“All You Are Brothers”
“Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers.”—MATTHEW 23:8.
1. What matter is worth our consideration?
“WHO deserves more honor, a missionary or a Bethelite?” a Christian woman in an Oriental country innocently asked a missionary from Australia. She wanted to know who should be respected more, a missionary from another country or a local minister serving in the branch office of the Watch Tower Society. That innocent question, reflecting a class-conscious culture, took the missionary by surprise. The question of who is greater, however, stems from a desire to know where people stand in the ranks of power and influence.
2. How should we view our fellow worshipers?
2 This concern is by no means new. Even Jesus’ disciples had an ongoing argument about who was the greatest. (Matthew 20:20-24; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27) They too came from a rather class-conscious culture, that of first-century Judaism. With such a society in mind, Jesus counseled his disciples: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers.” (Matthew 23:8) A religious title such as “Rabbi,” which means “Teacher,” “tends to engender pride and a sense of superiority in those who obtain it, and envy and a sense of inferiority in those who do not; and the whole spirit and tendency of it is contrary to the ‘simplicity that is in Christ,’” noted the Bible scholar Albert Barnes. Indeed, Christians refrain from addressing overseers among them as “Elder So-and-so,” using the word “elder” as a flattering title. (Job 32:21, 22) On the other hand, elders living up to the spirit of Jesus’ counsel honor other members of the congregation, just as Jehovah honors loyal worshipers and Jesus Christ honors loyal followers.
The Example of Jehovah and of Jesus
3. How did Jehovah honor his spirit creatures?
3 Although Jehovah is the “Most High,” from the very beginning he honored his creatures by involving them in his works. (Psalm 83:18) When he created the first human, Jehovah included his only-begotten Son in the project as a “master worker.” (Proverbs 8:27-30; Genesis 1:26) Jehovah even invited his heavenly angels to express themselves about how to proceed with destroying wicked King Ahab when He had determined to do so.—1 Kings 22:19-23.
4, 5. How does Jehovah honor his human creatures?
4 Jehovah reigns as the Supreme Sovereign of the universe. (Deuteronomy 3:24) He has no need to consult with humans. Yet, he stoops down, so to speak, to take note of them. A psalmist sang: “Who is like Jehovah our God, him who is making his dwelling on high? He is condescending to look on heaven and earth, raising up the lowly one from the very dust.”—Psalm 113:5-8.
5 Before annihilating Sodom and Gomorrah, Jehovah listened to Abraham’s questions and satisfied his sense of justice. (Genesis 18:23-33) Although Jehovah already knew the outcome of Abraham’s requests, he patiently listened to Abraham and accepted his reasoning.
6. What resulted from Jehovah’s showing honor when Habakkuk asked a question?
6 Jehovah also listened to Habakkuk, who asked: “How long, O Jehovah, must I cry for help, and you do not hear?” Did Jehovah view the question as a challenge to his authority? No, he viewed Habakkuk’s queries as legitimate, and he thereupon revealed his purpose to raise up the Chaldeans to execute judgment. He assured the prophet that ‘this foretold judgment would without fail come true.’ (Habakkuk 1:1, 2, 5, 6, 13, 14; 2:2, 3) By taking Habakkuk’s concerns seriously and answering him, Jehovah honored the prophet. As a result, the distraught prophet brightened up and became joyful, with full trust in the God of his salvation. This is reflected in the inspired book of Habakkuk that strengthens our trust in Jehovah today.—Habakkuk 3:18, 19.
7. Why is Peter’s role at Pentecost 33 C.E. significant?
7 Jesus Christ is another fine example of showing respect for others. Jesus had told his disciples that “whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father.” (Matthew 10:32, 33) On the night of his betrayal, however, all his disciples deserted him, and the apostle Peter disowned him three times. (Matthew 26:34, 35, 69-75) Jesus looked beyond the outward appearance and took note of Peter’s innermost feelings, his profound repentance. (Luke 22:61, 62) Only 51 days later, Christ dignified the repentant apostle by letting him represent Jesus’ 120 disciples on the day of Pentecost and use the first of “the keys of the kingdom.” (Matthew 16:19; Acts 2:14-40) Peter was given a chance to ‘return and strengthen his brothers.’—Luke 22:31-33.
