Be Happy—Show Favor to the Afflicted
“The one despising his own fellowman is sinning, but happy is he who is showing favor to the afflicted ones.”—PROVERBS 14:21.
1, 2. What occurred to three Philippine families, leading us to consider what questions?
WHILE three Philippine families in Pangasinan Province were attending a Christian meeting, an accidental fire burned their houses to ashes. Upon returning home, they found themselves with no food or place to sleep. Fellow Christians, learning of the disaster, rushed over with food and arranged accommodations with others in the congregation. The next morning, Christians arrived with bamboo and other building materials. This brotherly love impressed the neighbors. The three families were affected for the good too. The fire destroyed their houses, but their faith and other Christian qualities survived and grew because of the loving response.—Matthew 6:33; compare 1 Corinthians 3:12-14.
2 Are not experiences such as this heartwarming? They build our faith in human kindness and even more so in the power of real Christianity. (Acts 28:2) Do we appreciate, though, the Scriptural basis for such ‘working what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith’? (Galatians 6:10) And how might we personally do more in this regard?
An Excellent Pattern for Us
3. Of what can we be sure regarding Jehovah’s concern for us?
3 The disciple James tells us: “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above.” (James 1:17) How true that is, for Jehovah provides abundantly for our spiritual and material good! To what, however, does he give priority? To spiritual things. He, for instance, gave us the Bible so that we may have spiritual guidance and hope. That hope centers on the gift of his Son, whose sacrifice is the basis for our being forgiven and having the prospect of eternal life.—John 3:16; Matthew 20:28.
4. How is it evident that God is also interested in our material needs?
4 Jehovah is interested in our material welfare too. The apostle Paul reasoned on this with men in ancient Lystra. Though they were not true worshipers, they could not deny that the Creator ‘has done good, giving us rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts to the full with food and good cheer.’ (Acts 14:15-17) Out of love, Jehovah both supplies our spiritual needs and makes provision for our physical life. Do you not think that this contributes to his being “the happy God”?—1 Timothy 1:11.
5. What can we learn from God’s dealings with ancient Israel?
5 God’s dealings with ancient Israel illustrate his balanced attention both to his worshipers’ spiritual needs and to their material situation. First, he made the Law available to his people. His kings had to prepare a personal copy of the Law, and the people assembled periodically to hear His Law read. (Deuteronomy 17:18; 31:9-13) The Law provided for a tabernacle or temple and for priests to handle sacrifices so that the people could have God’s favor. The Israelites assembled regularly for spiritual festivals, highlights in their yearly worship. (Deuteronomy 16:1-17) As a result of all of this, individual Israelites could be spiritually rich before God.
6, 7. How did Jehovah in the Law show his concern for the physical needs of the Israelites?
6 The Law, though, manifested also how attentive God is to his servants’ physical circumstances. Perhaps what comes to your mind are laws given to Israel regarding sanitation and steps that minimized the spread of infection. (Deuteronomy 14:11-21; 23:10-14) Yet we should not overlook God’s special provisions made to help the impoverished and the afflicted. Poor health or a disaster such as a fire or a flood might bring an Israelite into poverty. Right in his Law Jehovah acknowledged that not all would be equal economically. (Deuteronomy 15:11) But he did more than merely sympathize with the poor and the afflicted. He arranged for aid.
7 Food would be an immediate need for such ones. So God directed that the poor in Israel be free to glean in the fields and vineyards or from the olive trees. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22; Leviticus 19:9, 10; 23:22) God’s way did not encourage people to be lazy or to live on public handouts when they could work. An Israelite gleaner had to put forth effort, maybe spending long hours under the hot sun to gather food for the day. We should not overlook, however, that in this way God considerately provided for the impoverished.—Compare Ruth 2:2-7; Psalm 69:33; 102:17.
8 Jehovah further stressed his interest in the afflicted by pronouncements such as at Isaiah 58:6, 7. At a time when some self-satisfied Israelites were going through a pretense of fasting, God’s prophet declared: “Is not this the fast that I choose? To . . . send away the crushed ones free, and that you people should tear in two every yoke bar? Is it not the dividing of your bread out to the hungry one, and that you should bring the afflicted, homeless people into your house? That, in case you should see someone naked, you must cover him, and that you should not hide yourself from your own flesh?” Some individuals today guard what might be called their ‘comfort zone.’ They are willing to help a needy person only if it does not mean any personal sacrifice or inconvenience for them. What a different spirit was emphasized in God’s words through Isaiah!—See also Ezekiel 18:5-9.
