Prove Your Faith by Your Life Course
“Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.”—JAMES 2:17.
1. Why did the early Christians give attention to both faith and works?
AS A whole, the early Christians proved their faith by how they actually lived. The disciple James urged all Christians: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only.” He added: “As the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 1:22; 2:26) About 35 years after he wrote that, many Christians were continuing to prove their faith with appropriate works. But sadly, some were not. Jesus commended the congregation in Smyrna; yet, to many in the congregation in Sardis, he said: “I know your deeds, that you have the name that you are alive, but you are dead.”—Revelation 2:8-11; 3:1.
2. What should Christians ask themselves about their faith?
2 Accordingly, Jesus encouraged those in Sardis—and by extension all who would later read his words—to prove their first love for Christian truth and to be awake spiritually. (Revelation 3:2, 3) Each of us can ask himself: ‘How about my deeds? Do my actions clearly show that I am doing my best to prove my faith by all I do, even in the areas not directly related to the preaching work or congregation meetings?’ (Luke 16:10) Many aspects of life could be considered, but let us deal with just one: social gatherings, including those that often follow Christian weddings.
Small Social Gatherings
3. What is the Biblical position about sharing in gatherings?
3 Most of us appreciate being invited to a gathering of happy Christians. Jehovah is “the happy God,” who wants his servants to be happy. (1 Timothy 1:11) He had Solomon include in the Bible this reality: “I myself commended rejoicing, because mankind have nothing better under the sun than to eat and drink and rejoice, and that it should accompany them in their hard work for the days of their life.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, 13; 8:15) Such rejoicing may be at a family meal or at some other small social gathering of true worshippers.—Job 1:4, 5, 18; Luke 10:38-42; 14:12-14.
4. A person who arranges a gathering should be interested in what?
4 If you are arranging such a gathering and are responsible for it, you should think through what is planned, even if you are inviting just a few believers for a meal and friendly conversation. (Romans 12:13) You will want to see that “all things take place decently,” guided by “the wisdom from above.” (1 Corinthians 14:40; James 3:17) The apostle Paul wrote: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, 32) What are some aspects needing particular attention? Considering such beforehand can help to ensure that what you and your guests do will manifest your faith in action.—Romans 12:2.
What Will the Gathering Be Like?
5. Why should the host give careful thought to whether he will serve alcoholic beverages and have music?
5 Many hosts have faced the issue of whether to serve alcoholic beverages. Such are not needed for a gathering to be upbuilding. Recall that Jesus provided a meal for a sizable group that came to him—he multiplied bread and fish. The account does not say that he miraculously provided wine, although we know that he was able to do so. (Matthew 14:14-21) If you decide to serve alcoholic beverages at a gathering, be moderate as to how much there will be, and make sure that there are appealing alternatives for those who prefer them. (1 Timothy 3:2, 3, 8; 5:23; 1 Peter 4:3) Definitely refrain from making anyone feel pressured to drink something that might bite “just like a serpent.” (Proverbs 23:29-32) What about music or singing? If your gathering will include music, no doubt you will carefully select the songs, considering both rhythm and lyrics. (Colossians 3:8; James 1:21) Many Christians have found that playing Kingdom Melodies or even singing such songs together contributes to a good atmosphere. (Ephesians 5:19, 20) And, of course, check on the volume regularly so that the music neither stifles enjoyable conversation nor disturbs any neighbors.—Matthew 7:12.
6. How can a host show that his is a living faith when it comes to conversation or other activities?
6 At a social gathering, Christians may talk about various subjects, read some material aloud, or relate interesting experiences. If the conversation strays, the host can tactfully redirect it. He should also be alert that no one person dominates the conversation. If he sees that developing, he can judiciously speak up and provide for variety, perhaps by drawing out the young ones or introducing a subject that invites varied comments. Both young and old will be delighted with this aspect of the gathering. If, as the organizer, you guide matters wisely and tactfully, your ‘reasonableness will become known’ to those present. (Philippians 4:5) They will sense that yours is a living faith, one that affects all phases of your life.
