Be Happy and Organized
BEING organized lets us do things well. Being efficient helps us make the best use of time and resources. (Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:16; 1 Timothy 3:2) But there is more to life than organization and efficiency. The inspired psalmist wrote: “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!” (Psalm 144:15) The challenge is to be happy as well as organized in all that we do.
Organized and Happy
Jehovah God is the greatest example of good organization. All his creations, from single cells to complex living creatures, from tiny atoms to immense galaxies, show order and precision. His universal laws let us plan our lives with confidence. We know that the sun will rise each morning and that summer will follow winter.—Genesis 8:22; Isaiah 40:26.
But Jehovah is more than a God of order. He is also “the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11; 1 Corinthians 14:33) His happiness is seen in his creations. Playful kittens, beautiful sunsets, appetizing food, inspiring music, stimulating work, and a host of other things show that he intended for us to enjoy life. His laws are not irksome restrictions but safeguards for our happiness.
Jesus Christ models himself after his Father. He is “the happy and only Potentate” and behaves exactly as his Father does. (1 Timothy 6:15; John 5:19) When he labored with his Father in creative work, he was more than simply an efficient “master worker.” He was happy in what he did. He was “glad before [Jehovah] all the time, being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things [he] was fond of were with the sons of men.”—Proverbs 8:30, 31.
We want to reflect similar kindness, gladness, and fondness for people in all that we do. Sometimes, though, in a drive for efficiency, we may forget that “walking orderly . . . by [God’s] spirit” includes producing the fruits of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25) So we do well to ask, How can we be both organized and happy in our own activity and in directing the work of others?
Do Not Be Cruel to Yourself
Consider the good advice recorded at Proverbs 11:17. First the inspired writer tells us that “a man of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul.” Then he says in contrast: “But the cruel person is bringing ostracism upon his own organism.” The New International Version puts it this way: “A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings himself harm.”
How might we inadvertently be cruel to ourselves? One way is by being well-intentioned but completely disorganized. With what results? Says one expert: “A slip of memory, a wrongly filed document, an order insufficiently understood, a telephone call inaccurately recorded—these are the minutiæ of failure, the worms that eat into the fabric of efficiency and lay waste the best intentions.”—Teach Yourself Personal Efficiency.
This agrees with the inspired writer who said: “The one showing himself slack in his work—he is a brother to the one causing ruin.” (Proverbs 18:9) Yes, disorganized, inefficient people can cause calamity and ruin to themselves and others. Because of this, others often shun them. As a result of their slackness, they bring ostracism on themselves.
A Live Dog or a Dead Lion?
But we can be cruel to ourselves also by setting excessively high standards. We can aim, says the above writer on efficiency, for “a standard of perfection impossible of full attainment.” The result, he says, is “to land ourselves ultimately in heartbreak and disillusionment.” A perfectionist may be well organized and efficient, but he will never be truly happy. Sooner or later he gets only heartbreak.
If we tend toward being a perfectionist, we do well to remember that “a live dog is better off than a dead lion.” (Ecclesiastes 9:4) We might not literally kill ourselves through an unrealistic striving for perfection, but we can seriously harm ourselves through burnout. This, says one authority, involves “physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and interpersonal exhaustion.” (Job Stress and Burnout) Exhausting ourselves by striving after unattainable goals is surely being cruel to ourselves and inevitably robs us of happiness.
Deal Rewardingly With Yourself
Remember: “A man of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul.” (Proverbs 11:17) We deal rewardingly with ourselves when we set realistic and reasonable goals, keeping in mind that the happy God, Jehovah, knows our limitations. (Psalm 103:8-14) We can be happy if we too recognize those limitations and then “do our utmost,” within our capabilities, to fulfill our obligations well.—Hebrews 4:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 1:10.
Of course, there is always the danger of swinging to the other extreme—being too kind to ourselves. Do not forget Jesus’ reply to the apostle Peter’s suggestion, “Be kind to yourself, Lord,” when, in fact, resolute action was needed. So dangerous was Peter’s thinking that Jesus said: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matthew 16:22, 23) Dealing rewardingly with our own soul does not allow for a careless, self-indulgent attitude. That could also rob us of all happiness. Reasonableness, not fanaticism, is what we need.—Philippians 4:5.
