“Do You Love Me More Than These?”
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”—JOHN 21:15.
1, 2. After spending a night fishing, what lesson did Peter learn?
SEVEN of Jesus’ disciples had spent the night fishing in the Sea of Galilee. But they had not caught a single fish. Now it was morning, and the resurrected Jesus stood on the beach, watching them. Then he said to them: “‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ So they cast it, but they were not able to haul it in because of the large number of fish.”—John 21:1-6.
2 Jesus served his disciples bread and fish for breakfast. Then he turned to Simon Peter and asked: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus knew that Peter loved fishing. It could be that Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Jesus and the things he taught more than he loved his fishing business. Peter answered Jesus: “Lord, you know I have affection for you.” (John 21:15) From that day on, Peter proved that he meant what he said. He showed his love for Christ by keeping busy in the preaching work, and he became an important member of the Christian congregation.
3. What do Christians need to be aware of?
3 What can we learn from Jesus’ words to Peter? We need to be careful not to let our love for Christ become weak. Jesus knew that life in this system would be stressful and that we would face anxieties and challenges. In his illustration of the sower, Jesus said that some people would accept “the word of the Kingdom” and at first would be zealous. But later, “the anxieties of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches” would “choke the word,” and those people would lose their zeal. (Matthew 13:19-22; Mark 4:19) If we are not careful, the daily anxieties of life could interfere with our service to Jehovah. So Jesus warned his disciples: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life.”—Luke 21:34.
4. What will help us to know if our love for Christ is strong? (See opening picture.)
4 Like Peter, we can show that we love Christ by giving the preaching work first place in our lives. How can we make sure that we continue to do this? We can ask ourselves: ‘What do I love the most in life? Does my joy come from serving Jehovah or from other activities?’ To help us answer this, let us examine three areas of life that could weaken our love for Christ. These are secular work, recreation, and material things.
KEEP SECULAR WORK IN ITS PROPER PLACE
5. What responsibility do family heads have?
5 For Peter, fishing was not just something he enjoyed doing. It was the work he did to support his family. Today, too, Jehovah has given family heads the responsibility to support their family. (1 Timothy 5:8) They must work hard to do this. However, in these last days, secular work can cause much anxiety.
6. Why can secular jobs be stressful?
6 There are often more people who need jobs than there are jobs available. Because of this, people compete to find work. Many feel that they need to work extra hours, often for less pay. Businesses are trying to produce more goods with fewer workers than ever before. So workers may become stressed, exhausted, and even ill. Many worry that they will lose their job unless they do whatever their boss demands.
Christians are more loyal to Jehovah than to anyone else
7, 8. (a) To whom are we most loyal? (b) What valuable lesson did a brother in Thailand learn about his work?
7 As Christians, we are more loyal to Jehovah than to anyone else, including our employer. (Luke 10:27) Our secular job is a way to provide for our basic needs and to support our ministry. But if we are not careful, our responsibilities at work could interfere with our worship. We can learn from the experience of a brother in Thailand. He said: “My secular work of repairing computers was very interesting, but it involved working long hours. As a result, it left me almost no time for spiritual matters. I finally realized that in order to put Kingdom interests first, I needed to change my line of work.” What did this brother do?
8 “After planning for about a year,” he explained, “I decided to become a street vendor and sell ice cream. In the beginning, I struggled financially and got discouraged. When I met my former workmates, they would laugh at me and ask why I thought selling ice cream was better than working with computers in an air-conditioned environment. I prayed to Jehovah, asking him to help me to cope and to reach my goal of having more time for spiritual activities. Before long, things began to improve. I got better acquainted with my customers’ tastes and became more skillful in making ice cream. Soon, I was selling all my ice cream every day. Actually, I was better-off financially than when I worked with computers. It has made me happier because I do not have the stress and worry that I had with my former job. And most important, I now feel closer to Jehovah.”—Read Matthew 5:3, 6.
Do I find my job more exciting than my service to God?
9. How can we continue to have a balanced view of secular work?
9 Jehovah appreciates it when we work hard. Hard work is rewarding. (Proverbs 12:14) But we need to make sure that our secular work does not become more important to us than our service to Jehovah. Speaking about our basic material needs, Jesus said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) But how do we know if we have a balanced view of secular work? We can ask ourselves, ‘Do I find my job interesting and exciting but view my service to God as ordinary or even boring?’ Thinking about this question can help us to see clearly what we really love.
10. What valuable lesson did Jesus teach?
10 Jesus taught us what should be first in our life. One time, he visited the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Right away, Martha began to prepare a meal for him, but Mary sat near Jesus and listened to him teach. Martha complained that Mary was not helping her. Jesus said to Martha: “Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) Here, Jesus taught a valuable lesson. To avoid being distracted by our own needs and to prove our love for Christ, we must choose “the good portion.” This means that our relationship with Jehovah must always be the most important thing in our life.