Weddings and Wedding Receptions
7. Why does planning weddings and related gatherings merit consideration?
7 One special occasion for rejoicing is a Christian wedding. God’s ancient servants, including Jesus and his disciples, willingly shared in such happy events, including associated feasting. (Genesis 29:21, 22; John 2:1, 2) In recent times, however, experience has clearly shown that planning the social activities linked to weddings calls for special effort if they are to reflect good judgment and Christian balance. Yet, these are normal aspects of life that give a Christian opportunity to demonstrate his faith.
8, 9. How do the practices at many weddings bear out what we read at 1 John 2:16, 17?
8 Many people who neither know nor care about godly principles view a wedding as an occasion for extremes, or perhaps one where extremes are excused. In one European magazine, a new wife said this about her “royal” wedding: ‘We rode in a four-horse parade carriage followed by 12 horse-drawn cabs and a coach containing a band playing music. Then we had an exquisite menu and excellent music; it was superb. Just as I wanted, I was queen for the day.’
9 While practices may vary from land to land, those sentiments simply bear out what the apostle John wrote: “Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” Can you imagine a mature Christian couple wanting to have a “royal” wedding with a lavish fairy-tale reception? Rather, their outlook should take into account that “he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:16, 17.
10. (a) For a reasonable wedding, why is planning essential? (b) How should decisions be made about those invited?
10 Christian couples want to be both realistic and reasonable, and the Bible can help them. Significant as the wedding day is, they know that it is just the beginning of the married life of two Christians who have everlasting life ahead of them. They are not obligated to have a large wedding feast. If they do choose to have a gathering, they will want to calculate the expense of the gathering and consider its nature. (Luke 14:28) In their Christian life together, the husband will be the Scriptural head. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22, 23) So the groom is primarily responsible for the wedding reception. Of course, he will lovingly consult with his wife-to-be on such matters as whom they want to or are able to invite to the wedding feast. It may not be possible or practical to invite all their friends and relatives; hence, some decisions may have to be made with modesty. The couple should be able to trust that if they cannot invite some fellow Christians, these will be understanding and will not be offended.—Ecclesiastes 7:9.
“Director of the Feast”
11. What role can a “director of the feast” play at a wedding?
11 If a couple choose to host a gathering to celebrate the wedding, how can they make sure that the occasion remains dignified? For some decades now, Jehovah’s Witnesses have appreciated the wisdom of including an aspect mentioned in connection with the gathering Jesus attended in Cana. There was a “director of the feast,” certainly a responsible fellow believer. (John 2:9, 10) Similarly, a wise groom will choose a spiritually mature Christian brother for this key role. Having ascertained the groom’s wishes and tastes, the director of the feast can follow through on details both before and during the gathering.
12. What should the groom consider regarding the use of alcoholic beverages?
12 In line with what was discussed in paragraph 5, some couples choose to exclude alcoholic beverages from the wedding feast lest the abuse of such mar the happiness and success of the occasion. (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11) Yet, if they include alcoholic beverages, the groom should see to it that these are served or made available in moderation. There was wine at the wedding Jesus attended in Cana, and he supplied wine of fine quality. Interestingly, the director of that feast commented: “Every other man puts out the fine wine first, and when people are intoxicated, the inferior. You have reserved the fine wine until now.” (John 2:10) Surely Jesus did not contribute to any drunkenness, for he viewed such as reprehensible. (Luke 12:45, 46) In expressing surprise at the quality of the wine, the director made it clear that he had observed instances when some wedding guests did get drunk. (Acts 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:7) Hence, both the groom and the trustworthy Christian he designates as director of the feast ought to make sure that all present follow the clear directive: “Do not be getting drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery.”—Ephesians 5:18; Proverbs 20:1; Hosea 4:11.
