“The members of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.”—1 COR. 12:22.
1, 2. Why could Paul sympathize with the weak?
WE ALL feel weak at times. A bout of flu or allergies may weaken us to the point that we find it difficult to cope with our daily activities. Now imagine that you have felt feeble, not just for one or two weeks, but for months on end. In such a situation, would you not appreciate it if others displayed an empathetic attitude toward you?
2 The apostle Paul knew what it was like to be affected, even weakened, by pressures from outside the congregation and from within it. More than once, he thought that he had reached his limit. (2 Cor. 1:8; 7:5) Reflecting on his life and the many hardships that he had experienced as a faithful Christian, Paul admitted: “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” (2 Cor. 11:29) And regarding the various members of the Christian congregation, likened to parts of the human body, Paul stated that those who “seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Cor. 12:22) What did he mean? Why do we need to view those who seem to be weaker as Jehovah views them? And how will our doing so benefit us?
JEHOVAH’S VIEW OF HUMAN WEAKNESS
3. What might influence our view of those who need assistance in the congregation?
3 We are living in a competitive world where strength and youth are frequently exalted. Many do whatever it takes to get their way, often trampling on the feelings of those who are weaker. We do not condone such behavior, yet we may unconsciously develop a negative view of those who regularly need assistance, even in the congregation. But we can develop a more balanced view, one like God’s.
4, 5. (a) How does the illustration found at 1 Corinthians 12:21-23 help us to grasp Jehovah’s view of human weakness? (b) How can we benefit from helping the weak?
4 We can gain insight into the way Jehovah views human weakness from an illustration recorded in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 12, Paul reminds us that even the least attractive or the weakest part of the human body has a function. (Read 1 Corinthians 12:12, 18, 21-23.) Aspects of this concept of the human body have been challenged by some evolutionists. Nevertheless, findings in the study of anatomy show that body parts once considered useless actually do perform essential functions. * For example, some have questioned the usefulness of the little toe; however, it is now recognized to have an impact on the balance of the whole body.
5 Paul’s illustration highlights that all members of the Christian congregation are useful. Unlike Satan, who strips humans of their dignity, Jehovah views all of his servants, including those who seem to be weaker, as “necessary.” (Job 4:18, 19) That thought should help each of us to feel good about our role in the local congregation and about being part of the congregation of God’s people earth wide. Think of a time, for example, when you held out your arm to an elderly person who was in need of help. You may have had to adjust your pace. Did not providing assistance serve a useful purpose as well as make you feel good? Yes, when we respond to the needs of others, we experience the joy of caring for them, and we grow in patience, love, and maturity. (Eph. 4:15, 16) Our loving Father knows that a congregation that values all members, regardless of their limitations, reflects balance and love.
6. How did Paul at times use the words “weak” and “strong”?
6 Interestingly, in writing to the Corinthians, Paul used the words “weak” and “weakness” in reference to the way unbelievers perceived first-century Christians and also to the way he felt about himself. (1 Cor. 1:26, 27; 2:3) When Paul spoke of those who were “strong,” he did not intend to make some Christians feel superior. (Rom. 15:1) Rather, he was saying that Christians with more experience should be patient with those who were not yet firmly rooted in the truth.
DO WE NEED TO ADJUST OUR VIEW?
7. What might hold us back from assisting those in need?
7 When we assist “the lowly one,” not only do we imitate Jehovah but we also gain his approval. (Ps. 41:1; Eph. 5:1) Admittedly, though, a negative view of those in need may at times hold us back from assisting them. Or because we are not sure of what we should say, we may feel embarrassed and withdraw from some who are having a hard time. Cynthia, * a sister whose husband abandoned her, comments: “If brothers avoid you or do not act the way you would expect close friends to act, it can hurt. When you are going through trials, you need people around you.” David of old knew the feeling of being avoided.—Ps. 31:12.
8. What will help us to become more empathetic?
8 We will likely be more empathetic if we remember that some of our dear brothers and sisters have been weakened by adverse circumstances—suffering from poor health, living in a divided household, or coping with depression. We might find ourselves in a similar situation one day. Before entering the Promised Land, the Israelites, who had been poor and weak in the land of Egypt, were reminded that they should not “harden [their] heart” toward their afflicted brothers. Jehovah expected them to consider the poor as being worthy of help.—Deut. 15:7, 11; Lev. 25:35-38.
9. What should be our priority when helping those who face hardships? Illustrate.
9 Rather than being judgmental or suspicious, we should provide spiritual comfort to those facing undesirable circumstances. (Job 33:6, 7; Matt. 7:1) To illustrate: When a motorcyclist injured in a traffic mishap arrives at the emergency ward, do those on the medical team try to determine whether he caused the accident? No, they immediately provide the needed medical assistance. Similarly, if a fellow believer has been weakened by personal problems, our priority should be to provide spiritual assistance.—Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
10. How might some who may appear to be weaker really be “rich in faith”?
10 If we pause to reflect on our brothers’ circumstances, we may see their seeming frailty in a different light. Think of sisters who have been enduring family opposition for years. Some may be of humble appearance and look fragile, yet do they not demonstrate outstanding faith and inner strength? When you see a single mother regularly coming to meetings with her child or children, are you not impressed by her faith and determination? And what of teenagers who stick to the truth despite the bad influences in school? In all modesty, we recognize that such ones, who may seem to be weaker, may be as “rich in faith” as those among us who have more favorable circumstances.—Jas. 2:5.
