Incite to Love And Fine Works—How?
“Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, . . . encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—HEBREWS 10:24, 25.
1, 2. (a) Why was it important that the early Christians find comfort and encouragement in their meeting together? (b) What counsel of Paul’s addressed the need to meet together?
THEY met in secret, huddled together behind locked doors. Outside, danger lurked everywhere. Their Leader, Jesus, had just been publicly executed, and he had warned his followers that they would be treated no better than he had been. (John 15:20; 20:19) But as they spoke in hushed tones of their beloved Jesus, being together must have at least made them feel safer.
2 As the years passed, Christians faced all manner of trials and persecution. Like those first disciples, they drew comfort and encouragement from meeting together. Thus, the apostle Paul wrote at Hebrews 10:24, 25: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”
3. Why would you say that Hebrews 10:24, 25 is more than just a command that Christians meet together?
3 Those words are far more than a command to continue meeting together. They give a divinely inspired standard for all Christian meetings—and really, for any occasion when Christians associate together. Today more than ever, when we clearly behold Jehovah’s day drawing near, the pressures and dangers of this wicked system make it imperative that our meetings be like a safe haven, a source of strength and encouragement for all. What can we do to ensure this? Well, let us examine Paul’s words carefully, asking three main questions: What does it mean to “consider one another”? What does it mean to ‘incite one another to love and fine works’? Finally, how can we ‘encourage one another’ in these hard times?
“Consider One Another”
4. What does it mean to “consider one another”?
4 When Paul urged Christians to “consider one another,” he used the Greek verb ka·ta·no·eʹo, an intensified form of the common term “to perceive.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that it means “to direct one’s whole mind to an object.” According to W. E. Vine, it can also mean “to understand fully, consider closely.” So when Christians “consider one another,” not only do they see the surface but they apply all their mental faculties and try to see deeper.—Compare Hebrews 3:1.
5. What are some aspects of a person that might lie beneath the surface, and why should we consider these?
5 We need to remember that there is much more to a person than a superficial look at his or her appearance, works, or personality may reveal. (1 Samuel 16:7) Often a quiet exterior masks deep feelings or a delightful sense of humor. Then, too, backgrounds vary greatly. Some have been through terrible ordeals in their lives; others are enduring situations right now that we would find hard to imagine. How often it happens that our irritation at some quirk in a brother or sister melts away when we learn more about the person’s background or circumstances.—Proverbs 19:11.
6. What are some ways in which we can get to know one another better, and what good might result?
6 Of course, this does not mean that uninvited we should pry into one another’s personal business. (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Still, we can certainly show a personal interest in one another. This involves more than a mere greeting at the Kingdom Hall. Why not single out someone you would like to know better and aim for a few minutes of conversation before or after the meeting? Better yet, “follow the course of hospitality” by inviting one or two friends to your home for some simple refreshments. (Romans 12:13) Show an interest. Listen. Just asking how an individual came to know and love Jehovah may reveal much. You may learn still more, though, by working together in the house-to-house ministry. Considering one another in such ways will help us to develop genuine fellow feeling, or empathy.—Philippians 2:4; 1 Peter 3:8.
‘Incite One Another’
7. (a) How did Jesus’ teaching affect people? (b) What made his teaching so dynamic?
7 When we consider one another, we are better prepared to incite, to urge one another on to action. Christian elders in particular play a key role in this regard. Of a time when Jesus spoke publicly, we read: “The effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching.” (Matthew 7:28) On another occasion even some soldiers who were sent to arrest him came away saying: “Never has another man spoken like this.” (John 7:46) What made Jesus’ teaching so dynamic? Displays of emotionalism? No; Jesus spoke with dignity. Yet, he always aimed to reach the hearts of his listeners. Because he considered people, he knew just how to motivate them. He used vivid, simple illustrations that reflected the realities of everyday life. (Matthew 13:34) Similarly, those fulfilling assignments at our meetings should imitate Jesus by giving warm, enthusiastic presentations that motivate. Like Jesus, we can apply ourselves to finding illustrations that fit our audience and reach their hearts.
