Guard Against Bad Association
“Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
1. Where, besides at congregational meetings, should a Christian’s thinking and conduct be in harmony with the Word of God?
FROM the information contained in Jehovah God’s Word and from experience, Christians appreciate how vital it is for them to assemble together as a congregation. They also realize from studying the Scriptures that being a Christian requires more than just associating together at a place of worship once, twice or three times a week, as members of the Babylonian false religious organizations are doing, while at other times throughout the week forgetting about God and saying and doing just as they please, whether it is in harmony with God’s Word or not. A Christian’s thinking and conduct must always be in harmony with the Word of God, whether in congregational association, at home with members of one’s family, at places of secular work or during gatherings with Christians for periods of relaxation.
2. Can Christians find time in their busy life for periods of relaxation, and why do you so answer?
2 Not all the time of a Christian is at congregation meetings and in the field ministry preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. If we were to total the hours spent in working, sleeping, eating and attending Bible educational meetings, along with preaching, there would be approximately a hundred remaining hours each month in which to care for everyday interests, reading, writing, talking and for enjoying periods of diversion and relaxation.
3. (a) What happens to the mind and body in a relaxed state that should make us selective in choosing associates? (b) How can we tell if our associates are of the right kind?
3 It is during these periods of relaxation that a Christian must be selective and heed the admonition to choose, wisely, those with whom he associates. In a relaxed condition or state, there is a loosening or slackening of the mind and body from the stress and strain of problems and responsibilities, a tendency to adhere less strictly or severely to rules of discipline. Granted, a change of pace is good and that many give credence to the thought that all work and no play is not good for one, still, it would be better for one to spend all his time performing good works that would ensure his everlasting life than to spend any time playing with those who would, in any way, jeopardize the opportunity for life in Jehovah’s righteous New Order. If, during or at the end of the time spent with others, we do not feel spiritually built up and strengthened, encouraged to greater zeal and faithfulness toward Jehovah’s service, and appreciate the goodness and loving-kindness of Jehovah God toward us, then we have been associating with the wrong kind of persons. Remember Jehovah’s warning: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Just the same as a slice of moldy bread can spoil a slice of fresh bread, causing it to mold faster by contact, so we can be affected by coming in contact with bad association.
THOUGHTS, SPEECH, ACTIONS INFLUENCED BY OTHERS
4. What effect will our associates have on us, as Solomon stated?
4 It has often been said that you can tell the kind of person one is by the company one keeps, or, stated another way, “birds of a feather flock together.” The wise King Solomon showed how our associates can exercise a powerful influence upon us when he said: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) So, by our associates, our thoughts can be affected so they will be good or bad, our speech upbuilding or demoralizing and our actions beneficial or destructive. This is determined, to a large degree, by the company we keep.
5. (a) Why is it not possible to avoid “stupid ones,” and is there real danger in this necessary association? (b) What should be our attitude toward these, and when would we avoid them?
5 Upbuilding friends are not as easily found as demoralizing persons, because we are living in a world that is not devoted to righteousness. This is understandable, in view of what the apostle John wrote: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) So, while at work, school or caring for the affairs of everyday living, Christians cannot escape rubbing shoulders and coming in contact with the kind of people Solomon calls “stupid ones.” Jesus certainly recognized what Christians would be faced with, for in prayer he said to his heavenly Father: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:15, 16) This necessary association is of no real danger to Christians, because we can do our secular work, study and learn in school, shop at stores and places of business for food, clothing and other necessities and still not have to think and act like the majority of the godless people in the world in which we live. This was proved to be true by Christ Jesus and is being proved true today by over a million Christian witnesses. However, when we seek the company of people outside the Christian congregation for recreation and relaxation, there is danger. Why voluntarily and willingly seek the association of those whose thoughts and actions are diametrically opposed to those of a dedicated Christian? This does not mean that a Christian could not or should not be friendly, kind and helpful toward all, whenever the opportunity affords. Paul told the Christians of his day: “As long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all.” (Gal. 6:10) It does mean, however, that a Christian would not spend time with unspiritually inclined people after work or school hours for pleasure and amusement.
6. What questions could we ask that would help us to choose good associates?
6 The wisdom of Christians’ associating with the right ones can be seen by asking a few simple questions. Would it make a difference to you if your best friends were persons like money-loving Ananias and Sapphira? or were faithful like Aquila and Priscilla? Would you be safer taking a walk through the fields with righteous Abel or with his ill-tempered brother Cain? Would you rather have as your friend Judas Iscariot or the beloved apostle John? Where would you be spiritually benefited the most—at Herod’s palace watching Salome dance or enjoying a pleasant evening at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary? “Do not be misled”; your life will be affected by your associates.
7, 8. (a) The desire to be accepted can lead to what, and why? (b) What practice among students would be avoided by Christians? And why?
7 When in company with a group of people, whether young or old, it is a natural desire to want to be accepted as one of the group. Young persons are particularly sensitive in this regard, as they dread being different from their companions. This desire to be accepted can lead to trouble when one’s associates are persons who do not love God and whose thoughts and actions go unrestrained because they have no respect for God’s Word as a guide for proper conduct.
