Jehovah’s Friend or the World’s Friend—Which?
“Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God?”—Jas. 4:4.
1. What is the definition of a friend, and what must be considered when choosing friends?
MOST people are particular about whom they choose as friends. A friend is defined as “one attached to another by affection or esteem,” “an intimate associate.” Would you choose for a intimate friend one whose habits you detest, whose thinking and viewpoints are always opposed to yours, and who would associate or take sides with your enemies? Since we are particular in our choice of friends, we can expect nothing less of the Supreme God of the universe. Therefore, it is vital that we learn how to become friends with God, Jehovah, and how to maintain friendship with him.
2. Has God barred mankind from becoming his friends? In what way is he selective in choosing his friends?
2 Jehovah has not barred the human race from being friends with him. In fact, his love for mankind prompted him to give his most precious “only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) But we cannot expect that Jehovah will befriend just anyone. At Psalm 5:4 we are informed of the attitude and conduct that Jehovah will not tolerate his friends to display: “For you are not a God taking delight in wickedness; no one bad may reside for any time with you.”
3. What do Jesus and James say about fraternizing with worldings?
3 Jesus’ followers recognize that they must keep separate from the world and its corruption. (2 Pet. 1:4) As Jesus acknowledged at John 17:16: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” Jesus’ half brother James pointed out the dire consequences of not keeping that separateness when he stated: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.”—Jas. 4:4.
NOT FRIENDS WITH THE WORLD
4. (a) What does it mean to be a friend of the world? (b) What are the works of the flesh, and what results from pursuing such?
4 What does it mean to be a friend of the world? It simply means to be like the world, to think like the world, to share its desires, to harbor its ambitions, to display its prejudices and hatreds. A person who is a friend of the world assumes the dominant attitude that permeates its society. The apostle Paul spoke of it as “the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2) That spirit can lead one into engaging in the worldly practices that Paul enumerated in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” What is the result of pursuing such worldly ways? We are warned that “those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”
5. What course must a Christian follow, and what fruitage is pleasing to Jehovah?
5 It is clear, then, that by engaging in such practices, which Jehovah hates, we would be alienating ourselves from him. Therefore, we must take an opposite course by reflecting God’s spirit and attitude. Paul tells us that “the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control . . . those who belong to Christ Jesus impaled the flesh together with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:22-24) Thus, by displaying such fruitage we will be pleasing God and not the world.
6. (a) How do the goals of the world and of Christians differ? (b) What encouragement did Jesus give about getting the necessities of life?
6 Keep in mind that the goals of the world are different from those of a Christian. The world’s goals are materialistic. It thinks nothing of sacrificing right principles to further selfish interests, even if close friends are hurt along the way. Its thinking is geared around the thought that everyone should be just a little more affluent. The world is anxious about its soul as to what it will eat, drink and wear. (Matt. 6:25-30) To avoid copying that same materialistic viewpoint we must believe that Jehovah will provide for his people. We must have faith that he can and will bless our efforts to get the necessities of life. Jesus, our Master, did not have a place to lay his head, yet his Father provided for him. (Luke 9:58) Likewise, Jesus encouraged his followers not to worry about getting the essentials of life. After relating the powerful lesson to prove his point, in Matthew, chapter 6, verses 25 through 30, Jesus assured his followers: “So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:31-33.
7. What worldy viewpoint do we want to avoid, and what scriptures help us in this?
7 It is essential that we avoid becoming ensnared by the “anxieties of life,” desiring to gain what the world considers the ‘comfortable life.’ (Luke 21:34) Jesus, in his illustration of the sower, said that “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches choke the word.” (Matt. 13:22) How true are his words, too, at Luke 12:15: “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses”! The folly of spending our time in accumulating material riches to gain a comfortable life is well illustrated by James. He observed: “The sun rises with its burning heat and withers the vegetation, and its flower drops off and the beauty of its outward appearance perishes. So, too, the rich man will fade away in his ways of life.” (Jas. 1:11) Later, he shows the uncertainty of life by pointing out: “You are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.” So, instead of being confident in our plans, we ought to say: “If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” (Jas. 4:13-15) How apparent it is from these scriptures that cultivating friendship with God is much more important than striving for a comfortable life by stockpiling material things!
8, 9. (a) How does the world view prominent ones, but what should youths and adults remember? (b) What examples of God’s friends do we want to imitate, and with what goal?
8 What is our attitude toward the celebrities and prominent ones of the world—those associated with entertainment, sports, science or any other field of endeavor? Such men and women are held in high esteem by the world. Due to their prominence, both adults and children idolize and copy their personalities and ways. However, a friend of Jehovah must be on guard lest he begin to follow this pattern of the world. Remember, the thoughts and ways of these men and women are not in accord with the ways of Jehovah. They are intimate associates of the world. Therefore, to pattern our lives and conduct after their speech, dress, grooming and conduct would mean making ourselves friends with them instead of with God.
