“Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”—PS. 144:15.
1. Why is the time that we live in unique?
WE LIVE in a time of human history that is truly unique. As the Bible foretold, Jehovah is gathering “a great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” Those gathered constitute “a mighty nation” of more than eight million happy people who “are rendering [God] sacred service day and night.” (Rev. 7:9, 15; Isa. 60:22) Never before have there been so many who have come to love both God and their fellow man.
2. What misdirected kind of love characterizes people who are alienated from God? (See opening picture.)
2 Yet, the inspired Scriptures also foretold that in our day, a misdirected kind of love characterized by selfishness would be shown by people who are alienated from God. The apostle Paul wrote: “In the last days . . . , men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1-4) This self-centered kind of love is inconsistent with Christian love; it stands in contrast with it. Pursuing selfish goals does not bring people the happiness that they expect. Indeed, such love fosters a selfish world that is “hard to deal with.”
3. What will we analyze in this article, and why?
3 Paul recognized that widespread, selfish love would pose dangers for Christians. Hence, he gave the warning to “turn away” from those whose love is misdirected. (2 Tim. 3:5) However, we cannot avoid all contact with such people. So how can we turn away from the worldly attitudes that surround us and strive to please Jehovah, the God of love? Let us contrast godly love with the love described at 2 Timothy 3:2-4. Doing so will help us evaluate and refine the love that we should show, the kind of love that brings true satisfaction and happiness.
LOVE OF GOD OR LOVE OF SELF?
4. Why is it not wrong to have a balanced love of self?
4 “Men will be lovers of themselves,” wrote the inspired apostle. Is it wrong for us to love ourselves? No, it is normal, even necessary, to have a healthy love of self. Jehovah designed us that way. Jesus said: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) If we do not love ourselves, we cannot love our neighbor. We also read in the Scriptures: “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:28, 29) So a proper love of self is desirable.
5. How would you describe those who have an excessive love of self?
5 The love of self mentioned at 2 Timothy 3:2 is not a normal, healthy love. It is a distorted, selfish love. People who love themselves excessively think more of themselves than it is necessary for them to think. (Read Romans 12:3.) Their main interest in life is themselves. They care little about others. When things go wrong, they tend to blame others rather than accept responsibility. One Bible commentary likens those who are lovers of themselves to “the hedgehog which . . . rolls itself up in a ball, keeping the soft, warm wool for itself . . . and . . . presents the sharp spines to those without.” Such self-centered people are not truly happy.
6. What results come from a love of God?
6 Bible scholars suggest that love of self is put at the top of the apostle Paul’s list of negative qualities that would be prevalent during the last days because the other qualities result from it. In contrast, people who love God produce a much different kind of fruitage. The Bible associates godly love with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23) “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!” wrote the psalmist. (Ps. 144:15) Jehovah is a happy God, and his people reflect that quality. Furthermore, unlike those who are lovers of themselves and who are interested only in receiving, Jehovah’s servants find delight in giving of themselves for the welfare of others.—Acts 20:35.
7. What questions will help us to analyze our love of God?
7 How can we determine if our love of God is being eclipsed by love of self? Consider the admonition found at Philippians 2:3, 4: “Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you, as you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” We might ask ourselves: ‘Do I apply that counsel in my life? Am I genuinely seeking to do God’s will? Do I reach out to help others, both in the congregation and in the field ministry?’ Giving of ourselves is not always easy. It requires effort and self-sacrifice. But what could make us happier than knowing that we have the approval of the Sovereign of the universe?
8. What has the love of God moved some to do?
8 Love of God has moved some to give up potentially lucrative careers to serve Jehovah more fully. Ericka, who lives in the United States, is a physician. But instead of pursuing a prestigious position in medicine, she became a regular pioneer and has served in several countries with her husband. Thinking back, she says: “The many experiences we have had in helping out in a foreign-language field, along with the friendships we have made, have truly enriched our lives. I still practice medicine, but being able to focus most of my time and energy on helping to heal people spiritually and on caring for the needs of the congregation brings me heartfelt joy and inner satisfaction.”
RICHES IN HEAVEN OR RICHES ON EARTH?
9. Why does a love of money not bring happiness?
9 Paul wrote that people would be “lovers of money.” Some years ago, a pioneer in Ireland spoke to a man about God. The man took out his wallet, removed some paper money, held it up, and proudly said, “This is my god!” Though not many would be so open about the matter, the world is full of people who love money and the things it can buy. Yet, the Bible cautions: “A lover of silver will never be satisfied with silver, nor a lover of wealth with income.” (Eccl. 5:10) Such people will always want more money, and striving to amass it, they will bring on themselves “many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
10. What does the Bible say about riches and poverty?
10 We all need money, of course. It provides a measure of protection. (Eccl. 7:12) But can a person be truly happy if he has only enough for his basic needs? Absolutely! (Read Ecclesiastes 5:12.) Agur son of Jakeh wrote: “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Just let me consume my portion of food.” We can readily understand his reason for not wanting to be extremely poor. As he went on to explain, he did not want to be tempted to steal because theft would dishonor God. But why did he pray not to have riches? He wrote: “So that I do not become satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is Jehovah?’” (Prov. 30:8, 9) Likely you can think of people who trust in their wealth rather than in God.
