Do People Find You “Mild-tempered and Lowly in Heart”?
HOW appealing the words of God’s Son: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. . . . for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28, 29) Do we strive to be like him?
Men serving as overseers (elders) in a Christian congregation will recognize that persons’ need for refreshment does not automatically end once they have directed themselves to God’s Son and become his disciples. Living under the present oppressive world conditions, Christian disciples are buffeted daily by many of the same hard problems that people in general must bear. Added to this, they may be ‘suffering for righteousness’ sake’ in having to endure opposition from unbelieving mates or relatives, from employers, fellow employees, schoolmates or other sources. How much they can benefit from elders who are kind and considerate!
Yes, representing Christ’s kingdom government as they do, elders should strive to fit the description of the “princes” given at Isaiah 32:1, 2, being as refreshing as “a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.”
A RIGHT SPIRIT MAKES ONE APPROACHABLE
To be like that we must, of course, be approachable. Perhaps we may personally feel that we are. Yet any of us could rightly ask himself questions like these: ‘What kind of persons approach me? Are the humble and even the timid among them? What if those approaching me are mainly those of a more dominant personality—perhaps even persons who tend to flatter or, in the opposite direction, who are prone to voice bold criticisms? This would not prove me truly approachable, would it?’—Jas. 4:6.
Much depends on the spirit we show. Jesus’ words at Matthew 20:25-28 rule out any place among his disciples for the spirit of worldly men of authority. There is no room for their aloof, superior air—not if true brotherhood is to prevail. The same is true of their ‘false modesty.’ We doubtless have seen men of high worldly position who like to appear as though they are ‘putting themselves on a level’ with common people. Yet their feeling of superiority shows through in one way or another to remind you of their position, never letting you forget ‘just who they are’ so as to feel really at ease with them. Are we ever like that?
Though appearing quite good-natured and apparently interested in people, how frequently men of worldly position prove to be like the proverbial “iron hand in a velvet glove”—the closer the contact the less mildness is felt and the harder the person becomes. What a contrast with the example of God’s Son! His ‘mildness of temper and lowliness of heart’ were not in mere words. Those ‘coming to him’ found the reality equal to all that his invitation implied.
The apostle Paul’s fine counsel at Romans 12:16 (New English Bible) is surely appropriate here: “Care as much about each other as about yourselves. Do not be haughty, but go about with humble folk [be led along with the lowly things, New World Translation]. Do not keep thinking how wise you are.” If persons with positions of responsibility were consistently to associate with only those of like position, or with persons successful in secular affairs, would this not result in a barrier between them and those who are among the “humble folk”? And, for Christian overseers, this could hinder their having a clear understanding of the feelings and needs of their brothers. It could cause them to become ‘out of touch’ with the real circumstances. Really, the forming of “class distinctions” of any kind is detrimental to the spiritual health of the congregation headed by God’s Son.—Jas. 2:1-9.
We must guard against ever becoming wise and ‘discreet in our own eyes,’ feeling that our judgment, ability and methods surpass those of our fellows, for this would soon show up in our speech and manner. (Rom. 12:16; Luke 6:45) Jesus’ lowliness of heart drew people to him. Christian elders have far greater cause for humility, for, unlike God’s Son, they are humanly imperfect; they make mistakes.
A test of their lowliness of heart may be when a mistake is brought to their attention or when someone, whether a fellow elder or someone else, presents a suggestion for improvement in some congregational arrangement. The person “lowly in heart” will not incline to take such suggestions as something personal, as a criticism of his motives or manner of handling matters. To do so would cause humble ones to come to fear to approach him. (Eccl. 7:9) He should be willing to receive counsel as well as to give it. (Rom. 2:21) Thereby he shows he is not like those prominent ones of Israel who came to view themselves as “gods” among the people, beyond the need for counsel or correction. (Compare Psalm 82:6, 7; Isaiah 40:13, 14.) “Sheep” will approach truly mild-tempered “shepherds” with confidence of receiving only good.—Ps. 23:1-6.
Certainly none of us want to add to the weight resting on any of our brothers but, rather, to refresh. Yet we might add to their load if we were abrupt, hasty or impatient when approached by them. Knowing that “the heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer,” we should not be quick to jump to conclusions, to reprove or reprimand, without hearing the whole of a matter. (Prov. 15:28; 29:20; Jas. 1:19) We could add to any ‘weighted-down’ feeling of our brothers if we showed ourselves suspicious of their motives or were quick to imply that they have not been doing what they should or as much as they should. We should not incline to ‘think the worst’ but, moved by love, should ‘hope for the best.’—1 Cor. 13:7; Gal. 6:1.
Certainly those elders who become like God’s Son in his mildness of temper and lowliness of heart set a splendid example for all the flock. (1 Pet. 5:3) Those approaching congregational elders, therefore, will want to display as well these same fine qualities. They would not want to be insistent or ill-mannered in approaching these brothers, nor claim their time unnecessarily, with no consideration for others who may want such ones’ aid. (Heb. 13:17) Rather than be hasty in their words or impatient, they may find it good to meditate on their inquiry or problem beforehand to see if it is really worth bringing to an elder’s attention. They may find the answer is actually already available to them, calling for only a little personal effort or study.
How refreshing to be among persons manifesting the admirable qualities of Jehovah God and his Son! Yes, it is a foretaste of what life will be like in God’s approaching new order of righteousness.—Ps. 133:1-3.