‘The Works of the Flesh Are Revelries’
“Go HOME together and forget all about it!” the Munich judge told the distraught young couple before him. “After all, was it not carnival time?” Yes, time and again that is what a Munich judge will tell couples that come to him seeking a divorce because one or the other had proved unfaithful during Fasching or carnival time, which lasts seven weeks in Munich.
Just what are these carnivals like? Regarding them we are told: ‘With reckless abandon (which invariably leads to a higher birthrate in October and November), West Germans keep their annual pre-Lenten binges going till the last minute of Shrove Tuesday in the Rhineland and Southern Germany. As one might expect, some churchmen and parents were unhappy. But the party-goers had a wonderful time. In the Rhineland, Carnival Freedom is legally recognized as an excuse for almost anything except homicide and drunken driving. Particularly risky for men is Women’s Carnival Night when entire sections of towns swarm with burly Nordic maidens who pummel unwary males, or take more intimate liberties. Munich, too, takes legal account of Carnival Time; particularly in view of the sometimes troublemaking tradition that husbands and wives must not attend balls together.’—Newsweek, March 4, 1963.
At the Munich Festival upward of three million quarts of beer are consumed, together with many thousands of quarts of wine and other alcoholic beverages, not to say anything about the hundreds of thousands of sausages, and so forth. In the main, these festivals have a religious origin, being instituted to celebrate just before the Lenten season when Catholics are supposed to fast as regards meat and to deny themselves other luxuries. The very word “carnival” means “farewell to meat.” In other cities, such as New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, the festival is known as the Mardi Gras, which technically refers to the last day of the carnival and literally means “fat Tuesday,” the last day meat is permitted to be eaten before Lent.
Not that revelry is limited to just these special occasions, for night life in many cities is often one of boisterous merriment, as one report regarding Buenos Aires states: “Bedlam as usual rocks a restaurant in La Boca, a dockside district that each evening erupts in frenzied gaiety. As in other lively night spots, waiters often put aside trays to seize musical instruments, customers leap up to dance or lead a song, and spontaneous conga lines snake between tables—on and on until early morning.”—National Geographic, November 1967.
REVELRIES CONDEMNED BY GOD’S WORD
No doubt the great majority of those indulging in such revelry profess to be Christians, either Roman Catholics or Protestants, but is reveling for Christians? Not according to the apostle Peter, for he reminds Christians that, while during the time before they became Christians they may have indulged in revelries, now such are out of place for them: “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches.” Because Christians no longer indulge in such things their former acquaintances are puzzled and speak abusively of them, Peter goes on to say.—1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
That revelries are not for Christians the apostle Paul also makes clear, for he wrote: “As in the daytime let us walk decently, not in revelries and drunken bouts, not in illicit intercourse and loose conduct, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.” In fact, it is the same apostle who tells us that revelries are among “the works of the flesh”: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, . . . drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” And how serious are these practices? They are things that would cause a Christian to lose out on eternal life. “As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you,” wrote the apostle Paul, “that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” There is no mistaking those words!—Rom. 13:13, 14; Gal. 5:19-21.
That this warning applies to the reveling described earlier is clear from the meaning of the original Greek word used, namely, komos, for it means “a revel, carousal, the concomitant and consequences of drunkenness.”* As for the meaning of the English word “revelry,” we are told that it means “noisy festivity, boisterous merrymaking.” “To be festive in a riotous or noisy manner.” “An occasion of excessive and boisterous festivity; a wild or unrestrained merrymaking.”
WHY THE NEED TO BE ON GUARD
A revelry, therefore, would not need to be such a great affair as the pre-Lenten carnivals at Munich and elsewhere, but any social gathering might deteriorate into a revelry unless care is exercised. How so?
In that when there is a festive occasion, such as at a wedding reception, when there is lively music and perhaps the beer and wine flow freely, there is the danger of going to extremes. There may be boisterous hilarity, unbecoming to Christians; there may be the telling of obscene jokes and a tendency toward wantonness as regards the proprieties between the sexes, all of which would cause the festive occasion to deteriorate into a revelry.
Not that the Word of God is a killjoy. By no means! The Bible does not rule out joy and merriment. On the contrary, time and again it tells God’s people to be glad and to rejoice, and that for a number of reasons. Thus man is told to rejoice in his Creator, the husband to rejoice in his wife, the young man in his youth, the laborer in the work of his hands and the farmer in the fruit of his toil. (Ps. 32:11; Prov. 5:15-19; Eccl. 3:22; 11:9; Deut. 26:10, 11) And repeatedly the Bible indicates that food and drink go with rejoicing: “Go, eat your food with rejoicing and drink your wine with a good heart.” Yes, Jehovah God provided “wine that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice” and “bread that sustains [his] very heart.”—Eccl. 9:7; Ps. 104:15.
But Christians are to be moderate and self-controlled in the enjoyment of the good things of life. That is why a Christian man, to qualify as an overseer of a Christian congregation, must, among other things, be “moderate in habits.” Christian women are likewise told to be “moderate in habits.”—1 Tim. 3:2, 11.