ADJUST YOUR VIEW TO JEHOVAH’S VIEW
11, 12. (a) What will help us to adjust our view of human weakness? (b) What do we learn from the way that Jehovah dealt with Aaron?
11 We are helped to adjust our view of human weakness to Jehovah’s view by considering how he handled matters in connection with some of his servants. (Read Psalm 130:3.) For example, had you been there with Moses when Aaron made a statue of a golden calf, how would you have felt about Aaron’s weak excuses? (Ex. 32:21-24) Or how would you have considered Aaron’s attitude when, influenced by his sister, Miriam, he criticized Moses for marrying a foreign woman? (Num. 12:1, 2) How would you have reacted when Aaron and Moses failed to honor Jehovah at the time He miraculously provided water at Meribah?—Num. 20:10-13.
12 In each of these situations, Jehovah could have punished Aaron on the spot. But He discerned that Aaron was not a bad person or gravely at fault. It seems that Aaron allowed circumstances or the influence of others to turn him away from the right course. Yet, when he was confronted with his own mistakes, he readily admitted them and supported Jehovah’s judgments. (Ex. 32:26; Num. 12:11; 20:23-27) Jehovah chose to focus on Aaron’s faith and repentant attitude. Centuries later, Aaron and his descendants were still remembered as fearers of Jehovah.—Ps. 115:10-12; 135:19, 20.
13. We can make what analysis of our perception of human weakness?
13 In order to adjust our thinking to Jehovah’s, we should analyze our view of those who seem to be weak. (1 Sam. 16:7) For example, how do we react when a teenager does not exercise discretion in his choice of entertainment or when he displays a careless attitude? Instead of being overly critical, why not reflect on what we might do to help him grow to maturity? We can take the initiative to assist someone in need of help, and in doing so, we actually grow in understanding and love.
14, 15. (a) How did Jehovah feel about Elijah’s temporary lack of courage? (b) What lesson can we learn from Elijah’s experience?
14 We are also helped to broaden our view of others by comparing our thinking with Jehovah’s reaction to some of his servants who felt low in spirits. Elijah was one of them. Although he had fearlessly challenged 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah ran away from Queen Jezebel when he learned that she was plotting to kill him. After walking some 95 miles (150 km) to Beer-sheba, he went deep into the wilderness. Exhausted by this trek under the blazing sun, the prophet sat down under a tree and “asked that he might die.”—1 Ki. 18:19; 19:1-4.
15 How did Jehovah feel when he looked down from heaven and saw his faithful prophet in despair? Did he reject his servant because he temporarily became depressed and lacked courage? Not at all! Jehovah took into account Elijah’s limitations and dispatched an angel. Twice the angel encouraged Elijah to eat. Thus, the next journey would not “be too much for [him].” (Read 1 Kings 19:5-8.) Yes, even before giving any directions, Jehovah listened to his prophet and took practical measures to sustain him.
16, 17. How can we imitate Jehovah’s care for Elijah?
16 How can we imitate our caring God? We should not be quick to offer advice. (Prov. 18:13) It would be better first to take the time to express our empathy to those who may think that they are “less honorable” because of their personal circumstances. (1 Cor. 12:23) Then we would be in a position to act appropriately, according to the true need.
17 For example, think of Cynthia, quoted earlier, whose husband abandoned her and her two daughters. They found themselves alone. How did some fellow Witnesses respond? She explains: “After we informed them by phone what had happened, they were at our house within 45 minutes. They were in tears. They did not leave us alone for the first two or three days. Because we were not eating properly and were very emotional, for a time they took us under their roof.” That likely brings to your mind what James wrote: “If a brother or a sister is lacking clothing and enough food for the day, yet one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them what they need for their body, of what benefit is it? So, too, faith by itself, without works, is dead.” (Jas. 2:15-17) Thanks to the timely support that local brothers and sisters provided, Cynthia and her daughters found the strength to serve as auxiliary pioneers just six months after their traumatic experience.—2 Cor. 12:10.
BENEFITS FOR MANY
18, 19. (a) How can we help those who are temporarily weak? (b) Who are benefited when we assist those who feel weak?
18 You may know from personal experience that it can take time to recover from a debilitating physical illness. Similarly, a Christian who has been weakened by personal difficulties or very trying circumstances may need time to regain spiritual strength. True, our fellow believer will need to strengthen his own faith through personal study, prayer, and other Christian activities. But will we show patience until he regains his balance? And during that recovery, will we show enduring love? Will we strive to help those who are temporarily weak to feel valued and to sense our Christian affection?—2 Cor. 8:8.
19 Never forget that as we provide support to our brothers, we experience the joy that only giving can bring. We also cultivate our capacity for showing empathy and patience. But there is more. The congregation as a whole grows in warmth and love. Above all, we imitate Jehovah, who considers every individual to be precious. Yes, we all have good reasons for responding to the encouragement to “assist those who are weak.”—Acts 20:35.