Exercising Maturity—A Safeguard
“You will walk in security on your way, and even your foot will not strike against anything . . . For Jehovah himself will prove to be, in effect, your confidence, and he will certainly keep your foot against capture.”—Prov. 3:23-26.
1. Why is mature thinking and judgment of such great value to us today, and what will it enable us to do?
POSSESSING mature thinking and judgment is of great value to the person who seeks to do God’s will, enabling him to thwart the continual bombardment of temptations that are constantly striking him in this old order of things. The threats to Christian integrity in these wicked days at the end of this system of things are materialism, backbiting, reviling, extortion, immorality and misuse of blood. The rising emotional floods of nationalism bring increased political demands on the Christian to direct his worship to national standards and his loyalty and life to the State. In addition to this, there is the barrage of commercial inducements to seek a life of ease, luxury, to trust in materialism, to make money rapidly by sharp practices, on the borderline between legality and outright cheating. ‘The question immediately arises, “What will be my decision when these temptations confront me?” Does the one giving thought to these matters always know what he would do, or, at times, are there some doubts in his mind, be they ever so small?
2. How will observance of Jesus’ words at John 14:15 ‘keep guard over us’?
2 In view of the pressures we must endure, it is necessary to use every faculty to maintain integrity. Jesus showed this principle in these words: “If you love me, you will observe my commandments.” Obviously, then, to overcome temptations of the world, love and obedience to Jehovah are vitally essential. Continually wanting to come into harmony with Jehovah’s Word will constitute a safeguard. One’s thinking ability has been enhanced by continual study and advancement to maturity. It “will keep guard over you.”—John 14:15; Prov. 2:11.
3. (a) Why is study so vital throughout our entire lives? (b) Why is it so urgent now?
3 Exercising maturity will be a safeguard if we continue acquiring accurate knowledge, analyze it and compare it with what we already know, drawing proper conclusions from this analysis, storing it up in our memory and putting it all into practical use at the proper time. Can we not, therefore, readily see the importance of continual study throughout our lives? Yes, our thinking and decisions are conditioned on such knowledge and wisdom. How apropos are Jehovah’s words of counsel given to safeguard us, as illustrated in these words: “My son, to my wisdom O do pay attention. To my discernment incline your ears, so as to guard thinking abilities; and may your own lips safeguard knowledge itself”! (Prov. 5:1, 2) This brings us back to the importance of the thought that we should safeguard practical wisdom; and notice how valuable this is, as stated in Proverbs 3:21, 22: “Safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability, and they will prove to be life to your soul and charm to your throat.” Cultivating and developing thinking ability develops maturity, and it is important that this be done now, rather than to wait until a crucial moment demands a vital decision.
4. How will prior study help us under trying conditions to make decisions based on right conclusions and not sentiment?
4 If as parents, for example, we are pressured by a doctor and family members who do not have accurate knowledge, to permit a blood transfusion, stating that the child’s life depends on it, can we make the proper decision at that time and give a reason for it? Or will we have to say, “I don’t have the proper explanation just now, but I’ll read up on the subject and advise”? It is important that under such times of harassment one never discounts the power of emotion to becloud mature thinking. Mature judgment can be exercised only when the mind can clearly analyze the problem or situation, draw sober conclusions and reach decisions unfettered and unhampered by outside influence. Through prior study we will have God’s mind on the matter in harmony with his spirit, and a resolve should be made to carry out God’s will, come what may. Let the waves of emotions of others dash themselves in vain against the rocklike structure of your faith!
5. What circumstances could arise that lead to compromise in an idolatrous act?
5 Thinking on divine principles will help to meet situations as they come up during one’s lifetime. You will know why the course is right or wrong. But suppose circumstances may be somewhat different. Take, for example, doing acts of worship before symbols. Immediately scriptures such as 1 John 5:21 come to mind: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols,” and Jehovah’s words in the Decalogue: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form that is like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth.” Diagnosing the matter, then, what is an idol? What is idolatry? We see that an idol can be an image or symbol of anything created. Do not national emblems have symbols on them? Stars? Animals? Colors that represent qualities? Do not they stand for what Peter referred to as “every human creation”? May they be revered? Jehovah’s own words answer: “You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” Therefore, bowing down would be an act of worship. Is the principle any different if some other motion is indulged in? Is standing up when a patriotic song is sung any different from bowing down when an idol passes? Or removing the hat? Or extending the hand or putting the hand over the heart?—Ex. 20:4, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13.
6. (a) What, basically, constitutes idolatry? Why is such equivalent to treason? (b) Why should we not fear man or earthly governments?
6 But yet, what is so bad about it? Well, bear in mind that Jehovah says he exacts exclusive devotion, and this is all due propriety. Remember, Jehovah is our Judge, Lawgiver and King. (Isa. 33:22) His jurisdiction embodies the entire government of the universe. Therefore, to do an act of worship to any other personage or thing created would be idolatry. We can readily see why Satan would have been most satisfied and triumphant with just one small act of worship from Jesus. (Matt. 4:9, 10) Such would be treason and deserving of death. This is universally recognized, even among the nations. How much worse, then, is treason that brings into jeopardy the eternal life of others and dishonors Jehovah! If confronted with such a compromising situation when commanded to worship (salute) some national emblem or commit an act of obeisance, one may take immediate comfort from Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:28, when he said: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Let mature judgment safeguard your life by recognizing that you will encounter many trials and tribulations, and it could mean death, as shown in Revelation 2:10, where we are admonished: “Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.” It is true that men and nations could take away your life now, but can they give it back to you? Can they give you everlasting life? Can they prevent Jehovah from giving you life? Because we are in a position and have opportunity to acquire mature judgment, embedding it deeply in our minds and hearts at this time, let it be so strongly entrenched that, on our part, it will develop a hatred toward any act of disobedience or treason against Jehovah.
ABSTAINING FROM BLOOD
7. (a) What does God’s Word have to say regarding the use of blood? (b) How should one reason on the use of blood when one’s own children are involved? (c) Why should the misuse of blood be repulsive to a Christian?
7 In the matter of blood, we must start basically at the initial pronouncement against it, where eating blood was forbidden to mankind. (Gen. 9:4) Jews were prohibited from eating the blood of any sort from any flesh. (Lev. 17:14) Probably the strongest expression was given to the Christians at Acts 15:29, where the unequivocal statement is made: “Keep yourselves free . . . from blood.” But without having full knowledge of such a statement as this, the average individual might possibly reason, “Wouldn’t it be all right to sacrifice just a little of one’s blood to preserve the life of another, especially if the one in need is one’s own flesh and blood?” No, because this goes against another Bible principle that Jehovah stated through his prophet Samuel: “To obey is better than a sacrifice.” (1 Sam. 15:22) Add to this the fact that rebelliousness and presumptuousness are as bad as using divination, uncanny power and teraphim. The unacquainted mind might say, “Well, that would be saving a life.” But is it really, when we resort to sober mature thinking and principle? By full and complete obedience, our souls and those of our children are preserved to everlasting life. It goes without saying that we love our children, and true love works to their best interest. Certainly one would never jeopardize one’s own child’s hope for everlasting life by compromising with worldly principles or by sentimentality! No, Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:37 apply here, when he stated: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.” So, then, is it best for you and your child to have a few short years of life now, or eternal life in the new order of things? Weigh the alternatives, then make your decision. Are you one to whom disobeying God’s law is repulsive? Then the taking of blood is just as despicable to you as cannibalism. Think of eating of the flesh of another human creature! It is shocking! Is drinking human blood any different? Does bypassing the mouth and putting it directly into the veins change it? Not at all!
MATURITY AND IMMATURITY
8. How did David view drinking water when men risked their lives to procure it for him?
8 We might look to the example of David, who was acquainted with God’s law on blood and analyzed it, and he came to the conclusion that he would not consider even a seeming violation of God’s law. This is told to us at 1 Chronicles 11:19: “It is unthinkable on my part, as regards my God, to do this! Is it the blood of these men that I should drink at the risk of their souls? For it was at the risk of their souls that they brought it.” Again, mature judgment was a safeguard to David.
