“Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”—PSALM 144:15.
1. Why is the time that we live in different from any other time?
WE LIVE in a time that is very different from any other time in human history. Jehovah is gathering a great crowd “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” just as the Bible foretold. They are “a mighty nation” of more than eight million happy people who “are rendering [God] sacred service day and night.” (Revelation 7:9, 15; Isaiah 60:22) There have never before been so many people who have come to love God and their fellow humans.
2. What misdirected kind of love do we see in people who are not God’s friends? (See opening picture.)
2 However, the Bible also foretold that in our day, people who are not friends of God would have a misdirected kind of love that is selfish. The apostle Paul wrote that in the last days, people would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money,” and “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) This self-centered kind of love is the opposite of love for God. Pursuing selfish goals does not make a person happy, although he may think that it will. Instead, it creates a selfish world and makes life difficult for everyone.
3. What will we examine in this article? Why?
3 The apostle Paul knew that selfish love would become very common and would be dangerous for Christians. So he warned them to “turn away” from, or to avoid, those who show selfish love. (2 Timothy 3:5) But we cannot avoid all contact with such people. So, what can we do to protect ourselves from the attitudes of people around us and please Jehovah, the God of love? Let us see the difference between the love that God wants us to have and the love described at 2 Timothy 3:2-4. Then we can look at ourselves and see how we can show the kind of love that will make us truly satisfied and happy.
LOVE FOR GOD OR FOR SELF?
4. Why is it not wrong to have some love for ourselves?
4 Paul wrote: “Men will be lovers of themselves.” Does this mean that it is wrong to love ourselves? No, loving ourselves is normal and necessary. Jehovah designed us that way. Jesus said: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) In fact, we cannot love other people if we do not love ourselves. The Bible also tells us: “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.” (Ephesians 5:28, 29) So it is clear that we should have some love for ourselves.
5. How would you describe people who love themselves too much?
5 The love of self that we read about at 2 Timothy 3:2 is not a normal or healthy love. It is selfish. If someone loves himself too much, he thinks more of himself than he needs to. (Read Romans 12:3.) He cares more about himself than about anyone else. When things go wrong, he blames others instead of himself. One Bible commentary compares such a person to a hedgehog that rolls itself up in a ball, staying warm with its soft fur but showing others only its sharp spines. Such people are not really happy.
The kind of love God wants us to have produces good qualities
6. What good results come when we love God?
6 Some Bible scholars believe that Paul mentioned love of self first because it produces the bad qualities he mentioned next. In contrast, the kind of love God wants us to have produces good qualities. It is related to joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23) The psalmist wrote: “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!” (Psalm 144:15) Jehovah is a happy God, and his people are happy too. Also, in contrast with those who love themselves too much and think only of what they can receive, Jehovah’s servants are happy because they give to others.—Acts 20:35.
7. What questions will help us to analyze our love for God?
7 How can we know if our love of self is becoming stronger than our love for God? Think about this wise advice: “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.” (Philippians 2:3, 4) We may ask ourselves: ‘Do I listen to this advice? Am I trying to do what God wants me to do? Do I look for ways to help others in the congregation and in the field ministry?’ It is not always easy to give our time and energy. It may mean that we have to work hard and sacrifice some things that we enjoy. But nothing could make us happier than knowing that the Sovereign of the universe is pleased with us!
8. What have some Christians done because they love God?
8 Because they love God and want to serve him more fully, some Christians have given up careers that could have made them very rich. Ericka, who is a doctor, chose to pioneer rather than to focus on her medical career. She and her husband have been able to serve in several countries. 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.” Ericka still works as a doctor, but she uses most of her time and energy to teach people about Jehovah and to help her brothers and sisters. She says that this brings her “heartfelt joy and inner satisfaction.”
RICHES IN HEAVEN OR ON EARTH?
9. Why will a person who loves money not be happy?
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 opened his wallet, held up some paper money, and said: “This is my god!” Although they might not admit it, many people feel this way. They love money and the things it can buy. But the Bible warns: “A lover of silver will never be satisfied with silver, nor a lover of wealth with income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) A person who loves money never feels he has enough. He always wants more and spends his life trying to get it. This brings him “many pains.”—1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
10. What does the Bible say about riches and poverty?
10 Of course, we all need money. It gives us some protection. (Ecclesiastes 7:12) But can we be happy if we have just enough for our basic needs? Yes! (Read Ecclesiastes 5:12.) Agur son of Jakeh wrote: “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Just let me consume my portion of food.” It is easy to understand why this man did not want to be very poor. He said that he did not want to be tempted to steal, because stealing would bring dishonor to God. But why did he not want to be rich? He wrote: “So that I do not become satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is Jehovah?’” (Proverbs 30:8, 9) You probably know people who trust in riches instead of in God.
