Shun Undesirable Habits and Practices
A LITTLE girl spots an attractive display of oranges in a North American supermarket. ‘Mommy, please buy some,’ she says. Her poorly dressed mother responds with some tender feeling for her daughter and asks the clerk: ‘How much are the oranges?’ When the clerk replies, the mother turns to her daughter and says: ‘We can’t afford that.’ The girl’s head drops in disappointment. Then, after but a moment’s hesitation the mother tells the clerk: ‘A package of cigarettes, please.’
Many times similar scenes are repeated daily. Men and women may buy cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets and the like, but fail to provide adequate meals for their children. They may spend large sums of money for festivities that are, in actuality, unrestrained revelries. Others live in a state of misery because of drug addiction.
These are serious problems that could be avoided by applying Bible principles. The Scriptures state: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.” (2 Cor. 7:1) “Do not be getting drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery.” (Eph. 5:18) “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine . . . For a drunkard . . . will come to poverty.” (Prov. 23:20) “You men are those leaving Jehovah, . . . those setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck.” (Isa. 65:11) “Do hard work, doing with [your] hands what is good work.” (Eph. 4:28) “By working with quietness they should eat food they themselves earn.” (2 Thess. 3:12) “Walk decently, not in revelries and drunken bouts.”—Rom. 13:13.
Note the clear Biblical statements against heavy drinking and revelries. True, the Scriptures do not specifically mention smoking or drug abuse. However, based on what you have seen, would you not say that smoking is a defiling habit? Is not drug abuse also defiling and injurious, producing effects comparable to drunkenness? Similarly, gambling is not mentioned in the Bible. But is it not a practice associated with luck? Does it not engender greed and run counter to the Bible’s admonition to work for one’s food?
You may wonder, though, to what extent a person’s living in harmony with the Bible in these respects would help him to put bread on his table. Take, for instance, the smoking habit. In Sweden, a man who smokes from 20 to 25 cigarettes a day must spend about $600 (U.S.) annually. As about 50 percent of his income goes for taxes, this means that he must earn about $1,200 (U.S.) just to support his tobacco habit. This is more money than the monthly wages for the average worker. When the wife and teen-age children also smoke, more than 20 percent of the breadwinner’s income may be spent on tobacco. Often this means that the family cut down on the nourishing quality of their food in order for them to be able to continue smoking.
In lands where per capita incomes are much lower than in Sweden, many people spend just as high a percentage, or even more, of their limited wages on tobacco. That was true of K. P., a family man in India. He says: “I supported my family by operating a small pan* shop, earning 35 rupees [about $4, U.S.] weekly. Ten percent of this was consumed on my smoking habit.”
However, when K. P. began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1972, he came to appreciate that smoking conflicted with the Scriptural admonition about being ‘clean from every defilement of flesh and spirit.’ Furthermore, if he was going to aid others to break free from such defilement, K. P. realized that it would be inconsistent for him to continue selling pan. What did he do? He answers: “I abandoned my pan shop in order to conform my life to the Bible. I put my complete reliance in Jehovah God.”
But how would he live? Did his conforming to Bible principles help him to put bread on the table? Yes, he actually improved his situation. He was able to get a job as a salesman in a vegetable store. His wages were 50 rupees (about $5.50, U.S.) per week, 15 rupees (about $1.50, U.S.) more than he had earned in his pan shop. Moreover, since he had stopped smoking, his available funds were increased by an additional 10 percent. But this was not all.
K. P. continues: “My employer tested out my trustworthiness in various ways until I gained his complete confidence. Now he entrusts his money and the entire store to my care. This he had never done with previous employees. Because of my trustworthiness, he granted me free vegetables for my family’s use and a personal expense account. Since becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I have been able to construct my own home and improve my living conditions. Now we enjoy a happy family life and find true contentment.”
Similarly those who break free from drug addiction improve their situation by no longer having to support a prohibitively expensive habit. This was the experience of Eoin and Angelika.
In 1966, Eoin started taking drugs. Two years later he stopped working and spent around £25 or £30 ($50 or $60, U.S.) weekly to pay for the hashish and LSD that he used. This would be nearly £70 ($130, U.S.) in today’s inflated currency. It also represented 75 percent of his “earnings” from dealing in drugs and from stealing. He also smoked about 40 to 50 cigarettes a day.
Eoin had little cash in those days to provide for himself. Often he slept in the subways. At other times he stayed at the homes of others in “the drug scene.” “You live,” he says, “a sort of ‘con’ life, joining one group of addicts until they get fed up with you, and then moving on to another group.” It was into this “scene” in London that 17-year-old Angelika came from a similar “scene” in Germany. Being on drugs and an exceedingly heavy smoker, she soon had financial problems comparable to Eoin’s. But somehow she managed to survive by using her flat in London as a meeting place for buyers and sellers in the drug world.
Eventually Eoin had nothing besides the clothes on his back. Angelika had only one coat, a dressing gown. All her other possessions were kept in one small suitcase.
However, within two weeks after starting to learn Bible principles, both of these young people stopped smoking and taking drugs. Within three weeks, Eoin began working at a building site. In time, Eoin and Angelika saved up enough money to put a deposit on a flat and got married. Since bringing their life into harmony with Bible principles in 1973, they have been able to make a good home for themselves. Eoin and Angelika have a nice flat and everything in it is their own. God’s Word has certainly helped them to put bread on their table.
