Cultivating Christian Modesty
1. What expressions show that some men of the world have appreciated the value of modesty?
MODESTY is a virtue that once was appreciated by the wise men of this world. Thus we are told: “A modest person seldom fails to gain the good will of those he converses with, because nobody envies a man who does not appear to be pleased with himself.” And it has been said: “Modesty is a shining light; it prepares the mind to receive knowledge, and the heart for truth.” A person lacking modesty is not likely to have an open mind.
2. How have certain noted men displayed modesty?
2 Then again, some men noted for their discoveries have displayed modesty. Thus Albert Einstein once stated that “a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.” And Sir Isaac Newton, considered by many to be the foremost scientist of all time, once remarked: “If I have seen farther than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Evidently of a similar frame of mind are some surgeons who have operated on Jehovah’s Witnesses. After performing very difficult operations successfully without blood transfusions, they have told their Witness patients that the credit goes to God, not to the surgeons themselves.
Examples of Modesty
3. (a) What will help us to cultivate modesty? (b) What can be said about Moses and modesty?
3 What will aid us in cultivating the very desirable, yes, very necessary quality of modesty? Obviously, applying all that has been said in the two previous articles on presumptuousness and modesty will help us to cultivate modesty. Another aid in cultivating modesty is to consider how mightily Jehovah used his modest servants. How could God use men who sought praise and called attention to themselves instead of to their Maker! Just once Moses did this—under great stress and provocation, it is true. Yet, how he paid for that! But that Moses was truly modest can be seen by his initial diffidence about going to Pharaoh. Moreover, the Scriptures say that “Moses was by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.”—Numbers 12:3; Exodus 4:10-17.
4. How did Elihu and Joseph show due modesty?
4 Another fine example of modesty was young Elihu. He patiently waited until his elders, Job and his three companions, had their say before he spoke. Elihu did not have an air of superiority but directed all praise to his Maker. (Job 32:4-11, 21, 22; 36:9) Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob, also showed due modesty when brought before mighty Pharaoh and asked if he could interpret that monarch’s dream. Joseph gave Jehovah the credit for interpreting dreams.—Genesis 40:8; compare Daniel 2:26-30.
5. Why was Gideon’s modesty important to Jehovah God?
5 Consider, too, the case of Gideon. When receiving his commission, he modestly said that his clan was the least in Manasseh and he himself was the smallest in his father’s house. So Gideon was just the one for Jehovah to use in vanquishing the Midianites because God was determined to get the credit for the victory. Only a truly modest man could have served properly in that situation.—Judges 6:14-16; 7:2-7.
6. (a) Why was Jehovah pleased with young King Solomon’s request? (b) What other young servant of Jehovah manifested fitting modesty, and in what regard? (c) How may the attitude of young Elihu, Solomon and Jeremiah affect relatively youthful or less experienced witnesses of Jehovah?
6 Young Solomon, when first made king, likewise displayed modesty. Upon being asked by God in a dream what he would like to have, Solomon modestly replied: “I am but a little boy. . . . You must give to your servant an obedient heart to judge your people, to discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this difficult people of yours?” Jehovah was so well pleased with Solomon’s modesty that He gave him not only wisdom but also great riches and glory. (1 Kings 3:4-14) Due to Solomon’s modesty, Jehovah made him the wisest of all human rulers. Jeremiah displayed similar modesty in view of his youthfulness when called to be Jehovah’s prophet. (Jeremiah 1:6-8) Are you a comparatively young or inexperienced witness of Jehovah? If so, surely you will prove yourself wise if you, like young Elihu, Solomon and Jeremiah, display due modesty.
7. How do Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 provide a fine example of modesty for Kingdom proclaimers?
7 Noteworthy, too, was the modesty of the apostle Paul. Although he had been a highly educated Pharisee and later was used mightily by Jehovah God, Paul did not flaunt his advantages. As he himself said: “So I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom declaring the sacred secret of God to you. For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and him impaled. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling; and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power, that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) Some of Jehovah’s Witnesses have come from among the highly educated. But, like Paul, they display modesty in declaring the good news, wisely following the apostle’s fine example.
