Presumptuousness Leads to Dishonor
“Has presumptuousness come? Then dishonor will come; but wisdom is with the modest ones.”—PROVERBS 11:2.
1, 2. What is presumptuousness, and in what ways has it led to disaster?
AN ENVIOUS Levite leads a rebellious mob against Jehovah’s appointed authorities. An ambitious prince concocts a devious scheme to usurp his father’s throne. An impatient king disregards the explicit instructions of God’s prophet. These three Israelites share a common trait: presumptuousness.
2 Presumptuousness is a characteristic of the heart that poses a serious threat to all. (Psalm 19:13) The presumptuous person boldly takes liberties without having the authorization to do so. Often, this leads to disaster. In fact, presumptuousness has ruined kings and toppled empires. (Jeremiah 50:29, 31, 32; Daniel 5:20) It has even ensnared some servants of Jehovah and led them to their ruin.
3. How can we learn about the dangers of presumptuousness?
3 For good reason the Bible states: “Has presumptuousness come? Then dishonor will come; but wisdom is with the modest ones.” (Proverbs 11:2) The Bible provides us with examples confirming the truthfulness of this proverb. An examination of some of these will help us to see the danger of overstepping due bounds. Hence, let us consider how envy, ambition, and impatience caused the three men mentioned at the outset to act presumptuously, leading to their dishonor.
Korah—An Envious Rebel
4. (a) Who was Korah, and what historic events was he undoubtedly part of? (b) In his later years, what notorious act did Korah instigate?
4 Korah was a Kohathite Levite, a first cousin of Moses and Aaron. Apparently, he was loyal to Jehovah for decades. Korah was privileged to be among those who were miraculously delivered through the Red Sea, and he likely shared in executing Jehovah’s judgment against the calf-worshiping Israelites at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 32:26) Eventually, however, Korah became the ringleader in an uprising against Moses and Aaron that included the Reubenites Dathan, Abiram, and On, along with 250 Israelite chieftains.* “That is enough of you,” they said to Moses and Aaron, “because the whole assembly are all of them holy and Jehovah is in their midst. Why, then, should you lift yourselves up above the congregation of Jehovah?”—Numbers 16:1-3.
5, 6. (a) Why did Korah rebel against Moses and Aaron? (b) Why can it be said that Korah likely undervalued his own place in God’s arrangement?
5 After years of faithfulness, why did Korah rebel? Surely Moses’ leadership of Israel was not oppressive, for he was “by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 12:3) Yet, it seems that Korah envied Moses and Aaron and resented their prominence, and this led him to say—wrongly—that they had arbitrarily and selfishly lifted themselves up above the congregation.—Psalm 106:16.
6 Part of Korah’s problem very likely was that he did not cherish his own privileges in God’s arrangement. True, the Kohathite Levites were not all priests, but they were teachers of God’s Law. Some also carried the furniture and utensils of the tabernacle when these had to be transported. That was no insignificant task, for the holy utensils could be handled only by individuals who were religiously and morally clean. (Isaiah 52:11) Hence, when Moses confronted Korah, he was, in effect, asking, Do you view your assignment as something so trivial that you must also secure the priesthood? (Numbers 16:9, 10) Korah failed to realize that the greatest honor is serving Jehovah faithfully according to his arrangement—not the attaining of some special status or position.—Psalm 84:10.
7. (a) How did Moses deal with Korah and his men? (b) How was Korah’s rebellion brought to a disastrous end?
7 Moses invited Korah and his men to gather the following morning at the tent of meeting with fire holders and incense. Korah and his men were not authorized to offer incense, since they were not priests. If they came with fire holders and incense, this would clearly indicate that these men still felt that they had a right to act as priests—even after having had an entire night to reconsider the matter. When they presented themselves the next morning, Jehovah rightly expressed his wrath. As for the Reubenites, “the earth opened its mouth and proceeded to swallow them up.” The rest, including Korah, were consumed by fire from God. (Deuteronomy 11:6; Numbers 16:16-35; 26:10) Korah’s presumptuousness led to the ultimate dishonor—God’s disapproval!
Resist the “Tendency to Envy”
8. How can “a tendency to envy” manifest itself among Christians?
8 The account of Korah is a warning to us. Since “a tendency to envy” is present in imperfect humans, it can manifest itself even in the Christian congregation. (James 4:5) For example, we might be position conscious. Like Korah, we might envy those who have privileges that we desire. Or we could become like the first-century Christian named Diotrephes. He was highly critical of apostolic authority, evidently because he wanted to be in charge. Indeed, John wrote that Diotrephes “likes to have the first place.”—3 John 9.
9. (a) What attitude toward congregation responsibilities do we need to avoid? (b) What is the proper view of our place in God’s arrangement?
9 Of course, it is not wrong for a Christian man to reach out for congregation responsibilities. Paul even encouraged such a course. (1 Timothy 3:1) However, we should never view privileges of service as badges of merit, as though by attaining them, we have moved up a rung on some so-called ladder of advancement. Remember, Jesus said: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:26, 27) Clearly, it would be wrong to envy those who have greater responsibilities, as if our value to God depended upon our “rank” in his organization. Jesus said: “All you are brothers.” (Matthew 23:8) Yes, whether publisher or pioneer, newly baptized or longtime integrity keeper—all who serve Jehovah whole-souled have a valuable place in his arrangement. (Luke 10:27; 12:6, 7; Galatians 3:28; Hebrews 6:10) It is truly a blessing to work shoulder to shoulder with millions who are striving to apply the Bible’s counsel: “Gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another.”—1 Peter 5:5.
Absalom—An Ambitious Opportunist
10. Who was Absalom, and how did he attempt to curry the favor of those coming to the king for judgment?
10 The life course of King David’s third son, Absalom, provides a study in ambition. This scheming opportunist tried to curry the favor of those who came to the king for judgment. First he insinuated that David was indifferent to their needs. Then he dropped the subtlety and got right to the point. “O that I were appointed judge in the land,” Absalom intoned, “that to me every man might come that happens to have a legal case or judgment! Then I should certainly do justice to him.” Absalom’s crafty politicking knew no bounds. “When a man drew near to bow down to him,” states the Bible, “he thrust his hand out and grabbed hold of him and kissed him. And Absalom kept doing a thing like this to all Israelites that would come in for judgment to the king.” With what result? “Absalom kept stealing the hearts of the men of Israel.”—2 Samuel 15:1-6.
11. How did Absalom try to usurp David’s throne?
11 Absalom was determined to usurp his father’s kingship. Five years earlier, he had David’s eldest son, Amnon, murdered, ostensibly in revenge for the rape of Absalom’s sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:28, 29) However, even then Absalom might have had his sights on the throne, viewing Amnon’s murder as a convenient way to eliminate a rival.* In any event, when the time was ripe, Absalom made his move. He had his kingship proclaimed throughout the land.—2 Samuel 15:10.
12. Explain how Absalom’s presumptuousness led to dishonor.
12 For a while, Absalom had success, for “the conspiracy kept getting stronger, and the people were continually growing in number with Absalom.” In time, King David was forced to flee for his life. (2 Samuel 15:12-17) Soon, though, Absalom’s career was cut short when he was slain by Joab, pitched into a hollow, and covered with stones. Imagine—this ambitious man who wanted to be king did not even receive a decent burial upon his death!* Presumptuousness truly led to Absalom’s dishonor.—2 Samuel 18:9-17.
Shun Selfish Ambition
13. How can an ambitious spirit take root in the heart of a Christian?
13 Absalom’s rise to power and his subsequent fall serve as a lesson for us. In today’s cutthroat world, it is common for people to fawn over their superiors, trying to ingratiate themselves to them simply to make an impression or perhaps to gain some type of privilege or promotion. At the same time, they might make bragging assertions to their subordinates, hoping to curry their favor and support. If we are not careful, such an ambitious spirit can take root in our heart. Apparently, this happened among some in the first century, making it necessary for the apostles to give strong warnings against such ones.—Galatians 4:17; 3 John 9, 10.
14. Why should we avoid an ambitious, self-exalting spirit?
14 Jehovah has no place in his organization for self-aggrandizing schemers who try to “search out their own glory.” (Proverbs 25:27) Indeed, the Bible warns: “Jehovah will cut off all smooth lips, the tongue speaking great things.” (Psalm 12:3) Absalom had smooth lips. He spoke swelling things to those whose favor he needed—all to acquire a coveted position of authority. In contrast, how blessed we are to be amid a brotherhood that follows Paul’s counsel: “[Do] nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind [consider] that the others are superior to you.”—Philippians 2:3.
Saul—An Impatient King
15. How did Saul at one time show himself to be modest?
15 At one time Saul, who later became king of Israel, was modest. Consider, for example, what happened in his younger years. When God’s prophet Samuel spoke favorably of him, Saul humbly replied: “Am I not a Benjaminite of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the most insignificant of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? So why have you spoken to me a thing like this?”—1 Samuel 9:21.
16. In what way did Saul manifest an impatient attitude?
16 Later, however, Saul’s modesty vanished. While at war with the Philistines, he withdrew to Gilgal, where he was expected to wait for Samuel to come and make entreaty to God with sacrifices. When Samuel did not come at the appointed time, Saul presumptuously offered the burnt sacrifice himself. Just as he finished, Samuel arrived. “What is it you have done?” Samuel asked. Saul replied: “I saw that the people had been dispersed from me, and you—you did not come within the appointed days . . . So I compelled myself and went offering up the burnt sacrifice.”—1 Samuel 13:8-12.
17. (a) At first glance, why might Saul’s actions seem justifiable? (b) Why did Jehovah censure Saul for his impatient act?
17 At first glance, Saul’s actions might seem justifiable. After all, God’s people were “in sore straits,” “hard pressed,” and trembling because of their desperate situation. (1 Samuel 13:6, 7) Certainly, it is not wrong to take the initiative when circumstances warrant it.* Remember, though, that Jehovah can read hearts and perceive our innermost motives. (1 Samuel 16:7) Hence, he must have seen some factors about Saul that are not directly stated in the Bible account. For example, Jehovah may have seen that Saul’s impatience was stirred by pride. Perhaps Saul was deeply irritated that he—the king of all Israel—had to wait for someone he viewed as an old, procrastinating prophet! In any event, Saul felt that Samuel’s tardiness gave him the right to take matters into his own hands and to disregard the explicit instructions he had been given. The result? Samuel did not praise Saul’s initiative. On the contrary, he chastised Saul, saying: “Your kingdom will not last . . . because you did not keep what Jehovah commanded you.” (1 Samuel 13:13, 14) Once again, presumptuousness led to dishonor.
Guard Against Impatience
18, 19. (a) Describe how impatience can cause a modern-day servant of God to act presumptuously. (b) What should we remember about the operation of the Christian congregation?
18 The account of Saul’s presumptuous act has been recorded in God’s Word for our benefit. (1 Corinthians 10:11) It is so easy for us to become annoyed at the imperfections of our brothers. Like Saul, we may become impatient, feeling that if matters are to be handled properly, we must take them into our own hands. Suppose, for example, that a brother excels at certain organizational skills. He is punctual, up-to-date on congregation procedures, and gifted in speaking and teaching. At the same time, he senses that others do not measure up to his meticulous standards, and they are not nearly as efficient as he would like. Does this give him license to express impatience? Should he criticize his brothers, perhaps implying that were it not for his efforts nothing would get done and the congregation would falter? This would be presumptuous!
19 Really, what holds a congregation of Christians together? Management skills? efficiency? depth of knowledge? Granted, these things are advantageous to the smooth operation of a congregation. (1 Corinthians 14:40; Philippians 3:16; 2 Peter 3:18) However, Jesus said that his followers would primarily be identified by their love. (John 13:35) That is why caring elders, while orderly, realize that the congregation is not a business that needs rigid management; instead, it is made up of a flock that needs tender care. (Isaiah 32:1, 2; 40:11) Presumptuous disregard for such principles often results in contention. In contrast, godly order produces peace.—1 Corinthians 14:33; Galatians 6:16.
20. What will be considered in the following article?
20 The Bible accounts of Korah, Absalom, and Saul clearly show that presumptuousness leads to dishonor, as stated at Proverbs 11:2. However, that same Bible verse adds: “Wisdom is with the modest ones.” What is modesty? What examples from the Bible can help to shed light on this quality, and how can we show modesty today? These questions will be considered in the following article.
Since Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn, those of his descendants who were swayed by Korah to rebel might have resented that Moses—a descendant of Levi—had administrative authority over them.
Chileab, David’s second son, is not mentioned after his birth. Possibly he died sometime before Absalom’s uprising.
In Bible times the interment of the body of a deceased individual was an act of considerable importance. Hence, to be deprived of a burial was calamitous and was often an expression of God’s disfavor.—Jeremiah 25:32, 33.
For example, Phinehas took quick action to halt a scourge that killed tens of thousands of Israelites, and David encouraged his famished men to join him in eating the showbread in “the house of God.” Neither course was condemned by God as presumptuous.—Matthew 12:2-4; Numbers 25:7-9; 1 Samuel 21:1-6.
“Wisdom Is With the Modest Ones”
“What is Jehovah asking back from you but to . . . be modest in walking with your God?”—MICAH 6:8.
1, 2. What is modesty, and how does it differ from presumptuousness?
A PROMINENT apostle refuses to draw attention to himself. A courageous Israelite judge calls himself the smallest in his father’s house. The greatest man who ever lived acknowledges that he does not have unlimited authority. Each of these men displays modesty.
2 Modesty is the opposite of presumptuousness. The person who is modest has a sober estimate of his abilities and worth and is free of conceit or vanity. Rather than being proud, boastful, or ambitious, the modest person is ever aware of his limitations. Hence, he respects and gives due consideration to the feelings and views of others.
3. In what way is wisdom “with the modest ones”?
3 For good reason the Bible states: “Wisdom is with the modest ones.” (Proverbs 11:2) The modest person is wise because he follows a course that God approves, and he avoids a presumptuous spirit that results in dishonor. (Proverbs 8:13; 1 Peter 5:5) The wisdom of modesty is confirmed by the life course of a number of God’s servants. Let us consider the three examples cited in the opening paragraph.
Paul—A ‘Subordinate’ and a ‘Steward’
4. What unique privileges did Paul enjoy?
4 Paul was a prominent figure among early Christians, and understandably so. In the course of his ministry, he traveled thousands of miles on sea and land, and he established numerous congregations. In addition, Jehovah blessed Paul with visions and the gift of speaking in foreign tongues. (1 Corinthians 14:18; 2 Corinthians 12:1-5) He also inspired Paul to write 14 letters that are now part of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Clearly, it can be said that Paul’s labors exceeded those of all the other apostles.—1 Corinthians 15:10.
5. How did Paul show that he had a modest view of himself?
5 Since Paul was in the forefront of Christian activity, some might expect to find him reveling in the limelight, even flaunting his authority. Not so, however, for Paul was modest. He called himself “the least of the apostles,” adding: “I am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the congregation of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) As a former persecutor of Christians, Paul never forgot that it was only by undeserved kindness that he could have a relationship with God at all, much less enjoy special privileges of service. (John 6:44; Ephesians 2:8) Hence, Paul did not feel that his extraordinary accomplishments in the ministry made him superior to others.—1 Corinthians 9:16.
6. How did Paul show modesty in his dealings with the Corinthians?
6 Paul’s modesty was particularly evident in his dealings with the Corinthians. Apparently, some of them were enamored of those whom they thought to be prominent overseers, including Apollos, Cephas, and Paul himself. (1 Corinthians 1:11-15) But Paul neither solicited the praise of the Corinthians nor exploited their admiration. When visiting them, he did not present himself “with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom.” Instead, Paul said regarding himself and his companions: “Let a man so appraise us as being subordinates of Christ and stewards of sacred secrets of God.”*—1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 4:1.
7. How did Paul display modesty even when giving counsel?
7 Paul even displayed modesty when he had to give strong counsel and direction. He entreated his fellow Christians “by the compassions of God” and “on the basis of love” rather than by the weight of his apostolic authority. (Romans 12:1, 2; Philemon 8, 9) Why did Paul do this? Because he truly viewed himself as a ‘fellow worker’ of his brothers, not as a ‘master of their faith.’ (2 Corinthians 1:24) No doubt it was Paul’s modesty that helped to make him especially dear to the first-century Christian congregations.—Acts 20:36-38.
A Modest View of Our Privileges
8, 9. (a) Why should we have a modest view of ourselves? (b) How can those who have a measure of responsibility display modesty?
8 Paul set a fine example for Christians today. No matter what responsibilities have been entrusted to us, none of us should feel that we are superior to others. “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing,” Paul wrote, “he is deceiving his own mind.” (Galatians 6:3) Why? Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23; 5:12) Yes, we should never forget that all of us have inherited sin and death from Adam. Special privileges do not elevate us from our lowly sinful condition. (Ecclesiastes 9:2) As was true in Paul’s case, it is only by undeserved kindness that humans can come into a relationship with God at all, much less serve him in some privileged capacity.—Romans 3:12, 24.
