“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”—JOHN 21:15.
SONGS: 32, 45
1, 2. After spending a night fishing, what experience did Peter have?
SEVEN of Jesus’ disciples had just spent the entire night fishing in the Sea of Galilee but had not caught anything. From the beach, the resurrected Jesus observed the group. Then he said to them: “‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ So they cast it, but they were not able to haul it in because of the large number of fish.”—John 21:1-6.
2 After serving them breakfast, Jesus turned to Simon Peter and said: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” To what was Jesus referring? Peter was quite attached to fishing. So it seems that Jesus was asking him where his true affection lay. Did he have greater affection for the fish and the fishing business than for Jesus and the things that he taught? In answer, Peter said: “Yes, Lord, you know I have affection for you.” (John 21:15) Peter certainly lived up to his word. From that point forward, he proved his love for Christ by busying himself in the disciple-making work, becoming a pillar in the first-century Christian congregation.
3. To what dangers do Christians need to be alert?
3 What can we learn from the words that Jesus spoke to Peter? We need to be careful not to allow our love for Christ to weaken and let ourselves be distracted from Kingdom interests. Jesus was keenly aware of the pressures associated with the anxieties of this system of things. In his illustration of the sower, Jesus said that some would accept “the word of the Kingdom” and make initial progress but that “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches” would “choke the word.” (Matt. 13:19-22; Mark 4:19) Indeed, if we are not careful, the everyday concerns of life could entice our heart and cause us to slow down spiritually. Thus, Jesus warned his disciples: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life.”—Luke 21:34.
4. What will help us to examine the depth of our love for Christ? (See opening picture.)
4 Just as Peter did after his experience with the resurrected Jesus, we prove the depth of our love for Christ by putting the work he has given us to do in first place. How can we make sure that we continue to do so? From time to time, we need to ask ourselves: ‘Where does my true affection lie? Does most of my joy come from engaging in mundane activities or in spiritual activities?’ In this regard, let us consider three areas of life that if not kept in their proper place could weaken our love for the Christ and for spiritual things—secular work, recreation, and material things.
KEEP SECULAR WORK IN ITS PROPER PLACE
5. What Scriptural responsibility do family heads have?
5 To Peter, fishing was more than a mere hobby—it was his livelihood. Family heads today recognize that they have a Scriptural responsibility to provide for their family’s material needs. (1 Tim. 5:8) They must work hard to fulfill this obligation. However, in these last days, secular work is often a source of anxiety.
6. What stresses exist in the modern workplace?
6 As a result of fierce competition for a limited number of jobs, many employees feel compelled to work more hours, sometimes for less pay. Also, the constant push for increased production takes a heavy toll on people physically, mentally, and emotionally. Employees who are unwilling to make such sacrifices for their company risk losing their jobs.
7, 8. (a) Where does our primary loyalty lie? (b) What valuable lesson did a brother in Thailand learn about his work?
7 As Christians, we owe our primary loyalty to Jehovah God, not to our employer. (Luke 10:27) Secular work is simply a means to an end. We work to provide our basic material needs and to support our ministry. If we are not careful, however, secular work could interfere with our worship. For example, a brother in Thailand related: “My secular work of repairing computers was very interesting, but it involved working long hours. As a result, it left me almost no time for spiritual matters. I finally realized that in order to put Kingdom interests first, I needed to change my line of work.” What did this brother do?
8 “After planning for about a year,” he explained, “I decided to become a street vendor and sell ice cream. In the beginning, I struggled financially and got discouraged. When I met my former workmates, they would laugh at me and ask why I thought selling ice cream was better than working with computers in an air-conditioned environment. I prayed to Jehovah, asking him to help me to cope and to reach my goal of having more time for spiritual activities. Before long, things began to improve. I got better acquainted with my customers’ tastes and became more skillful in making ice cream. Soon, I was selling all my ice cream every day. Actually, I was better-off financially than when I worked with computers. It has made me happier because I do not have the stress and worry that I had with my former job. And most important, I now feel closer to Jehovah.”—Read Matthew 5:3, 6.
9. How can we maintain a balanced view of our secular work?
9 Industriousness is a godly quality, and hard work is rewarding. (Prov. 12:14) Still, as the brother mentioned above learned, secular work needs to be kept in its proper place. Jesus said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things [basic material needs] will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) To help determine whether we have a balanced view of secular matters and spiritual responsibilities, it is good to ask ourselves: ‘Do I find my secular work interesting and exciting but view my spiritual activities as ordinary or routine?’ Thinking about and meditating on how we feel about our secular and spiritual activities can help us to determine where our true affection lies.
10. What valuable lesson did Jesus teach about setting priorities?
10 Jesus set the standard in balancing secular interests and spiritual matters. On one occasion, Jesus visited the home of Mary and her sister, Martha. While Martha scurried about preparing a meal, Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. When Martha complained that Mary was not helping, Jesus told Martha: “Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) Jesus was teaching Martha a valuable lesson. To avoid being distracted by secular matters and to prove our love for Christ, we must continue to choose “the good portion,” to give priority to spiritual things.
