How Firm Is Your Trust in God?
“Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom.”—MATTHEW 6:33.
1, 2. What step as to employment did a young man take, and why?
A YOUNG man wanted to be more useful in his congregation. The problem was that his secular work interfered with his regular meeting attendance. How did he address the situation? He simplified his life, resigned from his job, and in time found employment that did not interfere with his Christian activities. Today, he earns much less than before, but he still cares for his family’s needs and is much better able to support the congregation.
2 Do you understand why that young man took such a step? Can you see yourself taking a similar step if you were in circumstances like his? Commendably, many Christians have, and their actions demonstrate their confidence in Jesus’ promise: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) They trust in Jehovah for security rather than in the secular world.—Proverbs 3:23, 26.
3. Why may some wonder whether it is practical today to put God’s Kingdom first?
3 In view of the difficult times we are living in, some may wonder whether that young man made a wise decision. Today, one section of humanity lives in the deepest poverty while another enjoys the highest standard of living in history. Most in poor lands would eagerly seize any opportunity to make their life a little easier. On the other hand, many in wealthier lands feel the pressure of maintaining their standard of living in the face of faltering economies, changing job markets, and ever more demanding employers. In view of the pressure involved in making a living, some may wonder, ‘Is it still practical to seek the Kingdom first?’ To help answer that question, consider the audience that Jesus was addressing.
“Stop Being Anxious”
4, 5. How did Jesus illustrate that it was reasonable for God’s people not to be overly anxious about everyday concerns?
4 Jesus was in Galilee, speaking to a large crowd of people from many places. (Matthew 4:25) Few if any of those people were wealthy. Likely, most were poor. Yet, Jesus urged them to give priority, not to the gaining of material wealth, but to the storing up of something far more valuable—spiritual treasure. (Matthew 6:19-21, 24) He said: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing?”—Matthew 6:25.
5 To many of those listening, Jesus’ words might have sounded impractical. They knew that if they did not work hard, their families would suffer. However, Jesus reminded them about the birds. Birds live from one day to the next, yet Jehovah cares for them. Jesus also pointed to the way Jehovah provides for wildflowers, the beauty of which surpasses that of Solomon in all his glory. If Jehovah cares for birds and flowers, how much more so will he care for us? (Matthew 6:26-30) As Jesus said, our lives (souls) and bodies are far more important than the food we buy to sustain our lives and the clothing we obtain to cover our bodies. If we devote all our efforts merely to feed and cover ourselves, with nothing substantial left for serving Jehovah, we miss the very purpose of living.—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
A Balanced Viewpoint
6. (a) For what are Christians responsible? (b) Where do Christians place their complete trust?
6 Of course, Jesus did not encourage his listeners to stop working and wait for God somehow to provide for their families. Even the birds have to search for food for themselves and their young. Thus, Christians had to work if they wanted to eat. They had to care for family responsibilities. Christian servants and slaves had to work diligently for their masters. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Peter 2:18) The apostle Paul often worked as a tentmaker to support himself. (Acts 18:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 2:9) Still, those Christians did not look to secular work for security. They trusted in Jehovah. As a result, they enjoyed an inner peace unknown to others. The psalmist said: “Those trusting in Jehovah are like Mount Zion, which cannot be made to totter, but dwells even to time indefinite.”—Psalm 125:1.
7. What might be the viewpoint of one who does not trust firmly in Jehovah?
7 Anyone who does not trust firmly in Jehovah might think differently. The majority of humans view material wealth as a major key to security. Hence, parents have encouraged their offspring to invest much of their young adulthood in higher education, hoping that it will prepare them for well-paying careers. Sadly, some Christian families have found the cost of such an investment to be very high, as their children have lost their spiritual focus and turned to pursuing materialistic goals.
8. What balance do Christians maintain?
8 Hence, wise Christians realize that Jesus’ counsel applies as much today as it did in the first century, and they try to keep a balance. Even if they have to spend long hours in secular work in order to care for Scriptural responsibilities, they never allow the need to earn money to blind them to the more important spiritual matters.—Ecclesiastes 7:12.
“Never Be Anxious”
9. How does Jesus reassure those who fully trust in Jehovah?
9 In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urged his listeners: “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.” (Matthew 6:31, 32) What encouraging words! If we trust fully in Jehovah, he will always be there to support us. However, Jesus’ words are also sobering. They remind us that if we “eagerly” pursue material things, our thinking is like that of “the nations,” people who are not true Christians.
