“You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men.”
~1 Corinthians 7:23
As Christians we should be careful that our bad budgeting or overspending on nonessential things does not lead us to high debt.
The Greek word for slave is also the word for servant (“dou’los”).
In ancient Israel, a person could legally sell himself into slavery if he incurred debt that he could not otherwise pay off. (Lev. 25:39)
While some debt may be unavoidable, especially in emergency situations, mismanaging our finances can sadly lead to putting work interests before spiritual needs.
Time we used to spend in the ministry or in deep study of God’s Word could be derailed to furthering our company’s success.
Even if we are not missing meetings, our workload may leave us too tired to want to do more for Jehovah.
Jesus advised his followers to have faith and not worry excessively beyond the food and shelter of today. (Matt. 6:31-34)
“Israel, although pursuing a law of righteousness, did not attain to that law. For what reason? Because they pursued it, not by faith, but as by works.”
Once we have established a good spiritual routine that includes regular prayer and Bible reading, as well as participating at Christian meetings and the public ministry, we should be careful not to do things mechanically. (Ps. 1:1-3; 22:22; Ro. 10:14,15; 1 Th. 5:17)
The nation of Israel had received a rich spiritual heritage which should have led them to clearly identify God’s messiah.
But they concentrated so much on preserving traditions that they missed the point of what it meant to be dedicated to God. (Matt. 23:23,24)
When serving God is our way of life for a long period of time, we can begin to take some aspects of our worship for granted.
Perhaps we stop looking up Scriptures that we think we know by heart. Or our prayers gradually become more repetitive in choice of words. Maybe we don’t prepare for a Bible study if we already went over the material with a previous student. Or we wait till the last minute to prepare a meeting assignment we received weeks in advance.
If we don’t take the time to meditate on the unique value of our relationship with God and his people, our faith may become strained. Then we could lose our joy and start to forget why we dedicated our lives to Jehovah. (1 John 5:3)
“Let her alone. Why do you try to make trouble for her? She did a fine deed toward me.”
Mary’s strong appreciation for spiritual things has always impressed me.
Myself coming from a culture that, like ancient Jewish culture, assigns value to a woman based on how industrious she is within the home, and personally not being inclined to cook, I have always easily identified with Mary’s personality.
On the occasion in which Jesus taught at their home, Mary was picked on by her sister, Martha, for sitting at Jesus’ feet instead of helping her serve. (Luke 10:38-40)
Now, five days before his death, Mary takes an extremely costly bottle of genuine nard and pours it on Jesus’ hair and feet.
This time she is criticized by Jesus’ own disciples. (Matt. 26:6-9; John 12:2-5)
According to the Jewish Talmud, women were not supposed to be well-versed in spiritual matters, and we are not aware of any precedents of women closely following a prophet. (Sotah 3:4)
Still, Mary set an excellent example of being spiritually conscientious and maintaining a balanced view of material things, all while not letting others’ negativity discourage her.
“Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”
In Jesus’ illustration of the slaves and the talents, one slave was responsible for the equivalent of 102 kg of silver (~225 lbs.), or what was back then about 100 years’ wages for a common laborer.
The second slave was responsible for 40.8 kg of silver (~90 lbs.), or about 40 years’ wages.
They both doubled their master’s initial capital by immediately investing it. (Matt. 25:16,17)
Jesus focused on the effort each made and in the story, each received the exact same compensation.
This shows me that God does not value my service to him depending on how many privileges I may hold within the congregation, but on how much effort I individually put forth in serving him wholeheartedly.
He focuses on quality, and as long as I am doing everything I can to be a true Christian, I will receive as many blessings as someone who perhaps bears more responsibility. (Matt. 25:29)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What do you value most in life? What consumes the greater part of your time and effort?
Although Jesus did not have wealth or a prominent career, he was obviously successful in carrying out his life’s work.
Doing his father’s will was in his heart, and he found happiness in teaching others God’s kingdom message. (Acts 20:35)
If we were to focus our resources on selfish pursuits, we would probably eventually find them to be vain and unsatisfying. (Eccl. 2:11)
But if we guard our hearts from selfish desires and follow Christ’s example of selflessness, we will discover the happiness that only God can give, while successfully securing our future. (1 Ti. 6:18,19)
“And I said, ‘I have been driven away from your sight!
How will I gaze again upon your holy temple?’”
As Jonah sank to the depths of the ocean within the belly of the fish, his main concern was not the loss of his own life, his reputation nor material things.
He was not overcome by anxiety to the point of losing his mind or his priorities.
Jonah was deeply grieved because he would no longer be able to gaze upon Jehovah’s temple, the center for true worship.
