A People Zealous for Fine Works
1. What reasons should cause us to be zealous for the works?
A LIFE that has purpose has meaning. When the heart and mind unite in pursuit of a worthwhile goal, the things a person does each day have significance, giving substance to that one’s existence. People of this kind are to be counted among the world’s happiest; those who live life aimlessly, among its most disappointed. A natural desire to be happy is reason enough to build our lives around works that accomplish good for ourselves and others. Zeal in accomplishing such works brings a rich reward in blessings.
2. (a) Whose example can we imitate? (b) What fine work will that motivate us to do?
2 Jehovah is the God of fine works, and he is zealous in getting them accomplished. Everything he does is for the good of those serving him. Jesus set a perfect example, imitating his Father. Godly people who want to please Jehovah can also be identified by fine works. An effort by Jesus’ disciples to follow his example would produce for his Father a “people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.” (Titus 2:14) The fine works of a Christian are those that benefit others. The most beneficial thing we can do for another person is to help him to know and serve Jehovah. The preaching and discipling work of the Christian congregation is a fine work of the greatest benefit. Its need and urgency make it worthy of our strongest zeal.
3, 4. (a) What is zeal? (b) What questions should we ask ourselves?
3 What is zeal? It is ardor. It is an earnest desire to do what is right and proper. Where there is zeal there is life, enthusiasm, vibrance. A keen interest in the outcome prompts personal concern about getting results. The mental attitude is one of concentration, wholeheartedness. When zeal is lacking, the manner of one’s action is perfunctory. Personal involvement is superficial. The attitude is uninspired, yes, apathetic. So, can you be described as zealous?
4 Yes, ask yourself whether you are zealous for fine works. Can your support of the preaching activity of your congregation be described as ardent, whole-souled? Have you been moved by a sincere desire to do all you can to help others to learn about Jehovah’s purposes? Or, have you been content just to participate, displaying a bare minimum of interest and effort? Have you just been ‘going through the motions’ without really being involved?
5. What does our attitude reveal about our zeal?
5 Your attitude will tell you much about the intensity of your zeal. A truly zealous disciple will not allow nonessential personal interests to take precedence, ahead of the preaching and disciple-making work. When you share, is your participation always governed by the clock? Do you physically participate while mentally you are elsewhere? Are your thoughts centered on interests to be pursued afterward, such as a favorite television program or a social engagement? Service activity could be viewed as something to be quickly dispensed with so you can get on to the things you really want to do. You may regard it as simply your “duty” as one of Jehovah’s witnesses, fulfilling it as only an obligation that involves little heart desire.
6. Why does the need for personal discipline not necessarily mean that we lack zeal?
6 You may not have the personality of an extrovert. For you it may be a very difficult thing to take the initiative to talk to others, especially to strangers. What others seem to do naturally is a challenge for you. It may require personal discipline, even by your forcing yourself at times, to keep speaking out. Such does not necessarily mean that you lack in zeal. In some respects, your zeal could be more intense than others’ because what you do may represent a stronger and deeper conviction, requiring extra effort. The important thing is that you have an earnest desire in your heart. You understand that real faith is accompanied by an outward expression of love for Jehovah and your fellowman. Zeal to prove your faith helps you to overcome your inhibitions. Intense love produces boldness that dispels fear of man. The resulting public declaration of faith is a fine work that expresses a genuine zeal.
ZEAL NOT MEASURED BY QUOTAS
7. (a) Why is it unwise to establish quotas or goals? (b) What is the real measurement of zeal?
7 Attempts have sometimes been made to standardize the efforts of everyone with certain quotas established as common goals for all. Zeal in many cases would then be measured by success in meeting such goals. Invariably this has resulted in a tendency to compare ourselves with one another, which has never proved to be an accurate or approved measurement of love or zeal. (2 Cor. 10:12) Search as we may, we can find no quotas set forth in God’s Word as a minimum preaching requirement. The amount of work we do has little to do with Jehovah’s estimation of our zeal. He is far more concerned with our motives, the desires within our heart. The only uniform requirement for all is simply that we “work at it whole-souled.” (Col. 3:23) God opens up a wide range of opportunities and then lets each one of us do “just as he has resolved in his heart.” Not being “under compulsion,” our effort truly reflects what is in our heart. (2 Cor. 9:7) What our heart moves us to do becomes the real measure of our zeal.
