“God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—HEBREWS 6:10.
1. What natural desire do we all have?
HOW do you feel when someone you know and respect forgets your name or, even worse, does not recognize you? This can be very discouraging. Why? Because each one of us has a natural desire to be accepted by others. But we want them to do more than just identify who we are. We want them to know what kind of person we are and what we have accomplished.—Numbers 11:16, footnote; Job 31:6.
2, 3. What can happen to our desire to be appreciated by others? (See opening picture.)
2 But if we are not careful, this natural desire to be appreciated can become distorted. Satan’s world can make us want to be famous and important. When this happens, we do not give our heavenly Father, Jehovah God, the recognition and worship that he deserves.—Revelation 4:11.
3 In Jesus’ day, some religious leaders had the wrong view of recognition. Jesus warned his disciples: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in robes and who love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the most prominent places at evening meals.” He added: “These will receive a more severe judgment.” (Luke 20:46, 47, footnote) In contrast, Jesus praised a poor widow who donated two small coins, when probably nobody else noticed what she did. (Luke 21:1-4) Obviously, Jesus’ view of recognition was very different from that of others. This article will help us to keep the right view of recognition, the view that Jehovah God wants us to have.
THE BEST KIND OF RECOGNITION
4. What is the best kind of recognition, and why?
4 What is the best kind of recognition? It is not the attention that many people try to get by means of higher education, success in business, or fame in the entertainment world. Paul explained what it is when he said: “Now that you have come to know God or, rather, have come to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things and want to slave for them over again?” (Galatians 4:9) It is a wonderful privilege to “be known by God,” the Supreme Ruler of the universe! Jehovah knows who we are, he loves us, and he wants us to be close to him. Jehovah created us so that we can be his friends.—Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14.
5. What must we do to be known by God?
5 We know that Moses was a friend of Jehovah. When he pleaded with Jehovah: “Make me know your ways,” Jehovah replied: “I will also do this thing that you request, because you have found favor in my eyes and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:12-17) Jehovah can also know us personally. But what must we do to become Jehovah’s friend? We must love him and dedicate our life to him.—Read 1 Corinthians 8:3.
6, 7. What could cause us to lose our friendship with Jehovah?
6 However, we need to keep our precious friendship with our heavenly Father. Like the early Christians in Galatia, we must stop slaving for “the weak and beggarly elementary things” of this world, including the success and fame it offers. (Galatians 4:9) Those Christians in Galatia had already come to know God, and God already knew them. But Paul said that these very same brothers were “turning back again” to empty things. So in other words, he was asking them: ‘Why did you turn back and start slaving for the same foolish and useless things again?’
7 Could the same thing happen to us? Yes, it could. Like Paul, when we came into the truth, we may have given up fame and success in Satan’s world. (Read Philippians 3:7, 8.) Maybe we gave up scholarships, good jobs, or opportunities to make lots of money. Or maybe we could have become famous or wealthy because we are talented in music or sports. But we rejected all those opportunities. (Hebrews 11:24-27) It would be very unwise to regret those good decisions and to feel that our lives would have been better if we had run after those things! Such an attitude could make us go back to the things of this world, the things that we had already decided were “weak and beggarly.”*—See footnote.
STRENGTHEN YOUR DESIRE TO HAVE JEHOVAH’S RECOGNITION
8. What will strengthen our desire to have Jehovah’s recognition?
8 How can our desire for Jehovah’s recognition grow so strong that we will not want the world’s recognition? We need to focus on two important truths. First, Jehovah always gives recognition to those who serve him faithfully. (Read Hebrews 6:10; 11:6) Jehovah views every one of his faithful servants as precious, so he feels that it would be “unrighteous” to ignore any of them. Jehovah always knows “those who belong to him.” (2 Timothy 2:19) He is “aware of the way of the righteous” and knows how to save them.—Psalm 1:6; 2 Peter 2:9.
9. Give examples of how Jehovah has shown his approval of his people.
9 At times, Jehovah has shown his approval of his people in very special ways. (2 Chronicles 20:20, 29) For example, think about the way Jehovah saved his people at the Red Sea when Pharaoh’s powerful army chased after them. (Exodus 14:21-30; Psalm 106:9-11) This event was so amazing that people in that part of the world were still talking about it 40 years later. (Joshua 2:9-11) It is really encouraging for us to remember how Jehovah loved his people and used his power to save them in the past, because soon Gog of Magog will attack us. (Ezekiel 38:8-12) At that time, we will be very happy that we looked for the approval of God and not of the world.
Sometimes Jehovah rewards his servants in unexpected ways
10. What other truth must we focus on?
10 The second truth we must focus on is that Jehovah may give us recognition in ways we may never expect. If people do good things just to be praised by others, Jehovah will not reward them. Why not? Because, as Jesus said, when others praise them, that is their reward. (Read Matthew 6:1-5.) On the other hand, Jehovah “looks on in secret” at those who are not honored for the good they do to others. He notices what they do, and he rewards, or blesses, them. And sometimes Jehovah rewards his servants in unexpected ways. Let us discuss some examples.
