What is the SPIRIT OF HELPFULNESS all about?
“Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification” (Romans 15:2).
In Romans 15:2, the Apostle Paul is not saying, let the younger ones please their neighbour, nor does he say, let the older ones please their neighbour; but he says,
“Let EVERY ONE of us please his neighbour.”
All of the Lord’s people should have such an interest in one another and in the Lord’s cause, and should have so much of the spirit of the Master, that they would seek rather to sacrifice themselves than to gratify self, especially at the expense of others.
If we have the spirit of Christ, we shall find various ways in which we will sacrifice self without waiting for specific directions.
The Law of Love will incite us to act contrary to our own natural preferences, if by so doing we shall help one another in the good way.
In his letter to the Corinthian Church the apostle illustrates this principle by a practical application regarding the Greek custom of offering their meat in their temples. After having been thus offered to the idols, the meat was considered to be especially sacred. Nearly all of the meat available was offered to idols, so that whenever one wished to have meat he could find none that had not been thus offered.
Those who had come out of idolatry into Christianity, knew that the worship of idols was wrong; for they had learned that there is only the one true God.
The apostle declares that he would abstain altogether from eating meat rather than risk stumbling a brother who could not take the broader, truer view. To stumble such a one, might be to throw him out of the right way entirely.
Responsibility For Our Influence
The apostle Paul did not say that it is not right to eat meat; but rather, that he was willing to forego his rights and privileges in order to edify another.
These others of whom the apostle Paul had spoke had not come to appreciate fully the fact that meat offered to idols had not suffered any ill effect or been changed in any way from having had this done. To set meat before a piece of stone would not injure it; and so to set it before an idol would not cause it any ill effects.
But Paul so self-sacrificially, preferred to give up eating meat altogether rather than to stumble any brother or sister in Christ.
What a glorious lesson for us dear friends!
Let us ask our self the follow questions:
When necessary, do I willing deny myself some of my privileges and rights in striving to be of any assistance to my brethren in Christ and in avoiding to stumble them?
Some of the Lord’s people have very sensitive consciences, others are less sensitive.
The longer one has been in the “School of Christ” and/or the more ability one may have, the more easily should one be able to discern what would be pleasing to the Lord we would hope based on each individual’s uniquely permitted experiences, of course that only the Heavenly Father and His son Jesus perfectly understand best, as they are Divine beings.
As a Christian, one would not want to do anything to offend the Lord, even if he were to go without meat for the remainder of his life.
Another introspective question for Christ-like development may be perhaps this one:
Would I, even if it be for the remainder of this carnal life, prefer to deny myself of something (that of course would not harm the New Creation of Christ within self,) that would be for the best interests of another beloved one in Christ so as not to stumble a weaker one in faith or one who may have their conscience violated by doing so?
This involves walking and talking with the Heavenly Father moment to moment to discern God’s will—who mercifully gives wisdom and provides us with His answers to all who ask, seek, and knock to Jehovah for help (Matthew 7:7).
These may be very personal items of decision-making here under consideration, yet how reassured we are through the words of the Prophet Isaiah,
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
The Heavenly Father makes clear one’s path through an exercised conscience—that is, a conscience that is disciplined and trained in seeking after that which is righteous in the eyes of the divine perfect God of the universe (Matthew 5:6).
Another introspective question for Christ-like development may be:
Would I wish to lose all my influence for the good of my fellow brother and sister in Christ?
The apostle answers this suggestion in the negative; he says, “…(12) when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. (13) Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).
Let us consider some practical “life” scenarios.
Example 1: Regarding clothing…
Perhaps you attend an ecclesia where consecrated sisters in Christ wear head coverings and believe that dressing modestly means to wear skirts and dresses below the knee and which cover the shoulders and not to wear pants (considering that to be a traditional male item of clothing and relying on the words of 1 Corinthians 11:4-16 and Deuteronomy 22:5 for their convictions of belief). After examining the Scriptures on these topics one may realize that wearing a head covering and wearing a modest dress or skirt does not seem in any way to violate the laws of God, and hence will see no reason why not to do so, in order to help create peace around and least offend in any way any dear member in the ecclesia attended. Yet if this does cause contention then considering it a suffering for Christ, may each be humbled—recognizing even more, one’s own ignorance or errors of self for as the words of Philippians 2:3 teach us:
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
As the apostle Paul stated best in regards to the above issue about clothing or hair apparel:
“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16).
Probably the NAS Bible gives the sense better, “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.”
Example 2: Our words or actions…
Perhaps at a testimony meeting in your ecclesia, one would share something that they believe would be of great edification to all, yet something in one’s conduct or words has caused offense in another—perhaps due to language or cultural barriers or perhaps a result of another mis-hearing correctly yet the results of each one’s intentions and conduct involved in such a situation shall be best understood and credited to each involved by the Heavenly Father who sees each heart and each motive. Again, we are ALL ignorant each moment of each day no matter how great or small the issue at hand—which depends on one’s closeness with the Heavenly Father—and thus, how in tune to the Father’s will each dear child of God is to be, being reassured that God through Christ, shall “reward each according to what they have done” (Romans 2:6).
