Jehovah’s laws. But by cooperating, each one doing his part, servants can joyfully carry out their work.
At times, servants err, being imperfect as everybody else is. Thus, they should not think they are beyond correction, or are above listening to suggestions for improvement. They should not feel that only what they suggest to others is counsel but that what others suggest to them is criticism. There is a vast difference between constructive suggestions and unfounded criticism or chronic complaining.
Yet, in spite of their own imperfections, servants work hard in fulfilling their responsibilities. This includes firmness for what is right. At times, overseers particularly must “admonish the disorderly.” In fact, it may be necessary to “keep on reproving them with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith.” And at other times it may even be required to “reprove before all onlookers persons who practice sin, that the rest also may have fear.” Thus, while overseers and ministerial servants are not to think more of themselves than is necessary, they are to give counsel, correction and discipline to upbuild the congregation and to keep it morally pure.—1 Thess. 5:14; Titus 1:13; 1 Tim. 5:20.
Jehovah acknowledges and blesses the hard work of his servants. That is why Paul said: “Now we request you, brothers, to have regard for those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you; and to give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work.”—1 Thess. 5:12, 13.
What a grand spirit exists when ministerial servants and overseers take the lead in working hard, giving honor, considering those in their care superior, and, in turn, the brothers respond by giving them more than extraordinary consideration in love! What a pleasure it is to associate with an entire society of persons who endeavor to live in accord with the counsel not to think more of themselves than is necessary but to work unselfishly for the common good and upbuilding of all! How wonderful are Jehovah’s ways!—Ps. 107:8.