“Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and compassionate.”—EXODUS 34:6.
1. How did Jehovah reveal himself to Moses? Why is this important?
ON ONE occasion, God revealed himself to Moses by declaring His name and some of His qualities. Jehovah could have emphasized his power or wisdom, but instead, he first spoke of his mercy and compassion. (Read Exodus 34:5-7.) Moses needed to know if Jehovah would support him. So Jehovah emphasized qualities that show that he really wants to help his servants. (Exodus 33:13) How does it make you feel to know that Jehovah cares so much for us? This article will focus on compassion, which is sympathy for the suffering of others and the desire to help them.
2, 3. (a) What shows that it is natural for humans to feel compassion? (b) Why should you be interested in what the Bible says about compassion?
2 Jehovah is compassionate, and humans were made in his image. So it is natural for humans to care about others. Even those who do not know Jehovah often show compassion. (Genesis 1:27) In the Bible, we find many accounts of people who showed compassion. For example, when Solomon needed to find out which of two women was the mother of a baby, he tested them by ordering that the baby be cut in half. The mother felt deep compassion for her baby, so she pleaded with the king to let the other woman have him. (1 Kings 3:23-27) Another example of compassion is Pharaoh’s daughter. When she found baby Moses, she realized that he was a Hebrew and was supposed to be killed. But “she felt compassion for him,” and she decided to raise him as her own son.—Exodus 2:5, 6.
3 Why should we learn more about compassion? Because Jehovah wants us to imitate him. (Ephesians 5:1) Even though we were created to be compassionate, we are imperfect and tend to be selfish. Sometimes it may not be easy for us to decide whether to help other people or to focus on ourselves. What can help us to be more interested in others? First, let us examine how Jehovah and others have shown compassion. Second, let us see how we can imitate God’s compassion and why it is good for us to do so.
JEHOVAH—THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF COMPASSION
4. (a) Why did Jehovah send angels to Sodom? (b) What can we learn from the experience of Lot’s family?
4 The Bible contains many examples of Jehovah’s compassion. For example, think of what he did for Lot. Lot was a righteous man who was “greatly distressed” by the immoral people in Sodom and Gomorrah. Those people had no respect for God, and Jehovah decided that they deserved to die. (2 Peter 2:7, 8) Jehovah sent angels to Lot to tell him that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed and that he needed to flee. The Bible says: “When [Lot] kept lingering, then because of Jehovah’s compassion for him, the [angels] seized hold of his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, and they brought him out and stationed him outside the city.” (Genesis 19:16) Just as Jehovah understood Lot’s situation, we can be sure that he understands any difficulties we go through.—Isaiah 63:7-9; James 5:11, footnote; 2 Peter 2:9.
Jehovah fully understands the difficulties we go through
5. How does God’s Word teach us how to show compassion?
5 Jehovah has also taught his people to show compassion. Think about one of the laws that he gave to Israel. If someone owed money to a lender, the lender could take the person’s garment as a guarantee that he would pay the money back. (Read Exodus 22:26, 27.) But the lender had to return the garment to the person by sunset so that he could stay warm during the night. Someone who was not compassionate might not have wanted to give the garment back, but Jehovah taught his people to be compassionate. What does the principle behind this law teach us? Never ignore the needs of a fellow Christian. When we can help a brother or a sister who is suffering, we want to do so.—Colossians 3:12; James 2:15, 16; read 1 John 3:17.
6. What can we learn from Jehovah’s compassion for the sinful Israelites?
6 Jehovah felt compassion for the Israelites even when they sinned against him. We read: “Jehovah the God of their forefathers kept warning them by means of his messengers, warning them again and again, because he felt compassion for his people and for his dwelling place.” (2 Chronicles 36:15) In a similar way, we should feel compassion for those who do not yet know Jehovah but who may still repent and become his friends. Jehovah does not want anyone to be destroyed in the coming judgment. (2 Peter 3:9) So while there is still time, we want to share his warning message with everyone we can and help as many as possible to benefit from God’s compassion.
7, 8. Why did one family believe that Jehovah had shown compassion to them?
7 Today, many of Jehovah’s servants have experienced his compassion. For example, during the 1990’s in Bosnia, various ethnic groups were fighting and killing one another. One family living there included a 12-year-old boy we will call Milan. Milan, his brother, his parents, and other Witnesses were traveling on a bus from Bosnia to Serbia. They were going to a convention, where Milan’s parents were planning to get baptized. At the border, some soldiers noticed that the family was from a different ethnic group and made them get off the bus. Then they let the rest of the brothers on the bus continue their trip. For two days, the soldiers would not let the family go. Finally, the officer in charge called his superior officer and asked what he should do with them. The family was standing right there and could hear the superior officer reply, “Just take them out and shoot them!”
