“Show Yourselves Thankful”
“Let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts . . . And show yourselves thankful.”—COLOSSIANS 3:15.
1. What contrast do we observe between the Christian congregation and the world under Satan’s control?
IN THE 94,600 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, we find a thankful spirit. Each meeting begins and ends with a prayer that includes expressions of thanks to Jehovah. We frequently hear “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” or similar expressions on the lips of young and old as well as new and longtime Witnesses as they join in worship and happy fellowship. (Psalm 133:1) What a contrast this is to the selfishness that prevails among many ‘who do not know Jehovah and who do not obey the good news’! (2 Thessalonians 1:8) We live in a thankless world. And little wonder when we consider who is the god of this world—Satan the Devil, the greatest exponent of self-centeredness, whose pride and rebellious spirit permeate human society!—John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19.
2. What warning do we need to heed, and what questions will we consider?
2 Surrounded as we are by Satan’s world, we need to exercise care not to be corrupted by its attitudes. In the first century, the apostle Paul reminded the Ephesian Christians: “You at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience. Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest.” (Ephesians 2:2, 3) That is also true of many today. How, then, can we maintain a thankful spirit? What help does Jehovah provide? In what practical ways can we demonstrate that we are truly thankful?
Reasons for Being Thankful
3. For what are we thankful to Jehovah?
3 It is to Jehovah God, our Creator and Life-Giver, that we owe our gratitude, especially as we consider some of the bounteous gifts he has showered upon us. (James 1:17) Daily, we thank Jehovah that we are alive. (Psalm 36:9) Around us, we observe abundant evidence of Jehovah’s handiwork, such as the sun, moon, and stars. Our planet’s rich storehouse of life-sustaining minerals, the atmosphere’s finely balanced mixture of vital gases, and the intricate cycles in nature all testify to the debt we owe our loving heavenly Father. “Many things you yourself have done, O Jehovah my God,” sang King David, “even your wonderful works and your thoughts toward us; there is none to be compared to you. Were I inclined to tell and speak of them, they have become more numerous than I can recount.”—Psalm 40:5.
4. Why should we thank Jehovah for the happy association we enjoy in our congregations?
4 Though far removed from a physical paradise, Jehovah’s servants today relish living in a spiritual paradise. In our Kingdom Halls and at our conventions and assemblies, we experience the fruitage of God’s spirit at work in our fellow believers. Indeed, when preaching to people who have little or no religious background, some Witnesses refer to what Paul described in his letter to the Galatians. They first draw attention to “the works of the flesh” and ask their listeners what they have observed. (Galatians 5:19-23) Most readily agree that these characterize human society today. When shown the description of the fruitage of God’s spirit and upon being invited to the local Kingdom Hall to see evidence of this for themselves, many quickly acknowledge: “God is really among you.” (1 Corinthians 14:25) And this is not limited to the local Kingdom Hall. Travel where you may, when you meet any of the more than six million Witnesses of Jehovah, you find the same happy, joyous spirit. Truly, this upbuilding association is reason for giving thanks to Jehovah, the one who supplies his spirit to make it possible.—Zephaniah 3:9; Ephesians 3:20, 21.
5, 6. How can we show ourselves thankful for God’s greatest gift, the ransom?
5 The greatest gift, the most perfect present that Jehovah has bestowed, is that of his Son, Jesus, by means of whom the ransom sacrifice was provided. “If this is how God loved us,” wrote the apostle John, “then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) Yes, we show ourselves thankful for the ransom not only by expressing love and gratitude to Jehovah but also by living our lives in a way that manifests love for others.—Matthew 22:37-39.
6 We can learn more about showing gratitude by considering the way Jehovah dealt with Israel of old. By means of the Law, which he gave to the nation through Moses, Jehovah taught the people many lessons. Through “the framework of the knowledge and of the truth in the Law,” we can learn much that will help us follow Paul’s counsel: “Show yourselves thankful.”—Romans 2:20; Colossians 3:15.
