“The members of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.”
1, 2. Why could Paul show empathy to the weak?
WE ALL feel weak at times. Some days when we are not feeling well, we may have no energy and may find it difficult to do what we need to do. But now imagine feeling this way for a long time. How would we want others to treat us? Of course, we would want them to try to understand how we feel, that is, to show empathy toward us.
2 The apostle Paul sometimes felt weak because of pressures from outside and from inside the congregation. More than once, he felt that he could not go on. (2 Corinthians 1:8; 7:5) Because of his own experiences, Paul could understand what it means to feel weak. He said: “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” (2 Corinthians 11:29) When he compared the members of the Christian congregation to parts of the human body, he said that those who “seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Corinthians 12:22) What did he mean? How does Jehovah feel about those who seem to be weak? How can we learn to view our brothers as Jehovah does? And how does this benefit us?
JEHOVAH’S VIEW OF WEAKNESS
3. Why might we have negative feelings toward our brothers?
3 In the world today, many take advantage of those who are frail and weak in order to get what they want. They believe that to be successful, a person must be young and strong. The world’s attitude could affect us too. We may begin to have a negative view of certain brothers who often need help. How can we view each member of the congregation as Jehovah does?
Jehovah views each member of the congregation as important
4, 5. (a) What does Paul’s illustration of the human body teach us about how Jehovah views each one of us? (b) How can we benefit when we help the weak?
4 Jehovah views each member of the congregation as important. In chapter 12 of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that even the weakest part of the human body is needed. (Read 1 Corinthians 12:12, 18, 21-23.) Some who believe in evolution have said that certain parts of the body are not needed. * (See footnote.) For example, the little toe was once considered useless. But now scientists have discovered that our little toe helps our whole body remain steady when we are standing up.
5 Paul’s illustration about the human body shows that every member of the congregation is needed. Satan wants us to believe that we are useless. But Jehovah views all of his servants as “necessary,” even those who may seem to be weaker. (Job 4:18, 19) This means that we can feel good that we are needed in our congregation and among God’s people worldwide. For example, think of a time when you helped an elderly person. He benefited, but did you also benefit? Yes. When we help others, we are happy, we become more patient, we love our brothers even more, and we become better Christians. (Ephesians 4:15, 16) Jehovah wants us to think of our brothers and sisters as important, even those who seem to be weak. When we have this view, we will not expect too much of our brothers, and the congregation will be more loving.
6. How did Paul use the words “weak” and “strong”?
6 It is true that Paul did use the words “weak” and “weakness” when he spoke about some in the congregation. This was because some unbelievers viewed Christians in that way. But Paul was not saying that some Christians were better than others. Also, sometimes he described himself as weak. (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27; 2:3) And when he used the word “strong” to describe certain Christians, he was not saying that they were better than others. (Romans 15:1) He was simply saying that those with more experience should be patient with those with less experience.
DO WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK?
7. Why may it not be easy for us to help those in need?
7 Jehovah helps the weak, and it makes him happy when we do the same. (Psalm 41:1; Ephesians 5:1) But this is not always easy for us to do. Why? Maybe we think that our brother should take responsibility for his own problems. Or maybe we avoid him because we do not know what to say. For example, consider what happened to a sister named Cynthia. * (See footnote.) She needed help when her husband left her. She says: “If brothers avoid you or do not act the way you would expect close friends to act, it can hurt. When you are going through trials, you need people around you.” King David too felt hurt when his friends avoided him.
Jehovah helps the weak, and it makes him happy when we do the same
8. What will help us to be understanding toward our brothers?
8 What will help us to be more understanding toward our brothers who need help? Remember that many of them are suffering because of sickness or depression or because they live with family members who are not in the truth. If we had the same problems, we would want others to show empathy to us. Think about the Israelites. They had suffered a lot in Egypt, yet before entering the Promised Land, Jehovah reminded them that they should not harden their heart. Jehovah expected the Israelites to help their brothers who were poor and weak.
9. When our brother is weak, what does he really need? Give an example.
9 We should not be quick to blame our brothers for their problems or think that we are better than they are. We want to help our brothers when they are weak. (Job 33:6, 7; Matthew 7:1) For example, imagine that someone is injured in a motorcycle accident and is rushed to the hospital. When he arrives, would the doctors and nurses waste time discussing who was to blame for the accident? No. They would immediately give medical help. It is the same with us. When our brother is weak, what he really needs is our spiritual help.
