Serving Loyally With Jehovah’s Organization
“With someone loyal you will act in loyalty.”—2 SAMUEL 22:26.
1, 2. What are some examples of loyalty that all of us may see in the congregation?
LATE one evening an elder prepares a talk for a Christian meeting. He would like to stop and relax; instead, he keeps working, seeking Scriptural examples and illustrations that will reach hearts and encourage the flock. On the night of the meeting, a pair of exhausted parents in that same congregation would relish an evening at home; instead, they patiently get their children ready and go to the meeting. After the meeting, a group of Christians discuss the elder’s part. One sister is tempted to mention that the same brother once hurt her feelings; instead, she speaks enthusiastically about one of the points that he made. Do you see the common thread running through these scenarios?
2 That thread is loyalty. The elder loyally works to serve the flock of God; the parents loyally attend congregation meetings; the sister loyally supports the elders. (Hebrews 10:24, 25; 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2) Yes, in all aspects of life, we see God’s people determined to serve loyally with Jehovah’s organization.
3. Why is it so important that we remain loyal to Jehovah’s earthly organization?
3 When Jehovah looks down upon this corrupt world, he sees very little loyalty. (Micah 7:2) How his heart must respond with joy when he observes the loyalty of his people! Yes, your own loyalty delights him. However, it enrages Satan, the original rebel, and proves him a liar. (Proverbs 27:11; John 8:44) Expect that Satan will try to undermine your loyalty to Jehovah and to His earthly organization. Let us consider some ways in which Satan does this. Thus we may see better how we can stay loyal to the end.—2 Corinthians 2:11.
Focusing on Imperfections Can Erode Loyalty
4. (a) Why is it easy to take a negative view of those in authority? (b) How did Korah prove disloyal to Jehovah’s organization?
4 When a brother is in a position of responsibility, his faults may become more apparent. How easy it is to pick at ‘a straw in our brother’s eye while ignoring a rafter in our own’! (Matthew 7:1-5) Dwelling on faults, though, can breed disloyalty. To illustrate, consider the contrast between Korah and David. Korah bore much responsibility, and he had probably been loyal for many years, but he became ambitious. He came to resent the authority of Moses and Aaron, his first cousins. Though Moses was the meekest of men, Korah evidently began to look at him with critical eyes. He likely saw faults in Moses. Those faults, however, did not justify Korah’s disloyalty to Jehovah’s organization. He was destroyed from the midst of the congregation.—Numbers 12:3; 16:11, 31-33.
5. Why might David have felt tempted to rebel against Saul?
5 David, on the other hand, served under King Saul. Once a good king, Saul had actually become wicked. David needed faith, endurance, and even some ingenuity to survive jealous Saul’s attacks. Yet, when David had a chance to retaliate, he said that it was ‘unthinkable, from Jehovah’s standpoint,’ that he commit a disloyal act against one whom Jehovah had anointed.—1 Samuel 26:11.
6. Even if we perceive weaknesses and faults in the elders, what should we never do?
6 When some who are taking the lead among us seem to err in judgment, speak with harsh words, or seem to show favoritism, will we complain about them, perhaps contributing to a critical spirit in the congregation? Will we stay away from Christian meetings as a form of protest? Surely not! Like David, we will never allow the faults of another to move us to be disloyal to Jehovah and his organization!—Psalm 119:165.
7. What are some corrupt practices that developed in connection with the temple in Jerusalem, and how did Jesus feel about this?
7 The greatest human example of loyalty was Jesus Christ, described prophetically as Jehovah’s “loyal one.” (Psalm 16:10) The corrupt misuse of the temple in Jerusalem must have made loyalty a challenge. Jesus knew that the high priest’s work and the sacrifices prefigured his own ministry and sacrificial death, and he knew how vital it was for people to learn from these. So he was full of righteous indignation when he saw that the temple had become “a cave of robbers.” With God-given authority, he twice took steps to cleanse it.*—Matthew 21:12, 13; John 2:15-17.
8. (a) How did Jesus show loyalty to the temple arrangement? (b) How can we show that we appreciate worshiping Jehovah with his clean organization?