OUR VIEW OF RECREATION AND ENTERTAINMENT
11. What do the Scriptures teach about rest and relaxation?
11 We need some time to relax and find refreshment from our hard work and busy schedules. God’s Word states: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in his hard work.” (Eccl. 2:24) Jesus recognized the need to rest on occasion. Following one particularly intense witnessing campaign, he told his disciples: “Come, you yourselves, privately into an isolated place and rest up a little.”—Mark 6:31, 32.
12. Regarding recreation and entertainment, what caution is in order? Give an example.
12 Indeed, recreation and entertainment fill an important need. However, the danger exists that having a good time could become the primary focus of our life. Back in the first century, many had the attitude “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” (1 Cor. 15:32) That same spirit prevails in many parts of the world today. For example, years ago a young man in Western Europe began attending Christian meetings. But his fascination with entertainment was so strong that he stopped associating with Jehovah’s people. In time, however, he understood that his focus on entertainment had only led to problems and disappointments. So he resumed his Bible study and eventually qualified to become a publisher of the good news. After his baptism, he said: “The only regret I have is that I lost so much time before I realized that serving Jehovah brings far more happiness than pursuing the entertainment offered by this world.”
13. (a) Illustrate the dangers related to recreation and entertainment. (b) What could help us to maintain a balanced view of recreation and entertainment?
13 The purpose of recreation is to refresh and rejuvenate us. To achieve that, how much time should we spend on it? Think of this comparison: Many of us love to eat a dessert once in a while, but we realize that a steady diet of cakes and candies will harm our health. Therefore, we mainly eat nutritious food. Similarly, a steady diet of recreation and entertainment will weaken our spiritual health. To prevent that, we regularly engage in Kingdom activities. How can we determine if we have a balanced view of recreation? We could select a week and keep a record of the number of hours we spend on spiritual activities, such as attending meetings, sharing in the field ministry, and engaging in personal and family Bible study. Then we could compare that figure to the number of hours we spent that same week on recreational activities, such as participating in sports, enjoying hobbies, watching television, or playing video games. What does the comparison reveal? Might there be a need to cut back on “dessert”?—Read Ephesians 5:15, 16.
14. What should guide us in choosing our recreation and entertainment?
14 Individuals and family heads are free to choose the recreation they prefer, as long as it consists of activities that are in harmony with Jehovah’s guidelines expressed in Bible principles. (See lv 6). Wholesome recreation is a “gift of God.” (Eccl. 3:12, 13) Of course, we realize that choices in recreation may differ from one person to the next. (Gal. 6:4, 5) Whatever entertainment we may choose, we want to keep it in its proper place. Thus, our heartfelt love for Jesus will move us to focus our thoughts, speech, and actions primarily on Kingdom activities rather than on the everyday affairs of life.—Phil. 1:9, 10.
OUR FIGHT AGAINST MATERIALISM
15, 16. (a) In what way could materialism become a snare for a Christian? (b) What wise counsel did Jesus give regarding material things?
15 Many today are obsessed with the latest fashions, electronic gadgets, and so forth. Therefore, each Christian regularly needs to examine his own desires by asking himself such questions as: ‘Have material things become so important to me that I spend more time researching and thinking about the latest cars or fashions than I do preparing for congregation meetings? Have I become so preoccupied with the everyday affairs of life that I spend less time praying or reading the Bible?’ If we realize that our love for material things is eclipsing our love for the Christ, we should reflect on Jesus’ words: “Guard against every sort of greed.” (Luke 12:15) Why did Jesus give that serious warning?
16 Jesus stated that “no one can slave for two masters.” He added: “You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” That is because both “masters” require exclusive devotion. We will either “hate the one and love the other” or “stick to the one and despise the other,” said Jesus. (Matt. 6:24) As imperfect people, all of us need to keep up our fight against “the desires of our flesh,” including materialism.—Eph. 2:3.
17. (a) Why do fleshly-minded people have difficulty cultivating a balanced view of material things? (b) What helps us to fight materialistic desires?
17 Fleshly-minded people have difficulty cultivating a balanced view of material things. Why? Because their spiritual senses are dulled. (Read 1 Corinthians 2:14.) Once their powers of discernment have become clouded, it becomes more difficult for them to distinguish right from wrong. (Heb. 5:11-14) As a result, some develop an uncontrolled desire for material things—a desire that can never be fully satisfied. (Eccl. 5:10) Thankfully, there is an antidote to being poisoned by materialistic thinking: a healthy dose of God’s Word, the Bible, taken on a regular basis. (1 Pet. 2:2) Just as meditating on divine truth fortified Jesus to reject temptation, so applying Bible principles helps us to fight against materialistic desires. (Matt. 4:8-10) By doing so, we show Jesus that we love him more than any material thing.
18. What are you determined to do?
18 When Jesus asked Peter: “Do you love me more than these?” he was reminding Peter of the need to put spiritual things first in his life. Peter, whose name means “A Piece of Rock,” indeed lived up to his name, for he displayed rocklike qualities. (Acts 4:5-20) We today are likewise determined to remain steadfast in our love for Christ, keeping secular work, recreation, and material things in their proper place. May our choices in life reflect that we share the sentiments of Peter, who told Jesus: “Lord, you know I have affection for you.”