10. When a young man approached Jesus for counsel, how did Jesus reveal what the young man loved most?
10 On one occasion, a very wealthy young man asked Jesus what he should do to gain everlasting life. Jesus reminded him of the requirements of the Law, which was still in operation at the time. The young man assured Jesus: “I have kept all these; what yet am I lacking?” Jesus’ reply might have sounded impractical to many. He said: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” (Matthew 19:16-21) The young man went away sad, unable to contemplate losing his wealth. However much he loved Jehovah, he loved his possessions more.
11, 12. (a) What sobering words did Jesus utter regarding wealth? (b) How can possessions be a barrier to serving Jehovah?
11 That event led Jesus to say something unexpected: “It will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens. . . . It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23, 24) Did Jesus mean that no wealthy person will inherit the Kingdom? No, for he went on to say: “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25, 26) Indeed, with Jehovah’s help some wealthy people back then did become anointed Christians. (1 Timothy 6:17) Nevertheless, Jesus said those surprising words for good reason. He was giving a warning.
12 If a person becomes attached to his possessions as that wealthy young man did, they could become a barrier to his serving Jehovah wholeheartedly. That could be true both of one who is already wealthy and of one who is “determined to be rich.” (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Trusting too much in material things can lead a person to be less ‘conscious of his spiritual need.’ (Matthew 5:3) As a result, he might not feel the same need for Jehovah’s support. (Deuteronomy 6:10-12) He might come to expect special treatment in the congregation. (James 2:1-4) And he could spend most of his time enjoying his wealth rather than serving Jehovah.
Cultivate the Right Viewpoint
13. What wrong viewpoint did the Laodiceans have?
13 One group with a wrong view of possessions was the first-century congregation in Laodicea. Jesus said to them: “You say: ‘I am rich and have acquired riches and do not need anything at all,’ but you do not know you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.” It was not their wealth that brought the Laodiceans to such a pitiable spiritual situation. It was the fact that they trusted in wealth rather than in Jehovah. As a result, they were spiritually lukewarm, near to being ‘vomited out of’ Jesus’ mouth.—Revelation 3:14-17.
14. Why did the Hebrew Christians merit Paul’s commendation?
14 On the other hand, Paul commended the Hebrew Christians for their attitude during an earlier time of persecution. He said: “You both expressed sympathy for those in prison and joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession.” (Hebrews 10:34) Those Christians were not devastated by the loss of their possessions. They retained their joy because they kept hold of their most valuable possession, their “better and . . . abiding possession.” Like the merchant of Jesus’ parable who sacrificed everything for one valuable pearl, they were determined not to loosen their grip on the Kingdom hope, whatever the cost. (Matthew 13:45, 46) What a fine attitude!
15. How did a Christian woman in Liberia put Kingdom interests first?
15 Many today have cultivated a similar fine attitude. In Liberia, for example, a young Christian woman was offered the opportunity to study at the university. In that country, such an offer is viewed as a way to a secure future. However, she was a pioneer, a full-time evangelizer, and had received an invitation to serve as a temporary special pioneer. She chose to seek first the Kingdom and remain in full-time service. She went to her assignment and started 21 Bible studies in three months. This young sister and thousands like her seek first the Kingdom, even at the cost of possible material advantages. How do they maintain such an attitude in this materialistic world? They have cultivated a number of fine qualities. Let us discuss some of these.
16, 17. (a) Why is modesty important if we are to trust in Jehovah? (b) Why should we cultivate confidence in God’s promises?
16 Modesty: The Bible says: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight. Do not become wise in your own eyes.” (Proverbs 3:5-7) Sometimes, a certain course might seem practical from a secular point of view. (Jeremiah 17:9) Still, a sincere Christian looks to Jehovah for guidance. (Psalm 48:14) ‘In all his ways’—in congregation matters, education or secular work, relaxation, or anything else—he modestly seeks Jehovah’s counsel.—Psalm 73:24.
17 Confidence in Jehovah’s promises: Paul said: “He that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) If we doubt that Jehovah will fulfill his promises, it might seem logical to ‘use this world to the full.’ (1 Corinthians 7:31) On the other hand, if our belief is strong, we will be determined to seek the Kingdom first. How can a strong belief be developed? By drawing close to Jehovah in constant, heartfelt prayer and through regular personal study. (Psalm 1:1-3; Philippians 4:6, 7; James 4:8) Like King David, we can pray: “In you I have put my trust, O Jehovah. I have said: ‘You are my God.’ How abundant your goodness is!”—Psalm 31:14, 19.