When our brother is weak, what he really needs is our help
10. How are some “rich in faith” even though they seem to be weak?
10 Some brothers and sisters may seem to be weak. But if we stop to think about their situation, we may find that they are not weak at all. Imagine how difficult it must be for a sister whose husband does not serve Jehovah. What about a single mother who is working hard to raise her children on her own and who still regularly comes to meetings? Or think about teenagers in school who daily resist pressure to leave the truth. They all have real love for Jehovah and are determined to remain loyal to him. When we think about all that our brothers are doing to serve Jehovah, this will help us to view them as “rich in faith,” even if they seem to be weak.
THINK THE WAY JEHOVAH DOES
11, 12. (a) What will help us to think the way Jehovah does when our brothers make mistakes? (b) Why did Jehovah forgive Aaron? What do we learn from that?
11 We need to think of our brothers the way Jehovah does, even when they make mistakes. Bible examples will help us to learn how Jehovah views his servants. (Read Psalm 130:3.) For example, imagine that you were with Moses when he was listening to Aaron make many excuses about why he made the golden calf. What would you have thought about Aaron? (Exodus 32:21-24) How would you have felt when Aaron listened to Miriam and then criticized Moses for marrying a foreign woman? (Numbers 12:1, 2) And what about when Aaron and Moses did not honor Jehovah after He made water come out of a rock?
We need to think of our brothers the way Jehovah does
12 Jehovah could have immediately punished Aaron for making those mistakes. But Jehovah knew that even though Aaron was weak at certain times, he was not a bad person. He made mistakes because he was in difficult situations and because he listened to the wrong people. But Aaron was willing to admit that he made those mistakes, and he accepted Jehovah’s counsel. (Exodus 32:26; Numbers 12:11; 20:23-27) Aaron loved Jehovah and was repentant. So Jehovah forgave him. That is why many years later, Aaron and his family were still remembered as faithful servants of Jehovah.
13. How can we change the way we think? Give an example.
13 Like Aaron, your brother may make mistakes. When this happens, how do you view him? Do you need to change your thinking? (1 Samuel 16:7) For example, think about a teenager who seems to have a bad attitude. Maybe he is not careful in his choice of entertainment. Do not be quick to think that he is a bad person. Instead, think about how you can help him. Take the time to teach him how to make wise decisions. When you help your brothers in this way, you will be more patient with them and your love for them will grow.
14, 15. (a) How did Jehovah feel about Elijah when he was scared? (b) What can we learn from the way Jehovah helped Elijah?
14 How does Jehovah feel about those who are depressed? Consider how he helped one of his servants who felt this way. Elijah was a prophet of Jehovah who had courageously challenged 450 prophets of Baal. But then Elijah heard that Queen Jezebel wanted to kill him. He was so afraid that he ran 150 kilometers (95 miles) to Beer-sheba and then far away into the wilderness. He was extremely exhausted and was so depressed that he wished he were dead.
15 What did Jehovah do when he saw how scared and depressed Elijah was? Did he reject Elijah? No. Jehovah sent an angel to help him. Twice the angel gave Elijah something to eat so that he would be strong enough to continue his trip. (Read 1 Kings 19:5-8.) Even before Jehovah gave Elijah instructions, He listened to Elijah and gave him the help he needed.
16, 17. How can we help our brothers the way Jehovah does?
16 How can we help our brother the way Jehovah helped Elijah? Do not be quick to tell your brother what you think he should do. (Proverbs 18:13) When he is depressed or feels useless, he first needs you to listen to him and to show him that you care. (1 Corinthians 12:23) Then you will know what he really needs, and you will be able to help him.
17 Remember the experience of Cynthia. When her husband left, she and her two daughters felt abandoned. How did some in the congregation help them? Cynthia says: “They were at our house within 45 minutes. They were in tears. They did not leave us alone for the first two or three days.” Cynthia and her two daughters were very tired and emotional. Members of the congregation invited them to stay in their home and gave them food to eat. This experience reminds us of what the Bible says in the book of James: “If a brother or a sister is lacking clothing and enough food for the day, yet one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them what they need for their body, of what benefit is it? So, too, faith by itself, without works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17) The help that the brothers and sisters gave to Cynthia and her daughters was exactly what they needed. Only six months later, they felt strong enough to auxiliary pioneer.
18, 19. (a) How can we help those who are weak? (b) Who benefit when we help those who are weak?
18 It takes time for us to recover when we have been sick for a long time. When our brother makes a mistake or is in a difficult situation, it may also take time for him to recover. It is true that he must study God’s Word, pray to Jehovah, and attend meetings to strengthen himself. But he also needs our help. During this time of recovery, we need to be patient with him. We need to continue to show him that we love him and that he is a necessary part of the congregation.
Our loving Father views every person as precious
19 Helping others makes us happy. We also learn to show empathy and to be patient. But we are not the only ones who benefit. The entire congregation will become more loving. More important, when we “assist those who are weak,” we show that we want to be like Jehovah. Our loving Father views every person as precious.