Meeting the Challenge of Moral Principles
“THE Sorrow and the Pity.” That was the name of a four-and-a-half-hour motion picture being shown in the spring of 1972 throughout the United States. In a blunt and artless way it documented how some people behaved during the German occupation of their country. One reviewer stated that it served a fine purpose in that “it forces us to examine ourselves and our smug assumptions about how we would behave in a moment of national crisis. . . . Would we risk pain and prison and death for our beliefs?” Many, faced with that crisis, did not.
By way of contrast, it has been noted, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah during those times were the exception to the rule. They refused to compromise. As Professor Ebenstein, of Princeton University, wrote in The Nazi State, “each member seems to be a fortress which can be destroyed but never taken.” Why? One reason no doubt was that in their everyday lives they had been meeting the challenge of moral principles, and so, when a crisis came, they were well prepared to handle it and come off the victors.
Today most people are not facing a national crisis posing such vital issues. But all persons are involved in a conflict between the forces of right and those of wrong. Where, then, do we stand? Are we meeting the challenge of moral principles in our everyday lives?
One of the glories of our humanity is that we are free moral agents. That is, we are capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong and are free to choose to be governed by one or the other. This, as much as any other one factor, testifies to the vast gulf that exists between us and the brute creation. Those who accept the evolution theory choose to overlook this all-important difference. Yes, we alone of all earth’s creatures have a moral sense; we alone can appreciate the difference between what is, a world filled with wickedness and violence, and what ought to be, a world of righteousness and peace. We alone find a need for an explanation of things, a need for religion.
God’s Word, the Bible, eloquently testifies to this great difference. Only man was made in God’s image and likeness. Only man was given a moral issue to face: “As for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”—Gen. 1:26-28; 2:16, 17.
Fittingly, man, by reason of his higher endowments, has, not only greater privileges and a greater capacity for enjoying life, but also greater responsibilities. It is even as Jesus said: “Everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.”—Luke 12:48.
To be governed by moral principles means to put obedience to conscience ahead of selfish gain, ahead of material things. When we stop to think about it, actually all the animals are materialists, for to them physical comfort and satisfaction of their sexual impulses are all that matter. Interestingly, the Bible tells us that the wisdom marked by selfish strife and jealousy is animalistic. Further, the Bible tells us that the wicked are like unreasoning brutes, and, like them, such people will also perish.—Jas. 3:14-16; 2 Pet. 2:10-13.
Today the world has, by and large, become animalistic and as a result it is ever harder to govern oneself by moral principles. Never before have there been such temptations and pressures toward self-interest, expediency, greed, love of sensual pleasure or thirst for power. Every day we are faced with moral challenges, with temptations to compromise.
Of course, the challenges are not the same for all. Because of heredity and/or environment they differ. For one, a challenge might be posed because of the thrills and excitement associated with gambling, such as betting on the horses. For another, it may be the use of narcotics, because of the pleasure associated with the addiction. For many others, the challenge is posed because of their leaning toward sexual immorality. Nor are there only a few for whom hard work represents a challenge, because of their love of ease or just plain laziness. Likewise a real challenge of self-control faces many who imbibe alcoholic beverages.
To meet the challenge of moral principles, to come off victorious when temptations or pressures are applied, is not easy; it is not the line of least resistance. But it is the only wise, the only satisfying, the only rewarding course. The wisest human king that ever lived proved to himself that the pursuit of material things leads only to frustration.—Eccl. 2:1-11.
To meet these challenges successfully takes alertness. And it also requires looking to God for help. As Jesus said: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41) And it also requires self-discipline, self-control, even as the apostle Paul appreciated: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:27.
Additionally, it will help you to meet the challenge of moral principles to remind yourself continually of the fact that you are accountable to the Creator, and that you should ever beware of displeasing him. That is why His Word tells us that “the fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10) It will also be a great help to read God’s Word the Bible daily. Not only is it filled with fine counsel such as noted in the foregoing, but it also contains fine examples for you to strive to imitate.
Consider, too, the rewards that come from your meeting the challenge of moral principles. There are the clear conscience and the self-respect that come when you gain a victory over temptations and pressures to yield or compromise, when you let yourself be governed by love and righteousness rather than by selfish considerations. And God’s Word also holds out the hope of everlasting life to those who win God’s approval by meeting the challenge of His high moral principles.