8. (a) Why is there a difference in what each one can do? (b) What is the important thing?
8 When each one gives from the heart, Jehovah can regard our efforts as all being equal, uniform, even though there may be a wide variety in the amount each one does. Personal circumstances are different in every case. Age, health, family responsibilities, secular work, and so forth, are all factors affecting our level of activity. One with favorable circumstances may be able to talk to considerably more persons about God’s kingdom than can another. Someone with added responsibilities may be able to talk to only a fraction of that number of persons. Because of varying circumstances, a certain number of hours might represent an extraordinary effort in one case but only a token effort in another. So, our ability and opportunity to do much give us no reason to boast and, conversely, our limited service through no fault of our own should not make us feel ashamed. The important thing is that we have zeal that moves us to take advantage of whatever opportunities are available to us.
9. In what ways can we demonstrate our zeal for the preaching work?
9 The intensity of our zeal is reflected in our alertness to seize and make opportunities to declare the good news, searching for ways to ‘buy out’ time to do more. (Eph. 5:15, 16) When other responsibilities are occasionally reduced temporarily, our willingness to use the extra time available in Jehovah’s service is a fine evidence of zeal. Also, taking the initiative to maneuver our circumstances to allow more time for service shows that we have an earnest desire to give our best. A zealous publisher may carefully analyze his secular work, looking for ways to minimize its obligations. Rather than passively accepting unnecessary limitations for the sake of material advantages, he may request adjustments that will give him more freedom for Kingdom work. Zealous ones seek to use their time and resources to the best advantage, always keeping Kingdom interests first.
10. In what respects is a hardworking farmer a good example in zeal?
10 Appreciation for the increasing urgency to get the work done is a proof of zeal. A hardworking farmer well knows that a successful crop requires periods of extraordinary work at planting and harvest times. Because he feels a personal responsibility and is keenly interested in the outcome, his efforts are not governed by any “trade union” standard that requires only a minimum effort and extra compensation for anything more. He is glad to work long hours and to exert himself strenuously when necessary. If we are ardent in our desire to help others, we will give freely of our time and energies with no thought of what may be expected of us. When things need to be done, and we are given an opportunity to help, the unselfish giving of ourselves is a commendable evidence of zeal.
FINE WORKS NOT LIMITED TO KINGDOM-PREACHING AND DISCIPLE-MAKING
11. Are preaching and disciple-making the only fine works of a Christian, and, if not, how must other works be viewed?
11 While we properly emphasize the preaching work because of its urgency, it is by no means the only activity to be included in the definition of “fine works.” “Work” can be defined as “a specific task, duty, function or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity.” The preaching of the good news is part of a larger activity that includes many fine works performed by Christians out of love for others. It would be a mistake to regard other fine works as of little consequence. While certain works may receive greater emphasis at times, in the overall view they are all equally important. Each fine work makes its own contribution to the strength, unity and productivity of the Christian congregation.
12. What fine works are described by Paul in Titus 2:1-10?
12 In his letter to Titus, Paul gives us an insight into the broad scope of a Christian’s fine works. Men were encouraged to be “moderate in habits, serious, sound in mind, healthy in faith, in love, in endurance.” Women, in turn, should be diligent to “love their husbands, to love their children, to be sound in mind, chaste, workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands.” This conduct in the home would directly contribute toward the spread of the good news. The Word of God would not be “spoken of abusively,” and outsiders would have “nothing vile to say about us.” Such would ultimately serve to “adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.” (Titus 2:1-10) Clearly, then, these are also fine works for which a Christian can rightly be zealous.