18, 19. (a) How does industriousness strengthen our trust in Jehovah? (b) Why should a Christian be willing to make sacrifices?
18 Diligence in Jehovah’s service: Paul linked confidence in Jehovah’s promises with industriousness when he wrote: “We desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end.” (Hebrews 6:11) If we are busy in Jehovah’s service, he will support us. Each time we experience that support, our trust in him gets stronger, we become “steadfast, unmovable.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Our faith is renewed, and our hope confirmed.—Ephesians 3:16-19.
19 Willingness to make sacrifices: Paul sacrificed a promising career in order to follow Jesus. He clearly made the right choice, although his life was sometimes hard from a material standpoint. (1 Corinthians 4:11-13) Jehovah does not promise a life of luxury, and sometimes his servants endure hardships. Our willingness to simplify our lifestyle and make sacrifices proves the strength of our determination to serve Jehovah.—1 Timothy 6:6-8.
20. Why is patience vital for one who puts Kingdom interests first?
20 Patience: The disciple James urged fellow Christians: “Exercise patience, therefore, brothers, until the presence of the Lord.” (James 5:7) In this fast-moving world, it is difficult to be patient. We want things to happen quickly. But Paul urges us to imitate those who “through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12) Be willing to wait on Jehovah. Everlasting life on a paradise earth—surely that is worth waiting for!
21. (a) What do we demonstrate when we put Kingdom interests first? (b) What will be discussed in the following article?
21 Yes, Jesus’ counsel to seek first the Kingdom is practical. When we do so, we demonstrate that we really trust in Jehovah and choose the only safe way for a Christian to live. However, Jesus also counseled us to keep on “seeking first . . . [God’s] righteousness.” In the following article, we will see why that encouragement is especially needed today.
Seeking Righteousness Will Protect Us
“Keep on, then, seeking first . . . [God’s] righteousness.”—MATTHEW 6:33.
1, 2. What decision did a young Christian make, and why did she make that decision?
A YOUNG Christian woman in Asia worked as a secretary in a government office. She was conscientious, reporting for work early and not loitering at her job. However, since her position was not permanent, it came up for review. The head of the department told the young woman that he would employ her permanently and even give her a higher position, provided she would have an immoral relationship with him. This she flatly refused, even though it would mean the loss of her employment.
2 Was that young Christian woman unrealistic? No, she was carefully following Jesus’ words: “Keep on, then, seeking first . . . [God’s] righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) For her, following righteous principles was far more important than gaining an advantage by means of committing sexual immorality.—1 Corinthians 6:18.
The Importance of Righteousness
3. What is righteousness?
3 “Righteousness” implies a state of moral integrity and honesty. In the Bible, the Greek and Hebrew words have the thought of “rectitude” or “uprightness.” It is not self-righteousness, judging oneself by one’s own standards. (Luke 16:15) It is uprightness according to Jehovah’s standards. It is God’s righteousness.—Romans 1:17; 3:21.
4. Why is righteousness important to a Christian?
4 Why is righteousness important? Because Jehovah, the “righteous God,” favors his people when they practice righteousness. (Psalm 4:1; Proverbs 2:20-22; Habakkuk 1:13) Anyone who works unrighteousness cannot have a close relationship with him. (Proverbs 15:8) That is why the apostle Paul urged Timothy: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness,” along with other vital qualities. (2 Timothy 2:22) It is also why Paul included “the breastplate of righteousness” when he listed the various parts of our spiritual armor.—Ephesians 6:14.
5. How can imperfect creatures seek righteousness?
5 Of course, no human is righteous in a complete sense. All inherit imperfection from Adam, and all are sinful, unrighteous, from birth. Yet, Jesus said that we should seek righteousness. How is that possible? In that Jesus gave his perfect life as a ransom for us, and if we exercise faith in that sacrifice, Jehovah is willing to forgive our sins. (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16; Romans 5:8, 9, 12, 18) On that basis, as we learn Jehovah’s righteous standards and do our utmost to observe them—praying for help to overcome our weaknesses—Jehovah accepts our worship. (Psalm 1:6; Romans 7:19-25; Revelation 7:9, 14) How comforting that is!
