Do You Willingly Accept Humble Tasks?
HUMILITY helps to make life pleasant—not only for those around us but for ourselves. It helps to smooth out many of life’s ‘rough spots.’
But best of all, humility gains us God’s favor. Psalm 138:6 says of him: “Jehovah is high, and yet the humble one he sees; but the lofty one he knows only from a distance.”
Today, humility is sadly lacking among the majority of mankind. People are interested in prestige, prominence, power. Really, it was not much different back in the first century of our Common Era, especially in big cities, like the city of Rome. When writing to the Christian congregation in Rome, the apostle Paul gave them this counsel: “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.”—Rom. 12:2.
In urging his brothers not to let themselves be molded by worldly attitudes, Paul evidently had in mind worldly pride as a major aspect. Because, in his following words, we find him counseling his brothers that each should be on guard “not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think,” and to “not be minding lofty things, but be led along with the lowly things.” Or, as An American Translation renders these last words, “Do not be too ambitious, but accept humble tasks.”—Rom. 12:3, 16.
Are we like that, willing to accept humble tasks? Or are we like so many who are willing to do work that brings them what they view as “recognition” on the part of others, work that presents a challenge to their ability, but who resent being asked to do things viewed as of a lowly nature?
In his letter to the Christians at Rome, Paul went on to show that the Christian congregation as a whole is like a body with many members, each member having its own function. In the congregation back in the first century some had certain miraculous gifts granted to them by means of God’s holy spirit or certain services given to them to perform. The apostle urged all to serve willingly and gladly in whatever way was opened up to them. (Rom. 12:4-8) This same spirit of serving cooperatively for the good of all is vital for the happiness and good order, not only of a congregation, but also of a family or any other kind of arrangement where a number of persons work together.
CIRCUMSTANCES CALLING FOR THE EXERCISE OF HUMILITY
Some circumstances in life that call on us to accept a humble role are simply a part of the natural, proper order of things. Children who subject themselves to their parents’ instructions, and who do whatever household chores are assigned to them, gain God’s favor as well as their parents’ love. The Bible says: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’”—Eph. 6:1-3.
Wives often set a fine example of pleasing humility. Their work is generally carried on in the privacy of the home, out of the public eye; much of it may not even be seen by their husbands, who may observe only the results on their return home from the day’s work. So, much of a housewife’s work is of a humble kind, and today modern concepts would downgrade it and rob it of its dignity and worth. Yet how much that work contributes to the overall happiness of a home! And it is pleasing to God, whose Word encourages wives to “love their husbands, to love their children,” showing this by being “workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands.” (Titus 2:4, 5) Yes, God highly appreciates Christian women who are conscientious wives and mothers, homemakers and housekeepers. Their good work, though unobtrusive, does not go unnoticed by Him; in his eyes their work is honorable and has its own dignity.—Compare Proverbs 31:10-31.
While generally not done in such secluded circumstances or in inconspicuous ones, a man’s work often entails labor that brings little “recognition” or prominence. The days of the individual craftsman with his own enterprise have pretty well faded away, and the trend goes more and more toward large businesses where a few individuals have prominence and authority and where those forming the large work force lose much of their personal identity. Not only this, but the world has developed an artificial and generally upside-down concept of what is honorable, what brings prestige, and of what is lowly or ‘beneath one’s dignity.’ This worldly attitude, as much as or more than the work itself, may require a humbling of oneself.
Christian men have the hope of a coming new order of God’s making, which will bring relief from the present systems, including the commercial and industrial systems. But meanwhile they need to face up to the facts of life and make the best of things. A lack of humility might tempt them toward using high-pressure tactics or even underhanded methods in order to get into positions of authority or prominence. Or, not wanting a “humble” job that, while providing steady employment and income, offers little prospect of quick financial gain, they may be tempted to try high-risk, private projects that promise fast profits. This may lead them from one scheme to another, alternately into debt and out of debt, preoccupied with problems, yet all the while perhaps feeling superior to those whose work appears more ordinary, even somewhat humdrum.
Back in the first century, the disciple James found it necessary to write this counsel to certain Christians: “Come, now, you who say: ‘Today or tomorrow we will journey to this city and will spend a year there, and we will engage in business and make profits,’ whereas you do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing. Instead, you ought to say: ‘If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’ But now you take pride in your self-assuming brags. All such taking of pride is wicked. Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.”—Jas. 4:13-17.
However, whether self-employed or working for others, Christian men who show freedom from pride as to matters of employment and who do good work, gain God’s approval. Back in the first century, slaves often formed a large portion of the population. In his letter to Titus, stationed on the island of Crete, the apostle Paul showed that such slaves, by their Christian subjection and their faithful work, could adorn or “add lustre to the doctrine of God, our Saviour,” yes, even in their humble situation. (Titus 2:9, 10, New English Bible) Christian men today who provide well for their families and who give sincere support to the Christian congregation, financially and otherwise, may also have the comforting assurance that God appreciates the kind of workers they are, even though their secular work is of a kind viewed as “humble.”
WITHIN THE CONGREGATIONAL STRUCTURE
As within the Christian family, so too within the ‘association of brothers’ that the Christian congregation constitutes, there is a proper need for humility. The apostle Peter writes: “You younger men, be in subjection to the older men [or, elders]. But all of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.”—1 Pet. 5:5-7, 9.
Younger men in the congregation heeding this counsel will ‘not be too ambitious, but will accept humble tasks,’ having a right estimate of matters and recognizing their need to gain more experience and knowledge, such as should be found in elders. (Rom. 12:3, 16, AT) Younger men, such as Timothy and John Mark, were glad to ‘minister’ to the apostle Paul, that is, to render helpful services on his behalf that would aid him in carrying out his shepherding work. (Acts 19:22; 2 Tim. 4:11) Their faithful service brought them valuable experience and rich blessings.
In a congregation there are many things that need to be done that are not of a prominent or prestigious nature. There may be cleaning work to be done or similar labor. But the lack of prestige should not cause those with a right attitude to hold back from sharing in such tasks. In reality, they gain dignity and worth in God’s eyes and in the eyes of right-minded persons by willingly aiding in such work. Really, all that should matter to us is: Does something need to be done and can I benefit others by doing it? That should be reason enough for us to be not only willing but glad to share in such work.
True, some circumstances that call for the exercise of humility do not result from what is naturally right. At times individuals may use authority in a way that has a humiliating effect on others. They may even advocate humility among their associates while themselves taking advantage of such humility of others to continue a prideful course of their own. But, as the inspired apostle counseled, we can ‘throw all our anxiety on Jehovah God, knowing he cares for us.’ In his due time, Jehovah and his Son will grant favor to humble ones if these hold firmly to the right principles of God’s Word.—1 Pet. 5:6, 7.
How pleasant it is when all ‘gird themselves with lowliness of mind toward one another’! How comfortable and relaxed an atmosphere prevails—one of true unity! If we all gladly and willingly minister to one another, free from pride, the result is an exaltation for all, all being treated with dignity and appreciated for their true worth, properly estimated in the light of God’s Word and not according to worldly standards.—1 Pet. 5:5; Ps. 133:1; Rom. 12:10.