Jehovah Cherishes Your Whole-Souled Service
“Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.”—COLOSSIANS 3:23.
1, 2. (a) What is the greatest privilege we could possibly have? (b) Why may we at times be unable to do all that we would like to do in serving God?
SERVING Jehovah is the greatest privilege that we could possibly have. With good reason, this journal has long encouraged Christians to involve themselves in the ministry, even serving “more fully” whenever possible. (1 Thessalonians 4:1) We are, however, not always able to do all that our heart yearns to do in serving God. “My circumstances are such that I need to be working full-time,” explains a single sister who was baptized nearly 40 years ago. “My reason for working is, not to acquire a fabulous wardrobe or to take vacation cruises, but to cover necessities, including medical and dental expenses. I feel as if I’m giving Jehovah what is left over.”
2 Love for God moves us to want to do as much as we can in the preaching work. But circumstances in life often limit what we can do. Caring for other Scriptural responsibilities, including family obligations, may consume much of our time and energy. (1 Timothy 5:4, 8) In these “critical times hard to deal with,” life is ever more challenging. (2 Timothy 3:1) When we are unable to do all that we would like to do in the ministry, our heart may afflict us to a degree. We may wonder whether God is pleased with our worship.
The Beauty of Whole-Souled Service
3. What does Jehovah expect from all of us?
3 At Psalm 103:14, the Bible warmly assures us that Jehovah “well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” More than anyone else, he understands our limitations. He does not require more than we can give. What does he expect? Something that everyone, regardless of his situation in life, can offer: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23) Yes, Jehovah expects us—all of us—to serve him whole-souled.
4. What does it mean to serve Jehovah whole-souled?
4 What does it mean to serve Jehovah whole-souled? The Greek term rendered “whole-souled” literally means “from the soul.” The “soul” refers to the entire person, with all his physical and mental abilities. Serving whole-souled thus means giving of ourselves, using all our faculties and directing our energies to the fullest extent possible in God’s service. Put simply, it means doing all that our soul can do.—Mark 12:29, 30.
5. How does the example of the apostles show that not all must do the same in the ministry?
5 Does being whole-souled mean that we must all do the same amount in the ministry? That could hardly be possible, for circumstances and abilities differ from soul to soul. Consider the faithful apostles of Jesus. They were not all capable of doing the same amount. For instance, we know very little about some of the apostles, such as Simon the Cananaean and James the son of Alphaeus. Perhaps their activities as apostles were rather limited. (Matthew 10:2-4) In contrast, Peter was able to accept many weighty responsibilities—why, Jesus even gave him “the keys of the kingdom”! (Matthew 16:19) Yet, Peter was not elevated above the others. When John received the vision of New Jerusalem in the Revelation (about 96 C.E.), he saw 12 foundation stones and on them inscribed “the twelve names of the twelve apostles.”a (Revelation 21:14) Jehovah valued the service of all the apostles, even though some evidently were able to do more than others.
6. In Jesus’ illustration of the sower, what happens to the seed sown upon “the fine soil,” and what questions arise?
6 Similarly, Jehovah does not demand the same amount of preaching from all of us. Jesus indicated this in the illustration of the sower, which likened the preaching work to sowing seeds. The seed fell on different types of soil, illustrating the different types of heart conditions manifested by those who hear the message. “As for the one sown upon the fine soil,” explained Jesus, “this is the one hearing the word and getting the sense of it, who really does bear fruit and produces, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty.” (Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23) What is this fruitage, and why is it produced in varying amounts?
7. What is the fruitage of the seed sown, and why is it produced in varying amounts?
7 Since the seed that is sown is “the word of the kingdom,” the bearing of fruitage refers to spreading that word, speaking it out to others. (Matthew 13:19) The amount of fruitage produced varies—from thirtyfold to a hundredfold—because abilities and circumstances in life differ. A person with good health and physical stamina may be able to spend more time in preaching than can one whose strength is sapped by a chronic health condition or by advancing age. A young single person who is free from family responsibilities may be able to do more than can one who has to work full-time to provide for a family.—Compare Proverbs 20:29.
8. How does Jehovah view those who give the best that their soul can give?
8 In God’s view, is the whole-souled person producing thirtyfold less devoted than the one producing a hundredfold? By no means! The amount of fruitage may vary, but Jehovah is pleased as long as the service rendered is the best that our soul can give. Remember, the different amounts of fruitage all stem from hearts that are “fine soil.” The Greek term (ka·losʹ) rendered “fine” describes something that is “beautiful” and that “delights the heart, and gives pleasure to the eyes.” How comforting it is to know that when we do our best, our heart is beautiful in God’s eyes!
