“You will . . . see the distinction between a righteous person and a wicked person.”—MAL. 3:18.
SONGS: 61, 53
1, 2. What challenge faces God’s people today? (See opening pictures.)
MANY health-care professionals work among those infected with contagious diseases. They care for their patients because they want to help them. In doing so, however, they need to protect themselves so that they do not become infected with the disease they are seeking to treat. Likewise, many of us live and work with those who are infected with attitudes and characteristics that run counter to godly qualities. This presents a challenge for us.
2 These last days are a time of moral chaos. The apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy describes the characteristics of people who are alienated from God, characteristics that will become more pronounced in the days ahead. (Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13.) Though we may be shocked by the prevalence of such qualities, we could be influenced by the behavior and attitudes of those who display them. (Prov. 13:20) In this article, we will consider how the qualities that characterize people of the last days stand in contrast with the qualities of God’s people. We will also see how we can protect ourselves from being infected with negative traits while at the same time helping others spiritually.
3. To whom does the list of qualities found at 2 Timothy 3:2-5 apply?
3 “The last days,” wrote the apostle Paul, would bring “critical times hard to deal with.” He then listed 19 negative traits, or qualities, that would characterize people in this time period. The list is similar to the one found at Romans 1:29-31, though the list in Paul’s letter to Timothy includes terms that are not mentioned elsewhere in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Paul introduces his list of ungodly qualities with the words “for men will be . . .” The term “men” should be understood to mean “people,” since both men and women display such qualities. However, these are not qualities exhibited by all people. Christians have far different traits.—Read Malachi 3:18.
HOW WE VIEW OURSELVES
4. How would you describe those who are puffed up with pride?
4 After stating that many would be lovers of themselves and of money, Paul wrote that people would also be boastful, haughty, and puffed up with pride, traits that often reflect a feeling of superiority because of one’s abilities, appearance, wealth, or rank. People with such traits crave to be admired and adored. One scholar wrote the following about the person who has an all-consuming pride: “In his heart there is a little altar where he bows down before himself.” Some have said that inordinate pride is so distasteful that even the proud dislike it in others.
5. How have even faithful ones been overtaken by pride?
5 Jehovah certainly detests pride. He hates “haughty eyes.” (Prov. 6:16, 17) Pride hinders approach to God. (Ps. 10:4) It is a characteristic of the Devil. (1 Tim. 3:6) Sadly, though, even some loyal servants of Jehovah have become infected with pride. Uzziah, a king of Judah, proved faithful for years. “However,” the Bible states, “as soon as he was strong, his heart became haughty to his own ruin, and he acted unfaithfully against Jehovah his God by entering the temple of Jehovah to burn incense on the altar of incense.” Later, King Hezekiah too fell prey to haughtiness, though only temporarily.—2 Chron. 26:16; 32:25, 26.
6. What could have caused David to become proud, but why did he not?
6 Some people become proud because of their good looks, popularity, musical ability, physical prowess, or exalted position. David had not just one of these assets but all of them; yet, he remained humble throughout his life. After he killed Goliath and was offered the daughter of King Saul to be his wife, David said: “Who am I and who are my relatives, my father’s family in Israel, for me to become son-in-law to the king?” (1 Sam. 18:18) What helped David remain humble? The qualities, abilities, and privileges David had were because God ‘stooped down,’ or humbled himself, to pay attention to him. (Ps. 113:5-8) David knew that he did not possess anything good that he had not received from Jehovah.—Compare 1 Corinthians 4:7.
7. What will help us to show humility?
7 Like David, Jehovah’s people today strive to show humility. We are awed by the knowledge that Jehovah, the greatest Person in the universe, manifests the appealing quality of humility. (Ps. 18:35) We take to heart the inspired counsel: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience.” (Col. 3:12) We also know that love “does not brag, does not get puffed up.” (1 Cor. 13:4) When we show humility, people may be drawn to Jehovah. Just as husbands can be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, others can be drawn to God by the humility shown by his people.—1 Pet. 3:1.
HOW WE RELATE TO OTHERS
8. (a) How is disobedience to parents viewed by some today? (b) What do the Scriptures admonish children to do?
8 Paul described how people living in the last days would relate to one another. He wrote that in the last days, children would be disobedient to parents. While such behavior is sometimes accepted and even encouraged in books, movies, and television programs today, disobedience undermines the stability of the most important social unit in society—the family. This principle has long been understood. Interestingly, in ancient Greece, if a man struck his parents, he would lose all his civil rights; in Roman law, to strike a father was as serious as murder. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures admonish children to honor their parents.—Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-3.
9. What will help young ones to be obedient to their parents?
9 Children can protect themselves from being infected with the spirit of disobedience by reflecting on what their parents have done for them. An appreciative attitude is bolstered by the understanding that obedience is required by God, the Father of us all. By speaking positively about their parents, young ones can help other youths view their own parents in a positive light. Of course, if parents have no natural affection for their children, it might be difficult for those children to obey from the heart. On the other hand, when a youngster senses his parents’ genuine love, he is moved to please them even when he is tempted to disobey. “Though I often felt inclined to try to get away with things,” admits Austin, “my parents set reasonable guidelines, explained the reasons for rules, and kept the lines of communication wide open. This helped me to be obedient. I could see that they cared for me, and that made me want to please them.”
