Humbly Conform to Jehovah’s Way for Salvation
“The humble people you will save; but your eyes are against the haughty ones.”—2 Sam. 22:28.
1. What happened in congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses in 1972?
IN September of 1972 a great change took place among the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses world wide. Since 1932 and up to 1972, in each congregation one man had been viewed as the “congregation overseer,” and in many cases he had served for years in that capacity. But in 1971 it was recalled from the Scriptures that the Christian congregations in the first century had a body of elders or overseers rather than just one. (1 Tim. 4:14; Phil. 1:1) In view of this the Scriptural arrangement was again followed to allow for a body of elders to function in each congregation and for the chairmanship of that body to rotate from year to year in the congregations. Thus, in most of the 28,407 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses in existence in September of 1972, someone new stepped in as local presiding overseer.
2. How did the change in the organizational arrangement help further to identify God’s people on earth today?
2 How did the former “congregation overseers” or “congregation servants” react? Almost every one of them humbly accepted the change and was appreciative that Jehovah had guided His organization into a closer conformity with early Christianity. These individuals willingly stepped down in the sense of becoming part of a body of elders, made up of equals, rather than being the one individual looked to as the overseer of the congregation. Could such a change be made in any worldly organization, that is, taking all those in the key positions and rotating them to other positions, without catastrophic results? Hardly. And yet this was possible among Jehovah’s witnesses, for they are people who do “nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior.”—Phil. 2:3.
3. How do Jehovah’s witnesses come to have lowliness of mind and humility?
3 But how do Jehovah’s witnesses come to have such qualities? They are born sinners, possessing the death-dealing disease of sin, like King David and the rest of mankind. (Ps. 51:5) They have learned, however, that conforming to Jehovah’s way in humility can lead to salvation from such condition, just as it led to Naaman’s being saved or cured from leprosy. In Naaman’s case, Jehovah’s way was the only way. God had an arrangement through his prophet Elisha, and He would not change. Once Naaman humbled himself and went along with that arrangement he was blessed with a cure and with learning the truth. So humility is something about which we also need to learn.
4. What significance is attached to the words in Hebrew, Greek and English involved with humility?
4 The word translated “humility” in the Hebrew Scriptures comes from a root meaning “to be bowed down.” Humility, meekness, condescension and lowliness are all connected with the meaning of that word. In the Christian Greek Scriptures the word originally used closely connects humility with lowliness of mind. In English, it comes from the Latin word humus, referring to the ground, earth, and means freedom from pride or arrogance.
5. What helps us to appreciate the need to cultivate humility?
5 Humility is a quality that can be cultivated. First of all, a person must have the desire to be humble. This inclination is certainly enhanced by reading the Bible. In it we learn that “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (Jas. 4:6) We come to appreciate that Jehovah wants us “to be humble in walking with” him. (Mic. 6:8, NW, 1960 edition) So our desire to please God makes us want to develop the quality of humility.
6. Why does appreciating our relationship to Jehovah aid us to be humble?
6 Closely connected with this is the matter of having a good appreciation of our relationship to Jehovah. We are to have a proper fear of him, that is, an awesome respect, a fear to displease him, knowing that what he requires of us is right. (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 8:13) And Solomon tied in fearing Jehovah with humility when he said: “The result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.”—Prov. 22:4.
7. What does Jehovah’s example in this connection do for us?
7 Jehovah’s example of humility too is of assistance to us. (2 Sam. 22:36; Ps. 18:35) He exercises mercy and compassion upon sinners; yes, he even went so far as to provide his Son as a sacrifice for man’s sins. (1 John 4:10) If Jehovah, the greatest personage in the universe, is humble, should not we as insignificant creatures likewise be?
8. How do Jesus’ actions and words aid us in developing humility?
8 The pattern Jesus set is also one for us to imitate if we are Christians, followers of Christ. (1 Pet. 2:21) Was it not foretold that he would be “humble” as he entered Jerusalem to present himself as king? (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5) As the Word, God’s firstborn Son in heaven, the one who became Jesus certainly had a lofty position, but “when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death.” And Paul wisely counseled the Philippian congregation to “keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus,” that mental attitude including the quality of humility. (Phil. 2:5-8) As a man on earth, Jesus spoke of the preciousness of the attribute of humility, encouraging his disciples to be humble like a young child, and reminding them that “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”—Matt. 23:12; 18:4.
