“The wisdom from above is . . . ready to obey.”—JAS. 3:17.
SONG 101 Working Together in Unity
1. Why can it be difficult for us to obey?
DO YOU ever struggle to be obedient? King David did, so he prayed to God: “Stir within me a willingness to obey you.” (Ps. 51:12) David loved Jehovah. Still, David at times struggled to be obedient, and so do we. Why? First, we have inherited a tendency to be disobedient. Second, Satan constantly tries to incite us to rebel, as he did. (2 Cor. 11:3) Third, we are surrounded by this world’s rebellious attitude, “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2) We must work hard not only to fight our tendency to sin but also to resist the pressure that the Devil and this world put on us to disobey. We must put forth effort to obey Jehovah and those whom he has appointed to a position of authority.
2. What does it mean to be “ready to obey”? (James 3:17)
2 Read James 3:17. The inspired writer James said that wise people are “ready to obey.” Think of what that means. We should be eager and willing to obey those whom Jehovah has entrusted with a measure of authority. Of course, Jehovah does not expect us to obey someone who asks us to ignore His commands.—Acts 4:18-20.
3. Why does it matter to Jehovah that we obey those who have authority over us?
3 We may be more inclined to obey Jehovah than to obey a human. After all, Jehovah always gives perfect direction. (Ps. 19:7) That is hardly the case with humans who have authority. Even so, our heavenly Father has given a measure of authority to parents, government officials, and elders. (Prov. 6:20; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Pet. 2:13, 14) When we obey them, we are really obeying Jehovah. Let us consider how we can obey humans whom Jehovah entrusts with authority, even though at times we may find their direction difficult to accept and follow.
OBEY YOUR PARENTS
4. Why do many children disobey their parents?
4 Young people are surrounded by peers who tend to be “disobedient to parents.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) Why do many of them disobey? Some feel that their parents are hypocritical. The children are expected to do what the parents themselves fail to do. Others view their parents’ advice as outdated, impractical, or overly strict. If you are a young person, do you ever feel that way? Many find it difficult to apply Jehovah’s command: “Be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous.” (Eph. 6:1) What can help you to do so?
5. Why is it remarkable that Jesus obeyed his parents, as recorded at Luke 2:46-52?
5 You can learn obedience from the best example—Jesus. (1 Pet. 2:21-24) He was a perfect human with imperfect parents. But Jesus honored his parents even when they made mistakes and misunderstood him at times. (Ex. 20:12) Consider what happened when Jesus was 12 years old. (Read Luke 2:46-52.) His parents left him behind in Jerusalem. It was ultimately Joseph and Mary’s responsibility to make sure that all their children were among the group who were traveling home after the festival. When Joseph and Mary finally found Jesus, Mary blamed him for the trouble he had caused them! Jesus could have pointed out how unjust this was. Instead, he gave his parents a simple and respectful reply. Joseph and Mary, however, “did not understand what he was saying to them.” Still, Jesus “continued subject to them.”
6-7. What can help young people to obey their parents?
6 Young ones, do you ever find it hard to obey your parents when they make mistakes or when they misunderstand you? What can help? First, think about how Jehovah feels. The Bible says that when you obey your parents, “this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” (Col. 3:20) Jehovah knows when your parents do not fully understand you or when they make rules that are less than perfect. But when you choose to obey them anyway, you make him happy.
7 Second, think about how your parents feel. When you obey your parents, you make them happy and earn their trust. (Prov. 23:22-25) You will likely grow closer to them too. “When I started to obey my parents’ requests more often,” says a brother from Belgium named Alexandre, “our relationship changed. It became warmer and happier.”b Third, think about how your being obedient now will help you later. Paulo, who lives in Brazil, says, “Learning to obey my parents has helped me to obey Jehovah and others in authority.” God’s Word gives strong reason to obey your parents. It says: “That it may go well with you and you may remain a long time on the earth.”—Eph. 6:2, 3.
8. Why do many youths choose to obey their parents?
8 Many young people have seen how well things turn out when they obey. Luiza, also from Brazil, found it hard at first to understand why she was not allowed to have a cell phone for a time. After all, she reasoned, most people her age had one. But then she realized that her parents were actually protecting her. She now says, “I see obeying my parents, not as a straitjacket, but as a seat belt that can save my life.” Elizabeth, a young sister from the United States, still struggles to obey her parents at times. She explains, “When I do not fully understand why my parents put a certain rule in place, I think back to the times when their rules protected me.” Monica, who lives in Armenia, says that things have always worked out better for her when she obeyed her parents rather than when she disobeyed them.
OBEY “THE SUPERIOR AUTHORITIES”
9. How do many feel about obeying the law?
9 Many people acknowledge that we need the secular governments and that we should obey at least some of the laws set by these “superior authorities.” (Rom. 13:1) But those same people may hesitate to obey a law that seems unfair or appears to require too much. Consider, for example, the paying of taxes. A fourth of those surveyed in one European country believed that “it is right not to pay taxes if you think they are unfair.” Not surprisingly, its citizens pay only about two thirds of the taxes that are due the government.
10. Why do we obey even laws that we do not like?
10 The Bible acknowledges that human governments cause suffering, are under Satan’s control, and will soon be destroyed. (Ps. 110:5, 6; Eccl. 8:9; Luke 4:5, 6) It also tells us that “whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God.” Our relative subjection to the superior authorities is part of Jehovah’s temporary arrangement to maintain order. Therefore, we must “render to all their dues,” including taxes, respect, and obedience. (Rom. 13:1-7) We may view a law as being inconvenient, unfair, or costly to obey. But we obey Jehovah, and he tells us to obey these authorities as long as they do not ask us to break his commands.—Acts 5:29.