9 You youths, especially, must be careful about imitating these people since your natural inclination is to imitate older ones. But these prominent people are just imperfect human creatures who will die at Armageddon, if they do not change their course and conform to the standards of Jehovah. Would it be wise, then, to walk with such persons by copying their ways? Would it not be better for you younger ones, as well as you adults, to hold in esteem those that have proved themselves to be friends of God—individuals like Moses, Joshua, David, Barak, Jephthah and Jesus? Others, too, such as Ruth, Rahab, Deborah and many, many more, have kept friendship with Jehovah and are truly worthy of our admiration and esteem. (Heb. 11:4-38) What about the modern examples of those that have remained friends with God? Wouldn’t you like to imitate the loyalty and endurance of your brothers who have withstood the brunt of dictatorships like Hitler’s Nazi regime or the Communist types, because they would not renounce their friendship with Jehovah? These and countless others that have walked with God down through the stream of time will be alive after the “great tribulation,” whereas the prominent friends of this world will be gone forever.—Ps. 37:10, 34, 38; Matt. 24:21, 22.
OUR SPEECH AND CONDUCT
10, 11. (a) Could association with the world affect our speech? Explain. (b) What does the Bible say about conduct and dress, and what could result if we failed to heed 1 Corinthians 15:33?
10 Additionally, friends of God are admonished to be upbuilding in their speech. Paul writes: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29) Can we say that the friends of the world heed these words? Are they upbuilding in their speech? Do they impart what is “favorable to the hearers”? James had much to say about the tongue, and he observed: “Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. It is not proper, my brothers, for these things to go on occurring this way.” (Jas. 3:2-12) Would it be wise, then, to associate with worldlings, and perhaps acquire the kind of tongue described by James?
11 Also, what about our conduct? Is it patterned after the world or is it “fine among the nations,” as Peter recommends? (1 Pet. 2:12) What about our dress? Do we try to keep up with the latest fads? Could we do this and dress “with modesty and soundness of mind,” as Paul encouraged us to do? (1 Tim. 2:9; Prov. 11:2; Mic. 6:8) We must not fool ourselves. Paul emphatically stated: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Consequently, in the areas just considered, it is apparent that we cannot enjoy association with the world by our thinking and actions and expect to remain on friendly terms with God.
12. What does Peter say at 2 Peter 3:11-14, and what are some of the acts and deeds in which we can share?
12 To remain God’s friends, we must heed Peter’s inspired words: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion!” (2 Pet. 3:11-14) Some of these acts and deeds would be having a share in preaching the good news, attending the meetings of God’s people and also “to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Matt. 24:14; Heb. 10:25; Jas. 1:27) By engaging in such “holy acts” and “deeds of godly devotion” we will keep ourselves so busy that there will be no time left to mingle with the world or to think about its ways. This is vital in being friends of God.
FRIENDSHIP AMONG BROTHERS
13. (a) How might we show a worldly attitude toward our brother, and what does 1 John 4:20 say about this? (b) Jesus encouraged us to do what with our brother, and why?
13 There is also something else that must be considered. What is your attitude toward your brothers? Do you love them? Do you prove it by your association with them? Do you talk freely with all of them? Or have you failed to speak with a certain person for years because of some petty difference? Or do you avoid certain ones for one reason or another? You may spend much time in the preaching work. You may comment freely at all the meetings. You may be absorbed in all the activities in the congregation. But, even so, are you really a friend of God while treating your brother as someone to be shunned? What does God say? “If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Therefore, it is mandatory to “first make your peace with your brother,” as Jesus admonished, since an unloving attitude toward him reveals that we are not a friend of Jehovah.—Matt. 5:23, 24; 1 Pet. 1:22.
14. (a) Are we to copy the world’s attitude toward others, and why? (b) What will help us to overlook or forgive the imperfections of others?
14 Another characteristic of people of the world is to be merciless and unforgiving in their actions toward their friends. Do they not belittle, find fault with, complain about, and speak slightingly of others? The Bible speaks of them in this way: “A good-for-nothing man is digging up what is bad, and upon his lips there is, as it were, a scorching fire.” (Prov. 16:27) However, such action should be foreign to Jehovah’s friends. We are different because we overlook the weaknesses and minor transgressions of others. We are willing to forgive. Why? Does not Jehovah set the example? David reminds us at Psalm 103:9: “He will not for all time keep finding fault, neither will he to time indefinite keep resentful.” And Ps 103 verse 14 says: “For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” What a fine example to copy! So, when our brother falls short, what do we do? We do exactly what Jehovah would do. We forgive! To help us to do that, we might ask ourselves some questions. Was it due to his imperfection? Was it because of his not thinking? Can the grievance be minimized? Why not give him the benefit of the doubt? It would indeed be better to “have intense love for one another,” for “love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:8, 9) In doing this we are showing that we are God’s friends rather than the world’s friends.
