Be Wise—Conduct Yourself as a Lesser One
“He that conducts himself as a lesser one among all of you is the one that is great.”—Luke 9:48.
1, 2. (a) Who were among the most favored men ever to walk this earth, and why? (b) Yet, strangely, what problem repeatedly manifested itself among them?
WHO were among the most favored men ever to walk this earth? Without a doubt, included among such were the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ whom he chose to be apostles. What privileges were theirs to accompany him as “he went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God”! (Luke 8:1) What a pleasure it must have been for them to hear Jesus’ discourses, such as the Sermon on the Mount, and to witness his performing one miracle after another! Besides, did not Jesus constantly give them private instruction? Yes, indeed.
2 Yet, strangely, these most favored ones were repeatedly arguing among themselves as to who was the chief or foremost among them. Not one wanted to conduct himself as a lesser one. Did such rivalry make for peace, harmony and happiness? Was it pleasing to Jehovah God? Was it the course of wisdom? Hardly, for what did Jesus on one occasion say to them? After setting a young child beside him, he told them: “Whoever receives this young child on the basis of my name receives me too, and whoever receives me receives him also that sent me forth. For he that conducts himself as a lesser one among all of you is the one that is great.”—Luke 9:48.
3. What are some worldly examples of not being willing to conduct oneself as a lesser one?
3 Who today are wisely content to conduct themselves as lesser ones? Very few! That is why there is so much confusion, contention, strife and warring in this old world. Nations and blocs of nations keep competing with one another; each one wants to be on top, to be foremost, to be the most powerful. So nations saddle their people with enormous armament costs. And what is much of the agitation by the women’s liberation movement but a refusal on the part of its members to conduct themselves as lesser ones as compared to their menfolk? And is that not also what is plaguing many modern youths? They chafe at the role their elders play; they do not want to conduct themselves as lesser ones in relation to their elders, their parents. Has all such unwillingness to conduct oneself as a lesser one brought happiness? Is it wise? Far from it!
LEARNING FROM BIBLE EXAMPLES
4. Who was the first person with this exalted frame of mind, and what shows this?
4 That unwillingness to conduct oneself as a lesser one is folly can be seen from the fact that all the trouble in the world got started because a certain angel did not want to conduct himself that way. Why can that be said? Because that angel, who started our first parents on the road to sin and death, revealed his true motives in the third wilderness temptation he presented to the Son of God. In it he offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would do just one act of worship to Satan. What did that show? That Satan wanted to be equal to Jehovah God, that he did not want to conduct himself as a lesser one in relation to Him. This can be seen from Jesus’ reply to Satan: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” Because of his unwillingness to conduct himself as a lesser one, Satan covered himself with shame and ignominy and eventually will be brought to nothing.—Matt. 4:8-10; Heb. 2:14.
5. (a) How did Eve show that she was not willing to conduct herself as a lesser one? (b) What shows that Cain felt the same way?
5 Also, was not unwillingness to conduct herself as a lesser one the reason that Eve succumbed to Satan’s wiles and disobeyed Jehovah God? Satan assured her that by eating the forbidden fruit she would become like God, being able to decide for herself good and bad. (Gen. 3:5) Eve’s not wanting to conduct herself as a lesser one proved fatal to her. And what about her firstborn son? Is it not true that Cain murdered his brother Abel because he simply could not conduct himself as a lesser one in relation to him? That is how galling it was for Cain to have Abel preferred. This proud mental attitude caused Cain to be banished as the first human murderer.—Gen. 4:1-16.
6. How was unwillingness to conduct oneself as a lesser one shown by (a) Joseph’s half brothers? (b) Aaron and Miriam? (c) Korah, Dathan and Abiram?
6 Then there were the half brothers of Joseph. Because their father Jacob was preferring Joseph—due to his being the son of his favorite wife, Rachel—they became so filled with bitter animosity that they had no peace until they got rid of him. (Gen. 37:3-35) In time they, too, had reason to regret their course of action. Years later even Miriam and Aaron rebelled against conducting themselves as lesser ones in relation to their younger brother, Moses. They complained: “Is it just by Moses alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?” But as the record goes on to show, Jehovah God was listening. He was very displeased with their mental attitude, for he said to the two complainers: “Hear my words, please. . . . my servant Moses . . . is being entrusted with all my house. Mouth to mouth I speak to him. . . . Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant, against Moses?” Jehovah God was so displeased that he struck Miriam with leprosy. Then there were Korah, Dathan and Abiram who rebelled even more seriously against conducting themselves as lesser ones and who suffered destruction for it.—Num. 12:1-15; 16:1-35; 26:9-11.