Not Compared With One Another
9, 10. (a) Our heart may lead us into what form of negative reasoning? (b) How does the illustration at 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 show that Jehovah does not compare us to others in what we do?
9 Our imperfect heart may judge things differently, however. It may compare our service with that of others. It may reason, ‘Others are doing so much more in the ministry than I am. How could Jehovah ever be pleased with my service?’—Compare 1 John 3:19, 20.
10 Jehovah’s thoughts and ways are much higher than our own. (Isaiah 55:9) We get some insight into the way Jehovah views our individual efforts from 1 Corinthians 12:14-26, where the congregation is likened to a body with many members—eyes, hands, feet, ears, and so forth. Consider, for a moment, the literal body. How ridiculous it would be to compare your eyes with your hands or your feet with your ears! Each member serves a different function, yet all the members are useful and are valued. Similarly, Jehovah cherishes your whole-souled service whether others are doing more or they are doing less.—Galatians 6:4.
11, 12. (a) Why may some feel that they are “weaker” or “less honorable”? (b) How does Jehovah view our service?
11 Because of limitations imposed by poor health, advancing age, or other circumstances, at times some of us may feel that we are “weaker” or “less honorable” ones. But that is not how Jehovah views matters. The Bible tells us: “The members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary, and the parts . . . we think to be less honorable, these we surround with more abundant honor . . . Nevertheless, God compounded the body, giving honor more abundant to the part which had a lack.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-24) So every individual can be dear to Jehovah. He treasures our service within the framework of our limitations. Does not your heart move you to want to do all you can in serving such an understanding and loving God?
12 What matters to Jehovah, then, is not that you do as much as someone else does but that you do what you—your soul—personally can do. That Jehovah values our individual efforts was demonstrated in a very touching way by Jesus’ dealings with two very different women during the final days of his life on earth.
An Appreciative Woman’s “Very Expensive” Gift
13. (a) What were the circumstances surrounding Mary’s putting perfumed oil on Jesus’ head and feet? (b) What was the material value of Mary’s oil?
13 On Friday evening, Nisan 8, Jesus arrived at Bethany, a small village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, about two miles [3 km] from Jerusalem. Jesus had dear friends in this town—Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. Jesus had been a guest in their home, perhaps frequently. But on Saturday evening, Jesus and his friends dined at the home of Simon, a former leper who possibly had been healed by Jesus. As Jesus was reclining at the table, Mary performed a humble gesture that demonstrated her deep love for the man who had resurrected her brother. She broke open a flask containing perfumed oil, “very expensive.” Expensive, indeed! It was worth 300 denarii, the equivalent of about a year’s wages. She poured this fragrant oil on Jesus’ head and on his feet. She even wiped his feet dry with her hair.—Mark 14:3; Luke 10:38-42; John 11:38-44; 12:1-3.
14. (a) How did the disciples react to Mary’s gesture? (b) How did Jesus come to Mary’s defense?
14 The disciples were indignant! ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. Judas, concealing his thieving motive behind a suggestion of charity for the needy, said: “Why was it this perfumed oil was not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor people?” Mary remained silent. Jesus, however, told the disciples: “Let her alone. Why do you try to make trouble for her? She did a fine [a form of ka·losʹ] deed toward me. . . . She did what she could; she undertook beforehand to put perfumed oil on my body in view of the burial. Truly I say to you, Wherever the good news is preached in all the world, what this woman did shall also be told as a remembrance of her.” How the warmth of Jesus’ words must have calmed Mary’s heart!—Mark 14:4-9; John 12:4-8.
15. Why was Jesus so moved by what Mary had done, and what do we thereby learn about whole-souled service?
15 Jesus was deeply moved by what Mary had done. In his estimation, she had performed a praiseworthy deed. It was not the material value of the gift that mattered to Jesus but the fact that “she did what she could.” She embraced the opportunity and gave what she was able to give. Other translations have rendered these words, “She has done all she could,” or, “She has done what was in her power to do.” (An American Translation; The Jerusalem Bible) Mary’s giving was whole-souled because she gave her best. That is what whole-souled service is all about.
A Widow’s “Two Small Coins”
16. (a) How did Jesus come to observe a poor widow’s contribution? (b) How much were the widow’s coins worth?
16 A couple of days later, on Nisan 11, Jesus spent a long day in the temple, where his authority was questioned and he fielded sticky questions about taxes, the resurrection, and other matters. He denounced the scribes and Pharisees for, among other things, “devouring the houses of the widows.” (Mark 12:40) Then Jesus took a seat, evidently in the Court of the Women, where, according to Jewish tradition, there were 13 treasury chests. He sat for a while, carefully watching as the people dropped in their contributions. Many rich people came, some perhaps with an appearance of self-righteousness, even with ostentation. (Compare Matthew 6:2.) Jesus’ gaze became fixed on one particular woman. Ordinary eyes may not have observed anything remarkable about her or her gift. But Jesus, who could know the hearts of others, knew that she was “a poor widow.” He also knew the exact amount of her gift—“two small coins, which have very little value.”b—Mark 12:41, 42.
17. How did Jesus esteem the widow’s contribution, and what do we thus learn about giving to God?
17 Jesus called his disciples to him, for he wanted them to see firsthand the lesson he was about to teach. She “dropped in more than all those dropping money into the treasury chests,” said Jesus. In his estimation she put in more than all the others combined. She gave “all of what she had”—her last bit of money. By doing so, she placed herself in Jehovah’s caring hands. The person who was thus singled out as an example of giving to God is one whose gift was almost worthless in material value. In God’s eyes, however, it was priceless!—Mark 12:43, 44; James 1:27.
Learning From Jehovah’s View of Whole-Souled Service
18. What do we learn from Jesus’ dealings with the two women?
18 From Jesus’ dealings with these two women, we learn some heartwarming lessons about how Jehovah views whole-souled service. (John 5:19) Jesus did not compare the widow with Mary. He valued the widow’s two coins no less than he did Mary’s “very expensive” oil. Since each woman gave her best, in God’s eyes their gifts were both of value. So if feelings of unworthiness well up within you because you are not able to do all that you want to do in serving God, do not despair. Jehovah is pleased to accept the best that you can give. Remember, Jehovah “sees what the heart is,” so he is fully aware of the yearnings of your heart.—1 Samuel 16:7.
19. Why should we not be judgmental of what others are doing in serving God?
19 Jehovah’s view of whole-souled service should influence the way we view and treat one another. How unloving it would be to criticize the efforts of others or to compare one person’s service with that of another! Sadly, one Christian wrote: “At times some give the impression that either you’re a pioneer or you’re nothing. Those of us who struggle to keep going ‘just’ as regular Kingdom publishers need to feel appreciated too.” Let us remember that we are not authorized to judge what constitutes whole-souled service for a fellow Christian. (Romans 14:10-12) Jehovah cherishes the whole-souled service of each one of the millions of faithful Kingdom publishers, and so should we.
20. It is usually best to assume what about our fellow worshipers?
20 What, though, if some appear to be doing less than they can in the ministry? A drop in a fellow believer’s activity may well indicate to concerned elders that there is a need for help or encouragement. At the same time, we must not forget that for some, whole-souled service may more closely resemble the widow’s small coins than Mary’s costly oil. It is usually best to assume that our brothers and sisters love Jehovah and that such love will move them to do as much—not as little—as they can. Surely no conscientious servant of Jehovah would choose to do less than he can in serving God!—1 Corinthians 13:4, 7.
21. What rewarding career are many pursuing, and what questions arise?
21 However, for many of God’s people, whole-souled service has meant pursuing an extremely rewarding career—the pioneer ministry. What blessings do they receive? And what about those of us who have not yet been able to pioneer—how can we show the pioneer spirit? These questions will be discussed in the next article.
a Since Matthias replaced Judas as an apostle, his name—not Paul’s—would have appeared among those on the 12 foundation stones. Though Paul was an apostle, he was not one of the 12.
b Each of these coins was a lepton, the smallest Jewish coin in circulation at that time. Two lepta were the equivalent of 1/64 of a day’s wage. According to Matthew 10:29, for an assarion coin (the equivalent of eight lepta), a person could purchase two sparrows, which were among the cheapest birds used for food by the poor. So this widow was indeed poor, for she had only half the amount needed to buy a single sparrow, hardly enough for a single meal.
How Would You Answer?
◻ What does it mean to serve Jehovah whole-souled?
◻ How does the illustration at 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 show that Jehovah does not compare us to others?
◻ What do we learn about whole-souled giving from Jesus’ comments about Mary’s costly oil and the widow’s two small coins?
◻ How should Jehovah’s view of whole-souled service influence the way we view one another?
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Mary gave her best, perfuming Jesus’ body with “very expensive” oil
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The widow’s coins—almost worthless in material value but priceless in Jehovah’s eyes