Guidance That Surpasses Instinct
“If personal morality comes down to nothing more than the exercise of free choice, with no principles available for moral judgment of the quality of those choices, then law will inevitably be used to fill the resulting moral vacuum.”—DR. DANIEL CALLAHAN.
CALLAHAN’S concern has become all too real, for the growing moral vacuum in many parts of the world has forced governments to pass countless laws in an effort to curb crime. At the first-ever Nigerian Mothers’ Summit, the president of Nigeria expressed his deep concern about the country’s future. He had in mind, not politics or poverty, but “a much deeper problem”—the “general erosion of . . . core values within the family, at work, in the community and nationally.”
In Britain a survey of 1,736 mothers found that “the traditional family unit is in meltdown due to plunging moral values and the rise of single parents.” In China too, morality is taking a nosedive. People there are having sex earlier in life and with more partners than ever, reported Time magazine. “It’s my life, and I can do what I want,” said a young Chinese woman who boasted of more than 100 sexual partners.
Moral erosion has also affected those in authority. “People no longer look up to their leaders as strong moral exemplars,” stated Javed Akbar in Canada’s Toronto Star newspaper. Politicians, heads of corporations, and even religious leaders “appear to lack the proper moral fibre,” he said.
Why the Slide?
A number of forces are driving this downward trend. One is a general spirit of rebellion against traditional values. For example, a poll taken in the South in the United States revealed that the majority of college-student respondents felt that “right and wrong is a matter of personal opinion.”
Political writer Zbigniew Brzezinski touched on another factor. Today’s society, he wrote, “focuses largely on the immediate satisfaction of individual desires, in a setting in which individual and collective hedonism becomes the dominant motive for behavior.”* Moral autonomy, greed, and self-gratification may have a certain appeal, but are they conducive to genuine happiness, contentment, and better relationships with others?
“Wisdom is proved righteous by its works,” said Jesus. (Matthew 11:19) Are people happier and more secure because of the plunging values? Reflect on some of the results: heightened mistrust, insecurity, failed relationships, children growing up without a father or a mother, pandemics of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, drug addiction, and violence. These realities clearly do not spell satisfaction and success but, rather, sorrow and failure.—Galatians 6:7, 8.
Having seen similar problems in his day, Jeremiah, a prophet of God, made the following inspired observation: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Yes, God did not create us to be independent from him, to choose right and wrong for ourselves. What may seem good to us may, in fact, be very harmful. “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward,” says the Bible at Proverbs 14:12.
An Enemy Within!
What is one reason why we need guidance on moral matters? Because our hearts can deceive us. “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” says the Bible at Jeremiah 17:9. If you knew someone who was both treacherous and desperate, would you trust him? Of course not! Yet, each of us has a heart that can manifest those very traits. Hence, God gives us this forthright but loving warning: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid, but he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.”—Proverbs 28:26.
There is the key: Instead of trusting in our own imperfect faculties, we need to walk in godly wisdom and thus deliver ourselves from many pitfalls. Moreover, precious wisdom is readily available to all who sincerely want it. “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching.”—James 1:5.
Trust God “With All Your Heart”
Describing our Creator, the Bible says: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) Yes, Jehovah is like a massive rock. He can be fully relied upon for sound moral and spiritual guidance no matter what changes occur around us. Says Proverbs 3:5, 6: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”
Indeed, who could give us better guidance than our Creator, the one who counts “the very hairs of [our] head”? (Matthew 10:30) Furthermore, he has proved to be a true friend, one who loves us enough to be honest with us at all times—even when the truth may be hard for us to swallow.—Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 27:6.
Note, too, that Jehovah does not force us to submit to his guidance. Instead, he appeals to us on the basis of love. “I, Jehovah, am . . . the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17, 18) Are you not drawn to a God like that? What is more, he has made his wisdom readily available to us by means of his inspired Word, the Holy Bible, the most widely distributed book in the world!—2 Timothy 3:16.