9. What did the Law counsel as to making loans, and what attitude did God encourage?
9 Concern for poor Israelite brothers might be demonstrated in making loans. An Israelite could expect to be paid interest when lending money to someone who wanted to use it to engage in or expand his business. Jehovah said not to charge interest, however, on money lent to a poor brother, whose desperation might otherwise tempt him into wrongdoing. (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 15:7, 8, 11; 23:19, 20; Proverbs 6:30, 31) God’s attitude toward the unfortunate was to be a pattern for his people. We are even promised: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.” (Proverbs 19:17) Just imagine that—lending to Jehovah, with assurance of his amply repaying you!
10. After considering God’s example, what might you ask yourself?
10 We should all thus ask: What does God’s view and treatment of the afflicted mean to me? Have I been learning from his perfect pattern and attempting to imitate it? Can I improve as to being in God’s image in this respect?—Genesis 1:26.
Like Father, Like Son
11. How did Jesus’ concern match his Father’s? (2 Corinthians 8:9)
11 Jesus Christ “is the reflection of [Jehovah’s] glory and the exact representation of his very being.” (Hebrews 1:3) Hence, we would expect him to reflect his Father’s concern for those interested in true worship. He did. Jesus showed that the poverty needing to be remedied the most is spiritual poverty: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:3; compare Luke 6:20.) Christ also said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Accordingly, he was not known mainly as a miracle worker or a healer but as Teacher. (Mark 10:17-21; 12:28-33) In this connection, note Mark 6:30-34. We read of a time when Jesus had sought some private time to recuperate. Then “he saw a great crowd . . . [who] were as sheep without a shepherd.” How did he react? “He started to teach them many things.” Yes, Jesus extended himself in response to their greatest need: truth by which they could live forever.—John 4:14; 6:51.
12 While Jesus focused on the spiritual needs of humble Jews, he did not ignore their material needs. Mark’s account shows that Jesus was alert to the need for literal food. The apostles first suggested that the crowd be sent away to “buy themselves something to eat.” Jesus did not agree. Then the apostles brought up the possibility of taking some of the operating funds that they carried and using that to buy food. Instead, Jesus chose to perform the famous miracle by which he fed 5,000 men, besides women and children, a basic meal of bread and fish. Some today might feel that it was easy for Jesus to fill the crowd’s needs miraculously. Still, we should not overlook the fact that he had genuine concern, and he acted on that.—Mark 6:35-44; Matthew 14:21.*
13. Jesus gave what other evidence of his interest in people’s welfare?
13 You have probably read Gospel accounts that prove that Jesus’ feelings for the unfortunate extended beyond the poor. He helped the sick and the afflicted also. (Luke 6:17-19; 17:12-19; John 5:2-9; 9:1-7) Nor was it a matter of healing just those who happened to be near him. Sometimes he traveled to the sick one in order to provide help.—Luke 8:41-55.
14, 15. (a) Why can we be sure that Jesus expected his followers to manifest concerns like his? (b) We do well to ask ourselves what?
14 However, were the needs of poor and afflicted disciples (or truth seekers) the concern only of those who could provide relief by performing miracles? No. All of Jesus’ disciples were to be concerned and to act accordingly. For example, he urged a rich man who wanted everlasting life: “Sell all the things you have and distribute to poor people, and you will have treasure in the heavens.” (Luke 18:18-22) Jesus also counseled: “When you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones.”—Luke 14:13, 14.
15 A Christian is a follower of Christ, so each of us could ask: To what extent am I imitating Jesus’ attitude and actions toward the poor, the afflicted, the unfortunate? Can I honestly say, as did the apostle Paul: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ”?—1 Corinthians 11:1.