Heavy drinking is yet another habit that is making it difficult for many to put bread on their table. In 1974, people in the Federal Republic of Germany and in West Berlin spent 30.7 billion marks (about $15 billion, U.S.) for alcoholic beverages. It is reported that more than two million men and women in Japan border on being alcoholics. The number of alcoholics in the United States is about 10 million, and in Italy about four million. For over one million Australians, the amount spent on alcoholic beverages weekly is $30 (U.S.). This amounts to about 20 percent of an average worker’s weekly take-home pay. More money is actually being spent on alcoholic beverages than the average family spends on meats, fruits and vegetables. Many problem drinkers in Australia spend more than half the average weekly wage on alcohol. In Sweden, the average drinker spends about 10 percent of his income on alcoholic beverages. Truly, the Bible’s counsel about moderation could help millions to have more and better food on their table.
It is especially pathetic when a man spends most of his earnings on drink while the family suffers want. After receiving their wages, millions throughout the earth head for a bar. On leaving, they may be completely drunk and penniless. The wife may then be forced to borrow some money in order to pay bills and to get the family something to eat. In lands where such heavy drinking is customary, great poverty exists among persons with low incomes.
This was the situation with a family in Mexico. They were extremely poor and lived in squalor and filth. The family did not even own a table on which to eat. However, when they began to learn the principles of the Bible, things began to change. Because the husband stopped drinking, they were able to obtain a table and some chairs. Later, they bought a gas stove to replace their little kerosine stove. The whole appearance of the house improved, as better efforts were put forth to keep it clean.
When excessive drinking is combined with heavy smoking, the financial problems are compounded. “In fact,” as Jim, a dark-haired young man living in Canada, explains, “easily a quarter to one third of my wages was consumed to keep us on alcohol and tobacco. Why, we could have eaten better and dressed quite well if we had just saved that wasted money!” His wife, Carol, interrupts, saying: “Sometimes we would be relaxing at the end of the day, and I would suddenly discover, with annoyance, that our cigarettes were finished. Then I would start to pressure Jim to go out to buy more. He’d complain that he had no money. ‘Probably spent it on beer!’ I would think. Anyway, I’d get more upset until I would persuade him to collect all the milk bottles around the house to take to the store and trade them for some cigarettes. This was always embarrassing for Jim. But, more than that, it often meant our young ones would have to do without much-needed milk until we could get more money.”
Gambling is yet another vice that has deprived many of their daily bread. This is a widespread problem. It is estimated that Australians spend more than 10 percent of their net earnings on gambling. In the Federal Republic of Germany, each year billions of marks are spent on this vice. People risk their weekly or monthly wages and, at times, even more. An estimated $20 billion are spent on gambling in the United States. Spain’s Christmas lottery alone brought in 32,500,000,000 pesetas ($396,341,463, U.S.). Of this amount, 70 percent was distributed in prizes, and the remainder went to the State. A complete ticket cost 20,000 pesetas ($244, U.S.), a whole month’s wages for lower paid workers. But tickets were also sold in fractions.
Gambling losses stagger the imagination. An Iranian heiress lost nearly six million dollars (U.S.) in the casinos of London and continental Europe. In three days of poker playing, a Yugoslavian who had settled in Australia lost all the money that he had saved in six years. This put him in a state of such extreme shock that he died four days later. Pedro, a young Spaniard, spent so much money on gambling each month that he could have paid rent and food bills for a second family of four members. Yet he ended up borrowing money at the end of some months in order to be able to buy food.
The professional gamblers who live on the losses of others remain completely unaffected by what they see—people losing their fortunes, persons committing suicide because of gambling losses, women prostituting themselves to pay off gambling debts. Ronald, who once worked in the gambling establishments of Amsterdam, remarked: “I saw no harm whatever in sitting at the gambling table with my own mother and bleeding her white.”
That the Bible can help a person to break free from this vice is forcefully demonstrated in the case of Friedel, an Indonesian-born Dutchman. By the time he was 38, he became the owner-director of an import firm with a net annual profit of $550,660 (U.S.). He drew a salary of 6,000 rupiahs ($840, U.S.) monthly, which was a fortune in those days right after World War II. However, Friedel became addicted to gambling. To finance his vice, Friedel would sell his goods at 300 percent profit. Also, at the risk of his life, he would sell his merchandise in territories controlled by the Pemoeda terrorists.
There seemed to be no hope of his ever getting out of the mire. But the Bible did help Friedel to break free from his addiction to gambling. From his consideration of the Scriptures, he came to appreciate the following: Gambling makes a person dishonest, shows no regard for others and interferes with happy living as a family.
If more persons would come to recognize the wisdom of shunning gambling, they could provide far better for their families. For example, it is not uncommon for a Brazilian to pay out as much money annually for lottery tickets as it would cost him to buy 100 quarts of milk.
In Latin-American countries, tremendous sums of money are spent on festivals. Because they have church approval, many people believe that these occasions are Christian. In reality, however, the various feasts, or festivals, have non-Christian origins and are characterized by excesses in eating and drinking. This puts them in the category of revelries, which are in conflict with Bible principles. The truth of God’s Word sets persons free from spending excessive amounts of money on such celebrations and thus worsening their economic situation.
Just how much money can be wasted on festivities can be seen from the case of Eladio, a wealthy Mexican. The combined cost for two festivals was 180,000 pesos ($14,400, U.S.). In addition to these two festivals, Eladio financed drinking parties that lasted three or four days. At times, he would spend between 5,000 and 7,000 pesos ($400 to $560, U.S.) for alcoholic beverages. Upon learning what God’s Word teaches, Eladio stopped this waste of resources and began using his funds wisely in helping others to reap spiritual benefits.
Certainly no one can deny that millions would improve their lot in life if they stopped using tobacco, limited their buying of alcoholic beverages, broke free from drug addiction, quit gambling and shunned all revelries and festivities that conflict with Scriptural teaching. A person’s shunning undesirable habits and practices is definitely a big factor in his being able to put bread on the table.
Pan is an admixture of betel leaf, areca nut, lime and sometimes tobacco leaf.
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