OUR VIEW OF RECREATION AND ENTERTAINMENT
11. What does the Bible say about rest and relaxation?
11 Our lives are very busy, so at times we need to rest and relax. We read in the Bible: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in his hard work.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) Jesus knew that it was important for his disciples to rest. For example, after they had been working very hard in the preaching work, Jesus told them: “Come, you yourselves, privately into an isolated place and rest up a little.”—Mark 6:31, 32.
12. Why do we need to be careful about recreation and entertainment? Give an example.
12 Recreation and entertainment can help us to rest and relax. But we must be careful that enjoying ourselves does not become the most important thing in our life. In the first century, many had this attitude: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32) This same attitude is also common today. For example, a young man in Western Europe began to attend Christian meetings. But he liked entertainment so much that he stopped associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Later, though, he realized that his focus on entertainment had caused him many problems. He began to study the Bible again, and in time, he was able to start preaching the good news. After his baptism, he said: “The only regret I have is that I lost so much time before I realized that serving Jehovah brings far more happiness than pursuing the entertainment offered by this world.”
13. (a) Give an illustration that shows why too much recreation and entertainment is not good. (b) What could help us have a balanced view of recreation and entertainment?
13 Recreation should help us relax and regain energy. So how much time should we spend in recreation? To help us answer that, we could think of it this way. Many people like to eat cakes and sweets. But we know that if we eat these all the time, it will damage our health. If we want to be healthy, we must eat food that is good for us. In a similar way, if we spend most of our time in recreation and entertainment, it will affect our relationship with Jehovah. What can help us know whether we have a balanced view of recreation or not? One thing we could do is to choose a week and write down the number of hours we spent in activities related to our service to Jehovah, such as Christian meetings, the preaching work, and Bible study. Then we could write down the number of hours we spent that same week in recreation, such as sports, television, or video games. When we compare the two numbers, what do we learn? Do we need to make a change?—Read Ephesians 5:15, 16.
14. What can help us to choose good recreation and entertainment?
14 Jehovah allows us to choose our recreation, and family heads can also choose recreation for their family. In the Bible, Jehovah gives us principles that reveal how he thinks. These principles help us make good decisions.a (See footnote.) Good recreation is a “gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13) It is true that different people prefer different kinds of entertainment. (Galatians 6:4, 5) But whatever entertainment we choose, we still need to be careful. Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Our love for our King, Jesus, moves us to think, speak, and act in a way that shows that the Kingdom is more important to us than anything else.—Philippians 1:9, 10.
OUR FIGHT AGAINST MATERIALISM
15, 16. (a) How could materialism become a trap for us? (b) What wise advice did Jesus give about material things?
15 Many today feel that they must have the latest clothes, phones, computers, and so on. They are affected by materialism, a way of life in which material things and money are more important than anything else. As a Christian, what is most important to you? Ask yourself: ‘Do I spend more time thinking about the latest cars or fashions than I do preparing for congregation meetings? Have I become so busy with daily activities that I spend less time praying or reading the Bible?’ If we are not careful, love for material things could become more important than our love for Christ. We should think about Jesus’ words: “Guard against every sort of greed.” (Luke 12:15) Why did he say this?
It is not possible to give Jehovah our best and at the same time be focused on material things
16 Jesus stated that “no one can slave for two masters.” He added: “You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” It is not possible to give Jehovah our best and at the same time be focused on material things. Jesus explained that we will either “hate the one and love the other” or “stick to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24) Because we are imperfect, we must continue to fight against “the desires of our flesh,” including materialism.—Ephesians 2:3.
17. (a) Why do some find it difficult to have a balanced attitude about material things? (b) What helps us to fight materialism?
17 Many people are so focused on their own desires and pleasures that they find it difficult to have a balanced view of material things. (Read 1 Corinthians 2:14.) Because they are not thinking clearly, it may be difficult for them to tell the difference between right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:11-14) Their desire for material things may get stronger and stronger. And the more they get, the more they want. (Ecclesiastes 5:10) But there is something we can do to fight this way of thinking. Regularly reading God’s Word will strengthen us so that we can resist materialism. (1 Peter 2:2) Jesus meditated on Jehovah’s wisdom, and that helped him to resist the Devil’s temptations. (Matthew 4:8-10) Today, too, if we want to resist materialism, we need to apply Jehovah’s wisdom in our life. This will show Jesus that we love him more than material things.
18. What are you determined to do?
18 When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” he was teaching Peter that serving Jehovah needed to be his focus in life. It is interesting that Peter’s name means “A Piece of Rock.” Peter’s good qualities can be compared to a rock. (Acts 4:5-20) Today, we too want our love for Christ to be firm. So we make sure that secular work, recreation, and material things have the correct place in our life. Then it will be as if we, like Peter, are saying: “Lord, you know I have affection for you.”
a See the article “Is Your Recreation Beneficial?” in The Watchtower of October 15, 2011, pages 9-12, paragraphs 6-15.