Youths, Guard Your Spirituality
YOU school-age Christians are different from your schoolmates who have no purpose in life. You have determined that, regardless of what other incidental activities you might engage in, your foremost purpose in life is to serve God. This being the case, you are not left in doubt as to what is right conduct, because God’s Word the Bible is your guide. You do not feel, as do so many worldly youths, that you are wasting your time by going to school; because you have a purpose in life and you can see how the things you are learning will help you to accomplish that purpose. But as a Christian, you must guard your spirituality.
You are going to school for an education, not to participate in religious rites, though there is more of this in school than most people realize. Your attitude toward these religious activities in the school must be governed by what you have learned from the Bible, and the same is true of participation in after-school activities.
You must realize, of course, that true religious principles may mean very little to your classmates; in fact, they mean little to most adults. Since this is the case, they may feel that anything religious is good, regardless of what the Bible may say about it. People in some places may even go to church and claim to be Christian one day, and then the next day they indulge in pagan voodoo rites. Others go to church on Sunday and then live dishonest and immoral lives the rest of the week. But you youths who have determined that you want to serve God in the way that he approves must live by the principles of his Word all the time.
For safeguarding you during school years certain Bible principles stand out as being of utmost importance. One of these is God’s counsel to seek right association and to avoid unnecessary association with those who are not worshipers of Jehovah God.
You can be certain that bad association will endanger your spirituality, for Jehovah God inspired an apostle of Jesus Christ to write: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Writing again to those Christians living in the immoral city of Corinth, this same apostle pointed out the need to stay clear of false worship and false worshipers when he said: “What sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? . . . And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? . . . ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing”’; ‘“and I will take you in.”’”—2 Cor. 6:14-18.
It is true that you cannot completely avoid coming in touch with unbelievers; otherwise you would have to get out of the world. So in attending school you can expect to come in contact with persons who do not love God and who do not respect his Word the Bible, and in most cases this is unavoidable. But after the bell rings to let you know that school is over for the day, you do not have to linger in the company of those who have no faith, as if you liked to be with people of that sort.
“QUIT TOUCHING THE UNCLEAN THING”
God tells us not only to avoid unnecessary worldly associations, but to “quit touching the unclean thing.” Now, how does this principle apply to your school life? Well, in many schools throughout the earth there are religious services. At times they are grossly idolatrous; in other instances they may be simply the repetition of a prayer from the Bible. But, look at it this way: Would you go into some church of Christendom and there join with the congregation in prayer? Of course not, because you know that they worship a triune god. They label it with names from the Bible, but they borrowed the idea from ancient Babylon, which was in opposition to Jehovah God. Their worship is unclean in God’s sight. So if you would not join them in worship in their church, why do it when they move their religious services into the schoolroom? One who obeys the Bible command to “quit touching the unclean thing” will not do so. You can say your own prayer at home in private.
Of course, there are times when the Bible is read as literature in school, or when other religions are discussed from purely an objective standpoint, and you can certainly share in such discussions. But when they take on the nature of a religious service, the Christian will follow the Scriptural counsel above.
But suppose your school decrees that you can have time off to engage in religious activity or instruction? Well, keeping in mind the Bible principle of staying separate from false worshipers, you could not join worldlings in any interfaith religious service. But it would be another thing to take advantage of the time provided by engaging in the Christian ministry or by doing personal Bible study. Then such released time would be used wisely. It is the same as taking advantage of national holidays.
Some schools may allow for birthday parties and celebration of religious holidays such as Christmas, which even encyclopedias and the public press have repeatedly shown to be of pagan religious origin. Despite the fact that the Bible shows that only pagans celebrated birthdays (Gen. 40:20; Mark 6:21) and despite its warning against worship that is mixed with paganism, some may feel that joining in such celebrations is such a small thing that no harm can come from it. But it is a matter of principle. Those who think that a little violation of principle will not hurt are like people who would not think of committing a bank robbery, but they do not mind cheating people out of a few dollars, because it is just a “little thing.” They excuse their violation on the basis of “littleness,” but in doing so they undermine their own morals.
So when it comes to celebrations based on false worship, you do not want to be like those people who take their religion lightly. Who are the criminals in prison? Who are the ones convicted of extortion, robbery, or murder? Why, they are usually people who have a religion but who learned to take religion lightly! Do not be like them.
