Youth’s Moral Responsibility
“Listen, O sons, to the discipline of a father and pay attention, so as to know understanding.”—Prov. 4:1.
1. Examination of the growth of a young plant reveals what?
HEALTHY young plants that show growth, their roots digging deep into the moist earth and their leaves reaching ever higher, are a glory to God their Creator and things of beauty to observant humans. As long as the root system continues to collect and transmit the mineral-charged waters, and as long as the sun shines daily to provide warmth, the plant develops steadily to the stage of maturity, of fruitfulness. Its ability to cope with difficult weather changes improves.
2. How does the plant’s growth process parallel the experience of many youths of today?
2 Youth of today, those between childhood and adulthood, can learn much by observation of a young plant. As soon as there is any stoppage in the supply of nutriments from the soil, the roots dry out or rot, the stem wilts and the plant is soon transformed into litter on the ground, fit only to be gathered up and burned. Many modern youths are just that way. They do not acknowledge any dependence upon God for the kind of sustenance it takes to make them spiritually strong. They lack moral fiber. They neither glorify God by their lives nor bring pleasure to godly men and women.
3. What facts point to the sterility and futurelessness of most young people of our time?
3 Look around the earth and take note of the facts that support that melancholy conclusion. In the United States, for example, statistics of the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate that, among persons under nineteen years of age, “arrests for serious crimes increased 47 percent in 1965 over 1960.” In Communist Hungary teen-agers have broken almost every law in the book—rape, smuggling, drug pushing, currency violations, race hatred. In Russia one government official asks: “What is the matter? Why is it that in our wonderful time, when the material well-being and culture of the people is rising steadily this evil is so tenacious? Why is it that the hooligan continues to commit outrages . . . ?”
4. What is blamed for this worsening condition by observant citizens and officials?
4 In cities around the world there is consternation because of the perils besetting citizens. Rapes, assaults and sadistic outbursts of violence are on the rise, and more frequently teen-agers appear as the culprits. Police officials and sociologists, seeking to assess the causes for this worsening crime situation, speak of “a spirit of lawlessness,” “a breakdown in family life,” “a deterioration in moral values” as factors that contribute heavily. A New York City police inspector declares: “There’s a chain reaction. Disrespect for parents results in disrespect for policemen and the law generally. That disrespect often turns into actual enmity.” And a Detroit law-enforcement official concludes: “This seems to be the mood of the times—the rebellion of youth, both white and Negro.”
5. How do you see the developments foretold by the apostle Paul in today’s situation world wide?
5 As any reasonable person must know, the trend of all this contempt for authority must lead toward complete anarchy, a state in which not one single person can feel assured of his property or his life. In fact, today’s situation around the earth fits the conditions foretold to mark the “last days” of this system of things, for the Christian apostle Paul said that they would be identified by “critical times hard to deal with,” when men would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection.” (2 Tim. 3:1-3) Do you see this condition in evidence all over the earth? Then it is time for you, as a teen-ager, to determine where you stand, what your responsibilities are in these closing days of a doomed system of things.
ACCEPT MORAL INSTRUCTION
6. Why does youth have the moral responsibility to listen now to his God and Creator?
6 By now you should have outgrown the stage when you ‘spoke as a babe, thought as a babe, reasoned as a babe.’ (1 Cor. 13:11) Instead of being guided entirely by immediate desires of the flesh, like an infant, your reasoning powers should be developing. You have, therefore, the responsibility to listen to what God, your heavenly Father, has to say about your life and then be guided in your course by his counsel. “Listen, O sons, to the discipline of a father and pay attention, so as to know understanding.” (Prov. 4:1) Understanding is what will assuredly result to you by your accepting moral instruction from Jehovah God.
7. What warm encouragement does Jehovah give to young people?
7 It is comforting to know that Jehovah cares for you, and stands ready to offer his help in the form of excellent moral counsel. To the extent that you seek and depend upon that counsel, to that extent you can count on gaining confidence about your future and strength to meet the tests of these critical times. Notice how your Creator urges you to act wisely for your own safety: “My son, keep my sayings, and may you treasure up my own commandments with you. Keep my commandments and continue living, and my law like the pupil of your eyes.”—Prov. 7:1, 2.
8. (a) What will attention to God’s instruction do for you? (b) Who is the “woman stranger” you must be guarded against?
