Modesty—A Quality That Promotes Peace
How pleasant the world would be if everyone displayed modesty. Individuals would be less demanding, family members less quarrelsome, corporations less competitive, and nations less belligerent. Would you like to live in such a world?
TRUE servants of Jehovah God are preparing for his promised new world, in which modesty will be universally regarded, not as a weakness, but as a strength and a virtue. (2 Peter 3:13) In fact, they are developing the quality of modesty even now. Why? Especially because this is what Jehovah requires of them. His prophet Micah wrote: “He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?”—Micah 6:8.
Modesty can mean a number of things, such as a lack of conceit, or vanity, and a reluctance to boast about one’s abilities, achievements, and possessions. According to one reference work, modesty also means “keeping within bounds.” A modest person stays within the bounds of good behavior. He also acknowledges that there are limits to what he ought to do and is able to do. He knows that there are things to which he is not entitled. We surely feel drawn to modest people. “Nothing is more amiable than true modesty,” wrote English poet Joseph Addison.
Modesty is not a natural trait of imperfect humans. We must put forth effort to develop this quality. For our encouragement, God’s Word describes a number of incidents that illustrate modesty in its various forms.
Two Modest Kings
One of Jehovah’s most loyal servants was David, who was a young man when he was anointed as the future king of Israel. Thereafter, reigning King Saul put David under great pressure by trying to kill him and by forcing him to live as a fugitive.—1 Samuel 16:1, 11-13; 19:9, 10; 26:2, 3.
Even under those circumstances, David recognized that there were limits to what he should do when protecting his life. On one occasion in the wilderness, David refused to allow Abishai to harm sleeping King Saul, saying: “It is unthinkable, on my part, from Jehovah’s standpoint, to thrust my hand out against the anointed of Jehovah!” (1 Samuel 26:8-11) David knew that it was not his place to remove Saul from the position of king. Thus David showed modesty on this occasion by staying within the bounds of proper behavior. Likewise, God’s present-day servants know that “from Jehovah’s standpoint,” there are things they simply cannot do, even when human life is at stake.—Acts 15:28, 29; 21:25.
King David’s son Solomon also manifested modesty as a young man, though in a slightly different manner. When Solomon was enthroned, he felt inadequate to carry the weighty responsibility of king. He prayed: “Jehovah my God, you yourself have made your servant king in the place of David my father, and I am but a little boy. I do not know how to go out and how to come in.” Clearly, Solomon was aware of his own lack of ability and experience. He was then modest, showing no conceit, or vanity. Solomon asked Jehovah for discernment, and his request was granted.—1 Kings 3:4-12.
The Messiah and His Forerunner
Over 1,000 years after Solomon’s day, John the Baptizer performed a work of preparing the way for the Messiah. As forerunner of the Anointed One, John was fulfilling Bible prophecy. He could have boasted about his privilege. John could also have tried to bring honor to himself because he was a fleshly relative of the Messiah. But John told others that he was unworthy even to untie Jesus’ sandal. And when Jesus presented himself for baptism in the Jordan River, John said: “I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” This indicates that John was not a boastful person. He was modest.—Matthew 3:14; Malachi 4:5, 6; Luke 1:13-17; John 1:26, 27.
After Jesus was baptized, he embarked on a full-time ministry, preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. Even though Jesus was a perfect man, he said: “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative . . . I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Furthermore, Jesus did not seek honor from men, but he gave Jehovah the glory for everything he did. (John 5:30, 41-44) What modesty!
Clearly, then, loyal servants of Jehovah—such as David, Solomon, John the Baptizer, and even the perfect man Jesus Christ—displayed modesty. They did not boast, were not vain, or conceited, and kept within proper bounds. Their examples are reasons enough for modern-day servants of Jehovah to develop and display modesty. Yet, there are still other reasons for doing so.
In this turbulent period of mankind’s history, modesty is a quality that is of great value to true Christians. It enables one to be at peace with Jehovah God, with fellow humans, and with oneself.
Peace With Jehovah God
Peace with Jehovah is possible only if we keep within the bounds he sets for true worship. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, exceeded the limits laid down by God, and they became the first humans to fall victim to immodesty. They forfeited their good standing with Jehovah, as well as their home, their future, and their lives. (Genesis 3:1-5, 16-19) What a heavy price they paid!
Let us learn from the failure of Adam and Eve, for true worship places limitations on how we must act. For instance, the Bible states that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Jehovah wisely sets these limits for our good, and we show wisdom by keeping within these bounds. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) Proverbs 11:2 tells us: “Wisdom is with the modest ones.”
What if a religious organization tells us that we can override these limits and still enjoy peace with God? That organization is trying to mislead us. On the other hand, modesty helps us to cultivate a close relationship with Jehovah God.
Peace With Fellow Humans
Modesty also promotes peaceful relations with others. For instance, when parents set an example in being contented with their necessities and in giving priority to spiritual matters, their children are more likely to adopt the same attitude. The younger ones will then find it easier to be contented, even if they may not always get what they want. This will help them to live modestly, and family life will be more peaceful.
Those who have oversight need to exercise particular care to be modest and not abuse their authority. For example, Christians are instructed: “Do not go beyond the things that are written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6) Congregation elders realize that they must not try to impose on others their own personal preferences. Instead, they use God’s Word as a basis for encouraging the right course in matters of behavior, dress, grooming, or recreation. (2 Timothy 3:14-17) When members of the congregation observe that the elders keep within Scriptural bounds, this promotes respect for these men and contributes toward a warm, loving, and peaceful spirit in the congregation.
Peace With Oneself
Those who practice modesty are rewarded with inner peace. A modest individual does not burn with ambition. This is not to say that he has no personal goals. For example, he may desire additional privileges of service, but he waits on God, and any Christian privileges that he receives are credited to Jehovah. They are not viewed as personal achievements. This draws the modest one closer to Jehovah, “the God of peace.”—Philippians 4:9.
Suppose that we at times feel passed over by other people. Would it not be better to be overlooked because we are modest than to draw attention to ourselves immodestly? Modest individuals are not consumed with ambition. Thus, they are at peace with themselves, which is beneficial for emotional and physical well-being.
Developing and Maintaining Modesty
Adam and Eve succumbed to immodesty—a trait they passed on to their offspring. What can help us to avoid making the same mistake as our first parents? How can we develop the fine quality of modesty?
To begin with, an accurate understanding of our position in relation to Jehovah, the Creator of the universe, will help us. What personal achievements could we claim that could ever compare with God’s accomplishments? Jehovah asked his faithful servant Job: “Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you do know understanding.” (Job 38:4) Job could give no answer. Are we not similarly limited in knowledge, ability, and experience? Is it not beneficial for us to acknowledge our limitations?
Furthermore, the Bible tells us: “To Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it, the productive land and those dwelling in it.” This includes “every wild animal of the forest, the beasts upon a thousand mountains.” Jehovah can say: “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine.” (Psalm 24:1; 50:10; Haggai 2:8) What possessions could we display that compare with those of Jehovah? Why, even the wealthiest human has no reason to boast in what he owns! Therefore, it is wise to follow the apostle Paul’s inspired counsel to Christians in Rome: “Through the undeserved kindness given to me I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think.”—Romans 12:3.
As servants of God desiring to cultivate modesty, we should pray for the fruitage of the spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (Luke 11:13; Galatians 5:22, 23) Why? Because each of these qualities will make it easier for us to be modest. For instance, love for fellow humans will help us to fight a tendency toward boastfulness or conceit. And self-control will make us stop and think before acting immodestly.
Let us beware! We constantly need to be on guard against the pitfalls of immodesty. Two of the kings mentioned earlier were not modest on every occasion. King David threw caution to the wind by carrying out a census in Israel, something that was against the will of Jehovah. King Solomon became immodest even to the point of engaging in false worship.—2 Samuel 24:1-10; 1 Kings 11:1-13.
As long as this godless system of things lasts, being modest calls for constant vigilance. However, the effort is worthwhile. In God’s new world, human society will consist only of those who are modest. They will regard modesty as a strength, not a weakness. How wonderful it will be when all individuals and families are blessed with the peace that comes with modesty!
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Jesus modestly gave Jehovah the credit for everything he did