8 As the soldiers were talking, two strangers approached the family. They whispered that they were Witnesses too and that the brothers on the bus had told them what had happened. The two Witnesses told Milan and his brother to get into their car to cross the border because the soldiers were not checking children’s papers. Then the brothers told the parents to walk around the back of the border post and meet them on the other side. Milan was so scared that he did not know whether to laugh or cry. His parents asked, “Do you think they are just going to let us walk off?” But as they walked away, it seemed as if the soldiers did not even see them. Milan and his brother met their parents on the other side of the border, and they went on to the convention. They were convinced that Jehovah had answered their prayers! We know from the Bible that Jehovah does not always directly protect his servants in such a way. (Acts 7:58-60) But in this case, Milan said: “It seemed to me that the angels blinded the soldiers and that Jehovah rescued us.”—Psalm 97:10.
Like Jesus, do you have a deep desire to help people and teach them about Jehovah?
9. How did Jesus feel about the crowds who followed him? (See opening picture.)
9 Jesus was an excellent example of compassion. He felt pity for the people because he saw that “they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” So, what did he do? “He started to teach them many things.” (Matthew 9:36; read Mark 6:34.) In contrast, the Pharisees were not compassionate and did not want to help the people. (Matthew 12:9-14; 23:4; John 7:49) Like Jesus, do you have a deep desire to help people and teach them about Jehovah?
10, 11. Is it always appropriate to show compassion? Explain.
10 This does not mean that it is always appropriate to show compassion. For example, King Saul may have thought that he was showing compassion when he did not kill Agag, who was the king of Amalek and an enemy of God’s people. Saul also did not kill all the animals of the Amalekites. But Jehovah had told Saul to kill all the Amalekites and all their animals. Because of Saul’s disobedience, Jehovah rejected him as king. (1 Samuel 15:3, 9, 15, footnote) Jehovah is the righteous Judge. He can read people’s hearts, and he knows when compassion should not be shown. (Lamentations 2:17; Ezekiel 5:11) Soon he will bring judgment on all those who refuse to obey him. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) That will not be the time for Jehovah to show compassion to the wicked. However, by destroying them, he will show compassion for the righteous, whom he will save.
11 Of course, it is not our job to judge whether people should live or die. Instead, we need to do all we can now to help people. What are some practical ways that we can show compassion to others? Here are a few suggestions.
HOW WE CAN SHOW COMPASSION
12. How can you show compassion in how you treat others?
12 Be helpful in everyday life. Jehovah requires that Christians show compassion to their neighbors and to their brothers. (John 13:34, 35; 1 Peter 3:8) One meaning of compassion is “to suffer together.” A person who shows compassion tries to help those who are suffering. So we should look for opportunities to help others, perhaps by offering to do a necessary chore or errand for them.—Matthew 7:12.
13. What do God’s people do after natural disasters?
13 Share in relief work. When we see people suffering because of a disaster, we want to show them compassion. Jehovah’s people are well-known for helping others at such times. (1 Peter 2:17) For example, a Japanese sister lived in an area that was damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. She said that she was “very encouraged and comforted” when she saw volunteers come from different parts of Japan and from other countries to repair homes and Kingdom Halls. She added: “This experience helped me to realize that Jehovah cares. And fellow Witnesses care about one another. Many brothers and sisters all over the world are praying for us.”
14. How can you help the sick and elderly?
14 Help those who are sick and elderly. When we see people suffering from sickness and old age, we feel compassion. We long to see the end of these problems, so we pray for God’s Kingdom to come. In the meantime, we do all we can to help the sick and the elderly. One author wrote that one day his elderly mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, soiled her clothes. While she was trying to clean up, her doorbell rang. Two Witnesses who regularly visited her were there. The sisters asked if they could help. The woman said: “It is embarrassing but yes.” The sisters helped her to clean up. Then they made her a cup of tea and stayed to chat with her. The son was very thankful and said that the Witnesses “practice what they preach.” Does your compassion for the sick and the elderly move you to do all you can to help them?—Philippians 2:3, 4.
15. How does our preaching work help others?
15 Help people to know Jehovah. The best way we can help people is to teach them about God and his Kingdom. Another way is to help them see why obeying Jehovah’s standards is good for them. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) The ministry is a wonderful way to honor Jehovah and show compassion to others. Could you do more in the ministry?—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
COMPASSION IS GOOD FOR YOU TOO!
16. How do we benefit when we are compassionate?
16 Mental-health experts say that showing compassion can improve our health and our relationships with others. When you help those who are suffering, you will feel happier, more hopeful, less lonely, and less negative. Showing compassion is good for you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32) When love moves us to help others, we have a good conscience because we know that we are doing what Jehovah wants us to do. Compassion will help us to be better parents, marriage mates, and friends. In addition, people who show compassion to others usually receive help when they need it.—Read Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:38.
17. Why do you want to be compassionate?
17 Although showing compassion is good for us, the main reason we show compassion is that we want to imitate Jehovah and bring glory to him. He is the Source of love and compassion. (Proverbs 14:31) He sets the perfect example for us. So let us do all that we can to imitate God by showing compassion. Then we will draw closer to our brothers and sisters and have better relationships with the people around us.—Galatians 6:10; 1 John 4:16.