“Do not loiter at your business. . . . Slave for Jehovah.”
1. What do most people think about slavery, and how is the type of slavery mentioned at Romans 12:11 different?
MOST people think of a slave as a person who is being controlled and treated badly by his master. But to be a slave of God is very different. God’s Word says that a Christian can choose to be a slave to a loving Master. In fact, when the apostle Paul encouraged Christians to “slave for Jehovah,” he was telling them to serve God because they love Him. (Romans 12:11) What is this type of slavery? How can we make sure that we do not become a slave to Satan and his world? And what are the benefits of being a slave of Jehovah and faithfully serving him?
“I REALLY LOVE MY MASTER”
2. (a) Why might an Israelite decide to continue as a slave? (b) If a slave was willing to have his ear pierced, what did it show?
2 God’s Law to Israel helps us to understand what is required to be a slave of Jehovah. A Hebrew slave was normally given his freedom in the seventh year of service to his master. (Exodus 21:2) But if the slave really loved his master and did not want to leave him, he could stay. Jehovah’s Law made this possible. The master would bring the slave up against the door or doorpost and pierce his ear. (Exodus 21:5, 6) Why would he do that? In the Hebrew language, the idea of obedience is related to hearing and listening. So by having his ear pierced, a slave would show that he wanted to continue to serve his master obediently. This is similar to our dedication. When we dedicate ourselves to Jehovah, we are saying that we are willing to obey him because we love him.
We dedicate ourselves to Jehovah because we love him
3. Why do we dedicate ourselves to God?
3 Before we were baptized, we made the decision to serve Jehovah, or to be his slaves. When we dedicated ourselves to him, we promised that we would obey him and do what he wants us to do. Nobody forced us to make this decision. Even when young ones get baptized, they do so because they want to and not just to make their parents happy. All of us make our own personal decision to dedicate ourselves to our heavenly Master, Jehovah, because we love him. “This is what the love of God means,” wrote the apostle John, “that we observe his commandments.”
WE ARE FREE, BUT WE ARE SLAVES
4. What do we need to do to become “slaves to righteousness”?
4 We are very thankful to Jehovah for giving us what we need to be his slaves! Our faith in the ransom sacrifice of Christ makes it possible for us not to be slaves of sin, that is, not to be completely controlled by it. This means that even though we are still imperfect, we choose to obey Jehovah and Jesus as our Masters. Paul explained this clearly in one of his letters. He said: “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed with reference to sin but living with reference to God by Christ Jesus.” Then he warned: “Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him, either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view? But thanks to God that you were the slaves of sin but you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were handed over. Yes, since you were set free from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:11, 16-18) Notice that Paul says that we should be “obedient from the heart.” So when we dedicate ourselves to God, we become “slaves to righteousness.”
5. What must we all fight against, and why?
5 As dedicated slaves of God, we have two battles we must fight. The first one is our own imperfection. Paul too had this fight. He said: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” (Romans 7:22, 23) Because we are imperfect, we must keep fighting against our fleshly desires, that is, human desires to do things that God does not like. The apostle Peter urged us: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.”
6, 7. How does Satan make the world seem attractive?
6 The second battle we have is against this world that is controlled by the demons. Satan is the ruler of the world, and he uses every weapon he has to try to break our loyalty to Jehovah and Jesus. Satan wants to make us his slaves by tempting us to become part of his world. (Read Ephesians 6:11, 12.) One way he does this is by making his world look attractive, like something we want to be a part of. The apostle John warns us: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world
Satan makes the world seem like something we want to be a part of
7 All over the world, people want to have more and more material things. Satan makes people believe that having lots of money will make them happy. Superstores are everywhere. Advertising promotes a lifestyle in which the most important thing is to have more things and to have more fun. For example, travel agencies promote trips to interesting places in the company of people who think as the world does. Yes, all around us, the world is telling us to change our lifestyle, but in the way it wants us to.
8, 9. What real danger exists, and why?
8 In the first century, Peter warned Christians about those in the congregations who were beginning to think like the world. He said: “They consider luxurious living in the daytime a pleasure. They are spots and blemishes, indulging with unrestrained delight in their deceptive teachings while feasting together with you. For they utter swelling expressions of no profit, and by the desires of the flesh and by loose habits they entice those who are just escaping from people who conduct themselves in error. While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption. For whoever is overcome by another is enslaved by this one.”
9 If we try to satisfy “the desire of the eyes,” that is, have everything we want, we will not have freedom. Instead, we will become slaves to Satan the Devil, this world’s invisible master. (1 John 5:19) The danger of becoming a slave to materialism is very real. If that happens, it can be difficult to escape.