8 How will the cherishing of God’s laws and the keeping of his statutes add days to your life? The inspired words of Solomon go on to say that this wise course will “guard you against the woman stranger, against the foreigner who has made her own sayings smooth.” (Prov. 7:5) And who do you suppose that “woman stranger” is? Surely she must be representative of the temptations to filthy, immoral behavior that is and should be so completely foreign to all who bear the name “Christian” and profess to worship the true God! Inducements to immorality are especially perilous to young men and young women in the bloom of youth, when the innate force of sex attraction implanted by the Creator begins to assert itself powerfully.
9. (a) Describe the graphic word picture presented in the seventh chapter of Proverbs. (b) What effect should such a warning have on you?
9 In the following verses of chapter seven of Proverbs there is presented a graphic word picture of how young, inexperienced people, lacking in the right sense of moral values, fall prey to temptations and embark on a life of fornication and adultery. In the illustration, the young man “in want of heart,” lacking in good motive for the direction of his life, was actually looking for trouble. He headed in the direction of the temptress’ house in the hours of darkness. On the other hand, God’s urgent counsel to you and to all young people is: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth.” “Flee from fornication.” (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Cor. 6:18) Accepting that counsel, you will not try to see how near you can get to fornication without actually being guilty of it. You will not date some teen-ager of the opposite sex and then indulge in practices that can only inflame your sexual passions. No, rather, you will flee at the first hint of danger, as did Joseph when the wife of Potiphar sought to seduce him.—Gen. 39:7-9, 12.
10. Discuss the wisdom of God’s requirements as to the use of sex, in contrast with the careless promiscuity practiced by worldlings.
10 God’s moral standard provides for sexual intercourse only within the limits of marriage, and for each man and each woman to have only one marriage mate. If you will reflect for a moment on this requirement you will appreciate how its wisdom contrasts with the wide latitude, the careless promiscuity in sex matters that is practiced by worldly people of all nations today. Compliance with God’s arrangement promotes trust among people, combats covetousness, which produces so much lying, stealing, cheating and fighting. (Jas. 4:1-4) It makes for proper control of the sex passions. In an orderly manner it extends to righteously disposed persons the privilege of sharing in reproducing their own kind in harmony with God’s original mandate to the first humans.—Gen. 1:28.
11. What are some of the damaging effects from ignoring God’s moral standard?
11 Promiscuous indulgence in sex relations, on the other hand, produces disorders, fights and a terrible crop of social diseases that spread like wildfire. In the United States, according to a report by the American Medical Association dated September 1, 1965, venereal disease has become the nation’s “most urgent” communicable-disease problem. Syphilis cases have almost tripled during the past five years among youths under twenty. Americans are being infected at the rate of almost two per minute. In Sweden and other countries the increasing incidence of syphilis is causing alarm.
12. Why is it foolish to reason that social diseases are no longer the scourge they once were?
12 It is most unwise to persuade yourself that these social diseases are no longer the scourge they once were, now that medical know-how has made such great strides. What has to be kept in mind is that syphilis and gonorrhea have the potential to render a girl barren for the rest of her life. They can deprive a boy of the ability to father children, and they can have the effect of producing stillborn, blind and idiot children. According to medical research on the subject, the liver is the prime target for these disease organisms, and from that organ the damage is spread throughout the body of the stricken one.
13. What is it that reveals the mind of the Creator in the expressions of Proverbs 7:23, and what should this knowledge make you resolve to do?
13 Can you see why the all-wise God had the Bible writer in this instance set down such expressions as “an arrow cleaves open his liver” and “he has not known that [his foolish course] involves his very soul”? (Prov. 7:23) The way of safety for you, the way to ensure that you continue living, is to accept the foregoing and other moral instruction set forth in God’s written Word for your protection.
RECOGNIZE MORAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE HOME
14. What are God’s requirements as to the orderly operation of the Christian home, and what moral responsibility does that bring upon you?
14 Another loving provision God has made for your moral guidance until you reach the age of responsible adulthood is the aid by loving parents. Your father and mother should properly be viewed as part of your contact with Jehovah God, for he entrusted them with the job of training you for future life as an adult. He directed them to “go on bringing [their children] up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” And to you he issued the instruction: “Be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:20) So, another of your moral responsibilities is to subject yourself to your parents and comply with the requirements they see fit to lay upon you, as long as those requirements are in harmony with the divine will.
