Giving God the Exclusive Devotion He Merits
JEHOVAH GOD deserves an exclusive place in our affections. The reasons are many. He is the Source of life. Because he willed it, creature life exists. His way of ruling is based on love, and his commands serve to promote the happiness and welfare of those obeying them. (Ps. 19:7-11) Truly, as the Creator, Source of life and Lawgiver, Jehovah God is worthy of our devotion, strong attachment and ardent love. (Rev. 4:11) Our love for him should be superior to our love for anyone else.
Your giving Jehovah God the exclusive devotion he merits is not always an easy thing. Loyal service to God as a disciple of Jesus Christ may lead to reproach and physical abuse. Even close family members may turn against you. Jesus Christ said: “Do you imagine I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53) What causes this division? It results from the way family members react to the good news of God’s kingdom. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Some accept that “good news,” while others reject it and perhaps even oppose it bitterly.
Against this background, we can understand these words of Jesus Christ: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Was the Son of God thereby saying that those who became his followers should feel hostility or loathing toward their families or themselves? Not at all. Rather, he was making it clear that love for family and self should be placed in a secondary position. If a person failed to love God even more than he loved his relatives, he would be unable to withstand family opposition. Also, if he did not put God’s will ahead of his own desires, he would do everything within his power to follow a course that would seem most advantageous even if that meant going contrary to God’s commands. Clearly, then, one can be a disciple of Jesus Christ only if one is willing to give God the first place, a unique place, in one’s affections, regardless of what obstacles one might have to face as a result.
What Jesus Christ said on this matter was similar to the principles set out in the Mosaic law. Of family members or friends who refused to give Jehovah God exclusive devotion and tried to influence others to be unfaithful to him, the Law said: “In case your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or your cherished wife or your companion who is like your own soul, should try to allure you in secrecy, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ . . . you must not accede to his wish or listen to him, nor should your eye feel sorry for him, nor must you feel compassion, nor cover him protectively; but you should kill him without fail. Your hand first of all should come upon him to put him to death, and the hand of all the people afterward. And you must stone him with stones, and he must die, because he has sought to turn you away from Jehovah your God.”—Deut. 13:6-10.
Most assuredly, it required superior loyalty and devotion to God to testify against a close family member or friend and then to be the first to share in the execution of that one. Of course, some persons might consider this to be too severe. But was it?
What if the idolatrous relative or friend were allowed to continue living and to influence others for wrong? This would have led to very serious, yes, tragic, consequences. Prostitution, homosexuality, drunkenness and child sacrifice were among the abominable practices associated with idolatry. (1 Ki. 14:24; Jer. 19:3-5; Hos. 4:13, 14; Amos 2:8) Think how damaging to the moral fiber of the nation of Israel such degrading practices would be and what sorrow and injury they would cause. Hence, the death of the idolater would shield many from the untold suffering that his influence would surely have brought if he were permitted to continue.
Today, of course, Christians are not authorized to execute idolaters. Nevertheless, it is still true that yielding to the influence of a close family member or friend to disregard God’s law can only spell disaster. True, such yielding might bring temporary relief from threats, abusive words and acts of violence. But at heart a person would know that he was being disloyal to God and following a course that could ultimately result in divine rejection. Even the relative or friend to whose influence he yielded would be put at a disadvantage. This one would be deprived of seeing an example in Christian living that might cause him to reexamine his attitude and perhaps become a Christian disciple himself.
The Son of God set a fine example in not allowing relatives to influence him wrongly. On one occasion his relatives exclaimed: “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21) And despite the marvelous works Jesus was doing, ‘his brothers were not exercising faith in him.’ (John 7:5) But the faithlessness of such relatives did not cause Jesus to quit. He kept right on doing God’s work. What was the result? After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his brothers were evidently in the group of some 120 disciples who received the holy spirit on the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. (Acts 1:14; 2:1-4) Because Jesus put the emphasis on spiritual, not fleshly, relationships, his brothers finally gained a fine spiritual relationship with Jehovah God.
Relatives and friends are not the only ones who could cause one to fail in giving God exclusive devotion. Actually, anyone or anything taking on undue importance in our lives can lead to our not being exclusively devoted to God. For example, the Bible refers to covetousness as “idolatry.” (Col. 3:5) This is so because the object of a person’s craving diverts affection away from God and in this way becomes an idol. Take the case of the person wishing to gain prominence in the world. His time and energies are fully taken up in the pursuit of that goal. He gives no thought as to what might be God’s will in the matter. Obviously he is not exclusively devoted to God. Another interest has become his chief concern—the object of his love.
Since Jehovah God rightly requires exclusive devotion, we must be on guard that nothing takes on undue importance in our lives, crowding out affection for him. Nothing this world has to offer should be allowed to becloud our vision of the rightness of remaining exclusively devoted to Jehovah. We should heed the inspired admonition: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because 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 2:15-17) Yes, if our chief concern is to give Jehovah God the exclusive devotion he merits, we can rest assured of his favoring us with everlasting life.