Questions From Readers

How can we grieve God’s holy spirit, since it is not a person?

It was the apostle Paul who wrote: “Do not be grieving God’s holy spirit.” (Ephesians 4:30) Some take these words to be an indication that the holy spirit is a person. However, publications of “the faithful steward” have often provided Scriptural and historical proof that the early Christians viewed the holy spirit neither as a person nor as a god equal to the Most High as part of a so-called Trinity. * (Luke 12:42) So Paul was not referring to God’s holy spirit as a person.

God’s holy spirit is his invisible active force. (Genesis 1:2) Jesus was to baptize “with holy spirit,” just as John was baptizing with water. (Luke 3:16) At Pentecost 33 C.E., some 120 disciples were “filled with holy spirit”​—obviously not with a person. (Acts 1:5, 8; 2:4, 33) Such anointed ones received a heavenly hope, and God’s spirit led them in a life of faithfulness. (Romans 8:14-17; 2 Corinthians 1:22) The spirit produced godly fruitage and helped them to avoid the sinful “works of the flesh” that could result in divine disapproval.​—Galatians 5:19-25.

If we are God’s servants with an earthly hope, we have not been anointed with holy spirit. Nevertheless, we can have just as much of God’s spirit as those with the heavenly hope. Hence, we too could grieve the spirit. But how?

If we were to ignore Scriptural counsel penned under the guidance of holy spirit, we could develop traits that could result in willful sin against the spirit, the loss of Jehovah’s favor, and eventual destruction. (Matthew 12:31, 32) We might not yet be sinning gravely, but we could be starting off on the wrong road, one that could eventually take us in a direction contrary to the leading of the spirit. Under such circumstances, we would be grieving the holy spirit.

How, then, can we avoid grieving God’s spirit? We certainly have to control our thoughts and actions. In his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, the apostle Paul spoke about avoiding tendencies toward dishonest statements, sustained wrathfulness,  laziness, and unsuitable speech. If we have put on “the new personality” and yet allow ourselves to drift back toward such things, what would we be doing? We would be going against the spirit-inspired counsel of God’s Word, the Bible. By doing this, we would be grieving the holy spirit.

In Ephesians chapter 5, we read Paul’s counsel about avoiding prurient interest in fornication. The apostle also urges fellow believers to avoid shameful conduct and obscene jesting. If we do not want to grieve God’s holy spirit, we ought to bear this in mind when choosing entertainment. Why would we show interest in such things by talking about them, reading about them, and viewing their portrayal on television or elsewhere?

Of course, we could grieve the spirit in other ways. Jehovah’s spirit promotes unity in the congregation, but suppose we were to spread harmful gossip or encourage cliques in the congregation. Would we not be working against the spirit’s leadings toward unity? In a general way, we would be grieving the holy spirit, like those who caused divisions in the congregation in Corinth. (1 Corinthians 1:10; 3:1-4, 16, 17) We would also be grieving the spirit if we deliberately undermined respect for spirit-appointed men in the congregation.​—Acts 20:28; Jude 8.

Clearly, then, it is wise to consider our attitude and actions in the light of what we know to be the leadings of the holy spirit as reflected in the Bible and in the Christian congregation. Let us also be “praying with holy spirit,” yielding to its influence and always acting in harmony with what is said in God’s inspired Word. (Jude 20) May it be our determination never to grieve the spirit but always to be led by it to the honor of Jehovah’s holy name.

Jesus Christ compared a rich man’s difficulty in getting into the Kingdom with a camel that is trying to get through a needle’s eye. Did Jesus have in mind a literal camel and a real sewing needle?

Two of the three Scriptural quotations of this statement are quite similar. According to Matthew’s account, Jesus said: “It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24) Similarly, Mark 10:25 reads: “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Some reference works suggest that the “needle’s eye” was a small gate in one of Jerusalem’s large gates. If the big gate was closed at night, the small one could be opened. It is held that a camel could fit through it. Is this what Jesus had in mind?

Evidently it is not. Jesus apparently was referring to a sewing needle. Since both bone and metal needles of ancient origin have been found in that region, they must have been common household items. Luke 18:25 removes any uncertainty about Jesus’ words, for it quotes him as saying: “It is easier, in fact, for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.”

Various lexicographers agree with the rendering “sewing needle” as found in  the New World Translation. The Greek word for ‘needle’ at Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25 (rha·phisʹ) is drawn from a verb meaning “sew.” And the Greek term found at Luke 18:25 (be·loʹne) is used to refer to a literal surgical needle. Says Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: “The idea of applying ‘the needle’s eye’ to small gates seems to be a modern one; there is no ancient trace of it. The Lord’s object in the statement is to express human impossibility and there is no need to endeavour to soften the difficulty by taking the needle to mean anything more than the ordinary instrument.”​—1981, Volume 3, page 106.

Some suggest that in these verses “camel” should be rendered “rope.” The Greek words for rope (kaʹmi·los) and camel (kaʹme·los) are similar. However, the Greek word for “camel” rather than the one for “rope” appears at Matthew 19:24 in the oldest extant Greek manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel (the Sinaitic, the Vatican No. 1209, and the Alexandrine). Reportedly, Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in Hebrew and may personally have translated it into Greek. He knew exactly what Jesus said and therefore used the proper word.

So, then, Jesus meant a literal sewing needle and a real camel. He was using these to emphasize the impossibility of something. But did Jesus mean that no rich man could ever get into the Kingdom? No, for Jesus’ statement was not meant to be taken literally. He was using hyperbole to illustrate that just as a literal camel cannot go through the eye of an actual sewing needle, it is impossible for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom if he continues to cling to his riches and does not put Jehovah first in his life.​—Luke 13:24; 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Jesus made this statement just after a rich young ruler turned down the grand privilege of becoming Jesus’ follower. (Luke 18:18-24) A wealthy individual having greater love for his possessions than for spiritual things cannot expect to gain everlasting life in the Kingdom arrangement. Yet, certain rich people did become Jesus’ disciples. (Matthew 27:57; Luke 19:2, 9) So a rich person who is conscious of his spiritual need and who seeks divine help can receive God-given salvation.​—Matthew 5:3; 19:16-26.

[Footnote]

^ par. 3 See the brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.