Righteous in an Unrighteous World
6. Why was the world a dangerous place for the early Christians?
6 When Jesus’ disciples received the commission to be his witnesses “to the most distant part of the earth,” they faced a difficult situation. (Acts 1:8) All their assigned territory was “lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan. (1 John 5:19) The world was infected with the wicked spirit that he promotes, and Christians would be exposed to its contaminating influence. (Ephesians 2:2) For them, the world was a dangerous place. Only by seeking first God’s righteousness could they endure with their integrity intact. Most did endure, but a few were diverted from “the path of righteousness.”—Proverbs 12:28; 2 Timothy 4:10.
7. What responsibilities require that a Christian resist corrupting influences?
7 Is the world safer for Christians today? By no means! It is even more corrupt than it was in the first century. In addition, Satan has been cast down to the earth and wages vicious warfare against anointed Christians, “the remaining ones of [the woman’s] seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 12:12, 17) Satan also attacks any who support that “seed.” Yet, Christians cannot hide from the world. While no part of it, they have to live in it. (John 17:15, 16) And they have to preach in it to seek out rightly disposed people and teach them to be disciples of Christ. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Therefore, since Christians cannot entirely avoid the corrupting influences in this world, they have to resist them. Let us consider four of those influences.
The Trap of Immorality
8. Why did the Israelites turn to worshipping the gods of the Moabites?
8 Toward the end of their 40-year trek in the wilderness, a large number of Israelites turned from the path of righteousness. They had witnessed many acts of deliverance by Jehovah, and soon they would march into the Promised Land. Yet, at that critical point, they turned to serving the gods of the Moabites. Why? They succumbed to “the desire of the flesh.” (1 John 2:16) The record says: “The people started to have immoral relations with the daughters of Moab.”—Numbers 25:1.
9, 10. What situation today makes it vital always to keep in mind the corrupting power of wrong fleshly desires?
9 That episode demonstrates the way wrong fleshly desires can corrupt unwary ones. We do well to learn from it, especially since immorality has become widely viewed as an acceptable lifestyle. (1 Corinthians 10:6, 8) A report from the United States says: “Until around 1970, cohabitation [the practice of unmarried couples living together] was illegal in all American states. Now, it is routine. More than half of all first marriages are preceded by cohabitation.” That and similar loose moral practices are not limited to one country. They are found all around the world, and sadly, some Christians have followed the trend—even losing their standing in the Christian congregation.—1 Corinthians 5:11.
10 Moreover, propaganda promoting immorality seems to be everywhere. Movies and television programs suggest that it is perfectly acceptable for young people to have sex before marriage. Homosexual relationships are depicted as normal. And many shows depict increasingly graphic sex. Pictures of graphic sex are also easily accessible on the Internet. For instance, a newspaper columnist reported that his seven-year-old son came home from school and excitedly told his father that a school friend had come across an Internet site showing naked women performing sex acts. The father was horrified, but how many children have come across such sites without telling their parents? In addition, how many parents know the contents of the video games their children play? Many popular games feature disgusting immorality, as well as demonism and violence.
11. How can a family be protected from the immorality of the world?
11 How can a family resist such degraded “entertainment”? By seeking first God’s righteousness, refusing to get involved with anything immoral. (2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:3) Parents who properly oversee their children’s activities and inculcate in their children a love of Jehovah and his righteous laws fortify them against pornography, pornographic video games, immoral movies, and other unrighteous temptations.—Deuteronomy 6:4-9.*
The Danger of Community Pressure
12. What problem arose in the first century?
12 When Paul was in Lystra in Asia Minor, he miraculously healed a man. The account says: “The crowds, seeing what Paul had done, raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian tongue: ‘The gods have become like humans and have come down to us!’ And they went calling Barnabas Zeus, but Paul Hermes, since he was the one taking the lead in speaking.” (Acts 14:11, 12) Later those same crowds wanted to kill Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 14:19) Clearly, those people were very susceptible to community pressure. It seems that when some from that region became Christians, they did not lose their superstitious tendencies. In his letter to Christians in Colossae, Paul warned against the “worship of the angels.”—Colossians 2:18.
