“Walk in modesty with your God!”
SONGS: 48, 95
1-3. What did the unnamed prophet from Judah fail to do, and what was the result? (See opening picture.)
SOMETIME during King Jeroboam’s reign, Jehovah sent a certain prophet from Judah to deliver a scathing judgment message to that apostate king of Israel. The humble prophet faithfully delivered God’s message, and Jehovah protected his servant from Jeroboam’s violent wrath.
2 On his way home, the prophet unexpectedly met up with an old man from nearby Bethel. The man claimed to be a prophet of Jehovah. He deceived the younger man into disobeying Jehovah’s strict instructions ‘not to eat bread or drink water in Israel’ and ‘not to return by the way that he came.’ Jehovah was not pleased. Later, on his way home, a lion came across Jehovah’s prophet on the road and killed him.
3 Why did the once modest prophet presumptuously go along with that deceitful older man? The Bible does not say. But it could be that he completely forgot that he was supposed to be ‘walking modestly with God.’ (Read Micah 6:8.) In the Bible, walking with Jehovah conveys the idea of trusting in him, supporting his sovereignty, and following his lead. A modest person is keenly aware that he can and must be in constant communication with his loving and almighty Father. The prophet could have asked Jehovah to clarify His instructions, but the Scriptures do not say that he did so. At times, we too have to make difficult decisions, and the right course to take may not be clear. Modestly seeking Jehovah’s guidance helps us to avoid making grave mistakes.
4. What will we learn in this article?
4 In the preceding article, we learned why modesty is still important for Christians and what displaying it involves. What situations, though, might put our modesty to the test? And how can we cultivate this desirable quality, so that we remain modest even under pressure? To answer these questions, we will consider three common situations that can put modesty to the test, and we will see how we can act wisely in each case.
WHEN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE
5, 6. How did Barzillai manifest modesty?
5 Changes in personal circumstances or of assignments can test our modesty. When David asked 80-year-old Barzillai to accept an invitation to live in the royal court, Barzillai must have been greatly honored. Accepting David’s invitation would have allowed him to continue to enjoy the king’s association. Yet, Barzillai declined. Why? Because of his advanced age, he told David that he did not want to become a burden to the king. So Barzillai recommended that Chimham, presumably one of his sons, take his place.
6 Modesty helped Barzillai to make a reasonable decision. He did not turn down David’s invitation because he felt inadequate to shoulder responsibility or because he wanted to enjoy a quiet life in retirement. He simply recognized and accepted his changing circumstances and his limitations. He did not want to take on more than he reasonably could. (Read Galatians 6:4, 5.) If we focus on position, prominence, or recognition, it only provides a breeding ground for egotism, competition, and eventual disappointment. (Gal. 5:26) Modesty, however, helps all to focus their collective abilities and efforts on bringing glory to God and doing what is best to help others.
7, 8. How can modesty help us to avoid becoming self-reliant?
7 Greater responsibility often comes with greater authority, and that can test our modesty. When Nehemiah heard about the plight of the people in Jerusalem, he fervently prayed to Jehovah. (Neh. 1:4, 11) Jehovah’s blessing came when King Artaxerxes appointed Nehemiah governor of the region. Yet, despite his prominent position, personal wealth, and considerable authority, Nehemiah never relied on his own experience or abilities. He kept walking with God. He continually sought Jehovah’s direction by consulting God’s Law. (Neh. 8:1, 8, 9) Nehemiah did not domineer over others; rather, he served them at his own expense.
8 Nehemiah’s example demonstrates how modesty can help us to keep from becoming self-reliant when we receive a change of assignment or additional responsibility. Relying just on his own experience, an elder could begin to care for congregation matters without first approaching Jehovah in prayer. Others might make a decision first and then pray for Jehovah to bless their decision. Is that being modest, however? A modest person will always remember his place before God and his role in God’s arrangement. Our abilities are not the important thing. Especially when we are faced with a familiar situation or problem, we have to be careful not to rely on ourselves. (Read Proverbs 3:5, 6.) As members of God’s household, we learn to think in terms of fulfilling roles in a family or as part of a congregation rather than achieving a rank or climbing a corporate ladder.
RECEIVING CRITICISM OR PRAISE
9, 10. How can modesty help us to cope with unfair criticism?
9 It can be hard to control our feelings when we have to put up with unfair criticism. Hannah often cried because Peninnah, her rival, relentlessly taunted her. Hannah’s husband loved her, but she was barren. Later, when she was praying at the tabernacle, High Priest Eli mistakenly accused her of being drunk. Imagine that! Yet, despite all of this, modest Hannah kept herself restrained and was respectful in her response to Eli. Her touching prayer is preserved in the Bible. It is full of expressions of faith, praise, and appreciation.
10 Modesty can also help us to “keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Rom. 12:21) Life in Satan’s system is often unfair, and we need to fight against becoming incensed by the conduct of evildoers. (Ps. 37:1) When problems arise between spiritual brothers or sisters, the pain can be much deeper. A modest person will imitate Jesus. “When he was being insulted,” the Bible says, “he did not insult in return . . . , but he entrusted himself to the One who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:23) Jesus knew that vengeance belongs to Jehovah. (Rom. 12:19) Christians are likewise admonished to be humble and not to “pay back injury for injury.”
