“Gird Yourselves With Lowliness of Mind”
“God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—1 PETER 5:5.
1, 2. What two opposite mental dispositions have a profound effect on human behavior?
AMONG the mental dispositions that God’s Word brings to our attention are two opposites. Both of them have a profound effect on human behavior. One is described as “lowliness of mind.” (1 Peter 5:5) A dictionary defines “lowly” as being “humble in manner or spirit: free from self-assertive pride.” Lowliness of mind is synonymous with humility, and from God’s viewpoint, it is a very desirable quality.
2 The opposite is pride. This is defined as “inordinate self-esteem,” being “disdainful.” It is self-centered, and it seeks material, egoistic, and other advantages regardless of the adverse effects upon others. The Bible notes one result: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” It speaks of the “rivalry of one toward another” as “striving after the wind” because at death “nothing at all can one carry away.” Such pride is very undesirable from God’s viewpoint.—Ecclesiastes 4:4; 5:15; 8:9.
The World’s Prevailing Spirit
3. What is the world’s prevailing spirit?
3 Which of the two mental dispositions characterizes the world today? What is the world’s prevailing spirit? World Military and Social Expenditures 1996 notes: “No other century on record equals the 20th in uncivilized . . . violence.” Competition for political and economic power—as well as national, religious, tribal, and ethnic rivalries—has killed over 100 million people in this century. Self-centered behavior on an individual level has also increased. The Chicago Tribune stated: “Societal illness includes mindless violence, child abuse, divorce, drunkenness, AIDS, teen-age suicide, drugs, street gangs, rape, illegitimacy, abortion, pornography, . . . lying, cheating, political corruption . . . Right and wrong as moral concepts have been abolished.” Thus, the UN Chronicle warned: “Societies are disintegrating.”
4, 5. How has the world’s spirit been accurately described in Bible prophecy for our day?
4 These conditions are worldwide. It is just as Bible prophecy foretold for our time: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride.”—2 Timothy 3:1-4.
5 That is an accurate description of this world’s prevailing spirit. It is a selfish me-first attitude. Rivalry among nations is mirrored by rivalry among individuals. In competitive sports, for example, many athletes desire to be number one regardless of how this hurts others emotionally or even physically. This self-centered spirit is promoted in children and continues in many areas of adult life. It results in “enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions.”—Galatians 5:19-21.
6. Who promotes selfishness, and how does Jehovah feel about this frame of mind?
6 The Bible shows that the self-centered spirit of this world reflects that of “the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” Regarding Satan’s influence on the people living in these critical last days, the Bible foretells: “Woe for the earth . . . because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:9-12) So he and his associate demons have intensified their efforts to promote a selfish frame of mind in the human family. And how does Jehovah feel about such an attitude? His Word says: “Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Proverbs 16:5.
Jehovah Is With the Lowly Ones
7. How does Jehovah regard lowly ones, and what does he teach them?
7 On the other hand, Jehovah blesses those who are lowly in mind. In song to Jehovah, King David said: “The humble people you will save; but your eyes are against the haughty ones, that you may bring them low.” (2 Samuel 22:1, 28) Hence, God’s Word counsels: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3) Those who humbly seek Jehovah are taught by him to cultivate a totally different spirit from that of this world. “He will teach the meek ones his way.” (Psalm 25:9; Isaiah 54:13) That way is the way of love. It is based on doing what is right according to God’s standards. According to the Bible, this principled love “does not brag, does not get puffed up, . . . does not look for its own interests.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8) It also manifests itself in lowliness of mind.
8, 9. (a) What is the origin of principled love? (b) How important is it to imitate the love and humility that Jesus displayed?
8 Paul and other first-century Christians learned this kind of love from the teachings of Jesus. And Jesus learned it from his Father, Jehovah, of whom the Bible says: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Jesus knew that it was God’s will for him to live by the law of love, and he did. (John 6:38) That is why he had compassion for the downtrodden, the poor, the sinners. (Matthew 9:36) He told them: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart.”—Matthew 11:28, 29.
9 Jesus showed his disciples the importance of imitating his love and humility when he told them: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) They would stand out as separate from this self-centered world. That is why Jesus could say of his followers: “They are no part of the world.” (John 17:14) No, they do not imitate the proud, selfish spirit of Satan’s world. Instead, they imitate the spirit of love and humility that Jesus showed.
10. What is Jehovah doing with lowly ones in our day?
10 God’s Word foretold that in these last days, humble ones would be gathered together in a global society based on love and humility. Thus, in the midst of a world that is becoming more and more prideful, Jehovah’s people display the opposite attitude—lowliness of mind. Such ones say: “Let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah [his elevated true worship], . . . and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) Jehovah’s Witnesses make up this global society walking in God’s paths. They include a growing “great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:9) This great crowd is now made up of millions of people. How is Jehovah training them to be humble?
Learning to Be Lowly in Mind
11, 12. How do God’s servants display lowliness of mind?
11 God’s spirit working through his willing people enables them to learn to conquer the bad spirit of the world and then to demonstrate the fruitage of God’s spirit. This manifests itself in “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) To help them develop those qualities, God’s servants are counseled not to become “egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:26) Similarly, the apostle Paul said: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind.”—Romans 12:3.
12 God’s Word tells true Christians to do “nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others [of God’s servants] are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Philippians 2:3, 4) “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:24) Yes, “love builds up” others with unselfish words and acts. (1 Corinthians 8:1) It promotes cooperation, not competition. The me-first spirit has no place among Jehovah’s servants.
