How Should We Treat Others?
“Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—LUKE 6:31.
1, 2. (a) What is the Sermon on the Mount? (b) We will discuss what in this article and the one following?
JESUS CHRIST truly was the Great Teacher. When his religious foes sent men to arrest him, the officers returned empty-handed and said: “Never has another man spoken like this.” (John 7:32, 45, 46) One of Jesus’ masterful discourses was the Sermon on the Mount. It is recorded in chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew’s Gospel, and similar information is presented at Luke 6:20-49.*
2 Perhaps the best-known statement in that sermon is the one that is often called the Golden Rule. It has to do with how we treat others. “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them,” said Jesus. (Luke 6:31) And what good things he did for people! Jesus cured the sick and even raised the dead. Individuals were especially blessed, however, when they accepted the good news he shared with them. (Read Luke 7:20-22.) As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are delighted to engage in similar Kingdom-preaching activity. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) In this article and the next, we will consider Jesus’ words about this work as well as other points in the Sermon on the Mount that relate to how we should treat others.
3. How would you define mildness of temper?
3 Jesus said: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5) In the Scriptures, mildness of temper has nothing to do with weakness. It is gentleness that we exercise in response to God’s requirements. This attitude is reflected in our conduct with regard to fellow humans. For instance, we “return evil for evil to no one.”—Rom. 12:17-19.
4. Why are mild-tempered ones happy?
4 The mild-tempered ones are happy because “they will inherit the earth.” Jesus, who was “mild-tempered and lowly in heart,” is the “appointed heir of all things” and is therefore the principal Inheritor of the earth. (Matt. 11:29; Heb. 1:2; Ps. 2:8) It was foretold that the Messianic “son of man” would have associate rulers in the heavenly Kingdom. (Dan. 7:13, 14, 21, 22, 27) As “joint heirs with Christ,” 144,000 mild-tempered anointed ones were to share in Jesus’ inheritance of the earth. (Rom. 8:16, 17; Rev. 14:1) Other mild-tempered ones will be blessed with everlasting life in the earthly realm of the Kingdom.—Ps. 37:11.
5. Having Christlike mildness does what for us?
5 If we were to be harsh, we would likely try the patience of others and alienate them from us. However, having Christlike mildness makes us pleasant and spiritually upbuilding members of the congregation. Mildness is part of the fruitage that God’s active force produces within us if we ‘live and walk by spirit.’ (Read Galatians 5:22-25.) Surely we want to be counted among the mild-tempered individuals led by Jehovah’s holy spirit!
How Happy the Merciful!
6. “The merciful” have what notable qualities?
6 In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also said: “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) “The merciful” have tender compassion and show kind consideration, even pity, for the disadvantaged. Jesus miraculously relieved suffering because he “felt pity,” or was “moved with pity.” (Matt. 14:14; 20:34) Pity and consideration should therefore prompt us to be merciful.—Jas. 2:13.
7. Pity moved Jesus to do what?
7 When a crowd met Jesus on his way to get some rest, “he was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd.” Consequently, “he started to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) What joy we experience as we similarly share the Kingdom message with others and tell them about God’s great mercy!
8. Why are the merciful happy?
8 The merciful are happy because of being “shown mercy.” When we treat people mercifully, they usually respond in a similar way. (Luke 6:38) Moreover, Jesus said: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14) Only the merciful know the happiness that results from forgiveness of sins and divine approval.
Why “the Peaceable” Are Happy
9. How will we act if we are peaceable?
9 Citing another reason for happiness, Jesus said: “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’” (Matt. 5:9) The Greek word here rendered “peaceable” literally means “peacemakers.” If we are peacemakers, we will not condone or participate in anything, such as slanderous talk, that could ‘separate those familiar with one another.’ (Prov. 16:28) By word and deed, we will pursue peace with people inside and outside the Christian congregation. (Heb. 12:14) Especially will we do our utmost to be found at peace with Jehovah God.—Read 1 Peter 3:10-12.
10. Why are “the peaceable” happy?
10 Jesus said that “the peaceable” are happy, “since they will be called ‘sons of God.’” Because of exercising faith in Jesus as the Messiah, anointed Christians receive “authority to become God’s children.” (John 1:12; 1 Pet. 2:24) What about Jesus’ peaceable “other sheep”? They will have him as their “Eternal Father” during his Thousand Year Reign with his heavenly joint heirs. (John 10:14, 16; Isa. 9:6; Rev. 20:6) At the end of his Millennial Rule, such peacemakers will in the fullest sense become earthly children of God.—1 Cor. 15:27, 28.
11. How will we treat others if we are guided by “the wisdom from above”?
11 To enjoy an intimate relationship with Jehovah, “the God of peace,” we must imitate his qualities, including peaceableness. (Phil. 4:9) If we allow ourselves to be guided by “the wisdom from above,” we will treat others in a peaceable way. (Jas. 3:17) Yes, we will be happy peacemakers.
“Let Your Light Shine”
12. (a) What did Jesus say about spiritual light? (b) How can we let our light shine?