11, 12. (a) How can modesty help us to deal with flattery or excessive praise? (b) How should modesty govern our choice of dress and grooming as well as our behavior?
11 Excessive flattery or praise can test our modesty as well. Consider Esther’s excellent response to a surprising turn of events. She was strikingly beautiful and was pampered with luxurious treatments for a year. She was in daily association with many young women from all over the Persian Empire who were competing for the attention of the king. Yet, she remained respectful and composed. She did not become vain or immodest even after the king selected her to be his queen.
12 Modesty helps us always to dress, groom, and comport ourselves in a decent and respectable manner. We realize that we win people’s hearts, not by boasting or drawing undue attention to ourselves, but by displaying a “quiet and mild spirit.” (Read 1 Peter 3:3, 4; Jer. 9:23, 24) Vain sentiments in our hearts will eventually show up in our actions. We might drop hints, for example, implying that we enjoy special privileges, possess inside information, or have special relationships with responsible brothers. Or we might explain things in such a way that only we get the credit for ideas or accomplishments that others also contributed to. Again, Jesus set a wonderful example. A good portion of what he said was either a quotation from or an allusion to the Hebrew Scriptures. He modestly spoke that way so that his hearers would know that what he said was coming from Jehovah and was not the product of his own intellect or wisdom.
COPING WITH UNCERTAINTY
13, 14. How can modesty help us to make better decisions?
13 Another test of our modesty might come when decisions are made. While the apostle Paul was staying in Caesarea, the prophet Agabus told him that if he continued on to Jerusalem, he would end up being arrested. He might even be killed. Fearing the worst, the brothers begged Paul not to go. However, Paul would not be dissuaded. He was neither overconfident nor paralyzed with fear. He trusted in Jehovah completely and was prepared to see his assignment through, wherever Jehovah would allow it to take him. On hearing this, the brothers modestly stopped objecting to Paul’s decision to go on to Jerusalem.
14 Modesty can also help us to make good decisions even when we cannot fully know or control how things will turn out. As an example, if we enter some feature of the full-time service, what will happen to us if we get sick? What if our aging parents need our help? How will we look after ourselves in our old age? No amount of prayer or research will reveal a complete answer to questions like these. (Eccl. 8:16, 17) Our confidence in Jehovah will help us not only to acknowledge but also to accept our limitations. After doing research, consulting others, and praying for guidance, we need to take steps in the direction that God’s spirit is leading us. (Read Ecclesiastes 11:4-6.) That gives Jehovah something to bless, or he can gently redirect our goals.
15. How does reflecting on Jehovah help to keep us humble?
15 Since modesty has so many advantages, how can we cultivate it to an even greater degree? Let us consider four ways. First, we will develop greater modesty and reverence for Jehovah by appreciatively reflecting on his vastly superior qualities and position. (Isa. 8:13) Remember, we are walking with Almighty God, not an angel or a man. That realization will move us ‘to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.’
16. How will meditating on God’s love motivate us to be modest?
16 Second, meditating on Jehovah’s love will help us to cultivate modesty. The apostle Paul wrote that Jehovah surrounded the less honorable parts of the human body “with greater honor.” (1 Cor. 12:23, 24) Similarly, Jehovah cares for each one of us despite our limitations. He does not compare us with others or withhold his love when we make mistakes. Because of Jehovah’s love, we can feel secure wherever we serve in his household.
17. What effect will learning to look for the good in others have on us?
17 Third, appreciation for our role in Jehovah’s service will grow as we, in imitation of our God, look for the good in others. Instead of seeking the spotlight or always stepping in to take over, we will more often find ourselves modestly seeking the advice of others and yielding to their suggestions. (Prov. 13:10) We will rejoice with them when they receive privileges. And we will praise Jehovah as we see how he blesses “the entire association of [our] brothers in the world.”
18. How can we train our conscience to have a godly sense of decency?
18 Fourth, our personal sense of decency and respectability will be refined when we train our conscience according to Bible principles. We will develop good judgment by modestly learning to see things from Jehovah’s viewpoint. Through regular study, prayer, and application of what we learn, we can gradually strengthen our conscience. (1 Tim. 1:5) We learn to put others first. If we do our part, Jehovah promises that he will ‘finish our training,’ helping us to develop modesty and other godly qualities.
19. What will help us to remain modest forever?
19 A single presumptuous act cost the unnamed prophet from Judah his life and his good standing with God. It is possible, though, to remain modest under test. Faithful ones before us and modest ones today have proved that it can be done. The longer we walk with Jehovah, the deeper our modesty should become. (Prov. 8:13) Whatever our place right now, walking with Jehovah is in itself a wonderful and matchless privilege. Cherish that honor, and continue to do your best to walk modestly with Jehovah forever.