Watch Your Associations in the Time of the End
“Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
1. What do Christians find in this modern world that is hard to deal with?
OUR modern world has reached the climactic period in human history that was foretold long ago to be the end of this worldly system of things. This is the time the apostle Paul spoke about when he said: “Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” (2 Tim. 3:1) What Christians have found to be especially hard to deal with has been the increasingly bad influence that permeates modern society. That which is degraded, degenerate, criminal violent are the things constantly highlighted in popular literature, plays, movies, TV and radio. The general thinking of the people as revealed by their daily conversation and jokes is only bad all the time. The influence of such thinking does not help a Christian walk in the way that has God’s approval.
2. How do people of the world act, and why do Christians appear peculiar to them?
2 Ignoring the good principles of the scriptures that teach love for neighbor, the people of this world act like wolves as they fight among themselves to get all they can at the expense of others. Their selfish policy is commonly expressed as “dog eat dog.” Because God’s servants in the New World society do not follow the selfish and immoral practices of the world, they are like sheep among wolves. Their meekness and desire to live by the moral standards of God’s Word make them appear peculiar in the eyes of worldly people. The apostle Peter spoke of this when he said: “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.”—1 Pet. 4:4.
3. Why is it imperative to watch your associations today?
3 If you are a dedicated Christian in the New World society, it is imperative that you keep your senses in this time of the end and not imagine that you can have companionship with the wolves of this world without being influenced by their thinking. Unless you watch your associations you may cease to be a sheep by acting like a wolf. The apostle Paul was right when he said: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Such associations can mold you like clay into a dishonorable vessel and spoil your usefulness in God’s organization.
4. What is the natural desire when one is with a group of people, and why can this lead to trouble?
4 When you seek companionship with any group of people, it is a natural desire to want to be accepted by them as one of the crowd. This pressures you into thinking as they do, acting as they do and, in some cases, even dressing as they do. Young persons are particularly sensitive in this regard, as they dread being different from their companions. The desire to be accepted can lead you into trouble when your companions are persons who do not love Jehovah God and do not respect his standards. Their association is spiritually and morally unhealthy. Through fleshly desires and weaknesses they will tempt you into doing what you know is bad. Notice what the apostle Peter said about this: “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.”—2 Pet. 2:18.
5. How should association with worldly people at your place of work be viewed?
5 In order to earn a living it is often necessary to spend many hours every day working among people who have no love for righteousness or respect for the high moral standards of God’s Word. While association with these people cannot be avoided during working hours, you do not have to associate with them after working hours. Why voluntarily put yourself in contact with their bad thinking and unclean chatter? This does not mean you should not be friendly and helpful, but being friendly does not involve companionship. You can work among them, being friendly and helpful, without seeking to be accepted into their crowd as one of them.
EFFECT ON THINKING
6, 7. What do bad associations especially affect, and what can they result in?
6 It is your thinking that bad associations affect. They can divert it from the high standard of the Scriptures to the low standard of the world. Because of fleshly weaknesses it is easier to influence your thinking by what is bad than by what is good. The wise course is to recognize this fact and avoid bad influences from the beginning. Safeguard your thinking, for if it becomes twisted by worldly reasoning, what protection have you from what is bad? How will you be able to continue walking the narrow way that leads to life? By allowing worldly associations to influence your thinking you may find yourself walking with them along the broad way to death. “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matt. 7:13, 14.
7 The grip you have on the shield of faith depends upon your thinking. When it gets into a wrong channel, your grip loosens and the shield gradually lowers. Allowing your mind to continue in that wrong channel may cause you to lose entirely your grip on the shield of faith, leaving you exposed to worldly brainwashing. You may then become like a washed sow that returns to its wallowing in the mire.—2 Pet. 2:22.
8. Explain what the sin is that easily entangles one, and the relationship bad companions have to it.
8 When you lose your faith you lose the best and most important thing in life. Without it you cannot win God’s good pleasure. (Heb. 11:6) Bad companions may make the destroying of your faith their objective, for your desire to do what is right makes them uncomfortably aware of their badness. Instead of reforming, they prefer to corrupt you so you will be like them. If you do not safeguard your thinking, loss of faith can easily entrap you. That is what the apostle Paul warns against at Hebrews 12:1, where he speaks about the sin that easily entangles one. Do not open the way for it by associating with bad companions.
9. Why should a single person be careful about selecting the one with whom he rooms?
9 Single persons who are not living at home often find it advantageous financially to share a room with another single person. When a dedicated Christian finds this necessary, he will be making a serious mistake if he chooses to room with a worldly person who does not share his love for God and for the righteous standards of the Scriptures. Such close contact with a person whose thinking is not Scripturally good can be a corrupting influence on him. It would be better for him to room by himself than with someone who would be a continually bad influence on his thinking.