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
Would one not rather suffer any unkind effects towards us from our words or actions in having done what an educated conscience before the Father believes was done seeking towards righteousness rather than suffering the outcomes of results and the self-inflicted cross of guilt for knowing we had not done how Christ Jesus our Head, would wish us to?
Example 3: Sunday observance…
Applying the above principle—our responsibility for our influence—to Sunday observance, we are not to feel a bondage under the Old Law, during the Sabbath day. However we should avoid what would be considered by others as not observing the Sabbath.
To our understanding EVERY day is a part of the great Sabbath into which we have entered—rest in Christ.
We have a greater liberty. But we are not to use this liberty to the injury of others.
Many people think that any kind of labor is a violation of the Fourth Commandment.
From our viewpoint we know that the Sabbath of the Jew was typical; and we see what the antitype is. We are enjoying the antitype of that Sabbath.
But while we might have liberty to work on Sunday, our so doing might stumble our neighbour. We would not be violating any principle in not observing Sunday; but for the sake of not stumbling our neighbour we are glad to rest from our work and to give ourselves to the study of God’s Word.
Sunday should be a day that is quiet and reverential in every way, and devoted specially to the service of God—a day in which business is restricted, and as far as possible eliminated. But for the interests of the Lord’s work to forbid refraining from the use of today’s transportation blessings such as cars or trains and trams on Sunday would not apply to today’s world as once it may have been the case. Each place… each time period… each culture… each community even… have certain ways of functioning and by best striving to not offend anyone, but with gentleness of mind and being lowly of heart as Christ was, let us strive to represent Christ as best we can now, knowing that where we fall short after doing our best, Christ’s robe of righteousness covers all the failures that surround us.
Sabbath signifies rest, as the Apostle used it (Hebrews 4:9, margin), we can see that the Church of Christ keeps the Sabbath, or rest, every day, and recognizes God’s arrangement in connection with this matter. Those who keep every seventh day as a Sabbath, but who fail to enter into and keep the rest of faith, are not keeping the true Sabbath, but keeping another, so far as the Church is concerned.
The Sabbath arrangement was for the Jews. We have the better arrangement under our Covenant.
We enter into rest, our Sabbath, EVERY day; and we are hoping that soon we will enter into the still Greater Sabbath.
In that Sabbath, the Millennium, we shall have not only rest of heart, but also perfection, no longer to be challenged by trials and difficulties of life.
During His ministry Jesus chose the Sabbath day in which to perform miracles and heal the sick, that He might show forth the kind of works which He will perform during the Great Sabbath Day, the seventh-thousand-year day—the Millennium.
Helping, Not Hindering Our Neighbours
We can apply this principle in a general way. We can apply it to our conversation with Christian people.
There is a way of taunting people on their ignorance, etc. This is not love.
LOVE does not delight to expose another’s weaknesses.
The more careful we become in our words and our actions, the more polite we shall be, the more helpful.
Politeness is :
to do and say the kindest thing in the kindest way.
One may be polite for the sake of policy or for the sake of principle.
E.g. You have a business and you are polite to your clients or else you will not have any to buy from you, and in turn, no income to live from.
Our pleasing of our neighbours should be for their edification.
We should be glad to do ALL that we can for their assistance, their edification, their uplift, their upbuilding.
If we can speak a pleasant word, a kind word, it would be for upbuilding and have in mind primarily the upbuilding of the Lord’s people in spiritual things. As the apostle Paul says, we are “to provoke one another.”
In the ISV translation Hebrews 10:24 reads:
“And let us continue to consider how to MOTIVATE one another
to love and good deeds…“
What the apostle had in mind here was the reverse of provoking to anger, hatred and strife.
Brother Charles Russell comments in Reprints of the Original Watchtower (R.5413):
“Some of the dear brethren who are evidently very sincere have not caught the spirit of the Truth on this subject; and wherever they go, they are apt to stir up the evil mind of others, instead of stirring up their good mind and provoking to love and good works.”
We are to please our neighbors so far as it would be for their good, and according to right principles. But to upbuild one in injustice would not be right.
Now here are our final questions to put theory into practice:
For our Australian friends: Would we think it right to let our neighbour’s emus run all over our front driveway?
For our local and international friends: Would we think it right to let our neighbour’s dogs run all over our front lawn?
Take a moment or two to think of what you would do.
We believe here is a most lovingly wise, compassionate and merciful response to such a question … (but in regards to chickens) by Pastor Charles Russell:
“We think that he [his neighbor] would thus be more edified by our firm stand for right. But we must not tell him how to manage his chickens. We must do our best to keep his chickens off our place; but we would make a mistake if we were to go in and order our neighbor’s chickens, house and children. To do so would be busybodying. We shall have enough to do to look after the weaknesses of our own family.”
Bible verses for consideration:
Is the Sabbath Day a Saturday, Sunday, or any day of the Week?
Acknowledgment & Reference:
Br Charles Russell—R.5413. Reprints of the Original Watch Tower & Herald of Christ’s Presence.
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