8 It is a popular practice among students today to skip classes or not go to school at all and meet at the home of one of their classmates whose parents are away at work, where they engage in loose and, many times, immoral conduct. A young Christian should not follow this practice. Not only is it wrong for him to play hooky from school, but it is also wrong to associate with those who do. Such a course is dishonest and deceitful to parents and displeasing to Jehovah. Because of fleshly desires and weaknesses, some have been tempted into doing what they know is bad. Paul spoke of such ones who are filled with wickedness and deceit and are disobedient to their parents, when he said: “Although these know full well the righteous decree of God, that those practicing such things are deserving of death, they not only keep on doing them but also approve those practicing them.”—Rom. 1:32.
9. (a) What Scriptural commands are there against young Christians’ socializing with their worldly schoolmates? (b) What was the reason for not permitting the Israelite youths to marry outsiders?
9 Young Christians who are in school and want to go to dances or parties with their classmates, who are not dedicated to Jehovah, may say to their parents, “What harm or danger could there be in going to a dance, movie or party with one or a group of schoolmates?” It is always dangerous and harmful for one to disregard Jehovah’s commandment, “Get out from among them, and separate yourselves.” (2 Cor. 6:17) Was it not to safeguard the spirituality of the children that Jehovah commanded the Israelites not to associate with the heathens? “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.” (Deut. 7:3, 4) Answer this question: “What sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have?”—2 Cor. 6:14.
10. What unchristian practices are engaged in by worldly youths?
10 The dangers and harm that could come to Christian youths do not end when the party or dancing ends. In many instances it increases, because, instead of returning home, there is a desire for more excitement and fun. This desire opens up many dangers and harmful situations. Parking in automobiles in dark and secluded places, which leads to toying with sexual immorality; visiting bars where, under the influence of alcoholic beverages, the thinking abilities are impaired, causing one to say and do things one would not do otherwise; spending part of the night or all of the night at a motel or hotel for the purpose of committing immoral acts, to mention only a few. These are the practices among the youth of the world today. This is the way they think and act. This is what they feel is popular and smart. Certainly sharing in such unrighteousness and lawlessness could result only in harm and heartache to both Christian children and parents, and should be avoided.
11. Why should Christians avoid the social activities in connection with secular work, as shown by the experience of one?
11 “These same situations and many others with their dangerous consequences daily confront older Christian men and women. In connection with their secular employment, there are bowling leagues, swimming teams, office parties and the like, which would throw one into company with bad associates. These could be exciting, enjoyable and relaxing occasions, no doubt, but also dangerous to maintaining Christian integrity, as the following true-life experience of a young Christian office worker shows: An application was made out and accepted by the Society for vacation pioneering to begin the following month, but the joy and blessing of this wonderful privilege of service were never realized. The assignment was returned to the Society with a confession that fornication had been committed with a fellow employee before the date set to begin pioneering. While the disciplinary terms of the probation applied were only temporary, the scar left on the heart and mind of the offender is more permanent. So much to lose in the way of spiritual blessings and benefits for so little gained, in the way of selfish, sensual pleasure and enjoyment. It was all the result of failing to heed the divine warning that “bad associations spoil useful habits.”
12. What effect did bad association have on Solomon, and with what result?
12 We should not deceive ourselves into thinking we can disregard or break Jehovah’s righteous requirements and not suffer the foretold consequences. Are any of us, young or old, as wise as King Solomon? Yet, look what happened to him when he began to associate with and marry heathen women. They drew him away from true worship. The extent of their persuasive power is found in these words: “It came about in the time of Solomon’s growing old that his wives themselves had inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah his God like the heart of David his father. And Solomon began going after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the disgusting thing of the Ammonites.” (1 Ki. 11:4, 5) Jehovah’s feelings toward Solomon are expressed in these words: “For the reason that this has taken place with you and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I laid in command upon you, I shall without fail rip the kingdom away from off you, and I shall certainly give it to your servant.” (1 Ki. 11:11) We will also lose God’s favor and blessing if we put ourselves in the same position and situation as Solomon, by allowing wrong associations to turn us away from worshiping Jehovah God in spirit and truth.
UPBUILDING ASSOCIATION FOR RELAXATION
13. (a) Times of relaxation should be only with whom? (b) How does Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary serve as a model for Christian association?
13 True, we need periods of relaxation, but it must be with our Christian brothers to have Jehovah’s approval, and even then there are Scriptural rules and principles that must govern our conduct. If we are spending an evening with other Christians, we should follow the example of Christ Jesus, when he visited Martha and Mary in their home. Was his visit spent in foolish and idle talk, while overindulging in food and drink? Listen to part of the record of his visit: “Now as they were going their way he entered into a certain village. Here a certain woman named Martha received him as guest into the house. This woman also had a sister called Mary, who, however, sat down at the feet of the Lord and kept listening to his word. Martha, on the other hand, was distracted with attending to many duties.” (Luke 10:38-40) Speaking of his visit with the two sisters, Jesus said: “For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42) Mary was not overly concerned with the work or food, nor was Jesus. He used the occasion to talk, and Mary used the time wisely to listen to one who could help her spiritually. Using this as an example, the mature ones should be alert to build up their brothers when together, by taking the lead in encouraging Bible discussion and answering Bible questions.
