Appreciating the “Gifts in Men”
“Have regard for those who are working hard among you and . . . give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work.”—1 THESSALONIANS 5:12, 13.
1. According to Acts 20:35, what power does giving have? Illustrate.
“THERE is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Can you recall the last time you experienced the truthfulness of those words of Jesus? Perhaps it was a gift you gave to someone you dearly love. You had chosen it carefully, for you wanted it to be something your loved one would cherish. The look of delight on your loved one’s face—how it warmed your heart! When properly motivated, giving is an expression of love, and expressing love has the power to bring us happiness.
2, 3. (a) Why may it be said that no one is happier than Jehovah, and how can the provision of “gifts in men” cause his heart to rejoice? (b) What would we not want to do with a gift from God?
2 Who, then, could be happier than Jehovah, the Giver of “every good gift”? (James 1:17; 1 Timothy 1:11) Every gift he gives is motivated by love. (1 John 4:8) That certainly is true of the gift that God through Christ has given to the congregation—the “gifts in men.” (Ephesians 4:8) The provision of elders to look after the flock is an expression of God’s deep love for his people. These men are chosen carefully—they must meet Scriptural qualifications. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) They know that they must “treat the flock with tenderness,” for then the sheep will have reason to feel grateful for such loving shepherds. (Acts 20:29; Psalm 100:3) When Jehovah sees that his sheep have hearts filled with such gratitude, surely his own heart must rejoice!—Proverbs 27:11.
3 We certainly would not want to diminish the value of a gift from God; neither would we want to be unappreciative of his gifts. Two questions thus arise: How should elders view their role in the congregation? And how can the rest of the flock show that they appreciate the “gifts in men”?
‘We Are Your Fellow Workers’
4, 5. (a) To what does Paul liken the congregation, and why is this a fitting illustration? (b) What does Paul’s illustration show as to the way we should view and treat one another?
4 Jehovah has entrusted the “gifts in men” with a measure of authority in the congregation. Of course, elders do not want to misuse their authority, but they know that it is all too easy as imperfect humans to do so. How, then, should they view themselves in relation to the rest of the flock? Consider the illustration used by the apostle Paul. After discussing why the “gifts in men” are provided, Paul wrote: “Let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint that gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15, 16) So Paul likens the congregation, including elders and other members, to a human body. Why is this a fitting illustration?
5 A human body is made up of many different members but has just one head. However, nothing in the body—not a muscle, not a nerve, not a vein—is useless. Each member is valuable and contributes something to the health and beauty of the whole. Similarly, the congregation is made up of many different members, but each member—whether young or old, strong or frail—can contribute something to the overall spiritual health and beauty of the congregation. (1 Corinthians 12:14-26) No one need feel that he is too insignificant to matter. At the other extreme, none should feel superior, for we all—shepherds and sheep alike—are part of the body, and there is but one head, Christ. Paul thus paints a warm picture of the love, care, and respect that we should have for one another. Recognizing this helps elders to have a humble, balanced view of their role in the congregation.
6. Although having apostolic authority, how did Paul display a humble spirit?
6 These “gifts in men” do not seek to control the lives or faith of their fellow worshipers. Paul, although having apostolic authority, humbly told the Corinthians: “Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy, for it is by your faith that you are standing.” (2 Corinthians 1:24) Paul did not wish to control the faith and way of life of his brothers. Really, he saw no need to do so, for he expressed confidence that they were already faithful men and women who were in Jehovah’s organization because they wanted to do what was right. Hence, speaking of himself and his traveling companion Timothy, Paul was, in effect, saying: ‘It is our job to work with you to serve God with joy.’ (2 Corinthians 1:1) What a humble spirit!
7. What do humble elders realize about their role in the congregation, and what confidence do they have in their fellow workers?
7 “Gifts in men” today have the same job. They are ‘fellow workers for our joy.’ Humble elders realize that it is not for them to decide how much others are able to do in service to God. They know that while they may encourage others to expand or improve their ministry, service to God should stem from a willing heart. (Compare 2 Corinthians 9:7.) They are confident that if their fellow workers are joyful, they will do all they can. It is thus their heartfelt desire to help their brothers to “serve Jehovah with rejoicing.”—Psalm 100:2.
Helping All to Serve With Joy
8. What are some ways in which elders can help their brothers to serve Jehovah with joy?
8 Elders, how can you help your brothers to serve with joy? You can encourage by example. (1 Peter 5:3) Let your zeal and joy in the ministry show, and others may be heartened to imitate your example. Commend others for their whole-souled efforts. (Ephesians 4:29) Warm and genuine commendation helps others to feel useful and needed. It encourages the sheep to want to do their best to serve God. Avoid unfavorable comparisons. (Galatians 6:4) Such comparisons tend to discourage rather than motivate others to improve. Besides, Jehovah’s sheep are individuals—with different circumstances and abilities. Like Paul, express confidence in your brothers. Love “believes all things,” so we do well to believe that our brothers love God and want to please him. (1 Corinthians 13:7) When you ‘show honor to others,’ you draw out the best in them. (Romans 12:10) Be assured that when the sheep are encouraged and refreshed, most will do all they can in serving God, and they will find joy in that service.—Matthew 11:28-30.
9. What view of fellow elders will help each elder to serve with joy?
9 Humbly viewing yourself as a ‘fellow worker’ will help you to serve with joy and to appreciate the unique gifts of your fellow elders. Each elder has his own talents and abilities that he can use for the benefit of the congregation. (1 Peter 4:10) One may be gifted in teaching. Another may be an effective organizer. Yet another may be exceptionally approachable because of his warmth and compassion. The fact is, no elder has every gift to the same degree. Does having a particular gift—say, the gift of teaching—make one elder superior to another? Not at all! (1 Corinthians 4:7) On the other hand, there is no need to begrudge the gift another has or to feel inadequate when another elder’s ability brings him commendation from others. Remember, you yourself have gifts that Jehovah sees in you. And he can help you to cultivate those gifts and use them for the benefit of your brothers.—Philippians 4:13.
‘Be Obedient and Be Submissive’
10. Why is it only fitting that we express appreciation for the “gifts in men”?
10 When we receive a gift, it is only fitting to express appreciation. “Show yourselves thankful,” says Colossians 3:15. What, then, about the “gifts in men,” the precious gift that Jehovah has given us? Of course, we are primarily thankful to Jehovah, the generous Gift-Giver. But what about the “gifts in men” themselves? How can we show that we appreciate them?
11. (a) How may we demonstrate our appreciation for the “gifts in men”? (b) What is the significance of the expressions “be obedient” and “be submissive”?
11 We can demonstrate our appreciation for the “gifts in men” by being quick to heed their Bible-based counsel and decisions. The Bible advises us: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.” (Hebrews 13:17) Notice that we must not only “be obedient” but also “be submissive” to those taking the lead. The Greek word for “be submissive” literally means “be you yielding under.” Commenting on the expressions “be obedient” and “be submissive,” Bible scholar R. C. H. Lenski says: “One obeys when one agrees with what he is told to do, is persuaded of its correctness and profitableness; one yields . . . when he has a contrary opinion.” When we understand and agree with the direction of those taking the lead, obedience may come readily. But what if we do not understand the reason behind a particular decision?
12. Why should we be submissive, or yielding, even when we do not fully understand the reason behind a particular decision?
12 Here is where we may need to be submissive, or yielding. Why? For one thing, we need to trust that these spiritually qualified men have our best interests at heart. After all, they well know that they must render an account to Jehovah for the sheep committed to their care. (James 3:1) In addition, we do well to remember that we may not know all the confidential facts that led them to an informed decision.—Proverbs 18:13.
13. What can help us to be submissive when it comes to the judicial decisions of the elders?
13 What about being submissive when it comes to judicial decisions? Granted, this may not be easy, especially if a decision is made to disfellowship someone we love—a relative or a close friend. Here again, it is best to yield to the judgment of the “gifts in men.” They are in a position to be more objective than we can be, and they may know more of the facts. These brothers often agonize over such decisions; it is a sobering responsibility to ‘judge for Jehovah.’ (2 Chronicles 19:6) They make every effort to be merciful, for they are mindful that God is “ready to forgive.” (Psalm 86:5) But they must also keep the congregation clean, and the Bible directs that they disfellowship unrepentant wrongdoers. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) In many cases the wrongdoer himself accepts the decision. The discipline may be just what he needs to come to his senses. If we, his loved ones, are submissive when it comes to the decision, we may thereby be helping him to benefit from the discipline.—Hebrews 12:11.
“Give Them More Than Extraordinary Consideration”
14, 15. (a) According to 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13, why do the elders deserve our consideration? (b) Why may it be said that the elders are ‘working hard among us’?
