Do Not Let Your Strength Become Your Weakness
With 16 watertight compartments in its hull, the luxury liner Titanic was considered unsinkable. On its maiden voyage in 1912, it carried only about half the number of lifeboats needed. The ship struck an iceberg and sank, with the loss of over 1,500 lives.
GOD-FEARING King Uzziah of ancient Jerusalem was a brilliant military commander. With Jehovah’s help, he defeated his enemies one after the other. “Consequently [Uzziah’s] fame went out to a great distance, for he was helped wonderfully until he was strong.” But then “his heart became haughty . . . so that he acted unfaithfully against Jehovah his God.” Because of Uzziah’s haughtiness, he was struck with leprosy.—2 Chronicles 26:15-21; Proverbs 16:18.
These two accounts teach us that strengths, when not balanced by wisdom, modesty, and humility, can easily become weaknesses or liabilities. This is sobering, for in one way or another, every one of us has certain strengths, or gifts, and we want these to be an asset and a source of joy to ourselves and others, especially to our Creator. Indeed, we ought to put to full use any gift of God we may have but at the same time regulate it so that it remains a valuable asset.
For example, a person who loves his work could easily turn this gift into a weakness by becoming a workaholic. A cautious person may not be easily fooled, or deceived, but he may be cautious to the point of never making decisions. Efficiency too is a fine quality, but if taken to extremes, so that it ignores the human element, the result may be a cold, rigid environment that breeds unhappiness. So take a moment to reflect on your own strengths. Do you manage them well? Are they a blessing to others? Above all, do you use them to honor Jehovah, the Source of “every good gift”? (James 1:17) To that end, let us take a closer look at a few other examples of strengths that could develop into weaknesses, even liabilities, if left unchecked.
Use Mental Abilities Wisely
A good mind is certainly a fine asset. Still, it could become a weakness if it leads to overconfidence or causes us to develop an inflated opinion of ourselves, especially if others commend us excessively or flatter us. Or we might develop an intellectual view of God’s Word and Bible-based study publications.
Overconfidence may surface in various ways. For example, when someone with a fine mind receives a speaking assignment in the Christian congregation, perhaps a public discourse or a talk in the Theocratic Ministry School, he may leave preparation to the last minute, maybe not even praying for Jehovah’s blessing. Rather, he trusts in his reserve of knowledge and in his ability to think on his feet. Natural ability may mask his laxness for a time, but without Jehovah’s full blessing, his spiritual progress would slow down, perhaps even stop. What a waste of a fine gift!—Proverbs 3:5, 6; James 3:1.
Someone of keen mind might also take an intellectual view of the Bible and Bible study aids. However, such knowledge only “puffs up,” or inflates the ego like a balloon; it does not ‘build up’ loving Christian relationships. (1 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 5:26) On the other hand, the spiritual man, regardless of his mental abilities, always prays for and trusts in God’s spirit. His strength becomes ever more an asset as he grows in love, humility, knowledge, and wisdom—and all in pleasing proportion.—Colossians 1:9, 10.
Ability would also become a weakness if through it we developed an inflated opinion of ourselves, revealing a lack of modesty. A gifted person—and any who adulate him—may forget that Jehovah “does not regard any who are wise in their own heart,” gifted though they may be. (Job 37:24) “Wisdom is with the modest ones,” says God’s Word. (Proverbs 11:2) The apostle Paul, though highly intelligent and well educated, said to the Corinthians: “I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom . . . I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling; and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power, that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power.”—1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
The truly wise person is not fooled by the world’s view of intellect, nor by its definition of success. So rather than using his talents to earn the plaudits of men or to amass worldly riches, he gives his best to the One who gave him his life and abilities. (1 John 2:15-17) To that end he keeps Kingdom interests first in his life, becoming like a fruitful “tree planted by streams of water.” Thanks to Jehovah’s blessing, not to his own natural talents, “everything he does will succeed.”—Psalm 1:1-3; Matthew 6:33.
Let Christianity Add to Your Strength
By its very nature, Christianity is so rich with strengths that worldly philosophies pale next to it. The Christian way of life, for example, makes the best husbands and wives, the best neighbors, and the best employees—people who are honest, respectful, peaceful, and diligent. (Colossians 3:18-23) Additionally, Christian training in speaking and teaching builds good communication skills. (1 Timothy 4:13-15) Not surprisingly, therefore, Christians are often sought out by their employers for added responsibilities and promotions. But such strengths could also be misused if not carefully guarded. A promotion or a tempting job offer may mean virtual dedication to the company, missing Christian meetings regularly, or sacrificing valuable time with one’s family.