Paul—A Happy Example
16. What was of special interest to the apostle Paul?
16 It is appropriate to bring up Paul in this connection, for he also was a fine example to imitate. As we would expect, his primary focus was on the spiritual needs of others. He was an ‘ambassador substituting for Christ, begging others, “Become reconciled to God.”’ (2 Corinthians 5:20) Paul’s special assignment was to preach and to build up congregations among the non-Jews. He wrote: “I had entrusted to me the good news for those who are uncircumcised.”—Galatians 2:7.
17. How do we know that Paul gave attention to physical concerns too?
17 But since Paul said that he was imitating Christ, did he (like Jehovah and Jesus) give attention to the physical afflictions or difficulties of fellow worshipers? Let Paul himself answer. In Galatians 2:9, he continued: ‘James and Cephas [Peter] and John gave me and Barnabas the right hand of sharing together, that we should go to the nations.’ Then in the very next verse Paul added: “Only we should keep the poor in mind. This very thing I have also earnestly endeavored to do.” (Galatians 2:10) So Paul appreciated that, even though he was a missionary-apostle with responsibilities to many congregations, he could not be too busy to be interested in the physical welfare of his brothers and sisters.
18. To what “poor” was Paul likely referring at Galatians 2:10, and why should they have received attention?
18 Likely, “the poor” that he spoke of in Galatians 2:10 were mainly Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and Judea. Earlier there had been “murmuring . . . on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution” of food. (Acts 6:1) Thus, when mentioning his being an apostle to the nations, Paul made it clear that he was not ignoring any in the Christian brotherhood. (Romans 11:13) He appreciated that the physical care of brothers was included in the words: “There should be no division in the body, but . . . its members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it.”—1 Corinthians 12:25, 26.
19. What proof do we have that Paul and others acted on their concern for the poor?
19 When Christians in Jerusalem and Judea suffered because of poverty, local famine, or persecution, some distant congregations responded. They, of course, would have been remembering their needy brothers in prayers for God’s support and comfort. But they did not stop there. Paul wrote that “those in Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share up their things by a contribution to the poor of the holy ones in Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:26, 27) Those making such financial contributions to their afflicted brothers were “being enriched for every sort of generosity, which produces through us an expression of thanks to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:1-13) Would that not be cause for them to be happy?
20. Why could the brothers who contributed to help “the poor” be happy?
20 The brothers who shared their funds with “the poor of the holy ones in Jerusalem” had an additional basis for happiness. Their caring for the afflicted would assist the contributors to have God’s approval. We can see why by noting that the Greek word rendered “contribution” in Romans 15:26; and 2 Corinthians 9:13 contains the idea of “sign of fellowship, proof of brotherly unity, even gift.” It is used at Hebrews 13:16, which says: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Will We Be Happy?
21. What can we conclude will provide a basis for our gaining happiness?
21 In this discussion, we have examined the Scriptural evidence that Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the apostle Paul cared for the afflicted. We have noted that all of them recognized that spiritual needs should receive first attention. But it is also true that they all showed in very practical ways their interest in the poor, the sick, and those experiencing misfortune. They could find happiness in providing practical help. Should it be any less true of us? The apostle Paul urged us to “bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’”—Acts 20:35.
22. What aspects of this matter yet deserve your attention?
22 You may well ask, though: Just what can I personally do? How can I know who are genuinely in need? How can I offer aid in a way that does not encourage laziness, that is kind and realistic, that takes into consideration others’ feelings, and that is in balance with my Christian duty to spread the good news? The following article will address itself to aspects of this matter, laying a basis for you to find additional happiness.
Do More Than Say: “Keep Warm and Well Fed”
“If . . . one of you says to [needy brothers]: ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them the necessities for their body, of what benefit is it? . . . Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.”—JAMES 2:15-17.
1. How did a brother in Nigeria come into need?
IT IS calculated that Lebechi Okwaraocha was born before 1880, so he is well over a hundred years old. He inherited and worshiped his Nigerian parents’ juju. Then, when in his 80’s, he began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He applied what he learned and was baptized. Thus he has been a Witness for about 30 years. Not long ago, elders from his congregation visited him and his 72-year-old Anglican wife after a very heavy downpour. Both were despondent—the floor of their thatched hut was under water, and they had no relatives who would provide lodging or help them to make repairs. Had you been there, what would you have done? Before finding out what happened, let us consider some Bible advice.