8. How did Jesus incite by example, and how might we imitate him in this regard?
8 In serving our God, all of us may incite one another by example. Jesus certainly incited his listeners. He loved the work of the Christian ministry and exalted the ministry. He said it was like food for him. (John 4:34; Romans 11:13) Such enthusiasm can be infectious. Can you likewise let your joy in the ministry show? While carefully avoiding a boastful tone, share your good experiences with others in the congregation. When you invite others to work with you, see if you can help them find genuine pleasure in talking to others about our Grand Creator, Jehovah.—Proverbs 25:25.
9. (a) What are some methods of inciting others that we would want to avoid, and why? (b) What should motivate us to give of ourselves in Jehovah’s service?
9 Be careful, though, not to incite others in the wrong way. For instance, we might inadvertently make them feel guilty about not doing more. We might unintentionally shame them by comparing them unfavorably with others who are more visibly active, or we might even set up rigid standards and denigrate those who do not measure up. Any of these methods might move some to action for a while, but Paul did not write, ‘Incite to guilt and fine works.’ No, we must incite to love, then the works will follow out of a good motive. No one should be motivated mainly by the consideration of what others in the congregation will think about him if he does not quite meet expectations.—Compare 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7.
10. Why should we remember that we are not masters over the faith of others?
10 To incite one another does not mean to control one another. For all his God-given authority, the apostle Paul humbly reminded the Corinthian congregation: ‘We are not the masters over your faith.’ (2 Corinthians 1:24) If like him we humbly realize that it is not our job to determine how much others should do in service to Jehovah, or to regulate their consciences for them in other personal decisions, we will avoid becoming “righteous overmuch,” joyless, rigid, negative, or rule oriented. (Ecclesiastes 7:16) Such qualities do not incite; they oppress.
11. What prompted the giving of contributions in the days of Israel’s tabernacle construction, and how might that be true in our day?
11 We want all efforts in Jehovah’s service to be made in the same spirit as in ancient Israel when donations were needed for the construction of the tabernacle. Exodus 35:21 reads: “Then they came, everyone whose heart impelled him, and they brought, everyone whose spirit incited him, Jehovah’s contribution for the work.” They were not compelled from without but impelled from within, from the heart. In fact, the Hebrew literally reads here that “every one whose heart lifted him up” made such gifts. (Italics ours.) Going further, let us endeavor to lift up one another’s hearts whenever we are together. Jehovah’s spirit can do the rest.
‘Encourage One Another’
12. (a) What are some meanings of the Greek word translated “encourage”? (b) How did Job’s companions fail to encourage him? (c) Why should we refrain from judging one another?
12 When Paul wrote that we should ‘encourage one another,’ he used a form of the Greek word pa·ra·ka·leʹo, which can also mean ‘to strengthen, to comfort.’ In the Greek Septuagint version, this same word was used at Job 29:25, where Job was described as one who comforts the mourners. Ironically, when Job himself was under severe trial, he received no such encouragement. His three “comforters” were so busy judging him and giving him speeches that they failed to understand him or feel for him. In fact, in all the talking they did, not once did they even address Job by name. (Contrast Job 33:1, 31.) Evidently they viewed him more as a problem than as a person. No wonder Job exclaimed to them in frustration: “If only your souls existed where my soul is”! (Job 16:4) Likewise today, if you want to encourage someone, empathize! Do not judge. As Romans 14:4 says, “who are you to judge the house servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for Jehovah can make him stand.”
13, 14. (a) Of what fundamental truth do we need to convince our brothers and sisters in order to comfort them? (b) How was Daniel strengthened by an angel?
13 A form of pa·ra·ka·leʹo and its related noun are translated “comfort” at 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17: “Moreover, may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave everlasting comfort and good hope by means of undeserved kindness, comfort your hearts and make you firm in every good deed and word.” Notice that Paul connects the thought of having our hearts comforted with the fundamental truth that Jehovah loves us. So we may encourage and comfort one another by confirming that important truth.
14 On one occasion the prophet Daniel was so disturbed after seeing a frightening vision that he said: “My own dignity became changed upon me to ruination, and I retained no power.” Jehovah sent an angel who several times reminded Daniel that he was “very desirable” in God’s eyes. The result? Daniel told the angel: “You have strengthened me.”—Daniel 10:8, 11, 19.