9. What part does prayer play in becoming lowly in mind?
9 Another aid in humbling ourselves is prayer. It serves to remind us of God’s greatness and our insignificance, the fact that there are others desirous of coming into or maintaining a good relationship with “our Father”; and what a marvelous provision Jehovah made through his Son so that we can have our sins forgiven! Prayer assists us to remember that in ourselves we really have nothing of which to be proud.—Matt. 6:9-12.
10. How does love fit into the discussion on humility?
10 The quality of love, one of the fruits of God’s spirit, is necessary in developing lowliness of mind. (Gal. 5:22) “Love . . . does not get puffed up.” (1 Cor. 13:4) We learn to appreciate that the most important love is our love for Jehovah, and then, in addition, we are to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves,’ that is, we are to put them on a par with ourselves, not thinking more of ourselves than of them. (Matt. 22:37-39) Jehovah’s witnesses desire to be humble. They know from their study of the Bible that Jehovah requires this of them. They have meditated on the examples of Jehovah and Christ Jesus in this connection. They take advantage of the provision of prayer, and they continue working at manifesting love, which Jesus said would identify his followers and which aids them in cultivating lowliness of mind.—John 13:34, 35.
HUMILITY NEEDED TODAY
11, 12. How does humility help us in this hate-filled world?
11 Developing the quality of humility assists us to face up to the challenges found in this modern, selfish, hate-filled world. God inspired the apostle Paul to foretell “that in the last days” men would be “lovers of themselves, . . . haughty.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) This attitude has taken strong hold of people in all walks of life, and we certainly do not want to let it rub off on us.
12 The fights between people of various nationalities or different races, people readily admit, are because of nationalistic or racial “pride.” But pride is the opposite of humility, and “pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18) Do we want to crash head on with God because of national or racial pride? It would mean our destruction.
13. How does humility help women in this wicked system of things?
13 The women’s liberation movement is something of which people the world over have been made aware. Some women associated with it, viewing the Bible as a book produced by men, haughtily claim that the scripture that says man “is God’s image and glory; but the woman is man’s glory,” is nothing more than a male chauvinist’s opinion. (1 Cor. 11:7) The pride of such women has brought them into direct conflict with Jehovah, who inspired the writing of the Bible. Do you women who desire to have God’s approval avoid such lack of humility? The apostle told men in the Christian congregation, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.” Do you women not find that your also heeding this Scriptural injunction makes being submissive much easier and makes for a happier life?—1 Pet. 5:6.
14. How can the ‘head of the house’ be humble?
14 The idea of male headship, of course, can be carried to extremes. To fulfill his role as father and husband, the male in the household needs to be humble, to see his own faults and work to overcome them, and admit it when he makes mistakes. Humility would result in his having empathy, taking the others in the family into consideration before making major decisions. It would also aid him to be forgiving of others in the family and not to expect perfection from them any more than Jehovah expects it from him. Humility really helps all in the family circle to overcome problems that stem from differences in male and female, young and old. Lowliness of mind aids us to continue “putting up with one another in love.”—Eph. 4:2.
15. How does humility aid us in connection with preaching and enduring persecution?
15 Humility serves as an aid to our engaging in the work Jesus said would be done before the end of this wicked system of things came. He foretold a worldwide preaching work, a work of telling others about the Kingdom, God’s government by which he purposes to rule the earth. (Mark 13:10) Lowliness of mind helps us to take into consideration the viewpoint of those to whom we preach; it helps us to understand their position as we converse with them. Jesus also foretold that his followers would be hated, persecuted for following him. (Matt. 24:9) Humility helps us to face such opposition because we recognize that Jehovah is supreme, and so we do not rebel against him for permitting this to happen. We look to the example Jesus set of facing up to persecution, keeping humble before those reviling him and remaining loyal to his Father.—1 Pet. 2:23.