10, 11. (a) What negative qualities show that people lack love for one another? (b) To what extent do true Christians love their fellow man?
10 Paul lists other negative qualities that show that people lack love for one another. Fittingly, unthankful follows “disobedient to parents” because it describes the attitude of those who lack appreciation for the kindnesses shown to them by others. People would also be disloyal. They would not be open to any agreement, displaying an unwillingness to become reconciled to other people. They would be blasphemers and betrayers, directing abusive, injurious speech against humans and even against God. And there would be slanderers, people who voice damaging reports meant to destroy the good reputation of others. *
11 In contrast with the people who show the widespread lack of love today, those who worship Jehovah have genuine love for their fellow man. This has always been true. Jesus said that love of neighbor, a form of a·gaʹpe, was the second most important commandment in the Mosaic Law, second only to love of God. (Matt. 22:38, 39) Jesus also said that love for one another would be the quality that would identify true Christians. (Read John 13:34, 35.) Such Christian love would even be extended to one’s enemies.—Matt. 5:43, 44.
12. How did Jesus show love for others?
12 Jesus showed great love for others. He went from city to city, telling people the good news about the Kingdom of God. He cured the blind, the lame, the lepers, and the deaf. He raised the dead. (Luke 7:22) Jesus even gave his own life in behalf of mankind, though many hated him. Jesus’ love perfectly reflected the love his Father shows. Throughout the earth, Jehovah’s Witnesses express godly love toward others.
13. How may the love we show for others help them to draw close to Jehovah?
13 The love we show for others draws people to our heavenly Father. A man in Thailand, for example, was touched by the love he saw among the brothers at a regional convention. Upon returning home, he asked to have a Bible study twice a week. He preached to all his relatives, and just six months after the convention, he gave his first Bible reading at the Kingdom Hall. To analyze how well we are doing in showing love for others, we might ask ourselves: ‘Am I reaching out to help others in my family, in my congregation, and in my ministry? Do I strive to see others as Jehovah sees them?’
WOLVES AND LAMBS
14, 15. What animalistic qualities do many display, but how have some changed for the better?
14 Other qualities displayed by people in the last days provide additional reasons for Christians to keep their distance from such people. Godless ones would be without love of goodness, or as some translations render the expression, “haters of good” or “hostile to all goodness.” They would be without self-control, fierce. Some would be headstrong, or impulsive and reckless.
15 Many who formerly displayed such animalistic qualities have changed for the better. This transformation was beautifully foretold in a Bible prophecy. (Read Isaiah 11:6, 7.) There we read about wild animals, such as wolves and lions, that live in peace with domestic animals, such as lambs and calves. Notice that this tranquil state of affairs will prevail “because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah.” (Isa. 11:9) Since animals cannot learn about Jehovah, the spiritual fulfillment of this prophecy applies to people.
16. How has the Bible helped people to transform their personalities?
16 There are many who were once as fierce as wolves but who now live in peace with others. You can read some of their experiences in the series “The Bible Changes Lives,” found on jw.org. Those who have come to know and serve Jehovah are not like those who have an appearance of godliness but prove false to its power, who behave as if they worship God but belie that claim by their conduct. Rather, formerly fierce people have “put on the new personality that was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Eph. 4:23, 24) As people learn about God, they see the need to conform to his standards. They are then moved to make changes in their beliefs, attitudes, and conduct. Such changes are not easy but can be made because God’s spirit will help those who sincerely desire to do God’s will.
“FROM THESE TURN AWAY”
17. How may we avoid being influenced by those who display ungodly qualities?
17 The distinction between those serving God and those not serving him is becoming increasingly evident. We who serve God must be careful that we do not become influenced by the unrighteous attitudes of others. Wisely, we heed the inspired counsel to turn away from those described at 2 Timothy 3:2-5. Of course, we cannot completely avoid people with ungodly traits. We might have to work with them, go to school with them, or live with them. But we can avoid being drawn into their thinking and imitating their characteristics. We do this by strengthening our spirituality through Bible study and close association with those who are determined to serve Jehovah.
18. How may our speech and conduct benefit others spiritually?
18 We should also strive to help others spiritually. Look for opportunities to witness, asking Jehovah to help you say the right thing at the right time. We should let others know that we are Jehovah’s Witnesses. That way, our fine conduct will bring glory to God and not to us. We have been trained “to reject ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.” (Titus 2:11-14) If we conduct ourselves in a godly way, others will observe us, and some may even say: “We want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you people.”—Zech. 8:23.
^ par. 10 The Greek word for “slanderer” or “accuser” is di·aʹbo·los, a term used in the Bible as a title for Satan, the wicked slanderer of God.