“Do not loiter at your business. . . . Slave for Jehovah.”—ROM. 12:11.
1. Contrast the common view of slavery with that encouraged at Romans 12:11.
CHRISTIAN slavery differs greatly from what many people think about the subject of slavery. In their minds, being a slave conjures up thoughts of being cruelly dominated, oppressed, and unjustly treated. But God’s inspired Word speaks of slavery that involves willing service to a loving Master. In fact, when the apostle Paul admonished first-century Christians to “slave for Jehovah,” he was encouraging sacred service prompted by love of God. (Rom. 12:11) What does this kind of slavery involve? How can we avoid becoming enslaved to Satan and his world? And what are the rewards for faithful service as a slave of Jehovah?
“I REALLY LOVE MY MASTER”
2. (a) What would prompt an Israelite slave to forfeit his opportunity to become free? (b) What was significant about piercing the ear of a willing slave?
2 From the Law that God gave to Israel, we learn about the sort of slavery that Jehovah requires of us. A Hebrew slave was to be granted his freedom in the seventh year of his servitude. (Ex. 21:2) However, for a slave who really loved his master and who wished to remain in his service, Jehovah made a remarkable provision. The master was to bring his slave up against the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear through with an awl. (Ex. 21:5, 6) It is of significance that this procedure involved the ear. In the Hebrew language, the basic idea of obedience is expressed by a word that relates to hearing and listening. The willing slave desired to continue giving obedient service to his master. This helps us appreciate what is involved in our dedication to Jehovah—willing obedience motivated by love of God.
3. What is the basis for our dedication to God?
3 When we presented ourselves for Christian baptism, we had already decided to serve Jehovah, to be his slave. Our dedication sprang from our desire to obey Jehovah and to do his will. Nobody forced us to do this. Indeed, even young ones who get baptized do so only after they make their own personal dedication to Jehovah, not simply to please their parents. The basis for Christian dedication is love of our heavenly Master, Jehovah. “This is what the love of God means,” wrote the apostle John, “that we observe his commandments.”—1 John 5:3.
FREE YET SLAVES
4. What is needed to become “slaves to righteousness”?
4 How thankful we are to Jehovah for making it possible for us to be his slaves! Our faith in the ransom sacrifice of Christ permits us to come out from under the yoke of sin. Though still imperfect, we have willingly come under the authority of Jehovah and Jesus. Paul explained this clearly in one of his inspired letters: “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed with reference to sin but living with reference to God by Christ Jesus.” Then he warned: “Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him, either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view? But thanks to God that you were the slaves of sin but you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were handed over. Yes, since you were set free from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.” (Rom. 6:11, 16-18) Notice that the apostle refers to ‘obedience from the heart.’ Indeed, our dedication to Jehovah makes us “slaves to righteousness.”
5. What internal fight do we all face, and why?
5 Nevertheless, there are obstacles to overcome in living up to our dedication. We face a twofold fight. First, there is the conflict Paul faced. “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within,” he wrote, “but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” (Rom. 7:22, 23) Inherited imperfection persists for us too. Consequently, we have an ongoing struggle against our fleshly tendencies. The apostle Peter exhorted us: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.”—1 Pet. 2:16.
6, 7. How does Satan make this world appear attractive?
6 We have a second battle to wage, our fight against this world under demon influence. Satan, the ruler of the world, aims his missiles at us in an attempt to break our loyalty to Jehovah and Jesus. He seeks to enslave us by tempting us to give in to his corrupting influence. (Read Ephesians 6:11, 12.) One way Satan does this is by making his world seem attractive, alluring. “If anyone loves the world,” the apostle John warned, “the love of the Father is not in him; because 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.”—1 John 2:15, 16.
7 The desire to be materially prosperous pervades the world. Satan encourages the belief that money equals happiness. Superstores abound. Advertising promotes a lifestyle focused on possessions and leisure. Travel agencies offer trips to exotic destinations, often in the company of people with a worldly outlook. Yes, all around us the appeal is to “better” ourselves—but always according to the world’s standards.
8, 9. What real danger exists, and why?
8 Referring to those in the first-century Christian congregation who had adopted a worldly viewpoint, Peter warned: “They consider luxurious living in the daytime a pleasure. They are spots and blemishes, indulging with unrestrained delight in their deceptive teachings while feasting together with you. For they utter swelling expressions of no profit, and by the desires of the flesh and by loose habits they entice those who are just escaping from people who conduct themselves in error. While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption. For whoever is overcome by another is enslaved by this one.”—2 Pet. 2:13, 18, 19.
9 Satisfying “the desire of the eyes” does not set a person free. Rather, he becomes enslaved to this world’s invisible master, Satan the Devil. (1 John 5:19) There is a very real danger of becoming enslaved by materialism—a slavery from which it is difficult to escape.