2. Why are we interested in “fine works”?
2 Christ Jesus “gave himself for us that he might . . . cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.” (Titus 2:14) These works center on the lifesaving Kingdom preaching. (Mark 13:10; Revelation 7:9, 10) However, Christian “fine works” include more than the vital preaching, for Jesus’ half brother James explains: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—James 1:27.
3, 4. What can we learn from 1 Timothy chapters 3-5 about “fine works,” leading to what questions?
3 Congregations in the first century were involved in both kinds of “fine works.” In 1 Timothy chapter 3, after outlining the qualifications of overseers and ministerial servants, the apostle Paul wrote that “the congregation of the living God [is] a pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:1-15) He showed that Christians who stay by such truthful teachings could save themselves and those who listen to them. (1 Timothy 4:16) Then Paul discussed the ‘fine work’ of caring materially for faithful widows who were “destitute.”—1 Timothy 5:3-5.
4 Hence, in addition to our evangelizing, we should be giving attention to “fine works,” such as ‘looking after orphans and widows in their tribulation.’ What can elders and ministerial servants do in this regard, as “those who are taking the lead”? (Hebrews 13:17) How can others of us assist them in this? And what can we personally do in performing “fine works” of this sort?
Elders Who Take a Fine Lead
5. How did Paul meet a special need, with what modern parallels?
5 When a special need arose in Judea, Paul, an elder, took the lead in arranging a relief ministry. Such leadership minimized any confusion; things could be distributed equitably, according to need. (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; Acts 6:1, 2) Modern elders, too, have taken the lead in relief ministries after disastrous floods, mud slides, tidal waves, tornadoes, or earthquakes, thus ‘keeping an eye in personal interest upon others.’—Philippians 2:3, 4.
6. When a disaster occurred in California, U.S.A., what was the elders’ response?
6 Awake! of October 8, 1986, gave an example of such Christianity in action. Elders responded when a broken levee caused flooding in California, U.S.A. These spiritual shepherds quickly checked on their flock to see who might be missing or in need of medical care, food, or accommodations. The elders coordinated their efforts with the headquarters office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A relief committee was set up, and as fellow Witnesses arrived to help, they were organized into crews to clean up and repair damaged homes. The elders supervised the purchasing and distributing of supplies too. This illustrates that when such special needs arise, ‘each disciple can determine according to what he can afford to give’ or to do, but it would be wise to consult with local overseers and get directions from them.—Compare Acts 11:27-30.
7. To what more common needs should we also respond?
7 While you (elder or not) might occasionally be able to respond to a major need after a disaster, there are more common needs that can be just as vital—those right in your congregation. Because these needs may not be as sensational as a major disaster, they can easily be overlooked or given minimal attention. But local needs actually are the type mentioned in James 2:15-17. Yes, your congregation may offer the greatest challenge as to whether your ‘faith has works, or is dead in itself.’
8. How may overseers show wisdom in handling needs in the congregation?
8 In taking the lead, elders should strive to be “wise and understanding.” (James 3:13) With wisdom they can protect the flock against impostors who go from brother to brother (or congregation to congregation) borrowing money or inventing stories to get “help.” Overseers wisely do not sympathize with laziness, for the Bible rule is: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-15) Still, they do not want to ‘shut the door of their own tender compassions’ or lead their brothers to do that. (1 John 3:17) Another reason why they must show wisdom is that the Bible does not give us endless rules about caring for the needy and the afflicted. Situations differ from era to era and place to place.
9. (a) How were deserving Christian widows cared for in the first century? (b) What form of help may such ones benefit from today?
9 For example, in 1 Timothy 5:3-10 Paul discussed deserving widows who had been “left destitute.” Their believing relatives were primarily responsible to help them; neglecting that duty could damage the relatives’ standing with God. If, though, a needy and deserving widow could not obtain help in this way, it was possible for the elders to arrange for some material aid from the congregation. In recent times, too, some congregations have aided especially needy ones in their midst. However, most lands now have tax-supported programs for the aged, infirm, or those willing but unable to find work. Christian elders may want to help in another way though. Some who are in genuine need and who fully qualify for public benefits are not receiving such because they do not know how to apply or are too timid to ask. Thus elders may inquire of governmental agencies or contact Witnesses who are experienced in these matters. They then may arrange for a capable brother or sister to help the needy person to receive the available benefits.—Romans 13:1, 4.