15, 16. How does Jesus’ example show a proper attitude toward God’s arrangement, and how does this apply in your home?
15 As an example in this regard, you have the fine record of Jesus’ youth to note and follow. When he became separated from his parents for three days on one occasion in his early youth, it was not that he had run off seeking thrills with a gang of teen-agers, away from the supervision of his parents. They eventually found him in earnest discussion with older men in the temple. His mother understandably inquired: “Why did you treat us this way? Here your father and I in mental distress have been looking for you.” Did Jesus tell them that he was no youngster anymore and was well able to look after himself? There is no evidence of such an attitude on his part. The record says that “he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and he continued subject to them.”—Luke 2:48, 51.
16 Jesus recognized that under the terms of God’s law his parents had a perfect right to know where he was, whom he was with and what he was doing, if they were to discharge faithfully the commission God had given them. Likewise your parents also have that right, and it is your moral responsibility to cooperate with them so that they can guide and protect you, and so that they may not experience the heartache of failure in their responsibility.
17. How does God view your compliance or noncompliance with the wishes of your parents?
17 If your parents require you to be home at a certain time, if they insist upon your being chaperoned when going out with someone of the opposite sex, if they advise you against the use of cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and improper intimacies with some other person, then God expects you to follow out their wishes as though they were his own. Your failure to render obedience to direction by your parents will be construed by your Creator as disobedience to him. He will never extend his blessing to those who ignore his arrangements.
RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD WELFARE OF HOME
18. In what respect do many young people fail to measure up to a moral responsibility relating to the atmosphere of the home? What questions might you ask yourself?
18 Often young men and women are heard to offer as excuse for their roaming around with others of their own age-group the claim that home is a boring, unhappy, disorganized place. That points up another moral responsibility that devolves upon the teen-ager. You have an obligation to share with your parents and other members of your family in making the home a real citadel of peace and good order amid a chaotic world. If your home is not the kind of place to which it is always a pleasure to return, then you must bear some of the responsibility. It is so easy to criticize the atmosphere and conditions around your home. Would it not be much more constructive and Christian to do something about improving the situation instead of merely bemoaning it? Have you volunteered to assist your parents and take a real interest in your home? Only the ultra-selfish will view home as a place to hang their clothes and an eating place when it is not convenient to get a meal elsewhere.
19. What preparatory steps can you be taking toward the time when you will want to be a capable mate for someone?
19 If, like most normal, healthy teenagers, you look forward to being married and becoming a successful householder one day in the future, what are you doing to prepare yourself for that role? Is it wise to let slip through your fingers the many marvelous opportunities you have to learn from your parents the practical aspects of maintaining a home? If you are a girl, you can make yourself available so that mother or one of your older sisters can teach you the intricacies of housekeeping. If you are a boy, then your father will doubtless be happy to teach you all about home maintenance, if you will undertake to aid him with the many chores that have to be done in any home. Does it not make good sense to prepare yourself to be a capable mate for someone?
20. To what extent should you be assisting financially with the burden of maintaining the home and dependent persons?
20 Another responsibility often overlooked by young people of today is that of offering financial assistance to their aging parents. As the apostle Paul reminds you: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his own household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Tim. 5:8) Depending upon the circumstances, you may have an obligation in this regard. Rather than spending all you earn on your own personal wants, you should generously offer some concrete evidence of your appreciation of the comforts of home.
21. What is your moral responsibility in the matter of the arrangements your parents make for Bible study, within or outside of the home?
21 If your parents are God-fearing Christians they will doubtless arrange for a family Bible study in the home. It is your responsibility to cooperate with them fully in such a matter. On that night and on other occasions when they arrange for you to accompany them to congregational meetings, it is your obligation to make yourself available. No other activity, no other association you could possibly have, may be considered as important enough to justify your failure to take hold of such opportunities for building up family unity and your own faith. The Bible itself reminds you that “without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.”—Heb. 11:6.
MORAL RESPONSIBILITY OUTSIDE THE HOME
22. When away from supervision of your parents or employer, to whose scrutiny are you constantly subject, and what is expected of you?
22 Even when you are away from home and the immediate supervision of your parents, at school or engaged at a secular job, you have always to bear in mind that you are always under scrutiny by your heavenly Father. (Prov. 15:3) Your course of action in every field of activity will either bring honor to God and your parents or bring reproach upon them. Your Creator-Father puts you under responsibility to “do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) You do well to examine yourself on this score from time to time, so as to make sure you are not following a course that brings vexation and bitterness of spirit to your parents.—Prov. 17:25.