12 We treat people in the best way possible when we help them to receive spiritual light from God. (Ps. 43:3) Jesus told his disciples that they were “the light of the world” and urged them to let their light shine so that people might see their “fine works,” or good deeds to others. This would result in spiritual illumination “before men,” or for the benefit of mankind. (Read Matthew 5:14-16.) Today, we let our light shine by doing good to our neighbors and by sharing in the work of preaching the good news “in all the world,” that is, “in all the nations.” (Matt. 26:13; Mark 13:10) What a privilege we enjoy!
13. For what are we noticed?
13 “A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain,” said Jesus. Any city located on a mountain would be easily seen. Similarly, we are noticed for our fine works as Kingdom proclaimers and for such qualities as moderation and chasteness.—Titus 2:1-14.
14. (a) How would you describe first-century lamps? (b) How is it that we do not hide spiritual light under a “measuring basket”?
14 Jesus spoke of lighting a lamp and putting it, not under a basket, but on a lampstand so that it would shine upon all those in the house. A common first-century lamp was an earthenware vessel with a wick that drew up liquid (usually olive oil) by capillary attraction to feed a flame. Often placed on a wooden or metal stand, a lamp would ‘shine upon all those in a house.’ People would not light a lamp and put it under a “measuring basket”—a large container having a capacity of about eight dry quarts. [9 L] Jesus did not want his disciples to hide their spiritual light under a figurative measuring basket. So we must let our light shine, never permitting opposition or persecution to make us hide Scriptural truth or keep it to ourselves.
15. How do our “fine works” affect some people?
15 It was after he mentioned a shining lamp that Jesus told his disciples: “Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” Because of our “fine works,” some “give glory” to God by becoming his servants. What an incentive for us to keep on “shining as illuminators in the world”!—Phil. 2:15.
16. Being “the light of the world” requires what of us?
16 Being “the light of the world” requires that we be involved in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. But something else is also required of us. “Go on walking as children of light,” wrote the apostle Paul, “for the fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth.” (Eph. 5:8, 9) We need to be shining examples of godly conduct. Indeed, we must heed the apostle Peter’s counsel: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” (1 Pet. 2:12) But what should be done if strained relations develop between fellow believers?
“Make Your Peace With Your Brother”
17-19. (a) What was the “gift” mentioned at Matthew 5:23, 24? (b) How important is it to become reconciled with a brother, and how did Jesus show this?
17 In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his disciples against harboring wrath and contempt for a brother. Instead, they were to be quick about pursuing peace with an offended brother. (Read Matthew 5:21-25.) Take careful note of Jesus’ counsel. If you were bringing your gift to the altar and there remembered that your brother had something against you, what were you to do? You were to leave your gift in front of the altar while you went to make peace with your brother. After doing that, you could return and offer up your gift.
18 The “gift” often was a sacrificial offering that a person might present at Jehovah’s temple. Animal sacrifices were very important, for they had been commanded by God as part of Israel’s worship under the Mosaic Law. But if you recalled that your brother had something against you, settling that matter was of even greater urgency than offering your gift. “Leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away,” said Jesus. “First make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift.” Becoming reconciled with a brother was to take precedence over performing an obligation set out in the Law.
19 Jesus did not limit his statement to particular offerings and specific transgressions. Therefore, any offering was to be postponed if a person remembered that his brother had something against him. If the offering was a living animal, it was to be left “in front of the altar” of burnt offering in the priests’ courtyard of the temple. After the problem was solved, the offender would return and the offering would be made.
20. Why should we act to settle matters quickly if we are angry with a brother?
20 From God’s standpoint, our relationship with our brothers is an important part of true worship. Animal sacrifices were meaningless to Jehovah if those offering them did not treat their fellow man properly. (Mic. 6:6-8) Hence, Jesus urged his disciples to “be about settling matters quickly.” (Matt. 5:25) Along similar lines, Paul wrote: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.” (Eph. 4:26, 27) If we do become justifiably angry, we should act to settle matters quickly so that we do not remain in a provoked state and thus allow the Devil to take advantage of us.—Luke 17:3, 4.
Always Treat Others With Respect
21, 22. (a) How can we apply Jesus’ counsel that we have just discussed? (b) What will we consider in the next article?
21 Our review of certain statements made by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount should help us to treat others with kindness and respect. Although all of us are imperfect, we can apply Jesus’ counsel because he does not expect more of us than we can do, and neither does our heavenly Father. With prayer, sincere effort, and Jehovah God’s blessing, we can be mild-tempered, merciful, and peaceable. We can reflect spiritual light that shines to Jehovah’s glory. Moreover, we can make peace with our brother when that becomes necessary.
22 Acceptable worship of Jehovah includes proper treatment of our neighbor. (Mark 12:31) In the next article, we will consider other statements in the Sermon on the Mount that should help us to keep on doing good to others. After meditating on the foregoing points drawn from Jesus’ matchless discourse, however, we might ask ourselves, ‘How well do I treat others?’
In your personal study, you are likely to find it very beneficial to read these passages before considering this article and the one following it.
How Would You Answer?
• What does it mean to be mild-tempered?
• Why are “the merciful” happy?
• How can we let our light shine?
• Why should we be quick to ‘make peace with our brother’?
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Declaring the Kingdom message is a vital way to let our light shine
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Christians must be examples of godly conduct
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Do your best to make peace with your brother