16. Why does humility assist in the matter of discipline?
16 The humble person is one who accepts counsel and discipline. “The reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” (Prov. 6:23) Those who are proud resent being counseled; they feel they do not do anything wrong anyway. But those of lowly mind recognize they do make mistakes and appreciate being corrected. “True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Heb. 12:11) So those who accept counsel and discipline are helped to make fine spiritual progress.
MODERN-DAY EXAMPLES OF HUMILITY
17. How did humbly admitting he was illiterate help one young man?
17 If you were unable to read, would you be humble enough to admit it and ask for help? A young man in West Africa related this experience: “I felt bad that at the age of nineteen I did not know how to read and write. But one day I heard of the literacy class conducted by Jehovah’s witnesses at their Kingdom Hall. Even though I was not a Witness, they let me enroll. The literacy period was part of one of their congregation meetings, and to show appreciation I would sit in on the remaining part of the program for the evening. I enjoyed those meetings so much and I longed to give a talk as other young men were doing. One of these men started a home Bible study with me. In less than two years I not only learned to read and write, but was able to qualify for field service, symbolize my dedication by being baptized and enjoy the happy privilege of being a pioneer.” This man’s humility enabled him to learn to read and write, come to a knowledge of the truth and become a full-time minister, sharing the truth with others.
18. How did one proud man change? What resulted?
18 In the same part of the earth there was a man who was not so humble. In fact, he proudly told the minister of Jehovah’s witnesses who met him that he did not need anyone to teach him, a manager in a large firm, as he could study the Bible himself. However, he did accept an invitation to attend one of the congregation meetings. He was much impressed by the Theocratic Ministry School and started to attend regularly. He soon enrolled in the school, and his whole attitude changed as he began accepting and applying the counsel received in the school. He made a request for a Bible study at home and made fine progress. Yes, he humbled himself and is now privileged to serve as a dedicated and baptized servant of Jehovah God.
19. How did a blind clergyman show humility?
19 On an island not far from Australia a young Witness contacted an old man, and after many calls started a study with a group of five to ten people, spending two or three hours on each visit. An old blind man was always present and showed a deep love for the Bible. He soon began to talk to everyone he met about the truths he was learning. It was later learned that this blind man was the local Lutheran pastor. In a few months this group began attending some of the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses although they had to walk two and a half to three hours to do so. Soon, the old pastor told the other members of the church that he was leaving because he realized that what he had taught previously was not the truth. Yes, he was humble enough to admit the error of his past course in life and took steps to get in line with Jehovah’s way for salvation.
20. Why did another clergyman resign from his church?
20 Another humble clergyman was contacted in a village on a South Pacific island, and he also agreed to a home Bible study. He quickly discerned the difference between the teachings of his church and the Bible, and after just two studies he resigned from the church. His former associates were perturbed at his resignation and tried to persuade him to remain as their minister. He informed them that he would now uphold only true Christianity. His spiritual progress continued and now he is one of Jehovah’s baptized servants, aiding others to learn the truth.
21. (a) What does the “new personality” involve? (b) What fine commendation was expressed regarding the “new personality” of Jehovah’s witnesses?
21 The apostle Paul encourages: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, . . . clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.” (Col. 3:9-12) So part of the new Christian personality is lowliness of mind, humility. These qualities are manifested by Jehovah’s people, and this serves to attract others. The following letter received at the Philippine branch office of the Watch Tower Society from the manager of a business where two Witnesses are employed illustrates this: “We are in the process of reorganizing our Manufacturing Department and in this connection we would like to know if you would kindly assist us in our search for skilled workers. The strongest reason which prompted us to approach your Society is mainly because our observation, close study and experience have proved that men belonging to your organization could be highly relied upon to perform with unselfish diligence and honesty in any given task, and we are also amazed at their capability to understand and adjust themselves to existing economic and labor problems.”
22. How did one Witness show appreciation for the congregation meetings, and what resulted?
22 Although they do well at their secular work, Jehovah’s witnesses do not forget that Jehovah is the one to whom the credit goes, and they continue to value the privilege of attending meetings of the Christian congregation so as to continue developing the “new personality.” The family of a young female Witness came into need and she had to apply for a secular job to help out financially. When interviewed for the job, she found that she would be required to work during some of the congregation meetings, and the employer refused to make adjustment. She informed him, “I need this job, sir, but I cannot exchange my faith for a job,” and so she refused it. Two days later, however, the manager sent a messenger to the Kingdom Hall to look for her and offer her the job with time off to attend all meetings. Jehovah blessed her for her humble efforts to please him.