13. What are some customs that a Christian has to avoid, and how can he find the strength to do so?
13 Today, true Christians likewise need to avoid popularly accepted customs based on false religious ideas that violate Christian principles. In some lands, for example, many customary ceremonies surrounding birth and death are based on the lie that we have a spirit that survives death. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) There are lands in which it is the custom to subject young girls to female genital mutilation.* This is a cruel, unnecessary practice that is out of harmony with the loving care that Christian parents owe their children. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; Ephesians 6:4) How can Christians resist community pressures and abandon such practices? By having complete trust in Jehovah. (Psalm 31:6) The righteous God will strengthen and care for those who say to him from their heart: “You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.”—Psalm 91:2; Proverbs 29:25.
Do Not Forget Jehovah
14. What warning did Jehovah give the Israelites shortly before they entered the Promised Land?
14 Shortly before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Jehovah warned them not to forget him. He said: “Watch out for yourself that you may not forget Jehovah your God so as not to keep his commandments and his judicial decisions and his statutes that I am commanding you today; for fear that you may eat and indeed satisfy yourself, and you may build good houses and indeed dwell in them, and your herd and your flock may increase, and silver and gold may increase for you, and all that is yours may increase; and your heart may indeed be lifted up and you may indeed forget Jehovah your God.”—Deuteronomy 8:11-14.
15. How can we be sure that we are not forgetting Jehovah?
15 Could something similar happen today? Yes, if we have the wrong priorities. However, if we seek first God’s righteousness, pure worship will be the most important thing in our lives. We will, as Paul encouraged us to do, ‘buy out the opportune time’ and have a sense of urgency in our ministry. (Colossians 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:2) If, though, meeting attendance and field service are less important to us than relaxation or finding ways to have a good time, we could forget Jehovah in the sense of viewing him as secondary in our lives. Paul said that in the last days, men would be “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:4) Sincere Christians examine themselves regularly to be sure that they are not influenced by that kind of thinking.—2 Corinthians 13:5.
Beware of an Independent Spirit
16. What wrong spirit was manifested by Eve and by some in Paul’s day?
16 In Eden, Satan successfully appealed to Eve’s selfish desire for independence. Eve wanted to make her own decisions about right and wrong. (Genesis 3:1-6) In the first century, some in the Corinthian congregation had a similar independent spirit. They thought they knew better than Paul, and he sarcastically called them superfine apostles.—2 Corinthians 11:3-5; 1 Timothy 6:3-5.
17. How can we avoid developing an independent spirit?
17 In the world today, many are “headstrong, puffed up with pride,” and some Christians have been influenced by that way of thinking. Some have even become opposers of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:4; Philippians 3:18) When it comes to pure worship, it is vital that we look to Jehovah for direction and cooperate with “the faithful and discreet slave” and the congregation elders. That is a way to seek righteousness, and it protects us from developing an independent spirit. (Matthew 24:45-47; Psalm 25:9, 10; Isaiah 30:21) The congregation of the anointed is “a pillar and support of the truth.” Jehovah has provided it to protect and guide us. (1 Timothy 3:15) Recognizing its vital role will help us to ‘do nothing out of egotism’ as we humbly submit to Jehovah’s righteous will.—Philippians 2:2-4; Proverbs 3:4-6.
Be Imitators of Jesus
18. We are encouraged to imitate Jesus in what ways?
18 Of Jesus, the Bible prophetically says: “You have loved righteousness and you hate wickedness.” (Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9) What a fine attitude to imitate! (1 Corinthians 11:1) Jesus did not merely know Jehovah’s upright standards; he loved them. So when Satan tempted him in the wilderness, Jesus was unhesitating and firm in his refusal to stray from “the path of righteousness.”—Proverbs 8:20; Matthew 4:3-11.
19, 20. What are the good results of seeking righteousness?
19 True, the unrighteous desires of the flesh can be strong. (Romans 7:19, 20) Still, if righteousness is precious to us, this will strengthen us against wickedness. (Psalm 119:165) A deep love of righteousness will shield us when we are confronted by what is wrong. (Proverbs 4:4-6) Remember, whenever we give in to temptation, we give Satan a victory. How much better to resist him and give the victory to Jehovah!—Proverbs 27:11; James 4:7, 8.
20 Because they seek righteousness, true Christians are “filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.” (Philippians 1:10, 11) They put on “the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:24) They belong to Jehovah and live to serve him, not to please themselves. (Romans 14:8; 1 Peter 4:2) That is what governs their thoughts and actions. What delight they bring to the heart of their heavenly Father!—Proverbs 23:24.
Valuable suggestions for parents on protecting the family from immoral influences are found in the book The Secret of Family Happiness, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Female genital mutilation used to be called female circumcision.