11. What counsel did Jesus give about money?
11 Those who love money cannot please God. Jesus said: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” He prefaced that by saying: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”—Matt. 6:19, 20, 24.
12. How may a simple life make it easier to serve God? Give an example.
12 Many have found that living a simple life not only makes them happier but also gives them more time to serve Jehovah. Jack, who lives in the United States, sold his large home and business because he knew that doing so would make it possible for him to pioneer with his wife. He reflects: “It was hard to give up our beautiful home and property in the country. Yet, for years, I would come home frustrated because of problems at work. My wife, a regular pioneer, was always so happy. She would say, ‘I have the greatest boss ever!’ Now that I too am pioneering, we both work for the same Person, Jehovah.”
13. How might we analyze our view of money?
13 To analyze our view of money, we might honestly consider how we would answer these questions: ‘Do I really believe and live in harmony with what the Bible says about money? Does making money come first in my life? Do I value material things more than my relationship with Jehovah and with people? Do I really trust in Jehovah to care for my needs?’ We can be sure that he will never disappoint those hoping in him.—Matt. 6:33.
SEEKING JEHOVAH OR SEEKING PLEASURES?
14. What is a reasonable view of pleasures?
14 As foretold, many people today are “lovers of pleasures.” Just as there is nothing wrong with a healthy, reasonable view of self and money, there is nothing wrong with a balanced view of pleasures. Jehovah does not want us to practice severe self-denial or to abstain from wholesome activities that bring enjoyment. The Bible encourages faithful ones: “Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.”—Eccl. 9:7.
15. What type of pleasures is referred to at 2 Timothy 3:4?
15 Second Timothy 3:4 refers to a pursuit of pleasures that excludes God. Notice that the verse does not say that people would love pleasures more than God, implying that they would have some love for him. It says ‘rather than God.’ One scholar wrote: “This [verse] definitely does not mean that they also love God to some extent. It means that they do not love God at all.” What a sobering warning to those who are nurturing an inordinate love of pleasures! The phrase “lovers of pleasures” aptly describes those who are “carried away by . . . pleasures of this life.”—Luke 8:14.
16, 17. What example did Jesus set in the matter of pleasures?
16 Jesus displayed a perfectly balanced view of pleasures. He attended “a marriage feast” and “a big reception feast.” (John 2:1-10; Luke 5:29) At the wedding, he miraculously changed water into wine, adding to the supply, which had run short. And on another occasion, he rejected the self-righteous views of those who criticized him for eating and drinking.—Luke 7:33-36.
17 Yet, Jesus did not immerse himself in a life of pleasure. He put Jehovah first and expended himself tirelessly in behalf of others. So that many might live, he willingly endured a painful death on a stake. Addressing those who would follow in his footsteps, Jesus said: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and be overjoyed, since your reward is great in the heavens, for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.”—Matt. 5:11, 12.
18. What questions will help us to analyze how much we love pleasures?
18 How might we analyze how much we love pleasures? We do well to ask ourselves: ‘Do meetings and field service take second place to entertainment? Am I willing to practice self-denial because I want to serve God? In seeking pleasurable activities, do I consider how Jehovah will view my choices?’ If we truly love God, we will be careful to avoid not only the things we know will displease him but also the things we merely suspect may displease him.—Read Matthew 22:37, 38.
THE WAY OF HAPPINESS
19. Who can never be truly happy?
19 After some 6,000 years of human misery, Satan’s world is coming to its end. The earth is filled with those who have an inordinate love of self, money, and pleasures. They are people who are eager for what they can get, people who place their own wishes at the center of their life. Such people can never be truly happy. Instead, it is as the psalmist wrote: “Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob as his helper, whose hope is in Jehovah his God.”—Ps. 146:5.
20. How has the love of God brought you happiness?
20 The love of God flourishes among Jehovah’s people, and our ranks are growing every year. This is evidence that God’s Kingdom reigns and will soon bring to earth unimaginable blessings. True and lasting joy comes from doing God’s will, from knowing that we are pleasing the Supreme One. And those who love Jehovah will be joyful forever! In the next article, we will consider some of the qualities that result from selfish love and see how these contrast with the qualities found in Jehovah’s servants.