14 We can also demonstrate our appreciation for the “gifts in men” by showing them consideration. In writing to the congregation in Thessalonica, Paul admonished its members: “Have regard for those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you; and . . . give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13) “Working hard”—does that not describe the devoted elders who unselfishly give of themselves in our behalf? Consider, for a moment, the heavy load these dear brothers carry.
15 In many cases they are family men who must work secularly in order to provide for their families. (1 Timothy 5:8) If the elder has children, these young ones need time and attention from their father. He may need to help them with their schoolwork, as well as schedule some time for them to expend their youthful energy in wholesome recreation. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4) Most important, he cares for the spiritual needs of his family, regularly conducting a family Bible study, working with them in the field ministry, and taking them to Christian meetings. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Ephesians 6:4) Let us not forget that in addition to these responsibilities that are common to many of us, elders have additional duties: preparing for meeting parts, making shepherding calls, caring for the spiritual welfare of the congregation and, when necessary, handling judicial cases. Some carry extra responsibility in connection with circuit assemblies, district conventions, Kingdom Hall construction, and Hospital Liaison Committees. Truly, these brothers are “working hard”!
16. Describe ways in which we can show consideration for the elders.
16 How can we show them consideration? A Bible proverb says: “A word at its right time is O how good!” (Proverbs 15:23; 25:11) So words of sincere appreciation and encouragement can show them that we do not take their hard work for granted. Also, we should be reasonable in what we expect of them. On the one hand, we should feel free to approach them for help. There may be times when ‘our very heart is in severe pain’ and we need Scriptural encouragement, guidance, or counsel from those who are “qualified to teach” God’s Word. (Psalm 55:4; 1 Timothy 3:2) At the same time, we need to remember that there is only so much time that an elder can give us, for he cannot neglect the needs of his own family or of others in the congregation. Having “fellow feeling” for these hardworking brothers, we would not want to make unreasonable demands on them. (1 Peter 3:8) Rather, let us be appreciative for whatever time and attention they can reasonably give us.—Philippians 4:5.
17, 18. What sacrifices are made by many wives whose husbands are elders, and how can we show that we do not take these faithful sisters for granted?
17 What about the wives of the elders? Do they not also deserve our consideration? After all, they are sharing their husbands with the congregation. This often calls for sacrifices on their part. Occasionally, elders must spend evening hours caring for congregation matters when they could otherwise be spending time with their families. In many congregations faithful Christian women are willingly making such sacrifices so that their husbands can care for Jehovah’s sheep.—Compare 2 Corinthians 12:15.
18 How can we show that we do not take these faithful Christian sisters for granted? Certainly by not being unreasonably demanding of their husbands. But let us also not forget the power of simple words of appreciation. Proverbs 16:24 says: “Pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.” Consider an experience. Following a Christian meeting, a married couple approached an elder and asked to talk to him about their teenage son. While the elder spoke with the couple, his wife waited patiently. Afterward, the mother approached the elder’s wife and said: “I want to thank you for the time that your husband took to help my family.” Those simple, sweet words of appreciation truly touched the heart of that elder’s wife.
19. (a) Elders, as a group, are faithfully fulfilling what objectives? (b) What should all of us be determined to do?
19 The provision of elders to look after the sheep is one of Jehovah’s ‘good gifts.’ (James 1:17) No, these men are not perfect; like all of us, they make mistakes. (1 Kings 8:46) Yet, as a group, elders in the congregations worldwide are faithfully fulfilling the objectives Jehovah had in mind for them—namely, to readjust, build up, unify, and protect the flock. May each elder resolve to continue caring for Jehovah’s sheep tenderly, thereby proving himself a gift, or blessing, to his brothers. And let all of us be determined to show our appreciation for the “gifts in men” by being obedient and submissive to them and by showing them consideration for their hard work. How thankful we can be that Jehovah has lovingly provided men who, in effect, say to his sheep: ‘It is our job to help you serve God with joy’!
How Would You Respond?
□ Why can the congregation fittingly be compared to a body?
□ How can elders help their brothers to serve Jehovah with joy?
□ Why should we be not only obedient but also submissive to those taking the lead?
□ In what ways can we show consideration for the elders?
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Elders, commend others for their whole-souled efforts
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By their zealous example in the ministry, elders can help family members and others to serve with joy
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We appreciate our hardworking elders!