Deal Rewardingly With Others
The scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day likely thought they were highly efficient and organized. A Dictionary of the Bible says of their way of worship: “Every biblical commandment was surrounded by a network of petty regulations. No allowance was made for changing circumstances; full obedience to the Law in all its particulars was inexorably demanded of every Jew . . . Legal details were multiplied until religion became a trade, and life an intolerable burden. Men were reduced to moral automatons. The voice of conscience was stifled; the living power of the Divine word was neutralized and smothered beneath a mass of eternal rules.”
No wonder Jesus Christ condemned them for this. “They bind up heavy loads,” he said, “and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4) Loving elders refrain from burdening the flock with a multiplicity of petty rules and regulations. They deal rewardingly with the flock of God by following the kindly, refreshing example of Christ Jesus.—Matthew 11:28-30; Philippians 2:1-5.
Even when organizational responsibilities multiply, caring elders will never lose sight of the fact that they are dealing with people—people whom God loves. (1 Peter 5:2, 3, 7; 1 John 4:8-10) They will never be so occupied with organizational matters or procedures that they forget their prime role as shepherds, guardians, and protectors of the flock.—Proverbs 3:3; 19:22; 21:21; Isaiah 32:1, 2; Jeremiah 23:3, 4.
An intense preoccupation with schedules and figures, for example, might crowd out concern for people. Consider a bus driver who thinks his prime duty is to stick efficiently to his schedule come what may. He is consumed with a desire to get from one end of his route to the other in exactly the time allotted. Unfortunately, from his point of view, passengers get in the way. They are slow and disorganized and always arriving at the bus stop just as he is moving away. Instead of remembering that the whole point of his job is to serve the needs of his passengers, he sees them as a hindrance to efficiency and avoids them.
Care for Each Individual
A heartless drive for efficiency often ignores the needs of individuals. Weaker, inefficient ones may be seen as liabilities. When this happens, terrible consequences can ensue. For example, in the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta, weak and sickly children were left exposed to die. They would not make strong, efficient soldiers to defend a strong, efficient state. “When a child was born,” says philosopher Bertrand Russell, “the father brought him before the elders of his family to be examined: if he was healthy, he was given back to the father to be reared; if not, he was thrown into a deep pit of water.”—History of Western Philosophy.
Rigidity and austerity, not happiness, marked such a ruthless state. (Compare Ecclesiastes 8:9.) No doubt the Spartan authorities felt that they had a good case on the grounds of efficiency, but their conduct was devoid of all compassion or kindness. Their way was not God’s way. (Psalm 41:1; Proverbs 14:21) In contrast, overseers in the Christian congregation remember that all of God’s sheep are precious in his eyes, and they deal rewardingly with each one of them. They care not just for the 99 who are healthy but also for the one who is weak or emotionally disturbed.—Matthew 18:12-14; Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15; 1 Peter 5:7.
Stay Close to the Flock
Elders stay close to the flock under their care. Modern research into business methods, though, might suggest that for maximum efficiency a manager or an overseer should keep his distance from those he supervises. One researcher describes the different results experienced by an air force officer when he was either close to or remote from his subordinates: “When he had very close relations with [his] officers, they seemed to feel secure and they did not worry overly about the efficiency of their units. As soon as he became more reserved and role-oriented, his sub-commanders began to worry whether anything had gone awry . . . and channelled their anxieties into paying more attention to their work. As a result, there was a noticeable increase in the efficiency of the base.”—Understanding Organizations.
The Christian congregation, though, is not a military organization. Christian elders who supervise the work of others model themselves after Jesus Christ. He was always close to his disciples. (Matthew 12:49, 50; John 13:34, 35) He never played on their anxieties to squeeze out extra efficiency. He built strong bonds of mutual confidence and trust between himself and his followers. Close bonds of tender affection marked his disciples. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8) When such closeness exists, a happy flock, motivated fully by love of God, will respond well to direction without coercion and will do their utmost in willing service to him.—Compare Exodus 35:21.
Many scriptures highlight Christian qualities like happiness and love for the brotherhood. (Matthew 5:3-12; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13) Comparatively few highlight the need for efficiency. To be sure, there is a need for good organization. God’s people have always been organized. But think how often the writers of the psalms, for example, describe God’s servants as being happy. Psalm 119, which has much to say about Jehovah’s laws, reminders, and regulations, begins: “Happy are the ones faultless in their way, the ones walking in the law of Jehovah. Happy are those observing his reminders; with all the heart they keep searching for him.” (Psalm 119:1, 2) Can you meet the challenge to be both organized and happy?
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Armillary sphere—an early device for representing the great circles of the heavens
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Jehovah, as a loving Shepherd, is a God not merely of order but also of happiness