“He that conducts himself as a lesser one among all of you is the one that is great.”—LUKE 9:48.
1, 2. Jesus gave his apostles what admonition, and why did he do so?
THE year was 32 C.E. Jesus was in the district of Galilee when difficulties arose. A few of his apostles were arguing about who was the greatest among them. The Gospel writer Luke reports: “A reasoning entered among them as to who would be the greatest of them. Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a young child, set it beside him and said to them: ‘Whoever receives this young child on the basis of my name receives me too, and whoever receives me receives him also that sent me forth. For he that conducts himself as a lesser one among all of you is the one that is great.’” (Luke 9:46-48) Patiently but firmly, Jesus helped the apostles to see the need for humility.
2 Was Jesus’ admonition to behave as a lesser one in accord with the values of the first-century Jews? Or was it the opposite of their general spirit? Commenting on the social conditions of that time, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament explains: “In every affair, the question constantly arose who was the greater, and according to each his due honour was an important matter which caused constant concern.” Jesus was admonishing his apostles to be different from people in general.
3. (a) Behaving as a lesser one means what, and why might it be challenging for us to act in that way? (b) What questions arise about cultivating the spirit of a lesser one?
3 The Greek word translated “lesser one” means someone who is modest, humble, lowly, insignificant, or of little esteem and influence. Jesus used a young child to make clear to his apostles that they should be humble and modest. That admonition is as applicable to true Christians today as it was in the first century. We may find it challenging to conduct ourselves as lesser ones—at least in some circumstances. The human tendency toward pride may motivate us to seek prominence. The competitive environment in which we live and the spirit of the world might influence us to be egotistical, combative, or manipulative. What can help us to cultivate the spirit of a lesser one? How is ‘a lesser one among us the one that is great’? In what areas of life should we strive to manifest the spirit of humility?
“O THE DEPTH OF GOD’S RICHES AND WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE!”
4, 5. What can move us to cultivate humility? Illustrate.
4 One way to cultivate humility is to ponder over the greatness of Jehovah in comparison to us. Actually, “there is no searching out of his understanding.” (Isa. 40:28) Commenting on certain aspects of Jehovah’s magnificence, the apostle Paul wrote: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!” (Rom. 11:33) Although mankind’s knowledge of many things has increased greatly since Paul wrote those words some 2,000 years ago, that statement still holds true. No matter how much we know, it should humble us to realize that there is no limit to what can be learned about Jehovah, his works, and his ways.
5 Appreciating that it is beyond our ability to search out God’s ways helped Leo* to view himself as a lesser one. As a young man, Leo was fascinated by science. Desiring to understand as much as possible about the physical universe, he studied astrophysics and came to an important conclusion. He says: “Based on my studies, I came to realize that current scientific theories alone are not likely to enable mankind to understand the universe completely. So I switched to studying law.” In time, Leo became a district attorney and later a court judge. Eventually, he and his wife studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, embraced the truth, and became dedicated servants of God. Despite his background, what has helped Leo to conduct himself as a lesser one? Unhesitatingly, he answers, “It is the realization that no matter how much we learn about Jehovah and the universe, there is still much more to discover.”
6, 7. (a) Jehovah provides what astonishing example of humility? (b) How can God’s humility make one “great”?
6 Another factor that helps us to be humble is that Jehovah himself displays humility. Consider this: “We are God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:9) Imagine that! Jehovah, the God of unmatched greatness, dignifies us in this way by giving us an opportunity to carry out our ministry using his Word, the Bible. Although Jehovah is the one who makes the seeds that we plant and water grow, he bestows upon us an honorable position of working with him. (1 Cor. 3:6, 7) Is that not an astonishing example of humility on God’s part? Surely Jehovah’s example of humility should be of great encouragement to each of us to behave as a lesser one.
7 God’s example of humility had a tremendous effect on the psalmist David. He sang to Jehovah: “You will give me your shield of salvation, and it is your humility that makes me great.” (2 Sam. 22:36) David attributed any greatness he had in Israel to Jehovah’s humility—to God’s condescending, or humbling himself, to pay attention to him. (Ps. 113:5-7) Is it any different with us? In the way of qualities, abilities, and privileges, what do any of us have that we “did not receive” from Jehovah? (1 Cor. 4:7) The person who conducts himself as a lesser one is “great” in that he becomes more valuable as a servant of Jehovah. (Luke 9:48, ftn.) Let us reflect on how this is so.
‘A LESSER ONE AMONG YOU IS GREAT’
8. How does humility affect our attitude toward Jehovah’s organization?
8 Humility is essential to our being content in God’s theocratic organization and being supportive of the congregational arrangement. For example, consider Petra, a young woman raised in a family of Witnesses. Wanting to do things her own way, Petra distanced herself from the congregation. Years later, she started to associate with the congregation once again. She is now happy to be in Jehovah’s organization and is eager to support the congregational arrangement. What has made the difference this time? “For me to feel at home in God’s organization,” she writes, “the two most important qualities I needed to understand and to cultivate were humility and modesty.”
9. What attitude does a humble person have toward the spiritual food we receive, and why does that make him more valuable?
