What Influence Does Jesus Christ Have on You?
IN VIEW of what we considered in the preceding article, can there be any doubt that Jesus’ teachings have had a worldwide impact? The question of importance, though, is, “What influence do Jesus’ teachings have on me personally?”
Jesus’ teachings touched on a vast array of subjects. The valuable lessons they convey can affect every aspect of your life. Let us focus on what Jesus taught about setting priorities in life, cultivating friendship with God, establishing good relationships with others, solving problems, and refraining from acts of violence.
Set Priorities in Life
The fast-paced world of today makes so many demands on our time and energies that spiritual considerations often get crowded out. Consider the case of a man in his 20’s whom we will call Jerry. While Jerry enjoys conversations on spiritual subjects and values what he learns from them, he laments: “I just do not have the time to engage in them consistently. I work six days a week. Sunday is my only day off. And after I take care of the things I must do, I am too tired.” If you find yourself in a similar predicament, you can benefit from what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus said to the crowd who had gathered to hear him: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing? Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are? . . . So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33) What do we learn from this?
Jesus was not implying that we should neglect taking care of our physical needs and those of our family members. “If anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household,” states the Bible, “he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8) However, Jesus promised that if we put first things first and give priority to spiritual matters, God will make sure that other needs are met. The lesson here is about setting priorities. Following this advice leads to happiness, for “happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matthew 5:3.
Cultivate Friendship With God
Those conscious of their spiritual need see the necessity of cultivating a good relationship with God. How do we establish a good relationship with anyone? Do we not try to get to know that person better? We must take time to learn about his views, attitudes, abilities, accomplishments, likes, and dislikes. The same is true when it comes to building a friendship with God. Accurate knowledge of him is required. When praying to God about his disciples, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Yes, cultivating intimacy with God requires that we come to know him. The only source of that knowledge is God’s inspired Word, the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16) We must set aside time to study the Scriptures.
However, knowledge in itself is not enough. In the same prayer, Jesus said: “They [his disciples] have observed your word.” (John 17:6) We must not only take in knowledge of God but also act in harmony with that knowledge. How else could we become God’s friend? Can we really expect our friendship with anyone to grow if we willfully act in a manner that goes contrary to that one’s ideas and principles? God’s views and principles, then, ought to guide all our steps in life. Consider how two of his principles apply to our relationships with other humans.
Establish Good Relationships With Others
On one occasion, Jesus related a short story in order to teach a valuable lesson in human relationships. He spoke of a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One of them, though, had a huge debt and no means to repay it. The master ordered that the man, his wife, and his children be sold and payment made. The debtor fell down and begged: “Be patient with me and I will pay back everything to you.” Moved with pity, the master canceled his debt. But that slave went off, found a fellow slave who owed him a modest sum, and demanded repayment. Though this fellow slave begged for mercy, the first slave had him thrown into prison until he paid off all that he owed. When the king heard of this, he became angry. “Ought you not . . . to have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I also had mercy on you?” he demanded. And he had the unforgiving slave imprisoned until he repaid all that he owed. Drawing a lesson from the story, Jesus said: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.”—Matthew 18:23-35.
As imperfect humans, we have many faults. We can never pay back to God the huge debt we have accumulated because of transgressing against him. All we can do is seek his forgiveness. And Jehovah God is ready to forgive all our failings, provided we forgive our brothers for sins they have committed against us. What a forceful lesson that is! Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”—Matthew 6:12.
Get to the Root of the Problem
When it came to understanding human nature, Jesus was an expert. His counsel on solving problems went to their very root. Consider the following two examples.
“You heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You must not murder; but whoever commits a murder will be accountable to the court of justice,’” said Jesus. “However, I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice.” (Matthew 5:21, 22) Jesus here showed that the root of the problem of murder lies at a level deeper than the violent act itself. It is in the attitude that grows in the murderer’s heart. If people did not allow a feeling of resentment or anger to build up, premeditated violence would disappear. How much bloodshed would be avoided if this teaching was applied!
Notice how Jesus gets to the bottom of another problem that causes a great deal of heartache. He told the crowd: “You heard that it was said, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If, now, that right eye of yours is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you.” (Matthew 5:27-29) Jesus taught that the problem goes deeper than the immoral behavior itself. It is in what precedes it—immoral desires. If a person refuses to dwell on improper longings and ‘tears them out’ of his mind, then he will overcome the potential problem of immoral behavior.
“Return Your Sword to Its Place”
On the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, one of his disciples drew his sword to defend him. Jesus commanded him: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) The following morning, Jesus told Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) Is this teaching impractical?
What was the attitude of the early Christians toward what Jesus taught about not resorting to violence? The book The Early Christian Attitude to War says: “Inasmuch as they [Jesus’ teachings] ruled out as illicit all use of violence and injury against others, clearly implied [was] the illegitimacy of participation in war . . . The early Christians took Jesus at his word, and understood his inculcations of gentleness and non-resistance in their literal sense. They closely identified their religion with peace; they strongly condemned war for the bloodshed which it involved.” How different the course of history would have been had all those who claimed to be Christians actually followed this teaching!
You Can Benefit From All of Jesus’ Teachings
The teachings of Jesus that we have considered are beautiful, simple, and powerful. Mankind can benefit from being acquainted with his teachings and putting them into practice.a
Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area will be happy to help you to see how you can benefit from the wisest teachings ever uttered by any human. You have our warm invitation to contact them or to write to the address on page 2 of this magazine.
a For a systematic consideration of all of Jesus’ teachings, see The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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“Your heavenly Father feeds them”
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Jesus’ teachings can have a fine influence on your life