11. What did Jesus say about money?
11 A person who loves 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 also said: “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.”—Matthew 6:19, 20, 24.
12. How can living a simple life help us to serve God? Give an example.
12 Many of Jehovah’s servants are trying to live a simpler life. They find that doing so gives them more time to serve Jehovah and also makes them happier. Jack, who lives in the United States, sold his large home and business so that he could pioneer with his wife. He explains: “It was hard to give up our beautiful home and property in the country.” But for years he used to come home frustrated because of problems at work. He says: “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.”
‘Does my life show that I really believe what the Bible says about money?’
13. What can help us to examine our view of money?
13 When we examine our view of money, we need to be honest and ask ourselves: ‘Does my life show that I really believe what the Bible says about money? Is making money the most important thing for me? Do I care more about material things than about my relationship with Jehovah and with people? Do I truly believe that Jehovah will provide the things I need?’ We can be sure that he will never disappoint those who trust in him!—Matthew 6:33.
DO WE LOVE JEHOVAH OR PLEASURES?
14. What is a balanced view of pleasures?
14 The Bible also foretold that in the last days, people would be “lovers of pleasures.” Just as we know that there is nothing wrong with having a balanced view of ourselves and money, we also know that there is nothing wrong with enjoying life in a balanced way. Some people believe that they should not have any pleasure, but this is not what Jehovah wants for us. The Bible encourages faithful servants of God: “Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.”—Ecclesiastes 9:7.
15. What does it mean to be “lovers of pleasures”?
15 Second Timothy 3:4 speaks of those who love pleasures and leave God out of their lives. Notice that the verse does not say people would love pleasures more than God. That would mean they do love God a little. But the verse says “rather than” God. One scholar wrote that this verse “definitely does not mean that they also love God to some extent. It means that they do not love God at all.” This is a serious warning to people who love pleasures. The Bible describes lovers of pleasures as those who are “carried away by” pleasures of life.—Luke 8:14.
16, 17. What example did Jesus set in his view of pleasures?
16 Jesus showed us what it means to be balanced about pleasures. He went to both “a marriage feast” and “a big reception feast.” (John 2:1-10; Luke 5:29) At the wedding, there was not enough wine, so Jesus performed a miracle and turned water into wine. Another time, when people criticized Jesus for eating and drinking, he made it very clear that those people were not balanced in their view.—Luke 7:33-36.
17 Still, Jesus did not make pleasure the most important thing in his life. He put Jehovah first and did all he could to help others. He was willing to die a painful death on a stake to save mankind. Jesus told those who wanted to follow him: “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.”—Matthew 5:11, 12.
18. What questions will help us to examine how much we love pleasures?
18 What will help us to examine how much we love pleasures? We can ask ourselves: ‘Is entertainment more important to me than meetings and field service? Am I willing to sacrifice some of the things I enjoy because I want to serve God? When I choose entertainment, do I think about how Jehovah will view my choices?’ Because we love God and want to make him happy, we carefully avoid not just things we know are wrong but even things we think may displease him.—Read Matthew 22:37, 38.
HOW TO BE HAPPY
19. Who can never be really happy?
19 Satan’s world has made humans suffer for some 6,000 years. Now, in the last days of this system, the earth is full of people who focus on themselves, money, and pleasures. They think of what they can get and make their own desires the main thing in life. But people like that cannot be truly happy! In contrast, the Bible says: “Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob as his helper, whose hope is in Jehovah his God.”—Psalm 146:5.
20. How has your love for God made you happy?
20 Jehovah’s servants truly love him, and every year many others come to know and love him too. This proves that God’s Kingdom is ruling, and it will soon bring blessings that we cannot even imagine! When we do what Jehovah wants us to do, we make him happy, and this brings us true joy. Those who love Jehovah will be joyful forever! In the next article, we will examine some of the bad qualities that result from selfish love. Then we will see how these are the opposite of the good qualities of Jehovah’s servants.