PRODUCING FINE WORKS IN THE FAMILY CIRCLE
13. (a) What questions may help parents to measure their zeal for the welfare of their children? (b) What benefits result from such zeal?
13 Parents, are you zealous in showing love for your children? Genuine concern for their welfare means more than just providing for their material necessities, taking them to meetings or conducting a weekly Bible study with them. Zeal for their welfare is shown by a sincere interest in all their needs and problems. Ask yourself: Do I really know what my children think about God’s requirements? Have I prepared them for problems that they may face in the future? Am I alert to aid them in overcoming weaknesses such as pride, selfishness, laziness, and so forth? Do I know what they are being taught in school and to what extent they are being influenced by worldly thinking? Do my children feel free to approach me about problems or do I have to prod them? Can I tell by their expression or tone of voice that something is amiss? Am I patient in trying to find out what it is? Am I understanding and sympathetic, continually assuring them of my love? When you really try to get to know your children well, to understand their problems and help them spiritually, you are performing a fine work that results in a blessing to your family and a witness to Jehovah’s name in the community.
14. How can a wife be zealous for fine works in the home?
14 The trend toward more aggressiveness and independence by women has produced much strife in the home and a soaring divorce rate. How praiseworthy to see a Christian wife display a zeal for fine works by loving submission to her husband! She goes beyond what might be expected in the world, demonstrating an earnest desire to contribute to his happiness and well-being. When their personal preferences differ, respect for his headship prevents her from trying to force him to do what he has already turned down. She performs household duties joyfully, being rewarded by the appreciation of the family. The preparation of meals is not just a routine chore but a choice opportunity to fill a need that adds much to the well-being of those she loves. She finds satisfaction in maintaining a neat, attractive home because her family enjoys pleasant surroundings. These are fine works appreciated by her family, and for these she rightly “procures praise for herself.”—Prov. 31:30.
15. In what ways can a husband show his zeal?
15 A zealous husband expresses love for his wife. In a multitude of little ways he tries to please her without sacrificing his headship or the best interests of the family. He does not insist on getting his own way in everything; he is considerate of her feelings. He has high esteem for his wife, not regarding her as simply a means by which to satisfy his sexual passion. He makes her feel needed, which helps her to be an even more capable wife and helpmate. Zeal in expressing his affection, in turn, brings benefits that add immeasurably to his own happiness.
16. (a) How can a Christian show zeal for his secular work? (b) What are the benefits?
16 It is proper for a Christian to be zealous toward his secular work. This does not mean an ardent pursuit of material things to ensure the financial security of the family. Rather, necessary obligations to an employer are fulfilled in a whole-souled way, “as to Jehovah.” (Col. 3:22, 23) There is a desire to perform work that excels in quality. He tries to be a cooperative, helpful and honest employee. Working hours are used to the best advantage without needless waste of time or materials. He strives to earn a reputation for being reliable and true to his word. For these reasons, employers have often expressed a preference to hire our spiritual brothers. Even more importantly, these qualities enhance the attractiveness of the good news that they bear to others.
17. What may a personal examination reveal about ourselves?
17 A deeper appreciation for the fine works described in God’s Word should cause us to take a good look at ourselves. In many respects our works may show we have an ardor for what is fine. In other areas we may have to admit that we have been something less than zealous. If we want to be worthy followers of our Exemplar, Jesus, more may be needed in time and effort to cultivate greater zeal. Personal progress may require much effort, but the satisfying, useful benefits will be well worth it.
MODERN EXAMPLES OF ZEAL
18. How did one family head demonstrate his zeal?
18 It is an encouragement to see others who are zealous for fine works. We take heart when we see our brothers manifest their zeal even when subjected to trying circumstances. For example, a brother in a southwestern state of America serves as an appointed elder and has a large family. With congregational responsibilities, family obligations and a demanding secular job, much is required of him. Nevertheless, he has viewed secular and nontheocratic activities as merely the means to an end, namely, to help to make it possible for himself and his family to share as fully as possible in the fine works of the congregation. His secular work was limited to the needs of his family, leaving him time to serve as a temporary pioneer on four occasions during the past year. When asked why he did so, he simply answered: “It is just a matter of what you put first in your life . . . what is really first in your heart.” The far-reaching benefits of his zeal may be reflected in the fact that twenty-nine publishers in that congregation shared with him in the temporary pioneer service during the same year.