Organizing for Practical Help
10. As they shepherd the flock, elders should give attention to what?
10 Alert overseers are often the key to seeing that afflicted and needy ones receive help from loving brothers and sisters. The elders should be alert to spiritual and physical needs as they shepherd all in the flock. Understandably, elders give emphasis “to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4) Hence, they would try to arrange things so that bedridden or hospitalized members of the flock are spiritually fed. The elders may have the meetings recorded for those unable to attend. Elders and ministerial servants taking their turn delivering the tapes have found that their visits enable them to impart other spiritual gifts. (Romans 1:11, 12) At the same time, they can check current needs.
11. Illustrate how assistance might be arranged for a sister in need.
11 They might note that a handicapped or aged sister could at times come to the Kingdom Hall, or have a brief share in the field ministry, if some sister helped her bathe and dress. (Compare Psalm 23:1, 2, 5.) The overseers could even assign one of their number to make the arrangements. Similarly, they might ask the congregation for volunteers to travel with the afflicted person or to provide a ride. Having a schedule for this would make things even more orderly.
12. How can others work along with overseers in helping sick or aged ones?
12 Elders may observe other matters in which help could be offered or loving arrangements made. For instance, an aged or sick sister has not been able to care for her house as she used to. Could some ministerial servants and others lend her a hand? Their trimming the lawn or shrubs might even make her feel better, knowing that the house now is no cause for reproach in the neighborhood. Does the garden need weeding or watering? Might some sister who is going food shopping be willing to check with her and then shop for needed items? Remember, the apostles were interested in such practical aspects, and they organized capable ones in the congregation to help.—Acts 6:1-6.
13. What resulted from the elders’ helping the Nigerian brother mentioned earlier?
13 Such Christian concern was shown by the elders mentioned earlier who, while making a shepherding call, found Lebechi Okwaraocha and his wife in a sad state. Quickly the body of elders took up the matter and let the congregation know what they had in mind—rebuilding the house. Various brothers and sisters donated materials and willingly shared in the project. In a week, they built a secure, metal-roofed little house. The report from Nigeria is:
“The villagers were surprised and spontaneously brought food and beverages for the brothers and sisters busily working long hours to complete the job before the next downpour. Many villagers voiced complaints about other religious groups who, they said, plunder the people instead of helping the poor. This incident was the talk of the community. The villagers have become very receptive, and many home Bible studies have been started.”
Your Share in These “Fine Works”
14. We should have what view of doing “fine works” toward our brothers?
14 Of course, we can often respond privately and directly to the needs of the elderly, infirm, hospitalized, or those otherwise afflicted who are around us. If we see a way to display real Christianity, why not go ahead and try to help? (Acts 9:36-39) Our motivation is, not pressure from others, but Christian love. The first ingredient to any practical aid is our having genuine interest and compassion. Of course, none of us can turn back the clock for the aged, cure sickness by miracles, or equalize the economic standing of all in the congregation. But we should definitely have a concerned and a giving spirit. When we have that, and we act accordingly, it will strengthen the bond of love between us and those whom we aid. It did so between Paul and Onesimus, who was a relatively new Christian who ‘ministered to Paul in his prison bonds.’—Philemon 10-13; Colossians 3:12-14; 4:10, 11.
15. How might we help some deserving ones who are genuinely in need?
15 Sometimes we can respond to a material need with a kind gift, whether sent anonymously or given in private. Has a brother lost his job and been unable to find another one? Does a sister face unexpected medical bills; has she had an accident or been robbed? Situations like this may arise around us. When we make “gifts of mercy,” our Father looking on in secret will observe and approve. (Matthew 6:1-4) Or, rather than giving money, we may, like Job, be able to provide garments for the poor and food supplies or home-cooked meals for the widow or fatherless.—Job 6:14; 29:12-16; 31:16-22.