23. How do you want people around you to think of you, relative to your moral responsibility as a worshiper of Jehovah?
23 At school or on the block where you live, for instance, are you known as the wildest kid, the one who looks and acts like some famous movie star, the one that wears tight and risqué styles in clothing? Or, are you known for your genuine warm interest in other people, for your absolute honesty, for your firmness in standing for what is right and true, and as one who is just plain good company? If one or more of your companions at school or on the job engage in theft, use filthy language and talk about obscene topics, do you go along with them tolerantly, or do you separate yourself from them and refuse to be their regular associates?
24. What ar some of the questions that you, as a youth, would do well to ponder?
24 Can you conscientiously go along with hypocritical youths who act like anarchists just as soon as the back of the teacher or employer is turned? What do you think of the young vandals who regularly wreck thousands of dollars’ worth of public property, property that has to be replaced through higher taxes levied upon your own and other hardworking parents? What about the speed laws and the law-enforcement officers? Do you respect them at least for the sake of their beneficial purpose, or do you childishly feud with the officers and flout the laws? You have a responsibility before God to measure up to his will for you in all such matters.
25. What is God’s counsel to you in the matter of falling in line with the ideas and schemes of godless persons?
25 Often, too, it happens that when a group of teen-agers run around together, someone suggests a dare or the joining in some exciting but illegal action. If caught in such a predicament, what will you do? Will you demonstrate that you are actuated by higher principle, or will you be stampeded with the crowd into sharing in an escapade for which you will long be sorry? God’s counsel in such a situation is explicit: “My son, do not go in the way with them. Hold back your foot from their roadway. For their feet are those that run to sheer badness.” (Prov. 1:15, 16) Wherever you are, in whatever circumstance, Jehovah has wise counsel for your well-being. Avail yourself of it and so be enabled to discharge your moral responsibilities.
FULFILL YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO JEHOVAH
26. What is the divine counsel as to your search for happiness, and why is it far more valuable than the counsel of others?
26 Since Jehovah created humans to begin with, he best knows what to prescribe for their greatest happiness and usefulness. He does not recommend your entertaining the ambitions of worldly people to excel in material wealth and make ostentatious display of their success. Rather, to the contrary he recommends: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:15, 16) So you do have the moral responsibility to make the right choice—God’s favor, not the plaudits of the world.
27. How is Jesus’ perfect example begun in youth and maintained until death dramatically emphasized in Luke’s account?
27 As the perfect example to follow, you have Christ Jesus. He showed proper filial respect for his parents and interest in his home. His youthful vigor did not prompt him to pride himself on his ability to look after himself. He looked to God for guidance and protection. He offered himself in dedication to his Father. When, during the last trialsome hours of his life, the perspiration fell from him as great drops of blood, he prayed: “Let not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42, 44) Truly, Jesus spent his life in the faithful discharge of his moral responsibilities toward God. If you follow in his steps closely, you will enjoy a corresponding success. You, too, will be highly favored by Jehovah.
28. What are some of the fine points about this consideration of your moral responsibilities that should be deeply impressed on your mind?
28 May you always respect and obey the righteous standard for human conduct decreed by the changeless God. May it always be your aim to follow the example of true Christian morality, as observed in the sayings and doings of God’s own beloved Son. May you never forget that your parents are themselves under responsibility to God to bring you up in harmony with his discipline and his authoritative advice. Your obedience to the divine command to “honor your father and your mother” will earn for you “a long time on the earth,” soon to be completely emancipated from the blighting influence of Satan, the god of all delinquents.—Eph. 6:2, 3.
29. Why, especially today, does the illustration of the plant bring sober reminder to you of your moral responsibilities?
29 You need Jehovah’s sustaining power and his smile of favor in these critical times, just as much as the tender plant needs the nutriment from the well-watered soil and the warmth of the sun. All humans are endangered today, not only by the perils of these times in which we live, but by the mighty storm of Jehovah’s anger that will bring this selfish system of things to its end. You can prove to be a vigorous plant, a glory to your heavenly Father and a thing of beauty to godly fellow creatures, by resolutely and faithfully discharging your moral responsibilities, always leaning upon Jehovah for his help.—Prov. 3:5, 6.