Further, even if the celebrants at school think they are honoring God by their actions, you know that, in the case of Christmas, for example, they are actually joining in the ancient worship of the sun-god, in the worship of that ungodly man who was later deified and made a hero—Nimrod, “a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.”—Gen. 10:9.
So if your school has false religious services or celebrations or birthday parties, then what? Why, then the witness of Jehovah asks to be excused, and if this is not possible, he just sits quietly and does not participate in any way in these religious activities.
Besides separateness from false worship and false worshipers, another vital principle that should govern your life is the one stated by the Son of God: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) That means that our life and its activities should center around God’s kingdom and related matters, the ministry, congregation meetings and private study of the Bible.
Concerning this principle of putting Kingdom interests first, as well as the one regarding right association, how should a young witness of Jehovah view afterschool-hour sports? Ask yourself, Would involvement in such sports tie me down to a program requiring me to spend evenings and weekends playing on the school team when I should be at a meeting of the Christian congregation or out in the ministry pursuing my real purpose in life?
Moreover, when you play in the company of worldly youths, what kind of language do they use? Even those that the world considers to be “good” (because they do not join gangs or destroy public property) often use foul language, tell smutty jokes and may even blaspheme God. Is that the kind of association you want? Not if you want to guard your spirituality.
Remember what the apostle Paul wrote to the young man Timothy: “Bodily training is beneficial for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things.” (1 Tim. 4:8) Note that Paul placed the emphasis, not on bodily training, but on godly devotion. Since a “little” bodily training is usually provided during school hours, and since being an athlete is not your purpose in life, why spend a lot of time on sports that could be more profitably spent in building up your spirituality? Modern schools have overemphasized sports, but the Bible places the emphasis where it belongs—on godly devotion. Study of God’s Word and taking care of Kingdom interests is more important than participating in any after-school athletic activities.
If you desire a little extra recreation at times, then remember Paul’s words to Timothy: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” It would follow, then, that any recreation you take outside of school should not be with worldly youths but with “those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” These are the ones with whom you should enjoy recreation.—2 Tim. 2:22.
Many school-age Christians are faced with the matter of whether to join school clubs or not. When it comes to school clubs, the wise thing is to examine your motive.
Why do you want to join a club? Is it because of free educational benefits that you could not get anywhere else without paying for them? Education is not a wrong motive. Yet even so, you need to examine other factors: Is the club limited to school hours? Does it come closely under school supervision? Or will the club require extra time after school with perhaps little or no supervision? Will membership in the club create unwise distractions for you? Discuss the matter with your parents. Discuss together the purpose of the club and the effect of its operation. Then be sure that the decision made is in favor of retaining your spirituality.
Now, suppose you examine your motive in wanting to join a club and find that it is not really educational benefits unobtainable elsewhere that you want, but the association. In this regard we have a warning given at 1 John 2:15: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world.” The word “world” in that scripture is from the Greek kosmos and refers to people; that is, when God’s Word says ‘not to be loving the world,’ it basically means we should not love association with worldly people. It is a warning against bad association. So if you were to join a club that is in effect a social club or that would entangle you in worldly alliances, you could be heading for trouble. Even if it is only a hobby club, is it wise to enjoy hobbies with worldly people? Since Christians should take recreation with other Christians, would it be proper to share hobbies with worldlings? God cannot be mocked: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”
Many, then, are the school clubs that pose great threats to your spirituality and moral uprightness. Illustrating this are the words of L. T. Woodard, M.D., who writes in his book Sex in Our Schools, about high school clubs and Greek-letter societies:
“Many high schools have them, too, on a local basis . . . Most of these organizations are purely and simply social clubs. They include small cliques of a school’s most popular students. And, although they are not ‘sex clubs’ as such, they certainly serve as centers for sexual activities. In talking with various high school students who passed through my office during the course of my research for this book, I jotted down the following statements on high school Greek-letter societies from boys and girls who should know about them firsthand: A sorority girl of 17: ‘There isn’t a girl in our sorority who’s a virgin.’ . . . A fraternity boy, 16 1/2: ‘I joined the fraternity to have a place to bring a girl. The fraternity rents a little basement apartment near the school, and let me tell you, it’s a real rape shack.’”
That doctor goes on to quote other students with more shocking statements about high school clubs, spotlighting the grave moral danger.
So when it comes to school clubs, study out the situation and discern the ultimate consequences. Heed the warning: “Do not be loving the world,” and save yourself endless misery and heartache.