13. What should a couple consider if they arrange to have music at a wedding feast, and why?
13 As is true of other gatherings, if there is to be music, due attention should be given to the volume so that it allows for easy conversation. One Christian elder noted: “As the evening progresses, when conversation becomes more animated or dancing commences, sometimes the volume of the music increases. What began as background music may become loud and hinder conversation. A wedding reception offers an opportunity for pleasant fellowship. How sad it would be if loud music spoiled this opportunity!” Here, too, the groom and the director of the feast need to act responsibly, not relinquishing to musicians, whether hired or not, the control over the nature and volume of the music. Paul wrote: “Whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Colossians 3:17) When the guests go home after a wedding feast (or, reception), will they remember the music as reflecting that the couple were doing everything in the name of Jesus? That should be the case.
14. Christians should fondly remember what about a wedding?
14 Yes, a well-arranged wedding can be fondly remembered. Adam and Edyta, who have been married for 30 years, commented on one wedding: “You could really feel the Christian atmosphere. There were songs praising Jehovah but also some other fine entertainment. Dancing and music were of secondary importance. It was pleasant and upbuilding, and everything was in harmony with Bible principles.” Clearly, the bride and groom can do much to show that they are proving their faith by their works.
15. What Bible counsel can be applied in regard to wedding gifts?
15 In many lands it is common for friends and relatives to give a gift to those getting married. If you choose to do so, what might you bear in mind? Well, recall the apostle John’s comment about “the showy display of one’s means of life.” He linked such showiness, not with Christians who manifest their faith in actions, but with ‘the world that is passing away.’ (1 John 2:16, 17) In view of John’s inspired observation, should the newlyweds identify to all the giver of each gift? Christians from Macedonia and Achaia made contributions to brothers in Jerusalem, but there is no indication that their names were publicized. (Romans 15:26) Many Christians who give a wedding present would want to remain anonymous rather than attract undue attention to themselves. In this regard, review Jesus’ counsel found at Matthew 6:1-4.
16. How can newlyweds avoid hurting others’ feelings when it comes to wedding gifts?
16 Identifying the givers of gifts could lead to “stirring up competition” as to which is the better or the more costly gift. Thus, wise Christian newlyweds will refrain from publicly announcing the names of gift givers. Announcing the names of the givers might embarrass others who were perhaps unable to afford to give a gift. (Galatians 5:26; 6:10) Granted, it is not wrong for the bride and groom to know who gave a certain gift. They could possibly learn that from an appropriate card that accompanies the present but is not read publicly. When buying, giving, and receiving wedding gifts, we all have a chance to prove that even in such a private matter, our faith is affecting our actions.*
17. Christians should have what goal in regard to their faith and works?
17 Proving our faith certainly involves more than living morally, attending Christian meetings, and sharing in the preaching work. May each of us have a living faith that affects all that we do. Yes, we can show our faith by deeds “fully performed,” including those in areas of life discussed above.—Revelation 3:2.
18. How can the words at John 13:17 prove true in connection with Christian weddings and gatherings?
18 After Jesus set a fine example for his faithful apostles by the lowly act of washing their feet, he said: “If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.” (John 13:4-17) In the locality where we live today, it may not be necessary or normal to wash the feet of another person, such as a guest in our home. As we have considered in this article, however, there are other aspects of life in which we can manifest our faith by loving, considerate actions, including those associated with social gatherings and Christian weddings. That is so whether we are getting married or are guests at a wedding or a subsequent happy gathering of Christians who want to show their faith by their actions.
Additional aspects of weddings and associated receptions are treated in the following article, “Increase the Joy and Dignity of Your Wedding Day.”
How Would You Answer?
How can you prove your faith
• when organizing a social gathering?
• when organizing a wedding or a reception?
• when giving or receiving wedding gifts?
[Picture on page 24]
Even when inviting just a few people, be guided by “the wisdom from above”