8. How did Jesus provide the finest and greatest example of modesty?
8 The greatest and finest example of modesty, of course, is none other than Jesus Christ. What a contrast there is between the Son of God and the one who became Satan the Devil! Never has Christ immodestly sought equality with Jehovah God. (Matthew 4:8-10; Philippians 2:5-8) Rather, Jesus is completely content to be his Father’s assistant and spokesman. (Proverbs 8:30; John 1:1) While on earth he repeatedly spoke of his subordination to God. (John 5:19, 30; 7:28; 8:28, 42) He disclaimed personal credit, directing attention to Jehovah. (Mark 10:18) And at the time of Jesus’ greatest testing, his attitude was: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Unquestionably, Jesus set us a fine example in modesty. Surely, then, all of God’s spirit creatures and all humans should be modest.
Modesty Makes Sense
9. According to 1 Corinthians 4:6, 7, why does modesty on the part of God’s servants make sense?
9 For us to be modest is logical; it makes sense. To begin with, are we not all imperfect? Who can deny that! (1 Kings 8:46) All of us make mistakes. Our experience is limited and our knowledge is by no means infinite. More than that, we have received everything we have. Thus the apostle Paul urged fellow believers not to go beyond the things written “in order,” as he put it, “that you may not be puffed up individually in favor of the one against the other. For who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:6, 7) Obviously, so much of what we are depends on our genetic inheritance, our environment and especially on God’s providence.
10. On what does success in sacred service depend, and how should awareness of that fact affect us?
10 Moreover, is it not a fact that regardless of what success we might have in our sacred service, everything depends on Jehovah’s blessing? To illustrate: No matter how hard a farmer may work, the weather is a very important factor in the growth of crops. And the psalmist well observed: “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it. Unless Jehovah himself guards the city, it is to no avail that the guard has kept awake.” Making the same point regarding the work of Christian ministers, the apostle Paul wrote: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” (Psalm 127:1; 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7) Yes, if we reason on the matter, we have to agree that modesty is becoming to all of us, regardless of our abilities, attainments or possessions.
Aids in Cultivating Modesty
11. How will love for Jehovah God help us to be modest?
11 Among the qualities that will help us to be modest is love, unselfish love. If we appreciate all that Jehovah God has done, is doing and will yet do for us, we will truly love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:30) Then we will not boast as regards ourselves. After all, boastfulness is the opposite of modesty. Rather, we will always speak and act with due modesty so as to draw attention not to ourselves but to Jehovah God, letting all glory and honor go to him. Then we will be heeding the counsel: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom nor the valiant of his valour; let not the rich man boast of his riches; but if any man would boast, let him boast of this, that he understands and knows me. For I am [Jehovah], I show unfailing love, I do justice and right upon the earth; for on these I have set my heart. This is the very word of [Jehovah].”—Jeremiah 9:23, 24, The New English Bible.
12. How can a good relationship with God help us to be modest?
12 Cultivating a close relationship with Jehovah will also help us to be modest at all times. We are expected to be modest in walking with our God. (Micah 6:8) To the extent that the Creator, his greatness, his majesty and his attributes are real to us, to that extent we will be deporting ourselves with due modesty. We want to have the same mental attitude as that of Moses, who “continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27) It is as though we were little children taking hold of our heavenly Father’s hand. Our feeding regularly on Jehovah’s Word and ‘persevering in prayer,’ yes, ‘praying incessantly,’ will help us to have this fine intimate relationship with God.—Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
13. In what way can our desire to imitate Jesus Christ help us to be modest?
13 Love and appreciation for all that our Master, Jesus Christ, has done for us and knowing what it means to follow his steps closely will also help us to be modest. What a fine, noble, unselfish, perfect example Jesus set for us! To the extent that we take seriously our obligation to follow his footsteps closely, we will be helped to be modest. How so? Because we will appreciate how far short we come from fully imitating him. We may feel pleased with ourselves when we compare ourselves with some others. But do we have a basis for feeling so pleased alongside Jesus Christ? Instead, we should feel as did the apostle Paul—painfully aware of the fact that we fail to do what we really want to and so often do that which we really wish not to do. No Christian who is keenly aware of how far short he comes of being an imitator of Jesus Christ will feel like boasting in himself.—Romans 7:15-25.
