Must You Be in the Limelight?
THE TV screen comes to life as the cameras focus on the famous performer. Flashing a professional smile, he begins to play. We listen with pleasure to the music. The camera moves in close, allowing us to watch his facial expression and skillful fingers as he draws music from his instrument.
Yes, it is the performer who enjoys the limelight. But when the show is over, notice the long list of credits on the screen—orchestra, conductor, sound technicians, cameramen, directors, producers, makeup artists, and many, many others. All are necessary to make the performance a success. All are supportive.
A similar situation exists in the Christian congregation. Some individuals are used quite prominently, but others play rather inconspicuous roles as rank-and-file publishers of the Kingdom message. Should these ones feel, however, that they are somehow less important because they are not in the limelight? Should they be unduly disturbed if they do not attain prominence?
“All Will Have a Share”
An account involving King David is quite revealing. The Bible shows that once he led a band of 400 men on a dramatic rescue mission. They set out to recover their families and possessions from a marauder band. Two hundred, though, were left behind to guard the baggage. When the rescue party returned victorious with the women, children, and goods, plus much booty, a problem arose: Who would share in the spoils of battle? Would only those who actually did the fighting be counted worthy of sharing in the gains? David gave an answer that came to be viewed as a legal precedent, “a judicial decision for Israel.” He said: “For as the share of the one that went down into the battle even so will the share of the one that sat by the baggage be. All will have a share together.” (1 Samuel 30:24, 25) It was Jehovah who directed David to make this judicial decision. And it reflected Jehovah’s deep appreciation for those who serve in supportive roles.
But does this principle hold true in the Christian congregation? The apostle Paul answers with an illustration. Comparing the congregation to the human body, he says: “The eye cannot say to the hand: ‘I have no need of you’; or, again, the head cannot say to the feet: ‘I have no need of you.’” Yes, in the human body every part—even the small toe—has an important function. God shows the same wisdom in organizing his congregation. “God has set the respective ones in the congregation,” assigning different ones various responsibilities.—1 Corinthians 12:21, 28.
In the first century, some Christians therefore enjoyed a certain amount of prominence. Peter, for example, was very much in the limelight. He was the spokesman for the apostles on the historic day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:14) He had the privilege of helping the first Gentile converts to become Christians. (Acts 10:44-48) In fact, two Bible books bear his name! Yet some of the other apostles are hardly mentioned. Matthew, Nathanael (Bartholomew), Thaddaeus (Judas, son of James), Simon the zealous one, and James, son of Alphaeus (called James the Less), receive only brief mention. Nevertheless, they faithfully supported their Lord in his preaching-and-teaching campaign.
Modest, Whole-Souled Service
A similar situation exists today. In the Christian congregation, Jehovah still ‘sets the members just as he pleases.’ This results in some being more in the limelight than others. But what should be our attitude toward our privileges of service, whatever they are? Colossians 3:23, 24 puts it this way: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward.”
Many Witnesses today derive real joy from serving in modest, supportive roles. Consider, for example, Edmundsen, a Witness serving in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He was baptized in 1946 and entered full-time service in 1950. He has never really been in the limelight. However, he has had the joy of seeing 15 of his children and grandchildren become dedicated, baptized Witnesses, and 27 others of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren attending congregation meetings! And today, although handicapped by poor hearing and eyesight, he faithfully preaches as an auxiliary pioneer. Why, at age 84 he still serves as an elder in the congregation and gives public talks! Nevertheless, Edmundsen’s service has, for the most part, been in the background. But like many thousands of faithful servants of God, he has rendered valuable, meaningful service to Jehovah.
Yes, it takes humility to serve in the background. But this also allows us time to develop our personalities and skills before heavy responsibilities are thrust upon us. King Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight. (2 Kings 22:1) But how ready could he have been for that role? Moses, on the other hand, was subjected to 40 years in obscurity as a shepherd in Midian before becoming a deliverer. During that period of time, he developed qualities such as meekness. (Numbers 12:3) He learned to wait upon Jehovah. And when Jehovah finally called him to lead Israel for the next 40 years, he was ready for this responsibility!
So a person who feels that his abilities are not being used to the full in the congregation need not be downhearted. Perhaps Jehovah feels that more patience or humility must be developed before such a person is granted further privileges. Remember, too, that the vast majority of Jehovah’s servants serve in the background. The Watchtower has been a prominent part of the study program of Jehovah’s Witnesses for over a century. Yet its writers are anonymous. Think, too, of the many thousands who serve in Bethel homes or as pioneers and missionaries. They are hardly in the limelight. Yet they enjoy busy, rewarding lives and experience the deep contentment that comes from giving of themselves in helping others.—Acts 20:35.
The Outcome for Those Who Humbly Serve
Of the original 12 apostles, only one proved to be a failure—the traitor Judas Iscariot. The others enjoyed a glorious reward. At Revelation 21:10, 14, the Bible describes the “holy city” as being built on 12 foundation stones. On each one, the name of an apostle of the Lamb is written. Interestingly, two of these faithful apostles were named Simon. The one named Simon Peter was very much in the limelight; the other, called Simon the zealous one, was not. (Acts 1:13) In fact, very little is said about this Simon. But both Simons received the same reward—the privilege of being foundation members of the heavenly government under the King Jesus Christ!
Of course, not all resurrected anointed ones will prominently serve as “foundation stones.” Jehovah will use the personnel of his government for whatever capacity he deems them to be best suited. Those of us with hopes of living forever in Paradise on earth can likewise be sure that under that arrangement our King will use us in the best possible way. With delightful surroundings, loyal companions, a variety of pleasurable work, and no frustration or boredom, our personalities and skills will be developed to their fullest capacities!
So whether called to the heavenly reward or looking forward to life on a beautified earth, let us be content with our service assignment in Jehovah’s organization and work at it whole-souled. This is the course of wisdom and joy. Rather than ambitiously seeking the limelight, cultivate the humble attitude of King David, who said: “One thing I have asked from Jehovah—it is what I shall look for, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple.”—Psalm 27:4.