Let God’s Word Illuminate the Way
Concerning the Sacred Scriptures, the psalmist wrote: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” (Psalm 119:105) A lamp to our foot reveals immediate dangers, while a light to our roadway illuminates the path ahead. Simply put, God’s Word can guide us safely through life by helping us to make wise, morally sound decisions in all matters—those that bear on the present and those that may affect us in the future.
Take the Sermon on the Mount, for example. In that short discourse, recorded at Matthew chapters 5 to 7, Jesus Christ spoke about happiness, love, hate, mercy, morality, prayer, the pursuit of riches, and many other topics that are as relevant today as they were back then. So insightful were his sayings that “the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching.” (Matthew 7:28) Why not take a few moments to read that sermon yourself. Likely you too will be impressed.
“Keep On Asking” for God’s Help
Admittedly, doing what is right in God’s eyes is not always easy. In fact, the Bible likens our inner struggle against sin to a war. (Romans 7:21-24) With God’s help, however, that war can be won. “Keep on asking,” said Jesus, “and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find . . . For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds.” (Luke 11:9, 10) Yes, Jehovah will not turn away from anyone sincerely trying to walk the narrow path that leads to everlasting life.—Matthew 7:13, 14.
Note the example of Frank, who was addicted to tobacco when he began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. After reading 2 Corinthians 7:1 and correctly concluding that his habit was a “defilement of [the] flesh” in God’s eyes, Frank resolved to quit smoking. Acting on his resolve, however, was not so easy. On one occasion he even found himself crawling around on his hands and knees looking for old cigarette butts to light up!
This undignified behavior brought home to Frank how enslaved to tobacco he had become. (Romans 6:16) Thus, he prayed earnestly for help, took full advantage of the wholesome association provided by the local Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and conquered his bad habit.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Satisfy Your Spiritual Need
Frank’s experience is just one of many showing that the Bible provides superior moral and spiritual guidance, as well as the incentive to act on that guidance. Little wonder, then, that Jesus said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matthew 4:4.
When we take God’s precious truths to heart, we benefit in every way—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Says Psalm 19:7, 8: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back [or, reviving] the soul. . . . The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice; the commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine [with hope and a clear vision of God’s purpose].”
By means of his Word, Jehovah does more than help us set our moral compass accurately and live the best life possible now. He also sheds light on the future. (Isaiah 42:9) As the following article shows, that future is bright for all who accept God’s guidance.
Hedonism is the belief that pleasure is the main purpose in life.
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Your Personal Moral “Compass”
Humans have a precious gift—the faculty of conscience. As a result, people of every nation and tribe, as well as of every era, have had codes of conduct with much in common. (Romans 2:14, 15) The conscience, however, is not an infallible guide; it can be influenced by exposure to false religious beliefs, human philosophies, prejudices, and wrong desires. (Jeremiah 17:9; Colossians 2:8) Hence, just as a pilot may need to calibrate his navigational instruments, we need to check and, when necessary, adjust our moral and spiritual compass according to the righteous standards of “our Statute-giver,” Jehovah God. (Isaiah 33:22) Unlike human standards of conduct, which can change from one generation to the next, God’s perfect standards endure forever. “I am Jehovah; I have not changed,” he says.—Malachi 3:6.
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Guidance for Success and Happiness
“Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”—MATTHEW 5:3.
“There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—ACTS 20:35.
“Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”—LUKE 11:28.
“Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.”—EPHESIANS 4:25.
“Let the stealer steal no more.”—EPHESIANS 4:28.
“Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement.”—HEBREWS 13:4.
FORGING GOOD RELATIONSHIPS
“All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—MATTHEW 7:12.
“Let [a husband] so love his wife as he does himself; . . . the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—EPHESIANS 5:33.
“Continue . . . forgiving one another freely.”—COLOSSIANS 3:13.
AVOIDING AND RESOLVING CONFLICT
“Return evil for evil to no one.”—ROMANS 12:17.
“Love is long-suffering and kind. . . . It does not keep account of the injury.”—1 CORINTHIANS 13:4, 5.
“Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.”—EPHESIANS 4:26.