A CAREER WITH A REAL PURPOSE
10, 11. Who are Satan’s favorite targets? How can higher education cause difficulties for young Christians?
10 Satan attacks those who have little experience. His favorite targets today are young people. He is not happy when a young person, or anyone else, decides to be a slave for Jehovah. Satan wants those who dedicate their lives to Jehovah to fail in their loyalty and in their devotion to God.
11 When a slave had his ear pierced, he may have felt some pain. But afterward, a mark remained that would show everyone that he had decided to stay with his master. It can be difficult or painful for young people to make choices in life that are different from the people around them. For example, Satan promotes the idea that having a career in his world is the way to have a real purpose in life. But only when we make Jehovah the most important part of our life will we have a real purpose in life. Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) Christians dedicate their lives to do Jehovah’s will, not Satan’s. They read the Bible and meditate on it “day and night.” (Read Psalm 1:1-3.) However, much of today’s higher education does not leave much time for a servant of God to meditate on God’s Word and to serve Jehovah.
12. What choice do many young people have today?
12 A worldly master could make life very difficult for a Christian slave. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said: “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity.” (1 Corinthians 7:21) If the slave had a worldly master who made life difficult, it would have been much better for the slave to be free. Today, in many countries, the law says that young people should go to school for a certain number of years. After that, students are given a choice. They can choose whether to continue to get more education or not. It can become very difficult to have the freedom to serve Jehovah in the full-time service when a Christian chooses higher education just to have a career in this world.
HIGHER EDUCATION OR THE BEST EDUCATION?
13. What education helps Jehovah’s servants the most?
13 Paul warned the Christians who lived in Colossae: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) Many teachers teach “the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men.” Higher education, which often includes these teachings, does not always provide students with practical skills, and they may not be prepared for everyday life. But Christians choose education that will give them the skills they need to live a simple life so that they can serve God. They take seriously Paul’s counsel to Timothy: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Timothy 6:6, 8) Instead of getting degrees so that they can have titles after their names, true Christians work hard to get “letters of recommendation” by being in the field ministry as much as they can.
14. When we read Philippians 3:8, what do we learn about Paul’s view of being a slave of God and Christ?
14 We can learn from Paul’s example. He was taught by the Jewish Law teacher Gamaliel. The education he received can be compared with a university education today. But what did Paul think when he compared it with the honor of being a slave for God and Christ? He wrote: “I . . . consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Then he added: “On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) Paul’s view can help young Christians and their parents to make a wise choice in education. (See pictures.)
BENEFIT FROM THE BEST EDUCATION
15, 16. What education does Jehovah’s organization provide, and what is its purpose?
15 What is it like in many places of higher education? People at these places often feel free to rebel and show that they are angry with the government and other authorities. (Ephesians 2:2) However, Jehovah’s organization provides the best education in the peaceful environment of the congregation. All of us can benefit every week from the Theocratic Ministry School. There are also other schools that we can benefit from. For example, there is a school for single pioneer brothers called the Bible School for Single Brothers, and for married pioneers there is the Bible School for Christian Couples. All these schools help us to obey our heavenly Master, Jehovah.
16 We can discover many precious truths from the Watch Tower Publications Index or the Watchtower Library on CD-ROM. The main purpose of our Bible education is to worship Jehovah. It teaches us how to help others become friends of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Then those we teach will be able to teach others.
THE SLAVE’S REWARD
17. When we choose the best education, what benefits do we receive?
17 In Jesus’ illustration of the talents, the two faithful slaves were commended for their work. This made them and their master happy. To show his approval, he gave them more work. (Read Matthew 25:21, 23.) We can be happy and have a purpose in life if we choose the best education. For example, Michael did very well in school. When his teachers invited him to a meeting so that they could discuss his possibilities of going to a university, they were surprised to find out that he did not choose higher education. Instead, he took a short course that trained him in a practical skill. This made it possible for him to care for his needs and to pioneer. Did he feel that he made the wrong decision? He says that the education he has received from the Bible and as an elder in the congregation has been very valuable. He says: “The blessings and privileges I enjoy far outweigh any money I might have earned. I am really glad that I chose not to pursue higher education.”
18. Why choose the best education?
18 The best education teaches us God’s will and helps us to be Jehovah’s slaves. It gives us the hope of being “set free from enslavement to corruption” and eventually having “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) Most important, it is the best way to show that we really love our Master, Jehovah.