“Temporary Residents” in a Wicked World
“In faith all these . . . publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.”—HEBREWS 11:13.
1. What did Jesus say about true Christians and this world?
JESUS said this about his disciples: “They are in the world.” But he also said: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:11, 14) His words clearly show how true Christians should view this world. Satan is the god of “this system of things,” or world. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Christians live in the world, but they are no part of it. That is why the Bible says that Christians are like “aliens,” or foreigners. They are “temporary residents” in this world.—1 Peter 2:11.
THEY LIVED AS “TEMPORARY RESIDENTS”
2, 3. Why can we say that Enoch, Noah, and Abraham and Sarah lived as “strangers and temporary residents”?
2 Faithful servants of Jehovah have always been different from people in the world. Two examples are Enoch and Noah. The Bible says that they “walked with the true God.” (Genesis 5:22-24; 6:9) They bravely preached that Jehovah condemned Satan’s wicked world. (Read 2 Peter 2:5; Jude 14, 15.) They did what was right even though the people around them were wicked. For this reason we read that Enoch “pleased God well” and that Noah was “faultless among his contemporaries.”—Hebrews 11:5; Genesis 6:9.
3 We can also learn from the example of Abraham and Sarah. They obeyed God when he asked them to leave their comfortable home in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans. They were willing to live without a home in a foreign land. (Genesis 11:27, 28; 12:1) The apostle Paul wrote: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out into a place he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, although not knowing where he was going. By faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise.” (Hebrews 11:8, 9) Paul also said about these servants of Jehovah: “In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.”—Hebrews 11:13.
A WARNING TO THE ISRAELITES
4. What warning did Jehovah give the Israelites before he gave them their land?
4 Abraham had many descendants. God organized them into the nation of Israel and gave them laws and a land. (Genesis 48:4; Deuteronomy 6:1) The people of Israel had to remember that the land was not theirs but belonged to Jehovah. (Leviticus 25:23) Even though they used the land, they had to obey Jehovah’s rules. Also, the Israelites had to remember that “not by bread alone does man live” and that all their good things came from Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 8:1-3) That is why before Jehovah gave them their land, he warned them: “It must occur that when Jehovah your God will bring you into the land that he swore to your forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give you, great and good-looking cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things and that you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out that you did not hew out, vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant, and you shall have eaten and become satisfied, watch out for yourself that you may not forget Jehovah.”—Deuteronomy 6:10-12.
5. Why did Jehovah no longer want the Israelites to be his people? What new nation did he choose?
5 The Israelites did exactly what Jehovah had warned them not to do. When they entered the Promised Land and began to live in comfortable houses and had plenty of food and wine, they forgot Jehovah. In the time of Nehemiah, a group of Levites spoke with shame about what had happened, as we read at Nehemiah 9:25-27. (Read.) They said that people “began to eat and to be satisfied and to grow fat.” The Israelites rebelled against God, and they killed the prophets he sent to warn them. So Jehovah allowed their enemies to rule over them. (Hosea 13:6-9) Later, when the Romans ruled over Israel, the Israelites even killed the Messiah who was promised by God! So Jehovah no longer wanted them as his people. He chose a new nation, “the Israel of God.”—Galatians 6:16; Matthew 21:43; Acts 7:51, 52.
CHRISTIANS ARE “NO PART OF THE WORLD”
6, 7. (a) How would you explain what Jesus said about his followers and this world? (b) According to Peter, why did true Christians have to continue to be no part of the world?
6 In the beginning of this article, we learned that Jesus, the Head of the Christian congregation, said that his followers should be no part of Satan’s world. Just before he died, Jesus told his disciples: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”—John 15:19.
7 After some time, there were Christians living in many places around the world where the Romans ruled. Christians had to continue to be no part of the world. They had to reject the way of life of the people around them. Wherever they lived, they had to be different. About 30 years after Jesus died, the apostle Peter wrote to the first Christians: “Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul. Maintain your conduct fine among the nations.”—1 Peter 1:1; 2:11, 12.
8. What did one historian say that shows that the first Christians were no part of the world?
8 Christians lived as “aliens and temporary residents” in the Roman world of their time. One historian wrote that they suffered severe persecution and that this happened often. He said that they were accused of not believing in God because they did not participate in false religious ceremonies. They were called “haters of the human race” because they did not join the people around them in entertainment and festivals that were full of false worship and sexual immorality.
WE DO NOT USE THE WORLD TO THE FULL
9. How do we show that we are not “haters of the human race”?
9 Just like the first Christians, we too are no part of “the present wicked system of things.” (Galatians 1:4) Because of this, many do not understand the way we live. Some people even hate us. But we are not “haters of the human race,” as some may think. We show that we love people by going from house to house and telling everyone the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 22:39; 24:14) We preach about Jehovah’s Kingdom because we believe that it will soon destroy all imperfect human governments. This Kingdom, with Christ as King, will then bring a righteous new world.—Daniel 2:44; 2 Peter 3:13.