Three Lessons From the Mosaic Law
7. How did the tithing arrangement give Israelites the opportunity to show their thankfulness to Jehovah?
7 In the Mosaic Law, Jehovah provided three ways by which the Israelites could show their genuine appreciation for his goodness. First, there was the tithe. A tenth of the land’s produce, together with a “tenth part of the herd and flock,” was to become “something holy to Jehovah.” (Leviticus 27:30-32) When the Israelites obeyed, Jehovah blessed them abundantly. “‘Bring all the tenth parts into the storehouse, that there may come to be food in my house; and test me out, please, in this respect,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.’”—Malachi 3:10.
8. What distinguished voluntary offerings from tithing?
8 Second, in addition to the tithing requirement, Jehovah arranged for the Israelites to make voluntary contributions. He instructed Moses to tell the Israelites: “On your coming into the land where I am bringing you, it must also occur that when you eat any of the bread of the land, you should make a contribution to Jehovah.” Some of the firstfruits of their “coarse meal as ring-shaped cakes” were to be presented as “a contribution to Jehovah” throughout their generations. Note that no specific amount of these firstfruits was required. (Numbers 15:18-21) But when the Israelites offered a contribution in thanksgiving, they were assured a blessing from Jehovah. A similar arrangement is seen in connection with the temple in Ezekiel’s vision. We read: “The first of all the first ripe fruits of everything and every contribution of everything out of all your contributions—to the priests it will come to belong; and the firstfruits of your coarse meals you should give to the priest, in order to cause a blessing to rest upon your house.”—Ezekiel 44:30.
9. What did Jehovah teach through the provision of gleaning?
9 Third, Jehovah arranged for the practice of gleaning. “When you people reap the harvest of your land,” God instructed, “you must not reap the edge of your field completely, and the gleaning of your harvest you must not pick up. Also, you must not gather the leftovers of your vineyard, and you must not pick up the scattered grapes of your vineyard. For the afflicted one and the alien resident you should leave them. I am Jehovah your God.” (Leviticus 19:9, 10) Once again, no specific amount was required. It was up to each Israelite to decide how much to leave for the needy. Wise King Solomon aptly explained: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.” (Proverbs 19:17) Thus Jehovah taught compassion and consideration for disadvantaged ones.
10. What were the consequences for the people of Israel when they failed to show themselves thankful?
10 Jehovah blessed the Israelites when they obediently brought in the tithes, gave voluntary contributions, and made provision for the poor. But when the people of Israel failed to show themselves thankful, they lost Jehovah’s favor. This led to disaster and eventually exile. (2 Chronicles 36:17-21) What, then, are the lessons for us?
Our Expressions of Thankfulness
11. What is the principal way we can show our thankfulness to Jehovah?
11 The principal way we can render praise to Jehovah and express our thankfulness likewise involves an “offering.” True, as Christians, we are not under the Mosaic Law, obligated to offer sacrifices of animals or crops. (Colossians 2:14) Nevertheless, the apostle Paul urged the Hebrew Christians: “Let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) By using our abilities and resources to offer a sacrifice of praise to Jehovah, whether in the public ministry or in “the congregated throngs” of fellow Christians, we can express heartfelt thanks to our loving heavenly Father, Jehovah God. (Psalm 26:12) In doing so, what can we learn from the ways in which the Israelites were to express their thankfulness to Jehovah?
12. As far as our Christian responsibility is concerned, what can we learn from the tithing arrangement?
12 First of all, as we have seen, the tithing arrangement was not optional; each Israelite had an obligation in this regard. As Christians, we have the responsibility of participating in the ministry and attending Christian meetings. These activities are not optional. In his great prophecy regarding the time of the end, Jesus pointedly stated: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Regarding Christian meetings, the apostle Paul was inspired to write: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) We show our thankfulness to Jehovah when we joyfully accept our responsibility to preach and to teach as well as to associate with our brothers regularly at the congregation meetings, viewing such as a privilege and an honor.