JEHOVAH GAVE A HUMBLE YOUNG WOMAN UNEXPECTED RECOGNITION
11. How did Jehovah give recognition to Mary?
11 Jehovah chose a humble young woman named Mary to be the mother of his Son, Jesus. Mary lived in a small city called Nazareth, far away from Jerusalem and its beautiful temple. (Read Luke 1:26-33.) Why did Jehovah choose Mary? The angel Gabriel told her that she had “found favor with God.” We can see that she was a very close friend of Jehovah from what she later told her relative Elizabeth. (Luke 1:46-55) Jehovah had been watching Mary and gave her this unexpected blessing because she was faithful to him.
12, 13. How was Jesus honored when he was born and when Mary took him to the temple 40 days later?
12 When Jesus was born, whom did Jehovah tell about his birth? Not any of the important officials or rulers in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Instead, he sent angels to humble shepherds who were caring for sheep in the fields outside Bethlehem. (Luke 2:8-14) Then, these shepherds visited the newborn baby. (Luke 2:15-17) Mary and Joseph must have been very surprised to see Jesus honored in such a way. Jehovah’s way of doing things is different from the way the Devil does things. When Satan sent astrologers to visit Jesus and his parents, everyone in Jerusalem learned about Jesus’ birth, and this caused a lot of trouble. (Matthew 2:3) As a result, many innocent children were later killed.—Matthew 2:16.
13 Jehovah’s Law to Israel said that 40 days after giving birth to a son, a mother had to offer a sacrifice to Jehovah. So Mary traveled with Joseph and Jesus from Bethlehem about nine kilometers (six miles) to the temple in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:22-24) On the way, Mary may have wondered if the priest would do something special to honor Jesus. Jesus was honored, but in a way that Mary may not have expected. Jehovah chose Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man, and the prophetess Anna, an 84-year-old widow, to announce that Jesus would become the promised Messiah, or Christ.—Luke 2:25-38.
14. How did Jehovah reward Mary?
14 Did Jehovah continue to give recognition to Mary because she faithfully raised and cared for Jesus? Yes, he did. God made sure that some of the things that Mary said and did were recorded in the Bible. It seems that Mary was not able to travel with Jesus during the three and a half years that he preached. Perhaps because she was a widow, she had to stay in Nazareth. So she missed out on many beautiful experiences that others had. But she was there with Jesus when he died. (John 19:26) Later, Mary was in Jerusalem with Jesus’ disciples before they received holy spirit at Pentecost. (Acts 1:13, 14) She was likely anointed along with the other disciples. If so, it means that she received the opportunity to be with Jesus in heaven forever. That is certainly a beautiful reward for her faithful service!
JEHOVAH GAVE RECOGNITION TO HIS SON
15. How did Jehovah show his approval of Jesus when he was on earth?
15 Jesus did not want honor from the religious or political leaders. But three times, Jehovah spoke directly from heaven, thus letting his Son know that he loved him. That must have encouraged Jesus very much! Just after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, Jehovah said: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) It seems that John the Baptist was the only other person who heard those words. Then, about a year before Jesus’ death, three of his apostles heard Jehovah say about Jesus: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) Finally, just a few days before Jesus’ death, Jehovah again spoke to his Son from heaven.—John 12:28.
16, 17. How did Jehovah honor Jesus in an unexpected way?
16 Jesus knew that people would call him a blasphemer and that he would die a shameful death. Still, he prayed that God’s will be done and not his. (Matthew 26:39, 42) “He endured a torture stake, despising shame,” because he wanted his Father’s recognition, not the world’s. (Hebrews 12:2) How did Jehovah give that recognition to Jesus?
17 When Jesus was on earth, he prayed to have the glory that he had before, when he was in heaven with his Father. (John 17:5) The Bible does not say anywhere that Jesus hoped to get more than that. He did not expect a special reward for doing Jehovah’s will on earth. But what did Jehovah do? He honored Jesus in an unexpected way. When Jehovah resurrected Jesus, he gave him “a superior position” in heaven. He also gave Jesus immortal spirit life, something that no one else had received before!* (See footnote.) (Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 6:16) What an amazing way for Jehovah to reward Jesus for his faithful service!
18. What will help us to look for Jehovah’s approval and not the world’s?
18 What will help us to look for Jehovah’s approval and not the world’s? We should focus on the fact that Jehovah always gives recognition to his faithful servants and that he often rewards them in unexpected ways. We can only try to imagine how Jehovah will bless us in the future! But for now, while we endure problems and difficulties in this wicked world, we must remember that this world is passing away. So any recognition from it will also pass away. (1 John 2:17) Our loving Father, Jehovah, on the other hand, will never forget our work and the love we show for his name, because he “is not unrighteous.” (Hebrews 6:10) He will certainly show that he approves of us, perhaps in ways that we have never even thought of!
Other Bible translations use the words “useless,” “bankrupt,” “destitute,” and “miserable” instead of “beggarly.”
This reward may have been unexpected, because immortality is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures.