2. What misdirected kind of love characterizes people who are alienated from God? (See opening picture.)
2 Yet, the inspired Scriptures also foretold that in our day, a misdirected kind of love characterized by selfishness would be shown by people who are alienated from God. The apostle Paul wrote: “In the last days . . . , men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1-4) This self-centered kind of love is inconsistent with Christian love; it stands in contrast with it. Pursuing selfish goals does not bring people the happiness that they expect. Indeed, such love fosters a selfish world that is “hard to deal with.”
LOVE OF GOD OR LOVE OF SELF?
4. Why is it not wrong to have a balanced love of self?
4 “Men will be lovers of themselves,” wrote the inspired apostle. Is it wrong for us to love ourselves? No, it is normal, even necessary, to have a healthy love of self. Jehovah designed us that way. Jesus said: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) If we do not love ourselves, we cannot love our neighbor. We also read in the Scriptures: “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:28, 29) So a proper love of self is desirable.
5 The love of self mentioned at 2 Timothy 3:2 is not a normal, healthy love. It is a distorted, selfish love. People who love themselves excessively think more of themselves than it is necessary for them to think. (Read Romans 12:3.) Their main interest in life is themselves. They care little about others. When things go wrong, they tend to blame others rather than accept responsibility. One Bible commentary likens those who are lovers of themselves to “the hedgehog which . . . rolls itself up in a ball, keeping the soft, warm wool for itself . . . and . . . presents the sharp spines to those without.” Such self-centered people are not truly happy.
6. What results come from a love of God?
6 Bible scholars suggest that love of self is put at the top of the apostle Paul’s list of negative qualities that would be prevalent during the last days because the other qualities result from it. In contrast, people who love God produce a much different kind of fruitage. The Bible associates godly love with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23) “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!” wrote the psalmist. (Ps. 144:15) Jehovah is a happy God, and his people reflect that quality. Furthermore, unlike those who are lovers of themselves and who are interested only in receiving, Jehovah’s servants find delight in giving of themselves for the welfare of others.—Acts 20:35.
7. What questions will help us to analyze our love of God?
7 How can we determine if our love of God is being eclipsed by love of self? Consider the admonition found at Philippians 2:3, 4: “Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you, as you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” We might ask ourselves: ‘Do I apply that counsel in my life? Am I genuinely seeking to do God’s will? Do I reach out to help others, both in the congregation and in the field ministry?’ Giving of ourselves is not always easy. It requires effort and self-sacrifice. But what could make us happier than knowing that we have the approval of the Sovereign of the universe?
8. What has the love of God moved some to do?
8 Love of God has moved some to give up potentially lucrative careers to serve Jehovah more fully. Ericka, who lives in the United States, is a physician. But instead of pursuing a prestigious position in medicine, she became a regular pioneer and has served in several countries with her husband. Thinking back, she says: “The many experiences we have had in helping out in a foreign-language field, along with the friendships we have made, have truly enriched our lives. I still practice medicine, but being able to focus most of my time and energy on helping to heal people spiritually and on caring for the needs of the congregation brings me heartfelt joy and inner satisfaction.”
RICHES IN HEAVEN OR RICHES ON EARTH?
9. Why does a love of money not bring happiness?
9 Paul wrote that people would be “lovers of money.” Some years ago, a pioneer in Ireland spoke to a man about God. The man took out his wallet, removed some paper money, held it up, and proudly said, “This is my god!” Though not many would be so open about the matter, the world is full of people who love money and the things it can buy. Yet, the Bible cautions: “A lover of silver will never be satisfied with silver, nor a lover of wealth with income.” (Eccl. 5:10) Such people will always want more money, and striving to amass it, they will bring on themselves “many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
10. What does the Bible say about riches and poverty?
10 We all need money, of course. It provides a measure of protection. (Eccl. 7:12) But can a person be truly happy if he has only enough for his basic needs? Absolutely! (Read Ecclesiastes 5:12.) Agur son of Jakeh wrote: “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Just let me consume my portion of food.” We can readily understand his reason for not wanting to be extremely poor. As he went on to explain, he did not want to be tempted to steal because theft would dishonor God. But why did he pray not to have riches? He wrote: “So that I do not become satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is Jehovah?’” (Prov. 30:8, 9) Likely you can think of people who trust in their wealth rather than in God.
11. What counsel did Jesus give about money?
11 Those who love money cannot please God. Jesus said: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” He prefaced that by saying: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”—Matt. 6:19, 20, 24.
12. How may a simple life make it easier to serve God? Give an example.
12 Many have found that living a simple life not only makes them happier but also gives them more time to serve Jehovah. Jack, who lives in the United States, sold his large home and business because he knew that doing so would make it possible for him to pioneer with his wife. He reflects: “It was hard to give up our beautiful home and property in the country. Yet, for years, I would come home frustrated because of problems at work. My wife, a regular pioneer, was always so happy. She would say, ‘I have the greatest boss ever!’ Now that I too am pioneering, we both work for the same Person, Jehovah.”
13. How might we analyze our view of money?
13 To analyze our view of money, we might honestly consider how we would answer these questions: ‘Do I really believe and live in harmony with what the Bible says about money? Does making money come first in my life? Do I value material things more than my relationship with Jehovah and with people? Do I really trust in Jehovah to care for my needs?’ We can be sure that he will never disappoint those hoping in him.—Matt. 6:33.