9 Realizing this, a person who is modest neither gloats over his privileges nor boasts of his accomplishments. (1 Corinthians 4:7) When giving counsel or direction, he does so as a fellow worker—not as a master. Certainly, it would be wrong for one who excels in certain tasks to solicit praise from or exploit the admiration of fellow believers. (Proverbs 25:27; Matthew 6:2-4) The only praise that is worth anything comes from others—and it should come unsolicited. If it does come, we should not let it cause us to think more of ourselves than is necessary.—Proverbs 27:2; Romans 12:3.
10. Explain how some who may appear to be lowly may really be “rich in faith.”
10 When we are entrusted with a measure of responsibility, modesty will help us to avoid putting undue emphasis on ourselves, creating the impression that the congregation is thriving solely because of our efforts and abilities. For example, we might be especially gifted at teaching. (Ephesians 4:11, 12) In all modesty, however, we must recognize that some of the greatest lessons learned at a congregation meeting are not delivered from the platform. Are you not encouraged when you see, for example, the single parent who regularly comes to the Kingdom Hall with children in tow? Or the depressed soul who faithfully comes to meetings despite persistent feelings of worthlessness? Or the youth who steadily makes spiritual advancement in spite of bad influences in school and elsewhere? (Psalm 84:10) These individuals may not be in the limelight. The tests of integrity they face go largely unnoticed by others. Yet, they may be as “rich in faith” as those who have more prominence. (James 2:5) After all, in the end it is faithfulness that wins Jehovah’s favor.—Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 4:2.
Gideon—“The Smallest” in His Father’s House
11. In what way did Gideon show modesty in speaking with God’s angel?
11 Gideon, a stalwart young man of the tribe of Manasseh, lived during a turbulent time in Israel’s history. For seven years, God’s people had suffered under Midianite oppression. However, the time had now come for Jehovah to deliver his people. Hence, an angel appeared to Gideon and said: “Jehovah is with you, you valiant, mighty one.” Gideon was modest, so he did not bask in the glory of this unexpected compliment. Instead, he respectfully said to the angel: “Excuse me, my lord, but if Jehovah is with us, then why has all this come upon us?” The angel clarified matters and told Gideon: “You will certainly save Israel out of Midian’s palm.” How did Gideon respond? Instead of hungrily seizing the assignment as an opportunity to make himself a national hero, Gideon replied: “Excuse me, Jehovah. With what shall I save Israel? Look! My thousand is the least in Manasseh, and I am the smallest in my father’s house.” What modesty!—Judges 6:11-15.
12. How did Gideon show discretion in carrying out his assignment?
12 Before sending Gideon into battle, Jehovah tested him. How? Gideon was told to demolish his father’s altar to Baal and to cut down the sacred pole that stood alongside it. This assignment would take courage, but Gideon also showed modesty and discretion in the way he carried it out. Instead of making a public spectacle of himself, Gideon worked under cover of night when he would most likely pass unnoticed. Furthermore, Gideon approached his assignment with due caution. He took along ten servants—perhaps so that some could stand guard while the rest helped him to destroy the altar and the sacred pole.* In any event, with Jehovah’s blessing, Gideon carried out his assignment, and in time he was used by God to liberate Israel from the Midianites.—Judges 6:25-27.
Displaying Modesty and Discretion
13, 14. (a) How can we show modesty when a privilege of service is extended to us? (b) How did Brother A. H. Macmillan set a fine example in displaying modesty?
13 There is much we can learn from Gideon’s modesty. For example, how do we respond when a privilege of service is extended to us? Do we think first of the prominence or prestige that will result? Or do we modestly and prayerfully consider whether we can fulfill the demands of the assignment? Brother A. H. Macmillan, who finished his earthly course in 1966, set a fine example in this regard. C. T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, once asked Brother Macmillan for his thoughts on who might take charge of the work in his absence. In the discussion that followed, Brother Macmillan did not once promote himself, though it would have been quite convenient for him to do so. In the end, Brother Russell invited Brother Macmillan to consider accepting the assignment. “I stood there half dazed,” Brother Macmillan wrote years later. “I did think it over, very seriously, and prayed about it for some time before I finally told him I would be happy to do all that I could do to assist him.”