7, 8. (a) What two ancient kings came to grief because of not wanting to conduct themselves as lesser ones? (b) What examples do we have in apostolic times?
7 Another servant of Jehovah God who had trouble along this line was King Saul. He just could not stand to hear the women of Israel singing: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” This so enraged Saul that from that day forward he “was continually looking suspiciously at David,” even hounding him like a dog in his efforts to do away with him. How bitter Saul’s life became because of his unwillingness to conduct himself as a lesser one in relation to David in this respect! And what a tragic end was his! (1 Sam. 18:7-9; 31:3-6) Then there was King Uzziah. His military successes, which were truly great, made him haughty at heart. So, no longer wisely content to serve solely as king handling affairs of state and conducting himself as a lesser one in relation to the priesthood, he wanted to be equal with the priests in respect to temple worship. For Uzziah’s presumptuousness, Jehovah God struck him with leprosy. He died as a leper.—2 Chron. 26:16-21; Prov. 11:2.
8 Coming to the Christian Greek Scriptures, we have already noted the problem the 12 apostles had while Jesus was with them, not one of them being willing to conduct himself as a lesser one. However, let it be noted that we read nothing of this kind concerning them once they had received God’s holy spirit at Pentecost. But other first-century Christians did have that problem. It appears that the Christians at Corinth, at least some of them, were not content to conduct themselves as lesser ones in relation to the apostle Paul. And the apostle John found it necessary to censure Diotrephes severely because of his wanting to have the first place and not treating with respect what the apostle John had to tell the Christians back there.—2 Cor. 10:1-11; 12:5-9; 3 John 9, 10.
WHY THE PROBLEM?
9. What is the root cause of not wanting to conduct oneself as a lesser one?
9 Why has this problem been so prevalent throughout man’s history, affecting not only worldlings, nations and individuals but even servants of Jehovah God? It is because of inherited selfishness. As we read at Genesis 8:21: “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” As a result, “the heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?”—Jer. 17:9.
10-12. What examples show just where and why this problem comes up?
10 Generally, witnesses of Jehovah have little difficulty in conducting themselves as lesser ones in relation to those who obviously occupy a superior position. But the problem arises when it comes to conducting themselves as lesser ones among their peers, among those who are more or less their equals. For example, not one of the 12 apostles had any difficulty in conducting himself as a lesser one in relation to his Master, Jesus Christ. But when it came to comparing himself with any of the other 11 apostles, that is where the difficulty lay. No one wanted to conduct himself as a lesser one among all the rest!
11 Similarly today, in the Christian congregation there may be a little rivalry, or a little feminine jealousy may surface, especially between those who might have quite similar endowments or advantages. This seems to have been the situation between two Christian women in the congregation at Philippi, causing the apostle Paul to write: “Euodia I exhort and Syntyche I exhort to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, I request you too, genuine yokefellow, keep assisting these women who have striven side by side with me in the good news along with . . . the rest of my fellow workers.” (Phil. 4:2, 3) Quite likely both these sisters were particularly able and zealous preachers of the “good news,” so that a spirit of rivalry entered their hearts, causing friction.
12 In like manner, there may be problems at times among brothers having similar appointments. In the Christian organization, by and large, ministerial servants have no difficulty in conducting themselves as lesser ones in relation to the elders; elders in relation to the circuit overseer; circuit overseers in relation to the district overseers, and so forth. But the test comes in relation to peers, whether ministerial servants would be willing to conduct themselves as lesser ones in relation to other ministerial servants, elders in relation to other elders in a certain congregation, and so on.
EARTHLY, ANIMAL, DEMONIC WISDOM
13-15. Why can contentiousness and jealousy be termed (a) earthly wisdom? (b) animal wisdom?