10, 11. (a) How do we make use of the world? (b) In what ways do Christians not use the world to the full?
10 Because Satan’s world will end soon, we know that now is not the time to try to have a comfortable life. The apostle Paul said: “The time left is reduced.” He then said that those who buy should be “as those not possessing, and those making use of the world as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) Today, how do we make use of the world? For example, we use modern technology and means of communication. These help us to teach people in many lands about the Bible, and we do it in many languages. We also work and earn the money that we need to live. And we buy necessary things for our daily lives. But we do not use the world to the full. This means that money, the things we have, and our job are not the most important things in our life.—Read 1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
11 Another way Christians do not use the world to the full is by not giving too much importance to the education that this world offers. Many people in this world think that a person has to go to a university, get a good job, and earn a lot of money. But as temporary residents, we do not think like them. We do not make an effort to get “lofty things,” that is, the things that would make us important in this world. (Romans 12:16; Jeremiah 45:5) We obey the warning Jesus gave us: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) So young Christians should remember that the most important thing is to serve Jehovah. They should get enough education to care for their basic needs so that they will be able to serve Jehovah with their whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. (Luke 10:27) If they do that, they can become “rich toward God.”—Luke 12:21; read Matthew 6:19-21.
DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT MATERIAL THINGS
12, 13. Why does obeying the words of Jesus at Matthew 6:31-33 make us different from people in the world?
12 Another difference between us and people in the world is the way we think about material things. Jesus said: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33) Many of our brothers and sisters know from what has happened in their own lives that what Jesus said is true. Our heavenly Father always gives us the things we need.
13 It is good to be content with what we have. (1 Timothy 6:6) That is the opposite of how people in the world think. For example, when young people get married, many of them want to have everything immediately. They want a house or an apartment, furniture, a nice car, and new electronics. But Christians who live as temporary residents control their desires, and they will not buy more than what is possible for them to have. It is good to see that many do not spend time and money buying all these things, so that they can use more time and energy in Jehovah’s service. Some are able to serve as pioneers, at Bethel, in the traveling work, or as missionaries. We are grateful for the work that our brothers do as they serve Jehovah with their whole heart.
14. What can we learn from one of the parables of Jesus?
14 In one of his parables, Jesus said that “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches” can cause us to slow down in our service to God. (Matthew 13:22) This will not happen if we are content to live as temporary residents in this world. We will keep our eye “simple” by giving all our attention to serving God and by keeping his Kingdom first in our lives.—Matthew 6:22.
“THE WORLD IS PASSING AWAY”
15. What did John say about this world?
15 An important reason why true Christians live as “aliens and temporary residents” is that they believe that Satan’s world will end soon. (1 Peter 2:11; 2 Peter 3:7) We show that we believe this by the way we live our life. This includes the decisions we make, the things we want, and the goals we have. The apostle John told Christians not to love the world or the things in the world because “the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.
16. How do we show that we are part of the “people” that Jehovah has separated from the world?
16 Jehovah told the Israelites that if they obeyed him, they would become his “special property out of all other peoples.” (Exodus 19:5) When the Israelites obeyed God, their worship and way of life were different from that of other nations. Today, too, Jehovah’s people are separate from Satan’s world. The Bible tells us to “repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things, while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of the Savior of us, Christ Jesus, who gave himself for us that he might deliver us from every sort of lawlessness and cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.” (Titus 2:11-14) Jehovah’s “people” includes the anointed Christians and millions of “other sheep,” who help them.—John 10:16.
17. Why will the anointed and the other sheep always be happy that they lived as temporary residents in this wicked world?
17 “The happy hope” of the anointed is that of ruling with Christ in heaven. (Revelation 5:10) The hope of the other sheep is to live forever on earth. When this hope is fulfilled, the other sheep will no longer be temporary residents in a wicked world. They will have beautiful homes and many good things to eat and drink. (Psalm 37:10, 11; Isaiah 25:6; 65:21, 22) They will not forget Jehovah as the Israelites did. They will always remember that all they have is from Jehovah, “the God of the whole earth.” (Isaiah 54:5) The anointed and the other sheep will always be happy that they lived as temporary residents in this wicked world.
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Temporary resident: Christians are “temporary residents” because even though they are living in the world, they are no part of it
▪ World: The people and the wicked system that are ruled by Satan. The Bible also calls it the present “system of things”
▪ Material things: Money and possessions
WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
▪ In what way did faithful men of the past live as temporary residents?
▪ How did the first Christians live in the world of their time?
▪ How do true Christians not use the world to the full?
▪ Why will we be happy that we lived as temporary residents in this wicked world?
[Picture on page 18]
The first Christians did not get involved in violent and immoral entertainment