23. (a) How did one traveling overseer express a humble attitude? (b) In what are the overseers among Jehovah’s witnesses interested?
23 Traveling representatives of Jehovah’s witnesses are assigned to visit congregations on a regular basis to build them up spiritually by talks and by sharing in the preaching work with them. Some time back these visits were changed from every four months to every six months, and so some of the ones doing this work, known as circuit overseers, were not needed any longer for this particular service. One such individual serving in New York city humbly commented: “When I heard that a number were being taken off the circuit work I prayed to Jehovah that, if my visits were hindering or not helping the congregations as much as others, I would be one of the ones taken off the traveling work.” What a fine attitude, representative of that shown by the older men or overseers among Jehovah’s witnesses world wide! They are not proudly interested in their position but, rather, in humbly caring for the sheeplike followers of Jesus, recognizing that the “sheep” belong to him.—John 10:14.
THE PROPER COURSE TO TAKE
24, 25. What must we do if we believe salvation is for the humble?
24 Do you really believe the words of the Bible writer David in his prayer to Jehovah: “The humble people you will save; but your eyes are against the haughty ones”? (2 Sam. 22:28) If you do, then you will want to ferret out of your life any traces of haughtiness, of thinking you are better than others whether because of your race, your nationality, your education or your station in life. We all come from sinner Adam, so in ourselves we really have nothing about which to be proud.—Acts 17:26.
25 The hope of salvation is ours if we humbly conform to Jehovah’s way. We must appreciate 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. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:16, 17) Jehovah’s way means that we cannot afford to be wrapped up in the materialistic pursuits of the world. They could well cause us to lose out altogether, as was true in greedy Gehazi’s case.
26. What course of action do we individually want to follow?
26 So, then, the course to follow is to study the Scriptures, to conform your life to Jehovah’s will and to become one of his dedicated, baptized servants, helping others to comply with Jehovah’s way for salvation. For those who have already taken this step, it is necessary to continue going in the right direction. “To what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.” (Phil. 3:16) Never do we want to feel a reaction of discomfort to the words of Paul, “Considering that the others are superior to you,” in our relations with our Christian brothers. (Phil. 2:3) We want to appreciate fully the spirit of humility within the ranks of God’s people and work to contribute to such spirit. We want to have a feeling of well-being, of satisfaction from it. It creates and maintains a pleasant and rewarding atmosphere, this humbly expressing love for the whole association of brothers. Remember, too, that Jehovah’s organization cannot change just to suit individuals.
27. Why would criticizing the work of the body of elders in the congregation be wrong?
27 If we object to something done by the body of elders or criticize the way some matter is handled, we are being disloyal to Jehovah’s organization. Let us remember that the elders are not newly converted men; they have been serving Jehovah for years. (1 Tim. 3:6) And what is it that prompts faultfinding or complaining? Is it not often a desire to elevate ourselves in the eyes of others? In other words, pride is the root of the problem. This course of action actually may involve resisting the holy spirit, because the holy spirit is responsible for the appointments of older men in the congregation. (Acts 20:28) Why, then, should we criticize one of the brothers for handling the Kingdom interests in a way that the holy spirit seems to direct him? And if the brother is wrong in the way he handled something, we should have faith that the holy spirit will correct him.
28. What must we all recognize, for our own everlasting welfare?
28 In a world of bitter rivalries, with each contentious faction fighting for its own individual interests, one organization stands out as different, the genuine followers of Jesus, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Some of them, like the little Israelite girl in Naaman’s life, have manifested courageous faith, speaking what they know to be the truth in the hope that others will benefit. They may be viewed as nameless, insignificant individuals, but they have the approval of Jehovah. Others have served in more prominent capacities, as Elisha did, but they too are concerned first of all with having Jehovah’s favor; their desire is not to get gain for themselves. May all of us work with them, recognizing that there is no salvation without humility and a willingness to conform to Jehovah’s way.