Never Forsake Your Fellow Believers
“FOR ten years, we were mesmerized by the glittering lights of the business world, enjoying considerable wealth. Although we were raised in the truth, we had strayed too far and had no spiritual strength to return,” relate Jarosław and his wife, Beata.*
Another brother, Marek, recalls: “Because of social and political changes in Poland, I lost job after job. I was frustrated. I had been afraid to start my own company because I did not have a flair for business. Finally, I was tempted to start one, thinking this would help me to take better care of my family’s material needs without any negative impact on my spirituality. In time, I found out how wrong I was.”
In a world where the cost of living is rising relentlessly and unemployment is increasing steadily, some individuals become desperate and, as a result, make unwise decisions. A number of brothers have decided to accept overtime work, to take on additional employment, or to start their own business even though lacking experience. They presume that the extra income will help the family and cause no spiritual harm. Yet, unforeseen circumstances and the unstable economy can disrupt even well-motivated plans. As a result, some have fallen into the trap of greed and have sacrificed spiritual interests in favor of material ones.—Eccl. 9:11, 12.
Some brothers and sisters have become so engrossed in worldly pursuits that they no longer have time for personal study, meetings, or the ministry. Clearly, such neglect causes harm to their spirituality and to their relationship with Jehovah. They may also abandon another important relationship—their bond with those ‘related to them in the faith.’ (Gal. 6:10) Some gradually withdraw from the Christian brotherhood. Consider seriously this aspect of the matter.
Our Obligation Toward Fellow Believers
As brothers and sisters, we have many occasions to show tender feelings toward one another. (Rom. 13:8) In your congregation, you have likely seen ‘afflicted ones crying for help.’ (Job 29:12) Some may lack basic material sustenance. The apostle John reminded us of the opportunity that this presents. “Whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him?”—1 John 3:17.
You may have responded to such needs and extended generous help to others. Yet, our interest in the brotherhood is not limited to material assistance. Some may cry for help because they are lonely or discouraged. They may feel unworthy, suffer from a serious illness, or have experienced the death of a loved one. One way that we can encourage them is by listening to and talking with them, thus being sensitive to their emotional and spiritual needs. (1 Thess. 5:14) This often further cements the bond of love with our brothers.
Spiritual shepherds may especially be in a position to listen with empathy, show understanding, and provide loving Scriptural counsel. (Acts 20:28) In that way overseers imitate the apostle Paul, who had “tender affection” for his spiritual brothers and sisters.—1 Thess. 2:7, 8.
However, if a Christian strays from the flock, what happens to his obligation to his fellow believers? Not even overseers are immune to the temptation of materialistic pursuits. What if a Christian should succumb to such a temptation?
Weighed Down by Life’s Anxieties
As noted, toiling to fill our family’s basic physical needs often brings anxieties and can weaken our view of spiritual values. (Matt. 13:22) Marek, mentioned earlier, explains: “When my business failed, I decided to find a well-paying job abroad. I left just for three months, then for another three months, and so on, with short intervals back home. My unbelieving wife suffered emotionally from that.”
Family life was not the only thing that suffered. “In addition to long hours of work in oppressive heat,” continues Marek, “I was exposed to vulgar people who were striving to exploit others. They acted like common gangsters. I felt depressed and dominated. Not even having time to take care of myself, I began to doubt my ability to serve others.”
The sad consequences of Marek’s decision should move us to stop and think. Even if it seems that moving abroad would solve financial difficulties, would it not create other problems? For instance, what would happen to the spiritual and emotional well-being of our family? Would such a move lead to the severing of our ties with the congregation? Would it not deprive us of the privilege of ministering to fellow believers?—1 Tim. 3:2-5.
As you probably realize, though, a person does not have to work outside of his home country to become engrossed in secular work. Consider Jarosław and Beata. “It all started innocently enough,” he says. “As newlyweds, we opened a small hot-dog stand in a good location. Swelling profits encouraged us to expand our business. But we had little time, so we missed Christian meetings. Before long, I gave up pioneering and serving as a ministerial servant. Excited over the profits we were making, we opened a large shop and entered into a partnership with an unbeliever. Soon I was traveling abroad to sign contracts worth millions of dollars. I was rarely at home, and the family bond with my wife and my daughter deteriorated. Finally, the booming business lulled us to sleep spiritually. Cut off from the congregation, we did not spare a thought for our brothers.”
What lesson can we learn from this? The desire to create a private “paradise” can ensnare a Christian, resulting in complacency—even the loss of “his outer garments,” his Christian identity. (Rev. 16:15) That could cut us off from the brothers whom we previously were in a position to help.
Make an Honest Evaluation
‘That wouldn’t happen to me,’ we might be inclined to think. Yet, we all do well to consider seriously how much is really needed in life. “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out,” wrote Paul. “So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Tim. 6:7, 8) Granted, the standard of living varies from country to country. What may be considered the bare minimum in a developed country may be considered a luxury in many other lands.
Whatever the standard where we live, consider Paul’s next words: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” (1 Tim. 6:9) A snare is hidden from the prey. It is designed to catch the victim by surprise. How can we avoid being ensnared by “hurtful desires”?
Establishing priorities can move us to find more time for Kingdom interests, including personal study. Such prayerful study can help a Christian to become “fully competent, completely equipped” to assist others.—2 Tim. 2:15; 3:17.
Over the course of a few years, loving elders worked to build up and encourage Jarosław. He was moved to make radical changes. He says: “In one crucial conversation, the elders quoted the Scriptural example of a rich young man who wanted to live forever but who was not willing to give up his material possessions. Then they tactfully raised the issue of whether this information might apply to me. That was a real eye-opener!”—Prov. 11:28; Mark 10:17-22.
Jarosław evaluated his situation honestly and decided to end his involvement in big business. Within two years, he and his family regained their spiritual health. He is now serving his brothers as an elder. Jarosław says: “When brothers become engrossed in business to the point of neglecting their spirituality, I use my own example to illustrate how unwise it is to become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. It is not easy to resist tempting offers and to keep away from dishonest practices.”—2 Cor. 6:14.
Marek too learned a lesson the hard way. Though a well-paying job abroad helped his family financially, his relationship with God and his brothers suffered. In time, he redefined his priorities. “Over the years, my situation resembled the one of Baruch of old who ‘kept seeking great things for himself.’ Finally, I poured out my heart, telling Jehovah of my anxieties, and now I feel that I have regained spiritual balance.” (Jer. 45:1-5) Marek is now reaching out for the “fine work” of an overseer in the congregation.—1 Tim. 3:1.
Marek gives this warning for those who might consider traveling abroad in search of a better-paying job: “When abroad, it is very easy to fall into the traps of this wicked world. Poor knowledge of the local language hinders communication with others. You may return home with money, but you also have spiritual wounds that can take a long time to heal.”
Maintaining the balance between secular employment and our obligation to our brothers will help us to please Jehovah. And we can provide a living example that may motivate others to make a wise decision. Those who are weighed down need support, compassion, and the good example of their brothers and sisters. Congregation elders and other mature ones can help fellow believers to maintain their balance and avoid being consumed by life’s anxieties.—Heb. 13:7.
Some names have been changed.
[Pictures on page 21]
Does your secular work interfere with your meeting attendance?
[Pictures on page 23]
Do you value your opportunities to help your spiritual brothers and sisters?