16. In what other practical way can help sometimes be given? Illustrate.
16 Your experience or contacts can become a source of practical aid. A brother asked Brother W—— for a loan. His kind response was: ‘Why do you feel that I might have any extra money to lend?’ The reply given was: ‘Because you’re a better manager of your money.’ With discernment, Brother W——, who had often lent money to needy ones, suggested: ‘Perhaps what you really need is some help in learning to manage your money, and I would be glad to assist if you want my help.’ Such help is especially appreciated by brothers who need to adjust their standard of living to new circumstances or who are willing to work hard even at some less esteemed type of job. Of course, if a loan is truly needed, it would be good to make a signed record of it so that no problems arise later. Yet, many brothers who are disinclined to borrow money would deeply appreciate personal assistance in the form of advice or shared experience. (Romans 13:8) This is illustrated by an experience from West Africa involving Emmanuel:
Though Emmanuel was a trained barber, customers were few, and he was disheartened over his inability to earn a living. Then an alert elder in the congregation asked Emmanuel if he would consider doing another type of work. Yes, was his response, for he was not going to let professional pride stand in the way. The elder spoke with associates and located a job for Emmanuel as an attendant in a hospital. He has done well in this work and has been able to help others in the congregation.
17. How might you be able to help a brother who is in the hospital? (Psalm 41:1-3)
17 When a fellow Christian is in a hospital or a nursing home, there are special opportunities to help. Again, sincere interest and concern are fundamental. You might show these by your willingness to read to the patient upbuilding Christian literature or to relate encouraging experiences. Are there, though, physical needs that you can help with? In some areas, medical facilities are so overtaxed that a patient is not bathed or fed unless a visitor does it. So, if the doctors agree, you might bring him a nutritious meal or help him wash his hair or bathe. Would a warm robe or slippers be appreciated? (2 Timothy 4:13) Or could you offer to care for some matter that is worrying the patient? Maybe he is concerned about how his paycheck will be cashed and utility bills paid. You may provide helpful relief by doing even simple things for him, such as making sure that mail does not pile up at his house, that the plants get watered, or that the furnace is turned off.
18. What are you determined to do regarding brothers in need?
18 Undoubtedly, each of us can find ways in which we can improve in our doing more than just saying, “Keep warm and well fed.” (James 2:16) Think of the brothers and sisters in your congregation. Are some deserving ones genuinely in need materially, sick, handicapped, or bedridden? What can you do in a practical way to help these beloved members of the congregation for whom Christ died? Having this attitude will help you to be better prepared to respond quickly if difficulties arise.
19 By applying ourselves to assisting our brothers, we will be proving that our faith is not dead. That same faith moves us to work hard in Christian preaching. We need to maintain balance between helping others materially and regularly sharing in the Christian evangelizing. (Compare Matthew 15:3-9; 23:23.) Jesus’ counsel to Martha and Mary reflects that balance. He said that if a person were weighing material supplies in relation to spiritual food, the latter is “the good portion,” which will not be taken away. (Luke 10:39-42) The sick and the poor will always be present in this system of things. We can, and we should, do good things for them. (Mark 14:7) Still, the finest and most lasting good that we can do is teaching others about God’s Kingdom. That is what Jesus concentrated on. (Luke 4:16-19) It is the way that the poor, the sick, the afflicted, can receive permanent relief. What a joy it is to help our brothers and others to rest their hope on God and to “get a firm hold on the real life.”—1 Timothy 6:17-19.
Do You Recall?
□ What are the most important “fine works” to be performed by the Christian congregation?
□ How can local elders give balanced attention to “fine works” relating to their brothers’ material circumstances?
□ What practical steps might be taken by the elders?
□ What practical things might you do to help your brothers or sisters who are in need?
[Box on page 17]
The Congregation Cared
A couple who had moved to a small congregation in a rural area provided this thought-provoking report:
‘Three years ago my wife and I sold our home and moved to a distant congregation that needed mature assistance because there had been some problems. Soon I had four positions of responsibility. We loved the brothers and wanted to work with them. Over the months the congregation’s spirit improved, and two fine elders moved in.
‘My wife began having health problems, and last year she needed major surgery. The day she entered the hospital, I came down with hepatitis. Two months later, I was laid off because the economy in the area was very bad. Our funds were exhausted, I was out of work, and both of us were trying to regain our health. I was depressed because the district convention was coming up and I had a part on the program. I also had an assignment on the circuit assembly in a couple of weeks. But with no money, I had no idea how I could get to these or even take care of my family. One morning my wife went out in the field service, and I sat down to review our situation.