A SATISFYING CAREER
10, 11. Who today are special targets of Satan, and how can the world’s education cause them difficulty?
10 As he did in Eden, Satan also today targets the inexperienced. Young people are a particular favorite for attack. Satan is not happy when a young person, or indeed anyone, volunteers to slave for Jehovah. God’s enemy wants all who dedicate their lives to Jehovah to fail in their devotion and loyalty.
11 Let us return to the example of the slave who accepted having his ear pierced. This slave must have felt temporary pain; but it soon passed, leaving a permanent sign of his servitude. Choosing a course that differs from that of one’s peers can likewise be difficult, even painful, for a young person. Satan promotes the idea that a career in his world will satisfy a person, but Christians should take into account the importance of satisfying their spiritual need. “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need,” taught Jesus. (Matt. 5:3) Dedicated Christians live for God’s will, not Satan’s. Their delight is in the law of Jehovah, and they meditate on it day and night. (Read Psalm 1:1-3.) However, many of today’s educational courses allow little time for a servant of Jehovah to meditate and to satisfy his spiritual need.
12. What choice do many young people face today?
12 A worldly master could make life difficult for a Christian slave. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul asked: “Were you called when a slave?” He then advised them: “Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity.” (1 Cor. 7:21) Freedom from slavery was to be preferred. Today, in many lands, schooling is mandatory up to a certain age. Then students are offered a choice. Continuing one’s education to promote a career in this world could curtail one’s freedom to pursue full-time service.—Read 1 Corinthians 7:23.
EDUCATION—HIGHER OR HIGHEST?
13. What sort of education will benefit Jehovah’s servants the most?
13 Paul warned the Colossian Christians: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8) “The philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men” surfaces today in the worldly thinking promoted by many intellectuals. Higher education, with its emphasis on academic study, often produces graduates who have few or no practical skills, leaving them unprepared to deal with the realities of life. By contrast, Jehovah’s servants choose education that helps them to develop the necessary skills so that they can maintain a simple life of service to God. They take to heart the counsel Paul offered Timothy: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Tim. 6:6, 8) Rather than acquiring secular degrees and titles after their names, true Christians focus on obtaining “letters of recommendation” by engaging as fully as possible in the field ministry.—Read 2 Corinthians 3:1-3.
14. According to Philippians 3:8, how did Paul view his privilege of slaving for God and Christ?
14 Consider the case of the apostle Paul. He was educated at the feet of the Jewish Law teacher Gamaliel. The education Paul received can be compared with that of a university education today. But how did Paul view this when compared with his privilege of slaving for God and Christ? He wrote: “I . . . consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Then he added: “On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8) That assessment helps young Christians and their God-fearing parents to make a wise choice when it comes to education. (See pictures.)
BENEFIT FROM THE HIGHEST EDUCATION
15, 16. What education does Jehovah’s organization provide, and what is its focus?
15 What is the atmosphere in many of this world’s institutions of higher education? Are they not at times hotbeds of political and social unrest? (Eph. 2:2) By contrast, Jehovah’s organization provides the highest form of education in the peaceful setting of the Christian congregation. Each of us has the opportunity to benefit from the weekly Theocratic Ministry School. Then there are specialized courses for single pioneer brothers (Bible School for Single Brothers) and married pioneer couples (Bible School for Christian Couples). Such theocratic education helps us obey Jehovah, our heavenly Master.
16 We can dig for rich spiritual treasures in the Watch Tower Publications Index or the Watchtower Library on CD-ROM. The worship of Jehovah is the focus of this educational endeavor. It teaches us how we can help others become reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20) This, in turn, will help them to teach yet others.—2 Tim. 2:2.
THE SLAVE’S REWARD
17. Choosing the highest education brings what rewards?
17 In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the two faithful slaves earned commendation and shared the joy of their master by being entrusted with more work. (Read Matthew 25:21, 23.) Choosing the highest education today brings joy and rewards. Consider the example of Michael. He did so well in school that his teachers invited him to a meeting to discuss his prospects of going to a university. To their surprise, Michael opted instead to take a short vocational course that soon enabled him to support himself as a regular pioneer. Does he feel that he has somehow missed out? “The theocratic education I have received as a pioneer—and now as an elder in the congregation—has been invaluable,” he relates. “The blessings and privileges I enjoy far outweigh any money I might have earned. I am really glad that I chose not to pursue higher education.”
18. What prompts you to choose the highest education?
18 The highest education teaches us God’s will and helps us slave for Jehovah. It puts before us the prospect of being “set free from enslavement to corruption” and eventually gaining “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) Above all, we learn how best to show that we really love our heavenly Master, Jehovah.—Ex. 21:5.