13. What lesson comes from the arrangements for voluntary contributions and gleaning?
13 In addition, we can profit from considering the other two provisions by which the Israelites could show their appreciation—voluntary contributions and gleaning. In contrast to tithing, which was a requirement with a clearly defined commitment, voluntary contributions and the gleaning arrangement did not require a fixed amount. Rather, they allowed for the depth of appreciation a servant of Jehovah had in his heart to prompt him to act. In a comparable way, although we appreciate that participation in the ministry and attendance at Christian meetings are a fundamental responsibility of every servant of Jehovah, do we share in them wholeheartedly and with a willing spirit? Do we view them as an opportunity to express our heartfelt appreciation for all that Jehovah has done for us? Do we share liberally in these activities, to the extent our individual circumstances permit? Or do we view all of this only as an obligation that we must discharge? These, of course, are questions that we must answer personally. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”—Galatians 6:4.
14. What does Jehovah expect of us in our service to him?
14 Jehovah God well knows our circumstances. He is aware of our limitations. He values the sacrifices, great or small, that his servants offer willingly. He does not expect that we will all give the same amount, nor can we do so. When discussing material giving, the apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christians: “If the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.” (2 Corinthians 8:12) This principle applies equally well to our service to God. What makes our service acceptable to Jehovah is determined, not by the amount that we do, but by the way we do it—joyfully and wholeheartedly.—Psalm 100:1-5; Colossians 3:23.
Develop and Maintain the Pioneer Spirit
15, 16. (a) What connection is there between the pioneer ministry and thankfulness? (b) How can those who are unable to pioneer manifest a pioneer spirit?
15 A rewarding way to show our thankfulness to Jehovah is to enter the full-time ministry. Motivated by love of Jehovah and gratitude for his undeserved kindness, many dedicated servants have made great changes in their lives to allow for more time to serve Jehovah. Some are able to serve as regular pioneers, spending an average of 70 hours every month preaching the good news and teaching people the truth. Others, who may be limited by various circumstances, from time to time arrange to spend 50 hours a month preaching as auxiliary pioneers.
16 But what of the many servants of Jehovah who can serve neither as regular nor as auxiliary pioneers? They can show thankfulness by developing and maintaining a pioneer spirit. How? By encouraging those who can pioneer, by instilling in their children the desire to pursue a career in full-time service, and by sharing diligently in preaching according to their circumstances. What we give in our ministry depends much on the depth of appreciation in our hearts for what Jehovah has done, is doing, and will yet do for us.
Demonstrating Thankfulness With Our “Valuable Things”
17, 18. (a) How can we demonstrate thankfulness with our “valuable things”? (b) What assessment of the widow’s contribution did Jesus make, and why?
17 “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things,” notes Proverbs 3:9, “and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” Servants of Jehovah no longer need to tithe. Rather, Paul wrote to the Corinthian congregation: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) Making voluntary contributions to support the worldwide Kingdom-preaching work also demonstrates our thankfulness. Heartfelt appreciation motivates us to do this regularly, possibly setting aside something on a weekly basis, as did the early Christians.—1 Corinthians 16:1, 2.
18 It is not the amount we contribute that reflects our gratitude to Jehovah. Rather, it is the spirit in which we give. This was what Jesus observed when watching people dropping their gifts into the treasury chests at the temple. When Jesus saw a needy widow drop in “two small coins of very little value,” he said: “I tell you truthfully, This widow, although poor, dropped in more than they all did. For all these dropped in gifts out of their surplus, but this woman out of her want dropped in all the means of living she had.”—Luke 21:1-4.
19. Why is it good to reexamine the ways in which we show our gratitude?
19 May this review of how we can show ourselves thankful prompt us to reexamine the ways by which we show our gratitude. Can we perhaps increase our sacrifice of praise to Jehovah as well as our support of the worldwide work in a material way? To the extent that we do so, we can be assured that our generous loving Father, Jehovah, will be well-pleased that we show ourselves thankful.
Do You Recall?
• For what reasons should we be thankful to Jehovah?
• What lessons do we learn from tithing, voluntary contributions, and gleaning?
• How do we cultivate the pioneer spirit?
• How can we use our “valuable things” to thank Jehovah?
[Pictures on page 15]
“Every good gift and every perfect present is from above”
[Pictures on page 16]
What three lessons from the Law are shown here?
[Pictures on page 18]
What sacrifices can we make?