10. Why is straight thinking ability important in this time of the end?
10 Having as companions God’s Word and people who love God’s Word will help you develop thinking ability that is straight and upright. It will keep guard over you by causing you to recognize what is dangerous to your faith and help you to know what is bad and what is good in the eyes of God. “When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things, from those leaving the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.”—Prov. 2:10-13.
11, 12. Explain why selectivity in reading matter is vital to the Christian.
11 Since your thinking plays such a vital role in your moral and spiritual health, you should be selective about what you feed your mind. As there are many things you can eat that are bad for the physical body, so there are many things that are written that are bad for the mind, that poison your thinking. Worldly philosophy, theorizing and higher criticism that contradict God’s Word do not build up your faith, your wisdom or your respect for high moral standards. They plant seeds of doubt that can grow up like choking devil grass and eventually strangle your faith, leaving you without faith and hope. Such literature is the product of Satan’s system of things and has as its objective the cutting of you loose from your Scriptural moorings so you will float aimlessly about, “tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of craftiness in contriving error.” (Eph. 4:14) The apostle Paul gave warning about such philosophy of men when he said: “Look out: perhaps there may be some man that 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.”—Col. 2:8.
12 Why have fellowship with higher critics of the Bible and atheists whose writings can only tear down? Why feed your mind upon the folly of senseless persons who have said in their hearts: “There is no Jehovah”? (Ps. 14:1) Why have fellowship with authors whose thinking produces sordid writings that magnify worldly corruptions, unclean practices and crimes? Why feed your mind upon worldly thinking that tears down? Show as much concern over your mental and spiritual health as you do for your physical health by being selective in what you read and the visual entertainment you watch.
SELECTING MARRIAGE MATE
13, 14. (a) What examples do we have of wisdom being shown regarding the selection of a wife, and why was the course followed wise? (b) What command does God give on the matter?
13 When Jacob sought a wife, he did not go to the Hittites as Esau did or to any of the other peoples around him that did not worship Jehovah God. He instead went to the household of Laban, his mother’s brother, to find a wife from people who worshiped the God of Abraham. A like wise course had been chosen by Abraham when he selected a wife for Isaac, Jacob’s father. Abraham told his servant: “I must have you swear by Jehovah, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in among whom I am dwelling, but you will go to my country and to my relatives and you will certainly take a wife for my son, for Isaac.” (Gen. 24:3, 4) These men set a good example by seeking good associations in the marriage union.
14 Since bad companions can exercise an unwholesome influence upon your thinking, what can an unbelieving marriage mate do? Would not that one’s influence be bad? Would not such a one be a constant source of trouble, making it difficult to do the will of God? Evidently Abraham and Jacob thought so and avoided Hittite and Canaanite women. Centuries after their day the nation of Israel was warned against marriages with persons such as that who did not worship Jehovah. They were required to follow the example set by Abraham and Jacob. “You must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son. For he will turn your son from following me and they will certainly serve other gods, and Jehovah’s anger will indeed blaze against you and he will certainly annihilate you in a hurry.”—Deut. 7:3, 4.
15. How did intermarriage with unbelievers affect the Israelites?
15 The Israelites failed to obey God’s command and failed to follow the wise example of Isaac and Jacob, their forefathers. They leaned on their own understanding and mingled with the pagans in the Promised Land, foolishly intermarrying with them. “The sons of Israel dwelt in among the Canaanites, the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. And they proceeded to take their daughters as wives for themselves, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they took up serving their gods.” (Judg. 3:5, 6) Their bad associations corrupted their useful habits and turned them away from their Creator, as they were forewarned.
16, 17. Explain what we can learn from Solomon’s mistake, and what reprimand did Nehemiah give to the repatriated Israelites?
16 Despite Solomon’s wisdom he made the mistake of taking wives that had foreign ways of worship. In time they succeeded in twisting Solomon’s thinking so that he took up their false forms of worship and ended his reign with God’s anger blazing against him. If bad companionship could cause a man of Solomon’s wisdom and greatness to fall from God’s favor, can it not do the same to you? Do you think you are wiser than Solomon and can marry outside the New World society without endangering your position in it? You are deceiving yourself if you think you can.
17 Nehemiah recognized the danger of taking a mate who lacks love for God and reprimanded the Israelites who had returned from captivity to Babylon for doing it. Some were following the example of Solomon rather than the example of Jacob. “You should not give your daughters to their sons, and you should not accept any of their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Was it not because of these that Solomon the king of Israel sinned? And among the many nations there proved to be no king like him; and loved of his God he happened to be, so that God constituted him king over all Israel. Even him the foreign wives caused to sin.”—Neh. 13:25, 26.