19. How did a married sister show her zeal, with what blessing to her family?
19 A married sister has demonstrated a similar zeal. With three children and an unbelieving husband, she dedicated her life to Jehovah about five years ago. Being a successful businessman with little inclination toward religion, her husband was quite skeptical about the genuine quality of her professed faith. In the past, she had often failed to display a “quiet and mild spirit” in family relationships and association with others. (1 Pet. 3:1-4) The change in her manner and conduct soon convinced him otherwise. He saw less emphasis on material things and more concern about proper Christian conduct. While much of her time was diverted to activities in the practice of her faith, at the same time, he found that she took an increased interest in him. A sincere willingness to submit now to his headship marked a decisive change for the better in their relationship. He saw a renewed enthusiasm to take good care of the home. Concern for the children went beyond their material needs or secular education; periods of Bible instruction became an integral part of the daily routine. Friends of the family could not help but notice the change, not only in the happier spirit of the family, but also in her conduct outside the home, which included her visits to their homes to share the Kingdom message. Her zeal in applying Bible principles made her a better wife and mother, strengthened family ties and highly recommended the virtues of pure worship to others.
20. How did an older brother prove his zeal?
20 Advancing years have not diminished the zeal of many of our older brothers. One faithful anointed brother associated with a New York city congregation has been zealously active in Jehovah’s service since dedicating his life in 1915. The passing years brought assignments of responsibility that included practically every position of oversight in the congregation. Despite trying situations, he allowed nothing to dampen his zeal for fine works. Today, even at the age of seventy-eight, his zeal is exemplary. When failing health prevents him from attending the meetings or sharing in the field service, he is conspicuous by his absence. His conversation, comments in the meetings, as well as his prayers, are characterized by continuous expressions of appreciation for the truth, his love for the organization and concern for the well-being of others. To him it is unthinkable to pursue willingly a course that lessens his share in congregation activity. The congregation is blessed by the presence of one whose fine works so obviously identify him as one of the Messianic King’s anointed “brothers.”—Matt. 25:40.
NOW THE TIME TO BE ZEALOUS FOR FINE WORKS
21. What should others be able to see in us?
21 The increasing urgency of the times underscores the value of fine works. As Jehovah’s witnesses, we have become a shining ‘light to the world.’ (Matt. 5:14-16) The works and qualities that others see in us should move them to honor Jehovah. Jehovah himself should be able to see His own zeal for fine works reflected in us. Professed Christians display such works only periodically and for questionable reasons. If we are true Christians, everything we do each day will show that we have zeal for what is good, right and proper. The fruitage of Jehovah’s spirit will be clearly identifiable in all that we do and say.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
22. If we are truly zealous, what will we find joy in doing?
22 The public declaration of our hope will not be limited to an occasional hour or two and otherwise be forgotten. We will regard any contact with another person as a potential opportunity to share our faith. Personal concern for sheeplike ones will give us joy in being able to use our time and abilities to teach them. Convinced of the excelling value of the good news, we will continue kindly to offer it even to those who initially reject it. Yes, “in all things” we will strive to prove ourselves “an example of fine works.”—Titus 2:7.
23. What motivates us to persist in fine works, giving us what hope for the future?
23 Our motivation to practice fine works springs from a deep-rooted desire to demonstrate our love for Jehovah and to prove that the concern we have for our fellowman is equal to that which we feel for ourselves. (Matt. 22:37-39) As the “great tribulation” draws near, we try even harder to “work what is good toward all.” (Gal. 6:10; Rev. 7:14, 15) We are confident that our persistence in fine works will be richly rewarded. We joyfully anticipate the coming day when all men earth wide will zealously practice fine works in support of Christ’s Kingdom rule.