14 Not long afterward, Brother Russell passed away, leaving the office of the Watch Tower Society’s presidency vacant. Since Brother Macmillan was in charge during Brother Russell’s final preaching tour, a brother remarked to him: “Mac, you have a strong chance of getting in yourself. You were Brother Russell’s special representative when he was gone, and he told all of us to do as you say. Well, he went away and never did return. It looks like you’re the man to carry on.” Brother Macmillan responded: “Brother, that’s not the way to look at this matter. This is the Lord’s work and the only position you get in the Lord’s organization is what the Lord sees fit to give you; and I am sure I’m not the man for the job.” Then Brother Macmillan recommended someone else for the position. Like Gideon, he had a modest view of himself—a view we do well to adopt.
15. What are some practical ways in which we can use discernment when we preach to others?
15 We too should be modest in the manner in which we carry out our assignment. Gideon was discreet, and he strove not to anger his opposers unnecessarily. Similarly, in our preaching work, we should be modest and discreet about how we talk to others. True, we are engaged in a spiritual warfare to overturn “strongly entrenched things” and “reasonings.” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5) But we should not talk down to others or give them any valid cause for taking offense at our message. Instead, we should respect their views, emphasize what we may hold in common, and then focus on the positive aspects of our message.—Acts 22:1-3; 1 Corinthians 9:22; Revelation 21:4.
Jesus—The Supreme Example of Modesty
16. How did Jesus show that he had a modest view of himself?
16 The finest example of modesty is that of Jesus Christ.* Despite his intimate relationship with his Father, Jesus did not hesitate to acknowledge that some matters were beyond the scope of his authority. (John 1:14) For instance, when the mother of James and John requested that her two sons sit beside Jesus in his kingdom, Jesus said: “This sitting down at my right hand and at my left is not mine to give.” (Matthew 20:20-23) On another occasion, Jesus freely admitted: “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative . . . I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 5:30; 14:28; Philippians 2:5, 6.
17. How did Jesus show modesty in his dealings with others?
17 Jesus was superior to imperfect humans in every way, and he possessed unmatched authority from his Father, Jehovah. Nevertheless, Jesus was modest in his dealings with his followers. He did not overwhelm them with an impressive display of knowledge. He showed sensitivity and compassion and took their human needs into consideration. (Matthew 15:32; 26:40, 41; Mark 6:31) Thus, although Jesus was perfect, he was not a perfectionist. He never demanded more of his disciples than they could give, and he never put upon them more than they could bear. (John 16:12) No wonder so many found him to be refreshing!—Matthew 11:29.
Imitate Jesus’ Example of Modesty
18, 19. How can we imitate Jesus’ modesty in (a) the way we view ourselves, and (b) the way we treat others?
18 If the greatest man who ever lived showed modesty, how much more so should we. Imperfect humans are often reluctant to admit that they simply do not possess absolute authority. In imitation of Jesus, however, Christians strive to be modest. They are not too proud to give responsibility to those who are qualified to have it; nor are they haughty and unwilling to accept direction from those who are authorized to give it. Showing a cooperative spirit, they allow all things in the congregation to take place “decently and by arrangement.”—1 Corinthians 14:40.
19 Modesty will also move us to be reasonable in our expectations of others and to be considerate of their needs. (Philippians 4:5) We may possess certain abilities and strengths that others may lack. Yet, if we are modest, we will not always expect others to perform as we would like them to. Knowing that each person has his own limitations, we will in all modesty make allowances for the shortcomings of others. Peter wrote: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”—1 Peter 4:8.
20. What can we do to overcome any inclination toward immodesty?
20 As we have learned, wisdom is indeed with the modest ones. What, though, if you find that you have inclinations toward immodesty or presumptuousness? Do not be discouraged. Instead, follow the example of David, who prayed: “From presumptuous acts hold your servant back; do not let them dominate me.” (Psalm 19:13) By imitating the faith of men like Paul, Gideon, and—above everyone else—Jesus Christ, we will personally come to experience the truth of the words: “Wisdom is with the modest ones.”—Proverbs 11:2.
The Greek word translated “subordinates” can refer to a slave who rowed in the lower bank of oars on a large ship. In contrast, “stewards” might be entrusted with more responsibilities, perhaps caring for an estate. Nonetheless, in the eyes of most masters, the steward was as much in servitude as the galley slave.
Gideon’s discretion and caution should not be misinterpreted as a sign of cowardice. On the contrary, his courage is confirmed by Hebrews 11:32-38, which includes Gideon among those who “were made powerful” and who “became valiant in war.”
Since modesty includes an awareness of one’s limitations, Jehovah cannot rightly be spoken of as being modest. However, he is humble.—Psalm 18:35.