What, now, of school dances? School dances involve the same dangers as school clubs, only they greatly heighten the danger of immorality. Many school dances are noted for scandalous conduct, especially as to what happens after the dance. Since most of the dancing that is done at such dances is sexually stimulating, it is little wonder that shocking moral conduct results. And do not think that the farther one advances in worldly education, the better the moral climate becomes. Note this report from the New York Times of March 14, 1964: “A survey of the senior class at Columbia College shows that 83 per cent believe in premarital sexual intercourse.” So Jehovah’s witnesses stay clear of school dances. School dances throw one into the company of bad associates. They seek recreation with those “who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.”
MUSIC INSTRUCTION, SCHOOL BANDS
A Christian interested in music may face the problem of whether he should take music instruction. He may be invited to join the school band. What should be his view? There is nothing wrong with music instruction itself; what really matters is the degree of involvement, where and under what circumstances the instruction is taken and the music played. Would it involve playing anthems for which audiences must arise with religious fervor? A member of a band is expected to perform at political and religious affairs and may also be requested to parade in political events behind flags. So joining a school band could involve the young musician in some difficult problems. If there is after-school band practice, would this take you away from meetings, participation in the ministry and rob you of time for Bible study? Is learning to play a musical instrument more important to you than learning how to be a servant of God? Is playing an instrument the big thing in your life, or is your dedication to God? All these questions would have to be considered. If your parents are in union with the Lord, they will certainly consider all these factors with you and make their decision in your best interests spiritually.
If you are interested in playing a musical instrument, it may be that your parents will decide that private teaching would be preferable, in view of dangerous involvement at school. Or if a musical instrument could be learned at public school without undue involvement and so that Kingdom interests are not crowded out, that would be another matter. So Christian parents will consider the degree of involvement and the circumstances under which the music instruction is taken and make their decision in favor of their children’s spirituality.
Now, what Bible principles apply to school plays? Well, there is no objection to acting in itself; at meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses there are demonstrations on certain programs. But what you endeavor to portray by the theatrical play may bring you into conflict with Bible principles. Also, it appears that in most instances it would be difficult to engage in such training and not find your theocratic activities hindered. Plays may go on at times that interfere with Kingdom interests. Moreover, once one is involved in plays, it may be difficult, since one may be expected to appear in any play, even though it is based on false religious ideas or upon subject matter that would be objectionable to a Christian. Again, this is a matter to discuss with your parents.
From time to time many schools have assemblies in the school auditorium. How are you going to view such assemblies? Attendance or nonattendance would be a matter of conscience, especially since what goes on at assemblies varies so greatly throughout the world. At some school assemblies there are educational films, educational talks by police officials, naturalists and others, and so forth. On the other hand, some assemblies may feature religious celebrations or the idolizing of creatures; or there may be pep rallies with frenzied clapping, cheering and singing of the school song. So a decision should be made in harmony with an enlightened conscience.
Some parents, however, may feel that they cannot allow their children to attend certain types of assemblies even though their children do not participate in objectionable activities, should they come up. They may feel that there is danger of your being infected with the spirit of people who laud leaders and heroes among men instead of reserving worshipful honors for God. (Rom. 1:25) Knowing how contagious is the cheering and shouting of young people, they prefer to have their children be excused, rather than risk their becoming contaminated with idolatrous practices. It is the responsibility of your parents in union with the Lord to make the decision regarding this and other matters in your best spiritual interests.
Problems will arise during your school years and when they do, ask yourself what Bible principle applies. Then consult with your parents who are in union with the Lord to see if you have reached the decision that will guard your spirituality. You can also consult with your congregation overseer, who will be glad to help you to apply Bible principles to guard your spirituality.
So fully consider your Christian obligations and, when you are at school or anywhere else, govern your course by God’s Word. After school hours, keep in mind that you are not like the shiftless youths who have no purpose in life but who are left on the loose. As a Christian you are different. Why, even a schoolboy who lives on a farm usually has to head for home after school to care for the chores his father has given him to do. So it is with a Christian, for his heavenly Father has given him responsibilities. While caring for them calls for self-denial with regard to worldly things, it is a protection; furthermore, it opens the way to great riches, many privileges in connection with the Christian ministry, and life everlasting in God’s glorious new order.
With such grand prospects ahead of you, guard your spirituality as though your very life depended upon it. It most certainly does!