Immoderate habits, unrestrained and boisterous conduct and very loud and harsh music reflect unfavorably upon a Christian. Not only that, but such conduct often leads to excesses such as drunkenness and gluttony, against which the Bible repeatedly inveighs: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh.” Such lack of restraint often leads to sexual immorality, which God’s Word condemns in no uncertain terms: “For this is what God wills, the sanctifying of you, that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite such as also those nations have which do not know God . . . For God called us, not with allowance for uncleanness, but in connection with sanctification.”—Prov. 23:20; 1 Thess. 4:3-7.
Yes, noisy and boisterous conduct betrays one’s lack of self-control. Reckless talk is often the prelude to reckless acts, so those who seek God’s approval must heed the counsel: “Let nothing go forth unrestrained from your mouth, for a God of knowledge Jehovah is, and by him deeds are rightly estimated.” It is a mistaken idea that beer, wine and stronger drinks are essential to a festive occasion; such is largely a matter of local custom. It is well, therefore, always to bear in mind the words of wisdom: “Wine is a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous, and everyone going astray by it is not wise.” Unless Christians are on guard they can fall into the error into which the Israelites fell in the days of Moses, while he was on the mount for forty days, concerning which we read: “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to revel boisterously,” and also idolatrously.—1 Sam. 2:3; Prov. 20:1; 1 Cor. 10:7 (1950 Ed.); Ex. 32:4-6.
In this regard the apostle Paul gave the Christians at Corinth good advice, which they especially needed since their city was notorious for its sensuous reveling: “Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.” Yes, there is added reason for being on guard at festive occasions, so as not to stumble others. At such times especially ‘make straight paths for your feet.’—1 Cor. 10:31-33; Heb. 12:13.
KEEPING FESTIVE OCCASIONS UNDER CONTROL
There are a number of things that must be watched if festive occasions are not to become revelries. For example, there is the Scriptural principle: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” For this reason Christians will do well to avoid social occasions sponsored by unbelievers who are not interested in God’s Word and its high standards as to conduct. Even when unbelievers are invited to Christian social gatherings one must exercise care. A lesson in this regard can be taken from the Israelites of old. Was it not unbelievers that caused them to transgress in the sin of Baal of Peor?—1 Cor. 15:33; Num. 25:1-9.
Another thing to watch is the kind of dancing that is indulged in. Much of modern dancing is passion-arousing, but there are wholesome folk dances that allow for much exercise and joyous exhilaration, such as the American square dance, the Virginia reel and the polka. Such dances involve a certain amount of skill and cooperation and make for mutual, group enjoyment; being without the objectionable features of so many of the modern dances.
To keep festive occasions under control it is also necessary to give thought to the kind of music being played. Youth tends to prefer very loud music that the world associates with revelries. If Christians are in charge, therefore, they would want to see to it that good or decent music is being played, not necessarily classical or sedate, but neither sensuous or vulgar, with excessive emphasis on noise and rhythm, as is the case at so many worldly wedding receptions. Such music is calculated to arouse the baser instincts and to cause one to cast off inhibitions in much the same way as alcoholic beverages affect some people.
Another valuable aid in this regard is to have present at least several mature Christians. Especially if the majority are young folk is it advisable to have some truly mature Christians, deeply concerned with the spiritual welfare of the young people, present. The respect that they are accorded would doubtless have a wholesome effect upon all present.
Also to be considered is the value of Biblical or serious subjects for discussion. For example, there can be riddles based on Scriptural incidents, illustrations of Bible principles, imitations of Bible characters, presentations of Bible incidents, telling of interesting experiences. Such things can present a stimulating challenge to inventiveness, dramatic ability, and so forth, and can result in a most enjoyable as well as most profitable evening, even as noted by the success of the Bible dramas presented annually at the larger conventions of Jehovah’s people.
Nor to be overlooked is the practical precaution of setting a reasonable hour in advance for a party to end. It seems that the longer a party lasts, the later in the evening it gets, the more noisy it is likely to get and the greater the temptation to revel. Some remark at the beginning as to its intended length might be made; but if the hosts overlook this, at least those guests who appreciate the need of departing at a reasonable hour can excuse themselves without feeling unduly apologetic about it.
This has more than one advantage. Not only are morals likely to be protected, but also one’s health, as one is less likely to overindulge in food and drink and will get more sleep. All of which is of particular value for Christian ministers, who usually have a full day of ministerial activities and worship on Sunday. As one elderly Christian minister once expressed it: “The less I ‘live,’ the more I can give”; meaning by ‘live,’ of course, indulging in mundane pleasures.
Yes, with festive occasions as with everything else that enters into the life of a Christian, restraint and self-control are needed. The Creator purposed for his earthly creatures to get much joy from many different things, including social occasions. But these do not need to become revelries; they can be wholesomely joyous occasions with no apologies or regrets. Surely that is the course of wisdom!
An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words—W.E. Vine.