9. On what occasion did David show immature judgment?
9 It may be well for us to consider another occasion concerning David, when his decision was not predicated on mature thinking, when he let physical passion overshadow and dim mature judgment. Looking too long at an attractive woman, Bath-sheba, led him into a course of direct violation of the Seventh Commandment, forbidding adultery. Apparently he had not given the same careful thought in this case as he did in the previous one. Here is an instance where David was overreached by personal desire, and there is little question of David’s having had knowledge that adulterous violators were to be stoned to death.—2 Sam. 11:2-5.
10. (a) What is the penalty for Christians if they commit adultery (or fornication) today? How may some immature person salve his conscience?
10 The same Bible principle is held out to Christians today, inasmuch as at 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 it states: ‘Adulterers will not inherit God’s kingdom.’ In actuality, they must be expelled (disfellowshiped and put in a deathlike condition) from the Christian congregation. Prohibition of fornication was one of the requirements for Gentile believers as well, as Paul admonishes against fornication and adultery. Some people exercise immature judgment by consoling their own consciences in such thoughts as, “It doesn’t really hurt anybody, does it?” “Isn’t it rather extreme to stone people to death just for doing what comes naturally?”
11. What is Jehovah’s purpose for sexual relationship, and when is it proper?
11 By proper enlightenment through careful study one will recognize that Jehovah’s purpose for sexual relationship was to transmit life, under the marriage arrangement of parents, who were to provide security for proper growth, development and education for their offspring. Children reared outside this arrangement suffer because of being born outside the divine pattern. It must be recognized, then, that by applying the perfect standard of justice, sexual immorality is a perversion or wrong and receives God’s adverse judgment.
12. What happened to Israel regarding idolatry? Why?
12 A good example of immaturity was the nation of Israel who fell away, from time to time, to outright, bald-faced, unquestioned idolatry. They just did not think. Is not that the most usual reason when we get into trouble? We just do not think. If we do not think before acting, very likely we will think regretfully afterward. Hosea rebuked the Israelites with the words of Jehovah: “Because the knowledge is what you yourself have rejected, I shall also reject you from serving as a priest to me; and because you keep forgetting the law of your God, I shall forget your sons, even I.” (Hos. 4:6) Where there is lack of knowledge, the retrospect of a creature will not safeguard him, but, rather, lead him into wrongdoing. Either they did not take in right knowledge for a safeguard or they did not keep it in memory.
13. Describe the maturity of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
13 Splendid examples of those who took the wise course were the three companions of Daniel. Maturity of thought is illustrated to us in Daniel 1:4, as Nebuchadnezzar asked that a search be made for captives “having insight into all wisdom and being acquainted with knowledge, and having discernment of what is known.” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego qualified as men of mature thought. This is what gave them strength under later temptations. In fact, when severe pressure was brought upon them to bow to a political image on the plain of Dura, their mature answer to Nebuchadnezzar was manifested when they declared: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are under no necessity in this regard to say back a word to you. If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us.” Notice their continuation of expression: “If not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.” Of course, we know the thrilling outcome in the miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace that was theirs.—Daniel 3.
14. How did Daniel manifest his maturity on two occasions?
14 Daniel was also adamant in his thinking. He did not wait until he was confronted with temptation, because the foundation of his decision was made ahead of time, as noted at Daniel 1:8: “But Daniel determined in his heart that he would not pollute himself with the delicacies of the king and with his drinking wine. And he kept requesting of the principal court-official that he might not pollute himself.” Even though Darius signed the edict that whoever would petition (pray to) another for thirty days would be thrown into the lions’ pit, Daniel continued praying to his God three times a day as had been customary for him. Such faithfulness was recompensed by Jehovah with His closing the mouth of the lions.—Dan. 6:7-22.
15. How did Saul demonstrate a lack of mature judgment? With what ultimate result?
15 On one occasion Saul was intent upon attacking the Philistines. He waited seven days for Samuel to come up and offer burnt sacrifice and communion sacrifices and, when he failed to show patience, he said: “‘Bring near to me the burnt sacrifice and the communion sacrifices.’ With that he went offering up the burnt sacrifice.” He did not continue to wait upon the Lord. What a lamentable thing it is to rely upon one’s own judgment, which is so shallow compared to the instruction of Jehovah! When Samuel approached him then, he said: “You have acted foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Jehovah your God. . . . And now your kingdom will not last.” The record continues: “Jehovah will certainly find for himself a man agreeable to his heart; and Jehovah will commission him as a leader over his people, because you did not keep what Jehovah commanded you.”—1 Sam. 13:9, 13, 14.
16. Describe how Abraham displayed mature judgment and utmost faith in Jehovah.
16 In contrast, notice the mature thinking of another man, one that obeyed God’s command even though it meant the life of his son, in whom all his hopes rested. Yes, God commanded Abraham actually to sacrifice his own son. This is something that Jehovah has never commanded another man to do, before or since. Abraham had all confidence in Almighty God and his purposes. The covenant that Jehovah had made with him was burned indelibly in his memory, and he KNEW that the blessing of all nations was to come through his son Isaac. Abraham was prepared to carry out the instruction to kill the only one through whom the seed of promise could come. There was only one possible conclusion that Abraham could have drawn from this reasoning. Had he carried through and killed his son, it is stated at Hebrews 11:19: “he reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; and from there he did receive him also in an illustrative way.”
17. How did Eli’s sons manifest complete disregard for Jehovah’s Word? With what results to them?
17 Another classic example of those who disregarded the counsel of God by thinking as natural men to the point of despising God’s law was the case of the two sons of the high priest Eli, Hophni and Phinehas. Not only were they greedily taking the best of the sacrifices for themselves, but they committed adultery with the women who served at the tabernacle. They were overreached by their own selfish desires, disregarding Jehovah’s laws and not thinking about Jehovah. Jehovah was thinking of them and observed their conduct and compared it with his righteous law. He came to this conclusion in regard to their continuing on as priests and producing offspring to serve as priests: “It is unthinkable, on my part, because those honoring me I shall honor, and those despising me will be of little account.” Jehovah remembered this decision regarding them, and they died in battle as a divine judgment.—1 Sam. 2:22-26, 30, 34; 4:11.
18. What tempting situation confronted Joseph, and what resulted to him immediately, and ultimately, for maintaining integrity?
18 There was an occasion where a young man was most cognizant of Jehovah’s law and principles because as a youth he had a knowledge of the right moral standards of Jehovah. His mature judgment safeguarded him from committing immorality when tempted by the enticements of Potiphar’s wife, who repeatedly invited Joseph to commit fornication when she asked him to “lie down with me.” His decision was made in these words: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” His reaction? Joseph “left his garment in her hand and took to flight and went on outside.” He would rather spend years in prison, charged with what he refused to do, than violate the dictates of his decision to be faithful to God’s requirements. (Gen. 39:7, 9, 10, 12) Joseph was actually committed to prison under false charges placed against him. As a result of his uncompromising stand he was used as a provider for his people. Faithfulness under this trial was a requisite for such approval.
19. (a) Whose course should we imitate for protection? (b) How will maturity protect us even under trying circumstances?
19 It is certainly discernible that theocratically trained minds will render like judgment and will not let down guard and fall into the error of sin leading to pain, sorrow, suffering and eternal death. Why not let our course imitate that of faithful men who protected and guarded their souls carefully and remained in the favor of Almighty God even under trial? Maintaining integrity to God constitutes a safeguard of life. The joys and blessings of obedience bring security, contentment and self-sufficiency. Yes, it will enable one to build up a powerful shield of faith, as Paul described: “Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles.” Even though Satan may take away all our literature and even our Bible and put us into solitary confinement or subject us to vicious persecution, we will have a protection that he cannot penetrate. If we have taken in complete and accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes as found in the sacred Word the Bible, if we have compared and analyzed it carefully with the help of mature brothers in association with the congregation, if we make decisions in advance on what to do under the varying circumstances that may come upon us, if we recall them and make practical decisions, we will safeguard ourselves against temptations that confront us continually.—Eph. 6:16.
20. What will provide our everlasting safeguard?
20 How true is the proverb that tells us to depend always on Jehovah, as stated in Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 and 6: “Do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight”! Wisely, then, put all your faith and trust in Jehovah, predicated upon mature judgment. This will guard you, and Jehovah himself will be your everlasting shield.