8 Still, Jesus loyally supported the temple arrangement. From childhood, he attended the festivals at the temple and often taught there. He even paid the temple tax—although he was not really obligated to do so. (Matthew 17:24-27) Jesus commended the poor widow for putting “her whole living” into the temple treasury chest. Shortly thereafter, Jehovah permanently cast off that temple. But until then, Jesus was loyal to it. (Mark 12:41-44; Matthew 23:38) God’s earthly organization today is far superior to the Jewish system with its temple. Granted, it is not perfect; that is why adjustments are made at times. But neither is it riddled with corruption, nor is Jehovah God about to replace it. Never should we allow any imperfections we perceive within it to embitter us or move us to adopt a critical, negative spirit. Let us, rather, imitate the loyalty of Jesus Christ.—1 Peter 2:21.
Our Own Imperfections
9, 10. (a) How does Satan’s system of things exploit our imperfections so as to lure us into disloyal conduct? (b) What should one do who has committed a serious sin?
9 Satan also tries to promote disloyalty by exploiting our imperfections. His system of things plays on our weaknesses, tempting us to do what is wrong in Jehovah’s eyes. Sadly, every year thousands succumb to immorality. Some compound this disloyalty by leading a double life, continuing in a course of wrongdoing while pretending to remain faithful Christians. In response to articles on this subject in the “Young People Ask . . .” series in Awake! magazine, one young woman wrote: “The articles were my life story.” In secret, she had cultivated friendships with youths who had no love of Jehovah. The result? She writes: “My life went down to the bottom, and I got involved with immorality and had to be reproved. My relationship with Jehovah was damaged, and the trust from my parents and the elders was gone.”*
10 This young woman got help from the elders and returned to loyal service to Jehovah. Tragically, though, many suffer worse consequences, and some never do return to the fold. How much better to be loyal and resist temptation in this wicked world! Heed the warnings from the Watchtower and Awake! magazines on such matters as worldly association and debasing entertainment. May you at no time fall into disloyal conduct. But if you do, never pretend to be what you are not. (Psalm 26:4) Instead, get help. That is what Christian parents and elders are there for.—James 5:14.
11. Why would it be wrong to view ourselves as hopelessly bad, and what Bible precedent could help us to correct our view?
11 Our imperfections may endanger us in another way. Some who commit an act of disloyalty give up on trying to please Jehovah. Remember, David committed very serious sins. Yet, long after David’s death, Jehovah remembered him as a faithful servant. (Hebrews 11:32; 12:1) Why? Because he never gave up trying to please Jehovah. Proverbs 24:16 says: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up.” Surely, if we lapse into minor sins—yes repeatedly—because of some weakness we are fighting, we may still be righteous in Jehovah’s eyes if we continue to “get up”—that is, sincerely repent and resume a course of loyal service.—Compare 2 Corinthians 2:7.
Beware of Subtle Forms of Disloyalty!
12. In the case of the Pharisees, how did a rigid, legalistic viewpoint lead to disloyalty?
12 Disloyalty also comes in subtler forms. It may even masquerade as loyalty! For example, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day probably thought of themselves as eminently loyal.* But they failed to see the difference between being loyal and being an unbending adherent to man-made rules, for they were rigid and harshly judgmental. (Compare Ecclesiastes 7:16.) In this they were actually disloyal—to the people they should have been serving, to the spirit of the Law they claimed to teach, and to Jehovah himself. Jesus, on the contrary, was loyal to the spirit of the Law, which was based on love. Thus he built up and encouraged people, just as the Messianic prophecies had foretold.—Isaiah 42:3; 50:4; 61:1, 2.
13. (a) How might Christian parents be disloyal? (b) Why should parents avoid being overly harsh, critical, or negative in disciplining their children?
13 Christians with a measure of authority benefit greatly from Jesus’ model in this regard. For example, loyal parents know that they must discipline their children. (Proverbs 13:24) Yet they make sure that they do not exasperate their young ones with harsh discipline administered in anger or with a constant barrage of criticism. Children who feel that they can never please their parents or who feel that their parents’ worship only seems to make them negative and critical may well become downhearted and, as a result, end up alienated from the true faith.—Colossians 3:21.
14. How may Christian shepherds prove loyal to the flock they serve?
14 Similarly, Christian elders and traveling overseers give attention to problems and dangers that the flock face. As loyal shepherds, they offer counsel when needed, making sure that they have all the facts first and carefully basing what they say on the Bible and on the Society’s publications. (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 18:13) They know, too, that the sheep are counting on them for spiritual upbuilding and feeding. So they seek to imitate Jesus Christ, the Fine Shepherd. They loyally minister to the sheep week after week in Christian meetings—not tearing them down but, rather, building them up and strengthening their faith.—Matthew 20:28; Ephesians 4:11, 12; Hebrews 13:20, 21.
15. How did some in the first century show that they had misplaced loyalties?
15 Another subtle form of disloyalty is misplaced loyalty. True loyalty in the Biblical sense does not allow for our putting any allegiance ahead of our loyalty to Jehovah God. Many Jews in the first century stuck doggedly to the Mosaic Law and the Jewish system of things. Yet Jehovah’s time had come to shift his blessing from that rebellious nation to the nation of spiritual Israel. Only a relatively few were loyal to Jehovah and adapted to this momentous change. Even among true Christians, some Judaizers insisted on going back to those “weak and beggarly elementary things” of the Mosaic Law, which had been fulfilled in Christ.—Galatians 4:9; 5:6-12; Philippians 3:2, 3.
16. How do loyal servants of Jehovah respond to adjustments?
16 In contrast, Jehovah’s people in modern times have proved themselves loyal through times of change. As the light of revealed truth continues to brighten, adjustments are made. (Proverbs 4:18) Recently, “the faithful and discreet slave” has helped us to refine our understanding of the term “generation” used at Matthew 24:34 and of the timing of the judgment of “the sheep” and “the goats” mentioned at Matthew 25:31-46, as well as of our view toward certain types of civilian service. (Matthew 24:45) No doubt some apostates would have been delighted if many of Jehovah’s Witnesses had stuck rigidly to the previous understanding of such subjects and refused to progress. Nothing of the kind has happened. Why? Jehovah’s people are loyal.
17. How might loved ones put our loyalty to the test at times?
17 The matter of misplaced loyalties may hit closer to home, though. When a dear friend or even a family member chooses a course that violates Bible principles, we may feel that we are torn between loyalties. Naturally, we feel loyal to family members. But never should we put our allegiance to them ahead of our loyalty to Jehovah! (Compare 1 Samuel 23:16-18.) We would neither help wrongdoers to conceal a serious sin nor side with them against elders who are trying to ‘readjust them in a spirit of mildness.’ (Galatians 6:1) Doing so would be disloyalty to Jehovah, his organization, and a loved one. After all, to stand between a sinner and the discipline he needs is, in effect, to block an expression of Jehovah’s love from reaching him. (Hebrews 12:5-7) Remember, too, that “the wounds inflicted by a lover are faithful.” (Proverbs 27:6) Frank, loving counsel that is based on God’s Word might wound the pride of an erring loved one, but it might prove lifesaving in the long run!
Loyalty Stands Up to Persecution
18, 19. (a) What did Ahab want of Naboth, and why did Naboth refuse? (b) Was Naboth’s loyalty worth the price? Explain.
18 Sometimes Satan’s attacks on our loyalty are direct. Consider the case of Naboth. When King Ahab pressured him to sell his vineyard, he replied: “It is unthinkable on my part, from Jehovah’s standpoint, for me to give the hereditary possession of my forefathers to you.” (1 Kings 21:3) Naboth was not being stubborn; he was being loyal. The Mosaic Law ordered that no Israelite sell a hereditary possession of land in perpetuity. (Leviticus 25:23-28) Naboth surely knew that this vicious king could have him killed, for Ahab had already let his wife, Jezebel, kill off many of Jehovah’s prophets! Yet Naboth stood firm.—1 Kings 18:4.
19 Loyalty sometimes exacts a price. Jezebel, with the help of some “good-for-nothing men,” had Naboth framed for a crime he did not commit. As a result, he and his sons were executed. (1 Kings 21:7-16; 2 Kings 9:26) Does that mean that Naboth’s loyalty was mistaken? No! Naboth is among the many loyal men and women who are ‘alive’ in Jehovah’s memory right now, sleeping safely in the grave until the time of the resurrection.—Luke 20:38; Acts 24:15.
20. How can hope help us to maintain our loyalty?
20 The same promise gives assurance to Jehovah’s loyal ones today. We know that our loyalty may cost us dearly in this world. Jesus Christ paid for his loyalty with his life, and he told his followers that they would be treated no better. (John 15:20) As his hope for the future sustained him, so we are sustained by ours. (Hebrews 12:2) Thus we can stay loyal in the face of all manner of persecution.