18. What should a single person today do if he is contemplating marriage?
18 If you are single and contemplating marriage, why endanger your relationship with Jehovah God by repeating the error made by the Israelites and by King Solomon? Why marry someone who may be compared with the Canaanites because of unbelief? If you cannot find a prospective marriage mate who is dedicated to God as you are, wait until you can. Do not jeopardize your Christian integrity by becoming yoked with an unbeliever. “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14) Heed the wise counsel in the Scriptures to marry “only in the Lord.”—1 Cor. 7:39.
19. May a married person separate from an unbelieving mate to avoid bad associations?
19 A person who is already married when he becomes a dedicated servant of God must not try to sever his marriage relationship because his mate is an unbeliever. He is bound to his mate and must continue living with her. His circumstances may be difficult, but he must make the best of them, doing his utmost to build up his faith and spiritual strength. (1 Cor. 7:12, 13) Unmarried persons can avoid such problems by being careful about whom they choose as a marriage partner.
WATCH YOUR ASSOCIATIONS
20, 21. What transformation takes place upon entering the New World society, and why should you be watchful about associations?
20 As long as you are in the time of the end of this old system of things and have to live in a corrupt world, you cannot be too careful about your associations. It is difficult enough to stay on the narrow way to life without endangering your footing with bad associations. When you came into the New World society and began walking with God on the narrow way to life, you had to make many changes that were for your own good. The apostle Paul spoke about this when he said: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) Now that you have transformed your mind from worldly thinking to Scriptural thinking, do not turn back to the old world for companions or for a marriage partner. Did not Jesus speak of worldly people as being spiritually dead when he said: “Let the dead bury their dead”? (Matt. 8:22) All who have begun walking the narrow way to life are spiritually alive in God’s eyes; whereas those walking the broad way to death are spiritually dead while they live. Why, then, should the living seek close association with the dead?
21 Remember at all times that you are like clay and that the persons you have as companions leave their mark on your thinking. Prolonged association with their thinking, their speech and actions can influence you to be like them. If they are bad companions you will be influenced to join them in their wrong conduct and warped thinking. Do not blind yourself to the danger of bad associations. Heed the good admonition in God’s Word and profit from what happened to the nation of Israel and to Solomon for not watching their associations.
22. Where are right associations found?
22 Seek right associations by staying close to the New World society. Have companionship with your spiritual brothers rather than with unbelievers. The weekly congregational meetings and activity with spiritual brothers in the field ministry provide opportunities for this, as well as circuit and district assemblies. Here is where you should seek friends and prospective marriage partners. Here is where you will find right associations that are a good influence for you, that help you safeguard your thinking ability and that aid you in walking with God on the narrow way to life.
23-25. (a) In what way should a Christian choose a suitable companion? (b) What can prevent you from being among the survivors of Armageddon?
23 Do not permit the physical attractiveness of worldly persons to move you to want to be companions with them. Physical beauty is only on the surface. What counts is what is in the heart. The people of Noah’s day undoubtedly exceeded by far this present generation for physical beauty, but their hearts were bad. They were so ugly spiritually that they were not worthy of continued existence. So when you look for a mate or a friend, look beyond the surface. Look for spiritual beauty.
24 Use the Bible as your basis for determining whether a person is a suitable companion or not. See if his thinking and actions are in harmony or out of harmony with it. Does he have respect for Scriptural standards of righteousness? Does he make a sincere effort to apply Scriptural principles in his daily living? Does he put God’s interests first in his life? Does he have the attitude David manifested: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts”? (Ps. 40:8) Is he dedicated to serve God? These and other questions you can ask yourself. When you see that his actions and mental attitude are Scripturally good, you can be sure that the person’s association will be good.
25 It is not the person whose mind is on the things of the world that can help you to be among those who will survive the end of this old world. He will hinder, not help you walk the narrow way that leads to life in God’s new world. If you maintain close association with such persons this side of God’s war of Armageddon, you run the greater likelihood of not reaching the other side of it. As the seven persons who survived the flood with Noah watched their associations in the time of the end of that world, so you must watch your associations in the time of the end of this world.
26. What is the prospect for the future, and what course should be taken now to realize that future?
26 You have the prospect of eternal life ahead of you in surroundings that will be free from the wickedness and corruption that dominate the present world. If you rejoice at that prospect and anxiously look forward to the righteous conditions that are Scripturally promised for that time, why try to find pleasure or companionship in the company of persons who contribute to making the present world the unrighteous place it is? Why seek as friends persons who will have no place in God’s new world? Do not endanger your future with such bad associations. Fill your mind with what is good and upbuilding to your faith by being selective in the people you choose to have as close companions, in what you read, in the visual entertainment you watch and in the conversation you listen to. Preserve good relations with Jehovah God and safeguard your Christian integrity by seeking right associations in this time of the end.
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