14. What Bible principle would be good to follow when inviting brothers for a relaxing evening, and why?
14 We naturally like to be with our close friends, but we will be able to assist more in the congregation by not always associating with the same select few time and time again. Jesus laid down a principle that would be good to remember when we are getting together with our Christian brothers: “When you spread a dinner or evening meal, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors. Perhaps some time they might also invite you in return and it would become a repayment to you. But when you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you.” (Luke 14:12-14) It is true, to be in the company of mature brothers will benefit us spiritually, but by making an effort to associate with the backward, new or weak brothers, we will be able to encourage and strengthen them, even though they may not be able to give much in return. We should want to be with them for the same reason that Paul was anxious to visit with the Roman brothers, saying: “For I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm; or, rather, that there may be an interchange of encouragement among you, by each one through the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”—Rom. 1:11, 12.
KEEP ENTERTAINMENT ON THEOCRATIC LEVEL
15. (a) What should be guarded against at social gatherings of Christians? (b) If the conduct of one is offensive, what could we do about it?
15 There is no Christian holiday from wholesome talk and fine conduct. Therefore, there is a constant need to watch our conduct and speech when in social association with our Christian brothers. We would not use the occasion for telling vulgar, off-color stories or jokes, but would be careful, as the psalmist admonished: “Safeguard your tongue against what is bad, and your lips against speaking deception.” (Ps. 34:13) Nor would the friendly, relaxed atmosphere be used by any to take liberties with members of the opposite sex, under the pretense that a kiss or hug given was just a brotherly one. If the conduct of one is offensive, it would be an act of brotherly love to go to that one and tell him that his talk or actions were not appreciated and not in keeping with Christian conduct. Paul declares: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; and quit sharing with them in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness, but, rather, even be reproving them.” (Eph. 5:10, 11) If the Scriptural counsel does not have the desired results, then we certainly do not have to associate in a social way with that one.
16. Periods of relaxation should be occasions for what, and who is to set the tempo for a Christian get-together?
16 Christians will see to it that these periods of relaxation are occasions for spiritual stimulation and encouragement. Many times we can overcome prejudices, dislikes and introverted attitudes at such periods. When with our brothers, we want to keep our entertainment on a theocratic level, by keeping in mind Paul’s admonition: “Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) So our time should never be wasted in idle or worthless talk. It is the responsibility of the host to set the tempo of the Christian gathering. Jehovah’s witnesses are not one-sided; there is room for expressions of good humor and for enjoyable food and drink. There can be serious talk and lighter conversation, but never shameful conduct, obscene jesting or foolish speech.—Prov. 10:14.
CHOOSE RIGHT ASSOCIATION
17, 18. How can one have association with Jehovah God and Christ Jesus?
17 It should not be necessary for Christians always to be in company with others. A king once said: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Eccl. 3:1) So it is good to set aside some time to be by ourselves and seek the association of Jehovah God in study, meditation and prayer, as Christ Jesus did on occasion when he was on the earth.—Luke 4:42; Matt. 14:13.
18 Even though Christ Jesus is no longer walking about in the flesh on earth, as he did over 1900 years ago, it does not mean that we cannot walk with him. Regularly reading from the Scriptures his words of wisdom brings us into close association with him. By following the example of godly devotion that he set, we can walk with him as a follower. Peter said: “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Pet. 2:21.
19, 20. (a) What excuse may some use for an occasion to associate with those outside the truth? (b) What fine example did Noah and his family set in this regard?
19 There may be some Christians, young and old, who feel that Bible principles on association restrict them too much; so, for an excuse to associate with undedicated persons or marry them, they will say, “Our congregation is so small that there are no boys or girls with whom I can associate.” Others will say, “In our congregation there is no marriage material available in my age-group.” So they seek association outside the household of faith.
20 Did Noah and his family disperse among the wicked people because they were the only families in the truth then? Because their congregation was small, limited to eight persons, they may have felt restricted in their association, but how could they have broadened their association by including persons of that world who had nothing in common with them? It would have been dangerous for them to have social association with people who preferred wickedness to righteousness. Did not Jesus liken people not in the truth today to those who lived on earth at the time of Noah? “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”—Matt. 24:37-39.
21. What makes the social association with our brothers so valuable?
21 It is far better to have only a few social associates that love Jehovah than to associate with many who may turn you away from God. Be contented with your Christian brothers’ company, whether large or small in number, rich or poor, because you are a good influence on one another, making your times of association a praise, honor and glory to Jehovah God, as well as a blessing and protection for your everlasting welfare.