Are You Imitating Jehovah in Caring for Others?
“THROW all your anxiety upon [God], because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) What a warm invitation! Jehovah God has personal concern for his people. We can feel secure in his arms.
We should cultivate and manifest a similar caring attitude toward others. Being imperfect, we need to beware of certain pitfalls when we show personal interest in others. Before noting some of them, let us see some of the ways in which Jehovah cares for his people.
Using a shepherd as an illustration, the psalmist David described God’s care: “Jehovah is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing. In grassy pastures he makes me lie down; by well-watered resting-places he conducts me. My soul he refreshes. . . . Even though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear nothing bad, for you are with me.”—Psalm 23:1-4.
Being a shepherd himself, David knew what was involved in caring for a flock. The shepherd protects his sheep from predators, such as lions, wolves, and bears. He keeps the flock from scattering, looks for lost sheep, carries weary lambs in his bosom, and cares for the sick and the injured. Daily he waters the flock. This does not mean that the shepherd controls every movement of the sheep. The sheep are free yet protected.
That is how Jehovah cares for his people. The apostle Peter explained: ‘You are being safeguarded by God’s power.’ Here, “being safeguarded” literally means “being kept under watch.” (1 Peter 1:5, footnote) Out of genuine concern, Jehovah is always watching over us, ever ready to extend help whenever we ask for it. However, Jehovah created us as free moral agents, so he does not intervene in all our actions and decisions. How can we imitate Jehovah in this regard?
Imitate God in Caring for Your Children
“Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah.” Hence, parents should protect and care for their children. (Psalm 127:3) That may involve drawing out the children and then taking their thinking and feelings into consideration when dealing with them. If parents try to control their children’s every move, completely ignoring their wishes, it would be like a shepherd trying to control his sheep with leashes. No shepherd would tend his flock in such a way; neither does Jehovah shepherd us that way.
Mariko* admits: “For years I just kept telling my children, ‘You should do this’ and ‘You shouldn’t do that.’ I believed that this was my obligation as a parent. I gave no words of commendation, nor did I have any real communication with them.” Although Mariko’s daughter would talk for hours on the phone with her friends, conversations with her mother would not last long. “Then I realized the difference,” continues Mariko. “When talking to her friends, my daughter would use expressions that show empathy, such as ‘Yes, I agree’ or ‘So do I.’ I started using similar expressions to draw out my daughter, and soon our conversations became longer and more pleasant.” This highlights the importance of good communication, which is usually mutual, not one-sided.
Parents need to draw out their children, and children need to understand why parental care serves as a safeguard. The Bible counsels children to obey their parents; then it states the reason: “That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1, 3) Children who are strongly convinced of the benefits of submissiveness find obedience to be easier.
In Caring for Jehovah’s Flock
Jehovah’s loving concern is reflected in the Christian congregation. As the Head of the congregation, Jesus Christ directs elders to care for his flock. (John 21:15-17) The Greek word for overseer is related to a verb meaning “watch carefully.” Emphasizing how this should be done, Peter instructs elders: “Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.”—1 Peter 5:2, 3.
Yes, the elders’ task is similar to that of shepherds. Christian elders are to care for the spiritually sick and readjust them so that their lives reflect righteous standards. The elders are responsible for organizing congregation activities, making arrangements for meetings, and maintaining order in the congregation.—1 Corinthians 14:33.
The above words of Peter, though, call our attention to a danger—that of elders’ “lording it over” the congregation. One step in that direction is an elder’s making unnecessary rules. Out of a strong sense of obligation to protect the flock, an elder might go too far. In one congregation in the Orient, elders made rules on how to greet others in the Kingdom Hall—such as who should speak first—believing that following these rules would contribute to the peace of the congregation. Though the motives were no doubt good, were those elders imitating Jehovah’s care for his people? Significantly, the apostle Paul’s mental attitude was reflected in his words: “Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy, for it is by your faith that you are standing.” (2 Corinthians 1:24) Jehovah trusts his people.
In addition to refraining from setting rules without a Scriptural basis, caring elders show their genuine concern by not revealing private information. They are mindful of the divine warning: “Do not reveal the confidential talk of another.”—Proverbs 25:9.
The apostle Paul likened the congregation of anointed Christians to the human body: “God compounded the body . . . so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 24-26) The Greek expression for “have the same care for one another” literally means ‘should be anxious over one another.’ The members of the Christian congregation should be intensely interested in one another.—Philippians 2:4.
How may true Christians manifest that they are ‘anxious over one another’? They may show their concern for other members of the congregation through their prayers and by offering practical assistance to needy ones. This helps to bring out the good in others. Consider how Tadataka was helped by such loving concern. When he was baptized at the age of 17, he was the only one in his family who was serving Jehovah. He relates: “A family in the congregation often invited me over for meals and gatherings. I dropped by their house almost every morning on my way to school to discuss the day’s Bible text with them. I received advice on how to cope with problems at school, and we prayed about them together. From this family, I learned the spirit of giving.” Tadataka is now putting what he learned into practice by serving at one of the branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The apostle Paul warned of a distinct pitfall regarding showing interest in others. He mentioned certain women who had become “gossipers and meddlers in other people’s affairs, talking of things they ought not.” (1 Timothy 5:13) While we are rightly interested in others, we must be careful that we do not go to the extent of meddling in their personal affairs. Immoderate interest in others can manifest itself in ‘talking of things we ought not,’ such as by making judgmental remarks.
We do well to remember that Christians may differ in how they arrange their personal affairs, what they choose to eat, and which form of wholesome relaxation they select. Within the parameters indicated by Bible principles, each is free to decide what he will do. Paul admonished Roman Christians: “Let us not be judging one another any longer. . . . Let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Romans 14:13, 19) Our sincere concern for one another in the congregation should be displayed, not by meddling in the affairs of others, but by our readiness to help. When we care for one another in this way, love and unity flourish in the family and in the congregation.
Some names have been changed.
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Draw out your children with commendation and empathy