Assigning Honor to Family Members
8, 9. In assigning honor to his wife, how can a husband imitate Jehovah and Jesus?
8 Husbands and parents do well to imitate Jehovah and Jesus Christ in exercising God-given authority. Peter admonished: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Peter 3:7) Imagine handling a delicate porcelain vessel, obviously more fragile than a wooden one. Would you not take greater care? A husband can do so by imitating Jehovah, listening to his wife’s opinions when deciding family matters. Recall that Jehovah took time to reason with Abraham. Being imperfect, a husband may fail to see the whole scope of the matter. So would it not be wise for him to honor his wife by sincerely considering her opinion?
9 In lands where male authority is deeply entrenched, a husband must keep in mind that his wife may have to overcome a formidable barrier to express her innermost feelings. Imitate the way Jesus Christ dealt with his disciples, part of his future bride class, while he was on earth. He cherished them, taking into consideration their physical and spiritual limitations even before they voiced their needs. (Mark 6:31; John 16:12, 13; Ephesians 5:28-30) In addition, take time to observe what your wife is doing for you and your family, and express your appreciation in words and deeds. Both Jehovah and Jesus appreciated, commended, and blessed the worthy ones. (1 Kings 3:10-14; Job 42:12-15; Mark 12:41-44; John 12:3-8) After her husband became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian woman in the Orient said: “My husband used to walk three or four steps ahead of me, letting me carry everything. Now he carries the bags and shows appreciation for what I am doing at home!” A word of sincere appreciation goes a long way toward helping your wife to feel valued.—Proverbs 31:28.
10, 11. What can parents learn from Jehovah’s fine example in dealing with the rebellious nation of Israel?
10 In dealing with their children, especially when reproof is needed, parents should imitate God’s example. “Jehovah kept warning Israel and Judah” to turn back from their bad ways, but they “kept hardening their necks.” (2 Kings 17:13-15) The Israelites even “tried to fool him with their mouth; and with their tongue they tried to lie to him.” Many parents may feel that their children sometimes act like that. The Israelites “put God to the test” and pained him, making him feel hurt. Yet, Jehovah “was merciful; he would cover the error and not bring ruin.”—Psalm 78:36-41.
11 Jehovah even pleaded with the Israelites: “Come, now, you people, and let us set matters straight between us . . . Though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) Although Jehovah was not in the wrong, he invited the rebellious nation to come and set matters straight. What a fine attitude for parents to imitate in dealing with their children! When the situation calls for it, dignify them by listening to their side of the story, and reason with them as to why they have to change.
12. (a) Why should we avoid honoring our children more than Jehovah? (b) What is required if we are to respect the dignity of our children when reproving them?
12 Of course, sometimes children need strong counsel. Parents would not want to be like Eli, who ‘kept honoring his sons more than Jehovah.’ (1 Samuel 2:29) Still, young ones need to see the loving motive behind the correction. They should be able to appreciate that their parents do love them. Paul admonishes fathers: “Do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) While paternal authority is assumed, the point being made is the father’s need to have regard for the dignity of the children by not making them angry because of his excessive harshness. Yes, taking into consideration the dignity of children requires time and effort on the part of the parents, but the fruitage of doing so is worth all the sacrifices.
13. What is the Bible’s view of the elderly in a family?
13 Showing honor to family members goes beyond dignifying one’s wife and children. “When old, obey your children,” says a Japanese proverb. The point of that proverb is that elderly parents should refrain from exceeding their parental authority and should take notice of what their grown children say. While it is Scriptural for parents to honor their children by giving them a hearing ear, the children should not display a disrespectful attitude toward older members of the family. “Do not despise your mother just because she has grown old,” says Proverbs 23:22. King Solomon lived up to this proverb and honored his mother when she approached him to make a petition. Solomon had a throne set to the right of his own and listened to what his elderly mother, Bath-sheba, had to tell him.—1 Kings 2:19, 20.