11-12. As related at Luke 2:1-6, what did Joseph and Mary do to obey a law that was inconvenient, and with what results? (See also pictures.)
11 We can learn from the examples of Joseph and Mary, who were ready to obey the superior authorities even when it was inconvenient. (Read Luke 2:1-6.) When Mary was about nine months pregnant, she and Joseph faced a test of obedience. Augustus, who ruled the Roman Empire, called for a census. Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem, a journey of up to 150 kilometers (93 mi) through hilly country. That trip would be uncomfortable, especially for Mary. The couple may have worried about her safety and that of their unborn baby. What if she were to go into labor while traveling on the road? She was carrying the future Messiah in her womb. Would that excuse them from obeying the government?
12 Joseph and Mary did not allow any of those concerns to influence whether they would obey the law. Jehovah blessed their obedience. Mary arrived safely in Bethlehem, gave birth to a healthy baby, and even helped to fulfill Bible prophecy!—Mic. 5:2.
13. How may our obedience affect our brothers?
13 When we obey the superior authorities, we benefit ourselves and others. How so? For one thing, we avoid the punishment that comes to those who disobey the law. (Rom. 13:4) Our personal obedience can affect how the authorities view Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole. For instance, some decades ago in Nigeria, soldiers entered a Kingdom Hall during a congregation meeting, looking for rioters who were protesting the payment of taxes. But the officer in charge told the soldiers to leave, saying: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are not tax agitators.” Every time you obey the law, you could enhance the reputation of Jehovah’s people—a reputation that may one day help protect your fellow believers.—Matt. 5:16.
14. What helped one sister to become “ready to obey” the superior authorities?
14 Still, we may not always feel inclined to obey the superior authorities. “It was extremely hard for me to be obedient,” admits Joanna, a sister in the United States, “because some in my family had suffered injustice at the hands of authorities.” But Joanna made a deliberate effort to change her thinking. First, she stopped reading social media posts that stirred up negative feelings in her toward the authorities. (Prov. 20:3) Second, she prayed for Jehovah’s help to trust in him rather than in a change in human government. (Ps. 9:9, 10) Third, she read articles in our publications about neutrality. (John 17:16) Joanna now says that respecting and obeying the authorities has left her with “a peace beyond words.”
OBEY DIRECTION FROM JEHOVAH’S ORGANIZATION
15. Why might we struggle to obey direction that comes from Jehovah’s organization?
15 Jehovah asks us to “be obedient to those who are taking the lead” in the congregation. (Heb. 13:17) Although our Leader, Jesus, is perfect, those whom he uses to take the lead here on earth are not. We may struggle to obey them, especially if they ask us to do something that we do not want to do. The apostle Peter once hesitated to obey. When instructed by an angel to eat animals that were unclean under the Mosaic Law, Peter refused—not once, but three times! (Acts 10:9-16) Why? The new direction did not make sense to him. He was used to a different way of doing things. If Peter found it difficult to obey direction from a perfect angel, how much more so might we find it hard to obey direction from imperfect men!
16 The apostle Paul was “ready to obey” even when he received direction that he might have felt was unreasonable. Jewish Christians had heard rumors about Paul—rumors that suggested he was preaching “an apostasy from Moses” and disrespecting the Mosaic Law. (Acts 21:21) The Christian older men in Jerusalem directed Paul to take four men to the temple and cleanse himself ceremonially to show that he was observing the Law. But Paul knew that Christians were no longer under the Law. And he had not done anything wrong. Still, Paul did not hesitate. He “took the men the next day and cleansed himself ceremonially along with them.” (Read Acts 21:23, 24, 26.) Paul’s obedience promoted unity.—Rom. 14:19, 21.
17. What do you learn from Stephanie’s experience?
17 A sister named Stephanie had a hard time accepting a decision made by responsible brothers in her country. She and her husband were happily serving in a foreign-language group. Then the branch office discontinued the group, and the couple were assigned back to a congregation in their native language. “I was very unhappy,” admits Stephanie. “I wasn’t convinced that there was a greater need in our mother tongue.” Even so, she decided to support the new direction. “In time, I came to see the wisdom of this decision,” she says. “We have become spiritual parents to several in our congregation who do not have family in the truth. I am studying with a newly reactivated sister. And now I have more time for personal study.” She adds, “I have a clear conscience, knowing that I have done my best to be obedient.”
18. How do we benefit from being obedient?
18 We can learn to obey. Jesus “learned obedience,” not from being in ideal conditions, but “from the things he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) Like Jesus, we often learn obedience under challenging circumstances. For example, during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic when we were asked to stop meeting at our Kingdom Halls and to suspend our house-to-house ministry, did you struggle to obey? Yet, your obedience protected you, united you with fellow believers, and pleased Jehovah. All of us are now better prepared to obey any instructions we receive during the great tribulation. Our lives may depend on it!—Job 36:11.
19. Why do you want to be obedient?
19 We have learned that obedience brings countless blessings. But we choose to obey Jehovah primarily because we love him and we want to please him. (1 John 5:3) We can never repay Jehovah for all that he has done for us. (Ps. 116:12) But we can obey him and those who have authority over us. If we obey, we show that we are wise. And the wise make Jehovah’s heart rejoice.—Prov. 27:11.
SONG 89 Listen, Obey, and Be Blessed
a Being imperfect, we all struggle to obey sometimes, even when the person who is giving us direction has every right to do so. This article will discuss the benefits that come to those who obey their parents, “the superior authorities,” and the brothers who take the lead in the Christian congregation.
c PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Joseph and Mary obeyed Caesar’s decree to get registered in Bethlehem. Christians today obey traffic laws, tax requirements, and health guidelines set by “the superior authorities.”