‘As I looked out the window, I asked myself, Where is my trust in Jehovah? I had told my wife not to worry, but now I was beginning to doubt. I then expressed my “little faith” to Jehovah and begged him for help. As I finished praying, a brother knocked on the door. He wanted me to go with him for a cup of coffee. I explained I had better not, for I had to work on a part for the meeting that night. He was very insistent, though, saying that it would take only a few minutes. So we went. We returned a half hour later, and as I got out of his car I felt better.
‘When I entered the house, I noticed that the kitchen counter was stacked with groceries. I thought that my wife must have gone shopping. “But wait a minute, how could she, for we don’t have any money.” Then I noticed an envelope. The front read:
‘“From your brothers and sisters, who love you very much. Don’t put any of this in the contribution box. It has already been taken care of for you.”
‘I couldn’t hold back the tears. I thought of my “little faith,” and that made me cry more. Then my wife came home. I just pointed to the food and the other gifts. She also broke down crying, along with the two sisters who had come in with her. We tried to explain that we couldn’t accept so much, but the sisters told us that no one knew who gave what. The whole congregation had a part, and they wanted to do it because they felt that we had taught them how to give to others. This just brought more tears!’
Later, when he wrote up this account, the brother’s work had picked up. He and his wife were sharing in the auxiliary pioneer service.
[Box on page 18]
Evidence of Christian Love
A congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the western United States faced a unique situation that allowed them to manifest Christian love, such as is recommended in the Scriptures. In their territory, the state opened a center to care for severely crippled victims of cerebral palsy. One of the first residents of the center was Gary, 25 years old, who could no longer be cared for at home. The disease had left him a quadriplegic, and his speech was affected too.
Gary had been a baptized Witness for seven years. Once in the new center, he wanted to attend meetings of the local congregation. His parents lived not far away, and for a time they brought him. But in view of their age, other brothers in the congregation began to help. One owned a van. So he, his wife, and their two girls would get ready and leave home 45 minutes before the meeting so that they could pick up Gary. They would take him back to the center afterward, thus getting home quite late.
Something was developing at the center though. Other cerebral palsy victims manifested interest in Bible truth. Soon a couple of them accepted a Bible study. Later, others also showed interest. How could they all be brought to the meetings? Another family in the congregation purchased a van, and a business owned by local Witnesses made a third van available. Yet, these means at times were inadequate or inconvenient. Could the congregation do more?
The elders discussed this and then proposed that a van be purchased solely for bringing the handicapped ones to and from meetings. The congregation agreed and gladly contributed. Some Witnesses from the surrounding area who heard of the undertaking made contributions too. A van was obtained and fitted so that wheelchairs could be transported in it.
Now, each month a different Congregation Book Study shares in driving the van to meetings and assemblies. Five from the cerebral palsy center regularly attend, four of them now being baptized Witnesses. They have come to be known and loved by many brothers and sisters who experience the happiness of helping. How? By holding the songbook and looking up scriptures during meetings. At circuit assemblies and district conventions, they even help to feed and care for those who cannot do this for themselves. This has produced a mutual fondness that is truly heartwarming. And what about Gary? He now serves as a ministerial servant in this congregation that has given such evidence of its love.—Acts 20:35.
Praising Jehovah With Music
MANY are the ways by which Jehovah’s servants can bring praise to him. Without a doubt, among the most beautiful and among the ones bringing great joy to his heart is that of ‘singing and making melody to him.’ (Psalm 105:2) It has well been observed that music is one of the “hallmarks of man’s humanity.”
Music has also been termed “that unique human gift, both creative and recreative.” Animals, whether wild or domestic, have no musical ability. True, some birds sing beautiful songs, but that is wholly by instinct. They no more have an appreciation of music than parrots have an understanding of any words they may be trained to speak. But with beautiful music, we can reach the hearts of others, even as with speech, we can communicate with others’ intellects.
Yes, music is a gift from the Creator to humankind, and what a gift it is! Recent