14. Why can brotherly love help us to be modest?
14 Likewise, love for our fellow witnesses of Jehovah and for members of our own family will help us to be modest. As a Kingdom song puts it: “Love has eyes to see the good. Love builds up the brotherhood.” Yes, love will cause us to appreciate the good qualities in others. But how can this help us to be modest? Well, a lack of modesty offends others, makes them uncomfortable. Since we do not want to offend those we love, genuine brotherly love will make us modest. Lack of modesty stirs up competition, rivalry, or causes others to feel inferior to us. But love “does not brag, does not get puffed up.” Rather, it is modest.—1 Corinthians 13:4.
15. How can self-control help us to be modest?
15 Self-control, a fruit of God’s holy spirit, is also helpful to us in cultivating modesty. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Is there really a relationship between the two? Indeed there is. Often an individual is inclined to say or do the self-serving or self-flattering thing, sometimes simply because of acting on impulse. As soon as a person has said or done this, he may realize the mistake he has made. This is because the human heart is devious, treacherous, deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9, The Jerusalem Bible; NE) But exercising self-control, pausing, thinking, reflecting on just how our words or actions will affect others, will help us to show fitting modesty. For example, without sufficient thought, we might be prone to take the choicest or largest piece of meat, cake or fruit when we are being served or handed a dish at a dinner. But self-control and thoughtfulness will enable us to resist that impulse. The same applies when it comes to immodestly taking the best seat at a banquet. As Jesus illustrated, we may be asked to move to a less significant place. However, a little thinking and modesty will keep us from making an embarrassing mistake along these lines.—Luke 14:8-11.
16. Why can faith in Jehovah help us to be modest?
16 Another fruit of the spirit that will aid us in cultivating modesty is faith in Jehovah, resulting from a good relationship with him. Fallen human nature is prone to arouse fear of losing out on the good things of life, be they material, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. But faith in Jehovah will keep us from pushing forward presumptuously or immodestly. Rather, we will leave matters in Jehovah’s hands. If we are modest, we will be able to wait until God sets matters right or sees to it that we receive recognition or advancement. Before David became king, he displayed this modesty. He could have taken matters into his own hands, for he had been anointed as king. David could have become Israel’s ruler at once by slaying King Saul, but no, David modestly waited for Jehovah to give him the kingship, and this Jehovah did, in His own due time.—1 Samuel 24:2-6; 26:10, 11.
17. In what ways can empathy help us to be modest?
17 Another aid to modesty is empathy, which means being able to put oneself in the shoes of others, as it were. For instance, a lack of modesty may cause a congregation elder repeatedly to run overtime in handling his assignments on congregation meetings. But if he has empathy, he will be able to put himself in the shoes of his fellow elders who are concerned about having sufficient time for their parts on the program. The modest elder will also think of his spiritual brothers and sisters, who do not appreciate it when a meeting runs overtime for no good reason. In fact, empathy will cause a person to be modest in all relationships, not just in the Christian congregation. Empathy caused the apostle Paul to become ‘as a Jew to the Jews, as though under law to those under law, as weak to the weak,’ and so forth—all for the sake of the good news. That meant being modest, showing his listeners that he did not think himself to be any better than they were.—1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
18. What can be said in favor of Christian modesty?
18 Truly, Christian modesty has much to recommend it. What havoc has been caused throughout history due to a lack of modesty! Displaying modesty really makes sense to the Christian. It results in good relations with God, our fellow witnesses of Jehovah, our own family and others. Modesty will even help us personally, for it will make us content and keep us from becoming frustrated. Wisely, God’s Word helps us greatly to be modest. May we therefore give proof of real wisdom by cultivating and displaying Christian modesty.
How Would You Answer?
□ How have some youthful persons of Bible record displayed modesty?
□ How did Jesus Christ furnish the greatest and finest example of modesty?
□ In what ways can love for Jehovah and a good relationship with him help us to cultivate modesty?
□ How can our desire to imitate Jesus Christ help us to manifest modesty?
□ Why can brotherly love help us to be modest as Jehovah’s worshipers?
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Elihu modestly avoided an air of superiority, directing all praise to Jehovah
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Regularly feeding on God’s Word and ‘praying incessantly’ will help us to cultivate modesty