13. Why must lowliness of mind be learned, and how does one learn it?
13 However, because of inherited imperfection, we are not born lowly in mind. (Psalm 51:5) This quality must be learned. And this may be difficult for those not taught Jehovah’s ways from childhood but who accept them later in life. They have already formed personalities based on this old world’s attitudes. So they have to learn to “put away the old personality which conforms to [their] former course of conduct” and to “put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:22, 24) With God’s help sincere ones can do what he asks of them: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.”—Colossians 3:12.
14. How did Jesus speak against wanting to elevate oneself?
14 The disciples of Jesus had to learn that. They were adults when they became his disciples and had a measure of the worldly spirit of rivalry in them. When the mother of two of them sought prominence for her sons, Jesus said: “The rulers of the nations lord it over [the people] and the great men wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. Just as the Son of man [Jesus] came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28) When Jesus told his disciples not to use titles to try to elevate themselves, he added: “All you are brothers.”—Matthew 23:8.
15. What attitude should those seeking the office of overseer have?
15 A true follower of Jesus is a servant, yes, a slave to fellow Christians. (Galatians 5:13) Especially is this so with those who want to qualify for oversight in the congregation. They should never compete for prominence or power; they are not to ‘lord it over those who are God’s inheritance but are to become examples to them.’ (1 Peter 5:3) Indeed, a self-seeking spirit is an indication that a man is unfit for oversight. Such a person would be injurious to the congregation. True, it is proper to ‘reach out for an office of overseer,’ but this should spring from a desire to serve other Christians. This office is not a position of prominence or power, for those in oversight should be among the most lowly of mind in the congregation.—1 Timothy 3:1, 6.
16. Why was Diotrephes denounced in God’s Word?
16 The apostle John calls our attention to a person who had the wrong viewpoint, stating: “I wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us with respect.” This man dealt with others disrespectfully to try to advance his own position. Instead, God’s spirit moved John to incorporate in the Bible a denunciation of Diotrephes because of his me-first attitude.—3 John 9, 10.
The Right Attitude
17. How did Peter, Paul, and Barnabas display lowliness of mind?
17 There are many Bible examples of the right attitude, of lowliness of mind. When Peter entered the home of Cornelius, that man “fell down at [Peter’s] feet and did obeisance to him.” But instead of accepting adulation, “Peter lifted him up, saying: ‘Rise; I myself am also a man.’” (Acts 10:25, 26) When Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra, Paul healed a man lame from birth. As a result, the crowds said that these apostles were gods. However, Paul and Barnabas “ripped their outer garments and leaped out into the crowd, crying out and saying: ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are humans having the same infirmities as you do.’” (Acts 14:8-15) These humble Christians would not accept glory from humans.
18. In his humility, what did a powerful angel tell John?
18 When the apostle John was given “a revelation by Jesus Christ,” it was transmitted by an angel. (Revelation 1:1) Because of the power of an angel, we can understand why John was awed, for one angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. (2 Kings 19:35) John relates: “When I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that had been showing me these things. But he tells me: ‘Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers . . . Worship God.’” (Revelation 22:8, 9) What lowliness of mind on the part of this powerful angel!
19, 20. Contrast the haughtiness of conquering Roman generals with Jesus’ lowliness of mind.
19 Jesus was the finest example of one who was lowly in mind. He was God’s only-begotten Son, the future King of God’s heavenly Kingdom. When he presented himself to the people as such, he did not do as the conquering generals of Roman times did. They were given huge parades—processions—and rode in chariots decorated with gold and ivory, drawn by white horses, or even by elephants, lions, or tigers. In the processions were musicians singing victory songs, along with carts loaded with booty and huge floats illustrating battle scenes. There were also captive kings, princes, and generals, with their families, often stripped naked to humiliate them. The events reeked of pride, haughtiness.
20 Contrast that with the way Jesus offered himself. He was willing to submit humbly to fulfilling the prophecy about him, which foretold: “Look! Your king himself comes to you. He is righteous, yes, saved; humble, and riding upon an ass.” He humbly rode on a beast of burden, not in a chariot pulled by magnificent parade animals. (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:4, 5) How happy humble people are that Jesus will be Jehovah’s appointed King over the entire earth in the new world, one who is truly lowly in mind, humble, loving, compassionate, merciful!—Isaiah 9:6, 7; Philippians 2:5-8.
21. What does lowliness of mind not indicate?
21 The fact that Jesus, Peter, Paul, and other men and women of faith in Bible times were lowly in mind dispels the idea that humility is weakness. Instead, it shows strength of character, for these ones were courageous and zealous. With great mental and moral strength, they endured severe trials. (Hebrews, chapter 11) And today, when Jehovah’s servants are lowly in mind, they have similar strength because God backs up lowly ones with his powerful holy spirit. Thus, we are urged: “All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”—1 Peter 5:5, 6; 2 Corinthians 4:7.
22. What will be discussed in the following article?
22 There is another positive aspect to lowliness of mind that God’s servants need to practice. It is one that contributes much to building up the spirit of love and cooperation in the congregations. Indeed, it is an essential ingredient of lowliness of mind. This will be discussed in the following article.
□ Describe this world’s prevailing spirit.
□ How does Jehovah favor those who are lowly in mind?
□ Why must lowliness of mind be learned?
□ What are some Bible examples of individuals who displayed lowliness of mind?
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The angel told John: “Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave”