“You will . . . see the distinction between a righteous person and a wicked person.”—MALACHI 3:18.
1, 2. Why can life be difficult for God’s servants today? (See opening pictures.)
MANY doctors and nurses work around people who have contagious diseases. They take care of their patients because they want to help them. But they also need to protect themselves so that they do not get infected with the disease they are trying to cure. As Jehovah’s servants, we are in a somewhat similar situation. Many of us live and work with people who are infected with attitudes and qualities that are completely different from God’s qualities. This can be difficult for us.
2 In the last days of this system, people who do not love God ignore his standards of right and wrong. The apostle Paul described their negative qualities when he wrote his letter to Timothy. Paul said that these negative qualities would become even more common as we near the end of this system. (Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13.) Even though we may find these bad qualities shocking, we could still be influenced by the way people around us think, talk, and act. (Proverbs 13:20) In this article, we will see how different these qualities are from the qualities of God’s people. We will also see what we can do to protect ourselves from being infected with bad qualities while we help people come to know Jehovah.
3. What kind of people are described at 2 Timothy 3:2-5?
3 Paul wrote that in the last days, there would be “critical times hard to deal with.” Then he made a list of 19 negative qualities that would be very common in our time. These qualities are similar to the ones Paul mentioned at Romans 1:29-31, but the list in his letter to Timothy uses words we do not find anywhere else in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Paul began with the words “for men will be.” Here, “men” means “people,” since both men and women can have bad qualities. But not all humans have the negative qualities that Paul described. Christians have very different qualities.—Read Malachi 3:18.
HOW WE VIEW OURSELVES
4. What do you think it means to be puffed up with pride?
4 After Paul said that many would be lovers of themselves and lovers of money, he added that people would be boastful, haughty, and puffed up with pride. People who have these qualities often think that they are better than others because of how they look, what they can do, what they have, or what their position in life is. Such people want more than anything to be admired. One scholar wrote about a person like that: “In his heart there is a little altar where he bows down before himself.” Some have said that pride is so ugly that even proud people do not like it when they see pride in others.
5. How have even faithful servants of Jehovah become proud?
5 Jehovah hates pride, which is described in the Bible as “haughty eyes.” (Proverbs 6:16, 17) In fact, pride keeps a person far from God. (Psalm 10:4) Pride is a quality of the Devil. (1 Timothy 3:6) The sad truth is that even some loyal servants of Jehovah have become infected with pride. For example, King Uzziah of Judah was faithful for many years. But the Bible says: “As soon as he was strong, his heart became haughty to his own ruin, and he acted unfaithfully against Jehovah his God.” Uzziah went to the temple and burned incense, which was not his right to do. Later, faithful King Hezekiah also became proud, though only for a while.—2 Chronicles 26:16; 32:25, 26.
6. What could have caused David to become proud? But why did he remain humble?
6 Some people become proud because they are good-looking, popular, musically talented, strong, or admired by others. David was all these things, but he remained humble his whole life. For example, after David killed Goliath, King Saul said that David could marry his daughter. But 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 Samuel 18:18) What helped David to remain humble? He knew that any qualities, abilities, and privileges he had were because God was humble and paid attention to him. (Psalm 113:5-8) David realized that anything good he had came from Jehovah.—Compare 1 Corinthians 4:7.
People can be drawn to God by the humility of his servants
7. What will help us to show we are humble?
7 Like David, Jehovah’s people today try to be humble. It touches our hearts to know that Jehovah himself, who is the Most High, is humble. (Psalm 18:35) We want to apply these words: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) We also know that love “does not brag, does not get puffed up.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) When others see that we are humble, they too may want to get to know Jehovah. Just as an unbelieving husband can be drawn to Jehovah by the good conduct of his Christian wife, people can be drawn to God by the humility of his servants.—1 Peter 3:1.
HOW WE TREAT OTHER PEOPLE
8. (a) How do some people today view disobedience to parents? (b) What does the Bible tell children to do?
8 Paul described how people would treat one another in the last days. He wrote that children would be disobedient to parents. Today, many books, movies, and television programs make it seem normal and acceptable for children to be disobedient to their parents. But the truth is that disobedience weakens the family, the basic unit of society. Humans have known this truth for a long time. For example, in ancient Greece, a man who hit his parents would lose his rights in the community. Under Roman law, someone who hit his father could be punished the way a murderer would be. Both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures command children to honor their parents.—Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3.
9. What will help children to obey their parents?
9 What can help children to obey their parents even if those around them are not obedient? When children think about all the good things their parents have done for them, they should feel grateful and want to obey them. Young ones also need to understand that God, the Father of us all, expects them to obey their parents. As young people say good things about their parents, they help their friends to respect their own parents more. Of course, if parents have no natural affection for their children, it might be more difficult for their children to obey them. But when a young person feels that his parents really love him, it can help him to obey them even when it is difficult. A young brother named Austin says: “Though I often felt inclined to try to get away with things, 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 bad qualities show that people do not have love for one another? (b) How much do true Christians love other people?
10 Paul also described other qualities that show that people do not have love for one another. After “disobedient to parents,” he mentioned unthankful. This makes sense, because unthankful people do not value the good things that others do for them. Paul also said that people would be disloyal. They would not be open to any agreement, which means that they would not want to make peace with others. They would be blasphemers and betrayers, saying cruel and harmful things about people and even about God. And they would be slanderers, those who tell harmful lies to ruin the reputation of others. *—See footnote.
11 Jehovah’s servants are very different from most people in the world because they show genuine love for others. This has always been true. In fact, Jesus said that the only command in the Law of Moses that was more important than the command to love other people was the command to love God. (Matthew 22:38, 39) Jesus also said that true Christians would be known for the love they show for one another. (Read John 13:34, 35.) True Christians would love even their enemies.—Matthew 5:43, 44.
12. How did Jesus show love for others?
12 Jesus showed that he truly loved people. He did this by traveling from one city to another to tell people the good news about God’s Kingdom. He cured the blind, the lame, the lepers, and the deaf. He also brought those who had died back to life. (Luke 7:22) Jesus even gave his life to save humans, although many hated him. Jesus perfectly imitated his Father’s love. All over the world, Jehovah’s Witnesses imitate Jesus and show love for others.
13. How can the love we show for others help them want to know Jehovah?
13 When we show people that we love them, it can make them want to get to know our heavenly Father. For example, a man in Thailand went to a regional convention and was impressed when he saw how the brothers and sisters showed love to one another. After he got home, he asked to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses twice a week. Then he preached to all his relatives. Only six months later, this man gave his first Bible reading at the Kingdom Hall. Are we showing love for others? Ask yourself: ‘Am I doing all I can to help people in my family, in my congregation, and in my ministry? Do I try to view others as Jehovah does?’
WOLVES AND LAMBS
14, 15. What bad qualities do many show? How have some changed their personality?
14 In the last days, people also show other bad qualities that we should avoid. For example, many are without love of goodness. They hate what is good and even oppose it. Such people are without self-control, fierce. Some are headstrong. They do things without thinking and do not care about the effect that their actions will have on others.
15 Many who used to behave like fierce animals have changed their personality. This dramatic change was foretold in a Bible prophecy. (Read Isaiah 11:6, 7.) We read there about wild animals, such as wolves and lions, who live in peace with domestic animals, such as lambs and calves. Why would they have peace? The prophecy continues: “Because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 11:9) Animals cannot learn about Jehovah, so in a symbolic way, this prophecy refers to changes that people make in their personalities.
16. How has the Bible helped people to change their personalities?
It is not easy to make changes, but God’s spirit will help those who want to please him
16 Many of our brothers and sisters were once as fierce as wolves but are now peaceable. 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. Such people pretend to worship God, but they behave in a way that proves they do not. However, among Jehovah’s people are many who used to be fierce but who have now “put on the new personality that was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:23, 24) When people learn about God, they realize that they need to follow his standards. This helps them to make changes in what they believe, how they think, and what they do. It is not easy to make these changes, but God’s spirit will help those who want to please him.
“FROM THESE TURN AWAY”
17. How can we avoid being influenced by people with bad qualities?
17 It is becoming easier to see the difference between those who serve God and those who do not. We must be careful that the bad qualities of those who do not serve God do not influence us. We want to follow Jehovah’s direction to turn away from the kind of people who are described at 2 Timothy 3:2-5. Of course, we cannot completely avoid everyone who has bad qualities. We may have to work with them, go to school with them, or live with them. But we do not have to think or act as they do. What can help us? We can strengthen our friendship with Jehovah by studying the Bible and choosing as close friends those who love him.
18. How can what we say and do help others to want to know Jehovah?
18 We also want to help others come to know Jehovah. Look for opportunities to witness, and ask Jehovah to help you say the right thing at the right time. We should let others know that we are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then, our good conduct will bring glory to God and not to ourselves. Jehovah has taught us “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 imitate Jehovah and do what he wants us to do, others will see it. Some may even say: “We want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you people.”—Zechariah 8:23.
^ par. 10 The Greek word for “slanderer” or “accuser” is di·aʹbo·los. In the Bible, this word is used as a title for Satan, the wicked slanderer of God.