13 Because many are unwilling to conduct themselves as lesser ones due to human imperfection, the disciple James found it necessary to write: “If you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts, do not be bragging and lying against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.”—Jas. 3:14-16.
14 The disciple James is so right in speaking of jealousy and contentiousness as being earthly, animal, demonic! It is earthly, materialistic, the mark of selfish, imperfect humans and stands in contrast with that which is from above, heavenly. This same spirit is also animal, for it is the mark of animals. Ethologists, who study animals in their natural environment, have discovered among various animals, such as cows and chickens, what is known as the “pecking order,” wherein certain ones always come ahead of others.
15 For example, some years ago the public press told of the performance of a 12-tiger act at a circus in New York city. After the act was over, the tigers were heading for the passageway that led to their cages when the leading tiger, Rajah, suddenly seized the throat of Ila, a tigress. By the time the circus attendants were able to separate the two the tigress had received a mortal wound. What had gone wrong? Instead of keeping her place behind Rajah she presumptuously stepped out ahead of him and so enraged Rajah that he attacked her. Her not being willing to conduct herself as a lesser one cost her her life.
FINE EXAMPLES OF MOSES, JESUS AND PAUL
16. What fine example did Moses set of being willing to conduct himself as a lesser one?
16 One of Jehovah’s ancient servants who outstandingly conducted himself as a lesser one was Moses. How greatly he was used by Jehovah God: in bearing witness to Pharaoh, in calling forth the 10 plagues, in having the Red Sea divide and in providing his people with water supernaturally! Yet in spite of all these privileges and the prominence accorded him thereby, we read that “the man Moses was by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” Because of his willingness to conduct himself as a lesser one, Jehovah God made him great in the eyes of the world, as well as in the eyes of his own people.—Num. 12:3.
17-19. What shows that Jesus conducted himself as a lesser one (a) before coming to earth? (b) while on earth? (c) since his resurrection and return to heaven?
17 And what a fine example Jesus Christ, the Son of God, set in conducting himself as a lesser one! In contrast to the angel who became Satan the Devil, the Word, or Logos, “although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.” He gladly served as a “master worker,” closely associated with his Father in the works of creation.—Prov. 8:30; John 1:1-3, 14; 1 Cor. 11:3; Phil. 2:6-8.
18 While on earth, Jesus continued to conduct himself as a lesser one in relation to his Father, saying, “the Father is greater than I am,” and that no one was good but God alone. (Luke 18:19; John 14:28) In fact, when on earth Jesus conducted himself as a lesser one in relation to fellow humans, taking the role of servant. As he himself put it: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He even performed the most menial task of washing his apostles’ feet. And how highly he was exalted for his lowliness of mind!—Matt. 20:28, New International Version; John 13:2-16; Phil. 2:9-11.
19 Since his resurrection and ascension to heaven, Christ has continued to conduct himself as a lesser one in relation to Jehovah his Father, being willing to wait patiently until Jehovah places his enemies as a stool for his feet. Then, after Jesus’ millennial reign, when Jehovah has put all his enemies under his feet, “the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.”—Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25-28.
20, 21. (a) How did the apostle Paul show himself to be a good imitator of Jesus Christ in these respects? (b) What will the next article point out for our benefit?
20 Among Christ’s followers, the apostle Paul in particular was a fine imitator of Jesus Christ in this regard. For the sake of the “good news,” he became the slave of all. That certainly was conducting himself as a lesser one. (1 Cor. 9:19) He conducted himself as a lesser one in relation to the governing body in Jerusalem, with regard to his ministerial activity, where he should preach, and in doctrinal matters. (Acts 15:2; Gal. 2:7-10) On one occasion, he felt obliged to ask the Christian congregation at Corinth: “Did I commit a sin by humbling myself that you might be exalted?” No wonder Jehovah God so richly blessed Paul’s ministry!—2 Cor. 11:7.
21 Since, as we have seen, unwillingness to conduct oneself as a lesser one is folly, whereas being willing to do so is proof of wisdom, we will want to take this wise course. To do so we will need help because of our inherited imperfections. The next article will point out aids to our acquiring this right frame of mind.
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“Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and, look! she was struck with leprosy”