MAINTAINING FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD
15. The Devil is using what to break our friendship with God, and how do we avoid becoming enmeshed in its ways?
15 This hostile, unfriendly world exerts a tremendous pressure upon God’s friends today. It is vital for the latter to put forth much effort and hard work to keep friendly with Him. The Devil is trying desperately to sever that friendship. He does this by making the world most attractive and alluring. Note what 1 John 2:16 says: “Everything in the world,” and then John points out the three outstanding things that originate with the world and that Satan uses—“the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” How accurately he depicts the world that must be resisted if we do not want to become enmeshed in its ways and lose our identity as God’s friends!
16. How did Jesus oppose Satan, and how may we do the same?
16 A Christian must take positive steps in opposing the “ruler of this world,” Satan, and his associates. (Eph. 6:10-18; Jas. 4:7) How? What did Jesus do when he was tempted on three different occasions in the wilderness? He answered: “It is written.” (Matt. 4:1-11) This perfect man let the words of God direct his life course, and since Jesus set the example, we should copy him. The psalmist said: “Your word is a lamp to my foot.” (Ps. 119:105) Thus, by letting God’s Word govern our every action in opposing Satan, we can strengthen our relationship with our friend, Jehovah.
17. What do we need to overcome the trials ahead, and what loss would we suffer if we capitulated?
17 Between now and the end of this system, it will not be possible to wage a winning war against the Devil in our own strength. We need help from God. We must appeal to Him for the wisdom and guidance to cope with the trials and temptations that must be faced. (Jas. 1:5) None of us are immune from the Devil’s tactics. He is working overtime to cause us to capitulate to wrong desires and pressures from his world. However, our capitulating would mean losing our precious friendship with God, and that would lead to our eternal death. (Jas. 1:14, 15) Is such a course worth that price?
18. God has done what else to assist his friends, and what should be our response to these?
18 Also, to encourage and help His friends to resist catering to selfish desires, Jehovah has taken additional steps by appointing elders. It would be wise to respond to their counsel. Paul advises: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.” (Heb. 13:17; Gal. 6:1) Occasionally, we may not like what they tell us. It may be contrary to what we want to hear. But, to be a friend of God, we should listen to them and humbly apply their counsel. The psalmist says: “The way of the foolish one is right in his own eyes, but the one listening to counsel is wise.”—Prov. 12:15.
19. Is all hope gone for one who commits a serious wrong? Explain.
19 What if one becomes “foolish” and engages in wrongdoing of a serious nature? Is all hope gone? No, for James reminds us: “If he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him. Therefore openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may get healed.” (Jas. 5:13-16) Therefore, enlist the aid of the elders and let them help you to recover from the sinful course. (Prov. 28:13) What a comfort to know that one might lose friendship with God momentarily, and yet be restored as a trusted friend by repenting and taking a course in harmony with his ways!—Isa. 55:7.
20. (a) Will advantages gained from the world be lasting? (b) Who set a good example for us, and why did he take such a course?
20 Friendship with the world can result in certain advantages but it is only a temporary enjoyment of sin. It is short-lived. It is a life with no future. At the most it could last only for the little time that is left for this old world. Would it not be better to follow the fine example of Moses? The Bible says of him: “By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, because he esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” (Heb. 11:24-26) Moses refused the offer to be a friend of that world, with its riches and attractions, because he desired a reward from Jehovah. What was that reward? He knew that by remaining a friend of God he would be remembered by God and have a resurrection to life in a righteous new order.
21. (a) What must we do to gain the reward reserved for God’s friends? (b) What is the reward that we receive?
21 May our faith and hope be as strong as that of Moses. May we, in all avenues of life, keep ourselves “unspotted” from the world and its friends. May our thinking and actions be centered around our close friend, Jehovah. May our heart’s desire be to continue to attach ourselves affectionately to him as an intimate friend. Whether we are one of the “Lord’s anointed” or one of the “great crowd,” it will mean many blessings NOW, but, most rewarding of all, we will receive the prize of everlasting life in a righteous new order inhabited only by the friends of Jehovah.—1 Tim. 4:8.
[Picture on page 115]
Even as a flower withers in the sun so one striving to be rich “will fade away in his ways of life”