14. How can we honor the elderly members of the congregation?
14 In our extended spiritual family, we are in a good position to “take the lead” in showing honor to the elderly members of the congregation. (Romans 12:10) They may not be able to do as much as they did in former days, and that may frustrate them. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7) An elderly anointed Witness who was bedridden in an infirmary once expressed such frustration: “I can’t wait till I die and return to work.” For such elderly ones, our showing due recognition and honor can help. The Israelites were commanded: “Before gray hair you should rise up, and you must show consideration for the person of an old man.” (Leviticus 19:32) Show consideration by making older ones feel needed and appreciated. ‘Rising up’ may include sitting down and listening to them relate what they accomplished years ago. That will dignify the elderly and enrich our own spiritual life.
‘In Showing Honor Take the Lead’
15. What can elders do to dignify members of the congregation?
15 Congregation members thrive when the elders set a fine example for them. (1 Peter 5:2, 3) Despite their busy schedule, caring elders take the initiative to approach the young ones, the family heads, the single mothers, the housewives, and the elderly, whether such ones are facing problems or not. The elders listen to what members of the congregation have to say and commend them for what they are able to do. An observant elder who makes appreciative comments about what a brother or sister does is imitating Jehovah, who appreciates his earthly creatures.
16. Why should we view elders as meriting honor along with others in the congregation?
16 By imitating Jehovah, the elders set a fine example in applying Paul’s admonition: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Romans 12:10) This may be harder for elders who live in countries where class consciousness is the norm. For example, in one Oriental country, there are two words for “brother,” one honorific and the other ordinary. Until recently, congregation members addressed elders and those who are older with the honorific term, using the ordinary term for others. However, they were encouraged to use the ordinary term at all times because, as Jesus told his followers, “all you are brothers.” (Matthew 23:8) Although the distinction may not be this obvious in other countries, we all need to be aware of the human tendency to make class distinctions.—James 2:4.
17. (a) Why should elders be approachable? (b) In what ways can elders imitate Jehovah in dealing with congregation members?
17 True, Paul encouraged us to treat certain elders as worthy of “double honor,” but they are still brothers. (1 Timothy 5:17) If we are able to “approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness” of the Universal Sovereign, should we not be able to approach the elders, who are to imitate Jehovah? (Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 5:1) Overseers may weigh their own approachableness by considering how often others come to them to seek counsel or to make suggestions. Learn a lesson from the way Jehovah involves others in his projects. He dignifies others by delegating responsibilities. Even if some suggestions offered by another Witness may seem impractical, the elders ought to appreciate the concern shown. Remember how Jehovah treated Abraham’s probing questions and Habakkuk’s cry of distress.
18. How can elders imitate Jehovah in readjusting those who need help?
18 Some fellow Christians do need readjustment. (Galatians 6:1) Still, they are valuable in Jehovah’s eyes, worthy of being treated with dignity. “When someone offering counsel treats me with respect, I feel free to approach him,” said one Witness. Most people respond well to counsel when they are treated with dignity. It may take more time, but hearing out those who have taken false steps makes it easier for them to accept any needed counsel. Keep in mind how Jehovah reasoned with the Israelites again and again out of compassion for them. (2 Chronicles 36:15; Titus 3:2) Counsel given with empathy and sympathy will touch the hearts of those needing help.—Proverbs 17:17; Philippians 2:2, 3; 1 Peter 3:8.
19. How should we view people who do not believe as do Christians?
19 Our showing honor to others extends to those who may be in line to become our spiritual brothers in the future. Such people may be slow about accepting our message now, but we still need to be patient with them and recognize their dignity as humans. Jehovah “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Should we not have Jehovah’s view? Considering people in general, we can pave the way for giving a witness if we always try to be neighborly. Of course, we refrain from the kind of fellowship that may involve spiritual hazards. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Yet, we show “human kindness,” not despising people who do not believe as we do.—Acts 27:3.
20. What should the example of Jehovah and of Jesus Christ move us to do?
20 Yes, Jehovah and Jesus Christ count each one of us as worthy of respect. May we always remember how they act and similarly take the lead in showing honor to one another. And may we always keep in mind the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “All you are brothers.”—Matthew 23:8.
How Would You Answer?
• How should you view fellow worshipers?
• How does the example of Jehovah and of Jesus move you to honor others?
• How can husbands and parents honor others?
• Viewing fellow Christians as their brothers moves elders to act in what ways?
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Honor your wife with words of appreciation
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Dignify your children by listening to them
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Treat congregation members with dignity