When we are under great emotional stress, do we value our spiritual privileges above all else? (Ps. 84:10)
We may wonder if our presence before God makes any difference in the vast sea of humanity, but Jonah’s story demonstrates God cares about every one of us at the individual level. (Jon. 4:11)
No one can take any other person’s place before God to render another’s worship. (Matt. 22:37)
In that sense, we are each valuable and irreplaceable. (Jon. 2:9)
“[…] Cause your face to shine upon your sanctuary that is desolate, for your own sake, O Jehovah. […] Do not delay, for your own sake, O my God, for your own name has been called upon your city and upon your people.”
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, the model he established put the sanctification/vindication of God’s name first and foremost. (Matt. 6:9)
Today, people still defame God’s name when they blame him for human suffering or when they mock God, his moral ways or his loyal servants.
Even the righteous prophet Daniel recognized that our personal salvation is secondary to Jehovah God’s glory and is only possible because of God’s divine mercy. (Dan. 9:18)
It is because of God’s name that the salvation of his loyal servants is guaranteed, for God cannot lie. (Tit. 1:2)
Taking a spiritual point of view on the relevance of God’s name and all it implies helps us maintain a patient, waiting attitude during trying times.
“[…] As soon as Daniel knew that the decree had been signed, he went to his house, which had the windows of his roof chamber open toward Jerusalem. And three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed […].”
Daniel had not seen Jerusalem since his childhood, and would probably not see it again in his lifetime.
Still, the values his parents instilled in him at a young age guided him until he was elderly. (Prov. 22:6)
He never lost view of what the most important thing in life is: one’s personal praise toward God. (Ps. 145:2)
Jerusalem was supposed to be the hub for pure worship of Jehovah, and Daniel regularly reminded himself that was where he came from. (2 Chron. 6:20,21)
He realized God’s purpose endures forever and it had not been lost with the exile of the Jewish people. (Jos. 23:14; Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25)
Daniel set an excellent example of being spiritually constant despite difficult, changing circumstances, conscientious of the most important things. (Phil. 1:10)
“Why have these, my people, said, ‘We roam freely.
We will come to you no more’?”
God was asking his People why they had forsaken him and turned to worshipping material idols. (Jer. 2:11)
Although God gives us freedom of choice, to assert that freedom to pursue “what is useless” would be to waste the precious gifts of life, time and energy he has given us.
Today’s equivalent of useless idols may not necessarily be a stone, ceramic or wood sculpture one kneels to.
It may be selfish conduct that is in direct conflict with God’s norms, or maybe even a vain hobby that consumes valuable time we could otherwise be using to help others. (Eph. 5:15,16,18; Php. 3:19)
Or perhaps we are obsessed with achieving something like a social status that is beyond our means of living and which forces us to spend so much time at work, we end up neglecting family life, sacrificing Bible study or meditation time. (1 Tim. 6:9,10)
Whatever internal or external “god” may be rivaling our one True God, if we let our worship be derailed, we will reap the bitter consequences of that choice. (Jer. 2:19)
“Now you are saying, ‘Go and tell your lord: “Elijah is here.”’ […] When I tell Ahab and he does not find you, he will surely kill me. Yet, your servant has feared Jehovah from his youth.”
~1 Kings, 18:11,12
The man saying these words, Obadiah, was a servant to the apostate king of Northern Israel, Ahab.
While Ahab and his pagan wife, Jezebel, were determined to execute every one of Jehovah’s prophets in the land, Obadiah bravely hid the prophets in caves (1 Ki. 18:3,4).
The prophet Elijah’s soul was much sought after in royal excursions, for Elijah had caused a severe three-year drought to plague the land, on account of the people’s unfaithfulness to their God (1 Ki. 17:1).
That is why when Elijah asked Obadiah to tell Ahab that he would meet with him to relay a divine message, Obadiah hesitated.
He thought Elijah would immediately be sent elsewhere by God, thereby eluding King Ahab once more.
Then surely Ahab would take his wrath out on Obadiah himself.
“However, Elijah said: ‘As surely as Jehovah of armies whom I serve is living, today I will present myself to him.’
“So Obadiah went off to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.” (1 Ki. 18:15,16).
What impresses me about Obadiah is his ability to have kept his zeal for true worship alive even under extremely dangerous circumstances.
His loyalty to Jehovah came first, even at the risk of his own life.
He collaborated with Elijah and put faith in him as God’s messenger.
As for us, do we let our bosses or professors order us around into a frame of mind in which God is no longer a priority for us?
Do we let work or school dictate our priorities, constantly leaving out spiritual activities because we are afraid of what our superiors will think?
Like Obadiah, we need to know where to draw the line when someone influential tells us to go against God’s principles.