21. What assurances does Jehovah offer to his loyal ones?
21 True, relatively few of us today suffer such direct attacks on our loyalty. But God’s people may well face more persecution before the end comes. How can we be sure to maintain our loyalty? By keeping our loyalty now. Jehovah has given us a great commission —preaching and teaching about his Kingdom. Let us loyally keep at this vital work. (1 Corinthians 15:58) If we refuse to let human imperfections erode our loyalty to Jehovah’s organization and if we guard against such subtle forms of disloyalty as misplaced loyalties, then we will be better prepared should our loyalty be tested more severely. In any case, we may always rest assured that Jehovah is unfailingly loyal to his loyal servants. (2 Samuel 22:26) Yes, he will guard his loyal ones!—Psalm 97:10.
Jesus was courageous to attack such a profitable commercial concern. According to one historian, the temple tax had to be paid in a specific ancient Jewish coin. Many visitors to the temple would thus have needed to change their money in order to pay the tax. The money changers were allowed to charge a set fee for the exchange, and this generated large sums of money.
See the Awake! of December 22, 1993; January 8, 1994; and January 22, 1994.
Their fraternity descended from that of the Hasidim, a group that arose centuries earlier to combat Greek influence. The Hasidim took their name from the Hebrew word chasi·dhimʹ, meaning “loyal ones” or “pious ones.” Perhaps they felt that scriptures mentioning Jehovah’s “loyal ones” applied to them in some special way. (Psalm 50:5) They, and the Pharisees after them, were fanatic, self-appointed defenders of the letter of the Law.
How Would You Answer?
□ How can we avoid letting the imperfections of others lead us to disloyalty?
□ In what ways might our own imperfections lead us into disloyal conduct?
□ How can we resist the tendency to misplace our loyalties?
□ What will help us to keep our loyalty even in times of persecution?
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Serving Loyally at Bethel
“Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.” So wrote the apostle Paul. (1 Corinthians 14:40) Paul knew that for a congregation to function, there would be a need for “arrangement,” for organization. Likewise today, the elders have to make decisions on practical matters, such as assigning congregation members to various book study locations, arranging meetings for field service, and checking territory coverage. Such arrangements may sometimes pose tests of loyalty. They are not divinely inspired commands, and they cannot meet the preferences of every individual.
Do you find it a challenge, at times, to be loyal to some of the practical arrangements made in the Christian congregation? If so, you may find the example of Bethel to be helpful. The name Bethel, a Hebrew term meaning “House of God,” is given to all the 104 branches of the Watch Tower Society, including the U.S. headquarters.* The volunteers who live and work at Bethel complexes want these places to reflect reverence and awe for Jehovah. This requires loyalty on the part of each one.
Visitors to Bethel often remark about the orderliness and cleanliness they see there. The workers are organized and happy; their speech and manners and even their appearance reflect mature, Bible-trained Christian consciences. All members of a Bethel family loyally adhere to the standards of God’s Word.
In addition, the Governing Body provides them with a manual entitled Dwelling Together in Unity, which kindly sets forth some practical arrangements needed for such a large family to work well together. (Psalm 133:1) For instance, it touches on rooming, meals, hygiene, dress and grooming, and similar matters. Bethel family members loyally support and adhere to such arrangements, even when their personal preferences might lead them in another direction. They view this manual, not as a mass of cold rules and regulations, but as a set of useful guidelines designed to promote unity and harmony. Overseers are loyal in upholding these Bible-based procedures, and they use them in a positive way to build up and encourage the Bethel family to pursue their sacred Bethel service.
* These factory, office, and residential complexes do not constitute God’s great spiritual temple, or house. God’s spiritual temple is his arrangement for pure worship. (Micah 4:1) As such, it is not limited to any physical structure on the earth.
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The Loyalist and the Legalist
Back in 1916 the Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics noted that “this distinction between the loyalist and the legalist may be found in all times and all places.” It explained: “There is the legalist who does what he is told, breaks no rules; he keeps faith to the word that is written and can be read. There is the loyalist who does this but can . . . be counted on for more, who puts his whole mind into his duty, who forms his spirit in accordance with the spirit of the purpose to be served.” Later, this same work observed: “To be loyal is to be much more than law-abiding. . . . The loyal man is distinguished from the law-abiding man as one who serves with whole heart and mind . . . No voluntary sins of commission, omission, or ignorance does he permit himself.”