15. How should elders and traveling overseers balance commendation with correction?
15 Here, then, is another way to encourage others. Commend them! It is all too easy to lapse into a critical, harsh spirit. Granted, there are times when correction may be necessary, especially by elders and traveling overseers. But they do well if they are remembered for their warmhearted encouragement rather than for having a judgmental attitude.
16. (a) When encouraging the depressed, why is it often not enough simply to urge them to do more in Jehovah’s service? (b) How did Jehovah help Elijah when he was depressed?
16 Particularly do those who are depressed need encouragement, and Jehovah expects us as fellow Christians to be a source of help—especially if we are elders. (Proverbs 21:13) What can we do? The answer may not be so simple as telling them to do more in Jehovah’s service. Why? Because that may imply that their depression is due to their not doing enough. That is not usually the case. The prophet Elijah was once so deeply depressed that he wanted to die; yet this came at a time when he was extremely busy in his service to Jehovah. How did Jehovah deal with him? He sent an angel to provide practical help. Elijah bared his heart to Jehovah, revealing that he felt that he was as worthless as his dead forefathers, that his work had been all in vain, and that he was totally alone. Jehovah listened and comforted him with awesome demonstrations of His power and with assurances that he was far from being alone and that the work he had begun would be completed. Jehovah also promised to give Elijah a companion to train who would eventually succeed him.—1 Kings 19:1-21.
17. How might an elder encourage one who is excessively hard on himself?
17 How encouraging! May we likewise encourage those among us who are emotionally troubled. Seek to understand them by listening! (James 1:19) Provide Scriptural comfort tailored to their individual needs. (Proverbs 25:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) To encourage those who are excessively hard on themselves, elders may kindly offer Scriptural evidence that Jehovah loves and values them.a Discussing the ransom can be a powerful means of encouraging those who feel worthless. One who is grieved over some past sin may need to be shown that the ransom has cleansed him if he has truly repented and turned around from any such practice.—Isaiah 1:18.
18. How should the teaching of the ransom be used to encourage one who has been victimized by another, such as by rape?
18 Of course, an elder would give thought to the particular case so as to use that teaching properly. Consider an example: Christ’s ransom sacrifice was foreshadowed by the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Law, which were required for the atonement of all sins. (Leviticus 4:27, 28) There was no stipulation, though, that a rape victim had to make such a sin offering. The law said that they “must do nothing” to punish her. (Deuteronomy 22:25-27) So today, if a sister has been attacked and raped and this has caused her to feel dirty and worthless, would it be appropriate to stress her need of the ransom to cleanse her of that sin? Certainly not. She did not sin in being assaulted. It is the rapist who sinned and needs to be cleansed. However, the love shown by Jehovah and Christ in providing the ransom may be used as evidence that she has not been defiled in God’s eyes by someone else’s sin but that she is precious to Jehovah and remains in his love.—Compare Mark 7:18-23; 1 John 4:16.
19. Why should we not expect that all association with our brothers and sisters will be encouraging, but what should be our resolve?
19 Yes, whatever an individual’s situation in life may be, no matter what painful circumstances may darken his past, he should be able to find encouragement in the congregation of Jehovah’s people. And so he will if individually we strive to consider one another, to incite one another, and to encourage one another whenever we associate together. Being imperfect, though, all of us fail to do so at times. Inevitably, we let one another down and even pain one another now and then. Try not to focus on others’ failures in this regard. If you focus on shortcomings, you risk becoming overly critical of the congregation and may even fall into the very trap Paul was so eager to help us avoid, namely, forsaking the gathering of ourselves together. Never may that happen! As this old system becomes ever more dangerous and oppressive, let us be firmly resolved to do what we can to make our association at the meetings upbuilding—and all the more so as we behold Jehovah’s day drawing near!
a An elder may choose to study encouraging Watchtower and Awake! articles with such an individual—for example, “Will You Benefit From Undeserved Kindness?” and “Winning the Battle Against Depression.”—The Watchtower, February 15 and March 1, 1990.
How Would You Answer?
◻ Why is it vital that our meetings and association be encouraging in these last days?
◻ What does it mean to consider one another?
◻ What does it mean to incite one another?
◻ What is involved in encouraging one another?
◻ How might the depressed and downhearted be encouraged?
[Picture on page 16]
Hospitality helps us to get to know one another better
[Picture on page 18]
When Elijah was depressed, Jehovah kindly comforted him