9 A humble person has heartfelt gratitude for Jehovah’s provisions, including spiritual food. Hence, such an individual is a diligent student of the Bible and an avid reader of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Like many other faithful servants of Jehovah, he may make it a practice to read each new publication before putting it away on a bookshelf in his personal library. When we manifest humble appreciation by reading and studying our Bible-based publications, we make spiritual advancement, and Jehovah is able to use us more fully in his service.—Heb. 5:13, 14.
10. How can we manifest the attitude of a lesser one within the congregation?
10 He who conducts himself as a lesser one is “great” in another way. Every congregation has qualified men appointed under the guidance of Jehovah’s holy spirit to serve as elders. They make arrangements for such spiritual matters as congregation meetings, field service, and shepherding. When we manifest the attitude of a lesser one by willingly supporting these arrangements, we contribute to the joy, peace, and unity of the congregation. (Read Hebrews 13:7, 17.) If you are serving as an elder or a ministerial servant, are you not humbly grateful to Jehovah for entrusting you with such a privilege of service?
11, 12. What attitude will make us more valuable to Jehovah’s organization, and why is that the case?
11 The one behaving as a lesser one is “great,” or more valuable to Jehovah’s organization, because his humility makes him a good and useful servant of God. Jesus had to admonish his disciples to behave as lesser ones because some of them were influenced by the prevailing spirit of the day. “A reasoning entered among them as to who would be the greatest of them,” states Luke 9:46. Might we also begin to reason that we in some way are better than our fellow believers or are superior to people in general? Many in the world around us are motivated by pride and selfishness. Let us distance ourselves from the proud by acting humbly. When we do so and put Jehovah’s will to the fore, we become more refreshing associates of our brothers and sisters.
12 Jesus’ admonition to conduct ourselves as lesser ones truly is motivating. Should we not strive to manifest the spirit of a lesser one in all aspects of life? Let us give particular attention to three areas.
STRIVE TO BE A LESSER ONE
13, 14. How should a husband or a wife behave as a lesser one, and how can this affect a marriage?
13 Within marriage. Many people today are so concerned about their personal rights that they demand them even if doing so means infringing on the rights of others. A lesser one, though, is guided by the attitude that Paul encourages us to have. In his letter to the Romans, he writes: “Let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Rom. 14:19) A person who behaves as a lesser one pursues peace with everyone and especially with his or her own cherished marriage mate.
14 Consider the area of recreation. A couple may differ in their preferences when it comes to entertainment. Perhaps the husband likes to stay quietly at home during leisure time and read a book. On the other hand, the wife may prefer going out for a meal or visiting friends. Would it not be easier for the wife to respect her husband when she sees that he manifests humility and gives sincere consideration to her likes and dislikes rather than being concerned only about his own preferences? And how the husband loves and appreciates his wife when he sees that she does not just try to get her own way but considers his wishes! The marriage bond is strengthened when each partner behaves as a lesser one.—Read Philippians 2:1-4.
15, 16. What attitude did David recommend in Psalm 131, and how should this affect our behavior within the congregation?
15 Within the congregation. In the world, many individuals live for the immediate gratification of their desires. For them, patience is in short supply and waiting is a trial. Cultivating the spirit of a lesser one helps us to wait on Jehovah. (Read Psalm 131:1-3.) The benefits of being humble and waiting on Jehovah are security and blessings, solace and satisfaction. No wonder David encouraged his fellow Israelites to wait patiently for their God!
16 You can experience similar comfort when you humbly wait on Jehovah. (Ps. 42:5) Perhaps you are “desirous of a fine work” and, therefore, are “reaching out for an office of overseer.” (1 Tim. 3:1-7) Of course, you should do all that you reasonably can to allow the holy spirit to develop in you the qualities needed by an overseer. But what if the process seems to take longer in your case than in the case of others? The lesser one, who waits patiently for a privilege of service, will continue to serve Jehovah joyfully and will rejoice in whatever assignment he is given.
17, 18. (a) What benefits result when we seek forgiveness and are willing to grant it to others? (b) What course is recommended at Proverbs 6:1-5?
17 In our relationships with others. To apologize is difficult for most people. However, servants of God cultivate the spirit of a lesser one by admitting their mistakes and asking for forgiveness. They are also ready to forgive others for their transgressions. Whereas pride fosters division and contention, forgiveness promotes peace within the congregation.
18 We may need to ‘humble ourselves’ by sincerely apologizing to another person if we are unable to honor an agreement because of circumstances beyond our control. Although he may be able to assign a measure of blame to the other party, the humble Christian concerns himself with his own failings and is willing to admit them.—Read Proverbs 6:1-5.
19. For what reasons should each of us be grateful for the Biblical counsel to behave as a lesser one?
19 How grateful we are for the Scriptural encouragement to cultivate the spirit of a lesser one! Although we may at times find it challenging to manifest such a spirit, having the correct view of our position in relation to our Creator and appreciating his humility can motivate us to cultivate that fine quality. By doing so, we will indeed prove to be more valuable as Jehovah’s servants. May each of us, therefore, conduct himself as a lesser one.
Names have been changed.