In Australia a Christian elder and family man, who was also a highly successful businessman, “had the world before him,” as the saying goes. Yet he refused the temptation to make it in this system. “I wanted to spend more time with my family and in the Christian ministry,” he said. “So my wife and I agreed that I would carefully ease back on the amount of time I spent at my secular work. Why should I work a five-day week if I do not need to?” he added. By making a few well-thought-out adjustments in his life, this elder found that he could still care for his family by working a three- or four-day week. In time, he was invited to share in other privileges of service, such as serving on the local Assembly Hall Committee and in district convention administration. Wisely channeled, his strengths brought him and his family joy and satisfaction.
A Balanced Attitude Toward Privileges
Christian men are encouraged to reach out for privileges of service in the congregation. “If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer [or ministerial servant], he is desirous of a fine work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) As with the strengths already mentioned, a willingness to accept responsibilities also needs to be tempered with good judgment. Nobody should take on so many assignments that he loses his joy in Jehovah’s service. Yes, a willing spirit is commendable, indeed necessary, for Jehovah disapproves of a self-sparing attitude; but willingness must also reflect modesty and “soundness of mind.”—Titus 2:12; Revelation 3:15, 16.
Jesus’ gentleness, insight, and sensitivity made even the lowliest ones feel at ease in his presence. Likewise today, people feel comfortable with those whose strength is an empathetic, caring personality. In the Christian congregation, such warm, approachable elders are truly treasured “gifts in men.” They are “a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.”—Ephesians 4:8; Isaiah 32:2.
But elders must balance time spent helping others with their own need for personal study, meditation, prayer, and the public ministry. Naturally, married elders also need to take time for their families, to whom they should be especially approachable.
Capable Women—A Wonderful Blessing
Like capable elders, spiritually-minded women are also a fine asset to Jehovah’s organization. Generally, women are gifted with an interest in other people—a quality that Jehovah values and encourages. Keep “an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Philippians 2:4) Yet, this “personal interest” has its limits, for no Christian would want to be “a busybody in other people’s matters”; nor should one be a gossiper.—1 Peter 4:15; 1 Timothy 5:13.
Women have many other gifts. A Christian wife, for example, may be more gifted mentally than her husband is. Nevertheless, as “a capable wife” who fears Jehovah, she would respect her husband and use her gifts to complement him, not to compete with him. And rather than envy or resent her, a wise, humble husband would value his wife’s strengths and rejoice in them. He would encourage her to use her talents to the full to build up her household and to help her children ‘fear Jehovah,’ just as she herself does. (Proverbs 31:10, 28-30; Genesis 2:18) Such modest, humble husbands and wives thrive in marriages that truly honor Jehovah.
Subjecting a Strong Personality
A strong personality that is set on righteousness and doing Jehovah’s will whole-souled can be a fine asset when softened by modesty and humility. Yet, it can be a weakness if it causes one to dominate or intimidate others. This is especially true within the Christian congregation. Christians should feel relaxed with one another, including when in the company of congregation elders.—Matthew 20:25-27.
Elders, in turn, should feel at ease in one another’s company. And when they meet together, holy spirit, not the force of personality, should influence their decisions. Indeed, holy spirit can influence any elder on the body, including the youngest or most reticent elder. So those who have stronger personalities, even when they feel that they are in the right, should manage their strength by learning the art of deference, thus “showing honor” to fellow elders. (Romans 12:10) Ecclesiastes 7:16 kindly warns: “Do not become righteous overmuch, nor show yourself excessively wise. Why should you cause desolation to yourself?”
Jehovah, the Source of “every good gift,” manages his awesome strengths with absolute perfection. (James 1:17; Deuteronomy 32:4) And he is our Teacher! So let us learn from him and work hard, both at developing our natural gifts, or strengths, and at managing them wisely, modestly, and lovingly. What a blessing to others we will then be!
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Spiritual advancement depends on prayerful study and reliance on Jehovah
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Personal interest coupled with modesty is a blessing
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Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, VA