Are You Living for What You Can Get Out of Life Now?
“If the dead are not to be raised up, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.’ Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:32, 33.
1. How do human creatures show they value the possession of life, yet what eventuality faces all the living?
LIFE! What a precious possession it is! The human mind and body are marvelously made. No person in his right mind wants to end life, but to keep living, even in the face of increasing problems and pressures of the world today. There is such a strong desire to hold onto this precious gift of life, to keep learning about and enjoying things around us. Determined efforts are put forth to push death back and to have a good measure of health and happiness. Yet, death persistently and relentlessly stalks every man throughout his short life-span of approximately seventy years. The grave claims the righteous as well as the wicked, the ascetic as well as the profligate.—Ps. 89:48.
2. What attitude have many adopted, and how is this reflected in how they conduct themselves?
2 Faced with the ironies of life and the grim reality of death’s approach, from the standpoint of fleshly, human reasoning one might see a paradox: Living a morally good life would appear to be meaningless, unrewarding. To increasing numbers of persons, life after death is but a myth. If this life is all there is, then why not get all you can out of it while you are living? If better judgment says, ‘Control yourself and abstain from harmful, though very pleasurable things,’ fleshly reasoning counters with the argument that it is better to enjoy these and let your emotions have full expression rather than live a life of self-denial and frustration, because you will only suffer death, decay and a passing from memory of future generations like everyone else. What value is there in self-denial? Oh, yes, there may be certain health benefits, and some problems may be avoided if you practice what is morally good. There are reminders, too, that the already short lifetime may be cut still shorter by the vices indulged in; but better to enjoy these while you can, it is reasoned by many, than living a few more decrepit and miserable years in old age.
3. (a) What questions present themselves in view of the conflict between the philosophy of this world and the Bible? (b) How does Paul set matters straight on living just for selfish pleasures?
3 In the face of all this, the Bible says: “A man of faithful acts will get many blessings.” (Prov. 28:20) Is this really true? Is the Bible realistic in setting forth high moral standards to govern the conduct of man? If one does one’s best to measure up to these, will it actually benefit one? Moreover, when death comes, can one confidently hope for a better life afterward because of one’s faithful acts? If man were merely a product of evolution, answering to no one except the society of which he was a part as to how he conducted himself, then criticism of the Bible’s standards and promises would have some weight. That is the point that the apostle Paul is making in writing to Christians at Corinth: “If the dead are not to be raised up, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.’” Paul quickly follows up reference to this purely selfish concept with the warning: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits. Wake up to soberness in a righteous way and do not practice sin, for some are without knowledge of God. I am speaking to move you to shame.”—1 Cor. 15:32-34.
4. (a) What was the philosophy of the Epicureans? (b) How did Abraham and other faithful men show they did not have this attitude toward life and the future?
4 While in Greece, Paul came up against this philosophy of the Epicureans, who believed that one should live in such a way as to get the greatest amount of pleasure out of life, yet doing so with some moderation in order to avoid the suffering that comes with overindulgence. They did not concern themselves with the future except to keep on enjoying pleasure until death. But that is not how faithful men like Abraham felt about it. Of these, Paul wrote: “In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” They did not lose faith and get involved in the corrupt practices around them. In God’s memory they are very much alive and soon God will resurrect them to real life on a paradise earth under his Kingdom rule.—Heb. 11:13; Matt. 22:31, 32; John 6:39, 40.
5. How does the Bible contrast the results of living to satisfy the flesh with living with a view to the spirit?
5 It is easy to deceive ourselves if we have built up a desire at heart to do what is wrong or lack the will to discipline ourselves in order to get the lasting benefits of a right course of action. Rationalizing is a common practice. Again Paul counsels with the words, “Do not be misled,” and then adds: “God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” (Gal. 6:7, 8) Those who have become associated with Jehovah’s witnesses and who have conformed their lives to what the Bible teaches can testify that they have been richly blessed even now. Because they do not live an unrestrained life, they avoid the terrible consequences of such a course, which consequences often include an early death. More than this, life everlasting is in store for them as they faithfully continue in this course.—Rom. 6:23.
6. Why has it become even more urgent today to be alert and watch our course of action?
6 As we compare Scripture with the physical facts around us, there can be no doubt that we are deep into the time of the end of this ungodly system. Christians can affirm that the Bible is correct in telling us that it would be even more difficult during this time to stay in the narrow way that leads to life. The modern-day attractions of the world are strong and the Devil has not lost his cunning in deceiving and drawing away the unwary. There is an ever-present danger of slipping back into old patterns of thinking and conduct or of letting new desires develop that are displeasing to Jehovah. The heart is deceitful, the flesh is weak, self-discipline is not easy. In his prophecy on the end of this system, Jesus warned: “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth.”—Luke 21:34, 35.
7. How can the thinking and attitudes of this world subtly begin to influence a Christian? Of what should we continually remind ourselves?
7 To make sure we are not misled or caught as if in a snare, we have to ask ourselves searching questions to test out our deeper motives, our secret desires, our hidden affections. For what are we living? It is one thing to say we are living with a view to life in God’s new order, but it is another thing to be actually living in harmony with God’s requirements every day. Christians cannot let the subtle Epicurean philosophy of this world deceive them and, before they know it, begin to live for the pleasures of today, for fear that tomorrow they might die. Or, having doubts about making it into the New Order, they may start to savor the pleasures of this world, not wanting to miss out on them altogether. We have to ask ourselves continually: For what are we living? The pleasures of this world or “the real life” in God’s new order?—1 Tim. 6:17-19.
ARE YOU LIVING FOR THE PLEASURES OF DRINK?
8, 9. (a) Why do many indulge to the point of drunkenness? (b) What bad effects have come from drunkenness?
8 Millions of modern-day Epicureans have gone beyond drinking in moderation to the point of drunkenness. They have tasted the effects of excessive amounts of alcohol, and these are what they want regardless of the costs or hazards to health, employment and family. Inhibitions and frustrations vanish, to bring a strange freedom from care. Harsh reality gives way to a world of dreams. Cares vanish. Nagging is nullified; responsibility is shelved. One, in effect, goes on a “trip,” a vacation away from the burdensome cares of life. But, is this really living? Considering the stupor one has been in, the shameful conduct and speech one may have been guilty of, the terrible ache of the body in sobering up and the damage to one’s relationships with others, the logical answer would have to be a resounding, No!—Prov. 20:1; 23:20-35.
9 It is only reasonable that God would prohibit drunkenness. In a drunken condition the mind does not function right and one often does disgraceful things. There is an exaggerated concept of what he is able to do, whereas the truth is that his reflexes and judgment are greatly impaired. Tens of thousands die each year because a drunk thought he was sober enough to drive his car home or got into a fight over some trivial matter. Millions die from cirrhosis of the liver, delirium tremens and other alcohol-related ailments. In many countries, alcoholism is ranked as the No. 3 killer, after heart disease and cancer.
10. (a) While one may not be getting drunk, what danger exists in excessive use of alcoholic beverages? (b) What should one consider before serving alcohol to one’s guests?
10 But, while one may not be getting drunk, one may, in fact, still be overindulging, and here is the big danger for Christians. Not all alcoholics are drunks. Alcoholism is a morbid craving for alcohol. A good test is to ask oneself, Am I living for this pleasure and longing day by day for the nice relaxed feeling I get as a result of drinking alcoholic beverages? While drinking is a personal matter as long as one does not become intoxicated, yet there is the possibility that alcohol will become a psychological crutch on which to lean, a seeming necessity one cannot do without. Moreover, there is the possibility of stumbling others by indiscreet use of alcohol. When friends stop by for an evening, do you insist they share a drink with you, even though they may prefer not to do so? This can be mistaken hospitality and may be, deep down, an attempt to have others join you in indulging a weakness. None should ever be compelled or cajoled into drinking if they do not wish to do so. (Rom. 14:17-21) Get-togethers do not have to be boring if drinks of this nature are not served. Certainly if one drinks only in moderation, if one chooses to drink at all, and is not living with a view to getting undue pleasure from alcoholic beverages, one will have many blessings.
ARE YOU LIVING FOR THE PLEASURES OF WORLDLY ASSOCIATIONS?
11. What desire as to association did Jehovah implant within man, and what should we have in mind in satisfying this desire?
11 When Jehovah created man, He implanted a strong desire in him for association. If by himself for any length of time, man by nature craves to be with fellow human creatures, to talk with, to eat with, to play with, to work with, yes, just to be in the presence of others who, like himself, need association. Solitary confinement is an inhuman punishment. Christians, however, must be selective as to their associates. It was not by chance that Paul injected the words, “Bad associations spoil useful habits,” when arguing against the popular Epicurean philosophy of the day: “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” Where would a Christian pick up such thinking except in association with those who believed it and practiced it? Christians must recognize that there are two distinct spheres of influence today—The Godly, theocratic, Christian sphere, and the one that is worldly, mundane and unchristian.
12. What is recognized as to association with the world, but where is it necessary to draw the line in associating with worldly people?
12 Christians, of course, are surrounded by worldly minded persons and the atmosphere of this world. Jesus, in praying to Jehovah in behalf of his followers, stated: “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) One would have to live as a hermit, isolated from human society altogether, if one would avoid all contact with worldly people. (1 Cor. 5:9-13) However, beyond the association that is absolutely necessary at our secular jobs, at school, while one is in the field ministry, or at other times, there should not be any desire to expose ourselves to the corrosive thinking and often perverted conduct of worldly people.—Deut. 7:3, 4.
13. (a) How might a brother reason if he has a business requiring some contact with worldly people? (b) How might a sister reason if an unbelieving man shows an interest in her? (c) Why is the Bible’s counsel to marry ‘only in the Lord’ sound?
13 To the mind this is logical and sound advice, but the danger arises when situations present themselves wherein worldly associations appear desirable to the heart. For instance, a brother may have a secular business and feel it necessary to associate freely with worldlings, entertaining them, and so forth. He may rationalize that such association is essential to conducting his business, which, in turn, is used to support himself and family. Consider, too, the situation of a sister in the congregation who may wish to get married. There may not be many brothers in her circle of Christian friends who are marriageable. She is quite conscious that she is getting older. A man she has known for some months at her place of secular employment may express an interest in her. If she is attracted to him, immediately the mind and heart begin to rationalize. He may be a nice, clean-cut man. He does not drink or smoke. He is tolerant when it comes to religion. You might even hear it said that he is nicer than some of the Christian brothers that she knows. Or reference is made to an isolated instance where another sister married an unbeliever and in time he was helped to become a Christian. Perhaps the same can be done in this instance. However, the hard experience of many agrees with the Bible here in proving that the chances of this taking place are slim. Rather, there is the strong possibility that the unbeliever will cause the Christian to compromise and lose out on life. One’s obeying the Bible command to marry ‘only in the Lord’ may require self-control and patience, but we can always be assured that Jehovah knows what is good for his people. He not only wants to safeguard them from the many pains of following an unwise course but also wants his people to be happy.—1 Cor. 7:39, 40.
14. What worldly attractions face young folks particularly?
14 Young people have a great temptation to associate with worldly youths of their own age. They are often pressured into joining sports teams, clubs and groups. There is a desire to be accepted and often, to be accepted, one must show that one will do daring and even unscriptural things. It is easy to succumb to worldly fads in grooming and dress, or to be tempted into picking up a paperback novel from a bookstand with an eye-catching cover that appeals to fleshly desires. There is also the lure of television or movies that feature violence, highlight sadism or glorify sex. There are authors, too, of books on philosophy, higher criticism, and so forth, with whom we do not wish to associate. If we read these books, it is tantamount to sitting down before them and letting them fill our minds with their ideas on life.—1 Cor. 3:18-20; 1 Tim. 6:20, 21.
15. What sound advice is given in the Scriptures on association, and how is heeding this a benefit and a protection for Christians?
15 Faithful Christians believe the Bible when it says: “Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4) They see the sound logic in the command: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial [or Satan]? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing”’; ‘“and I will take you in.”’” (2 Cor. 6:14, 15, 17) Heeding this advice, they do not allow themselves to be lured into close association with unbelievers and are spared many sorrows. They take delight in associating with their Christian brothers and in building enduring, trustful friendships with them. Here association builds up rather than tearing down. It helps one on to one’s goal of “the real life” in God’s new order.—Heb. 11:24, 25.
ARE YOU LIVING FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO TOY WITH OR COMMIT SEXUAL IMMORALITY?
16. (a) What is meant by ‘toying with immorality’? (b) Why is dating one of the opposite sex not mere recreation?
16 ‘To toy with’ means to amuse oneself, as with a plaything; to while away time in sport or play. Toying with sexual immorality is playing with it without actually committing fornication or adultery. The sex organs are not playthings, but are given by Jehovah for procreation, for use by married people with their mates. The Bible condemns loose conduct, and it is clear that toying with sexual immorality is loose conduct, which can result in disfellowshiping. (Gal. 5:19; Mark 7:21-23) A person is merely fooling himself if he thinks such unclean conduct is acceptable as long as intercourse is avoided. Dating one of the opposite sex is not mere recreation but should have marriage in view. If a person does not have marriage in view or is too young to take on marriage responsibilities, then he ought to examine his motives as to why he wishes to have dates with one of the opposite sex. In what direction is he proceeding, or, stated another way, for what is he beginning to live?
17. What things, to be avoided by Christians, contribute to toying with sexual immorality?
17 Toying with sexual immorality often begins by wrong association. This practice is common among worldlings. Temptation while in their midst is all around you. Their conversation, the movies, books, pornographic literature, obscene jokes, tight or revealing clothes, all contribute to creating and nursing wrong desire in the heart. Flirting with someone else’s mate may appear to be innocent, but this often leads to serious consequences.—Eph. 5:3-5.
18. What questions are presented for each one to consider in weighing out his or her motives in association with the opposite sex?
18 Here are some questions for each one to consider in weighing out his motives, but not requiring the Watch Tower Society to rule on: Though not married, do you hold hands because you get a thrilling feeling? Do you dance because you enjoy having the body of one of the opposite sex in contact with your body? Do you kiss goodnight because you find it stimulating, even though you are not married? Correspondence received by the Society indicates that toying with sexual immorality often started in such ways.
19. Why cannot one blame God for creating man and woman with sex organs when these are used to sin against Him?
19 The Bible is very frank in stating: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” (1 Cor. 7:1) We cannot blame the sex organs God has put within man and woman if they are used to sin. They are so constructed that they remain calm until impulses are received from the mind and heart to excite them. If a man and woman choose to marry and have entered into marriage, it is entirely proper that they enjoy being with each other, touching each other in acts of endearment. This brings them both pleasure, and such love play may, as they choose, lead to their having sexual intercourse. However, a single man or woman cannot expect to start this chain reaction without serious consequences. The capacity for response is there in the body. It is dormant until stimulated. Rather than satisfying, the thrill of touching can easily create a desire for closer contact: kissing, toying with private parts of the body and going all the way to committing fornication or adultery. All of this may not develop on one occasion, but desire can build in intensity as one thinks on the pleasure received and looks forward to another occasion to receive it, even scheming and maneuvering to bring about the occasion.
20. How can a person “deaden” his body members with respect to wrong practices?
20 Wisely, the Bible counsels Christians: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming.” (Col. 3:5, 6) The doctor gives you a shot of pain-killer to deaden the nerves when he is about to operate on a particular part of the body. We can deaden our body members with respect to wrong desires and impulses by the way we neutralize and nullify wrong desires in the heart and mind, and by the way we cultivate the right desires, chief of which should be to do the will of God.—1 Thess. 4:3-7; 1 Pet. 4:2-5.
21. What should Christians be determined to do in the face of the attitudes and practices of this world?
21 Let the modern-day Epicureans say that the Christian course is impractical and unrealistic, if they want to, but to us it is not impractical when the applying of Bible principles in our lives produces happiness in the home, spares us from the death-dealing effects of venereal disease and alcoholism, keeps us close to those who provide upbuilding association and helps us to have a clear conscience and right standing before God. We appreciate the gift of life and want to enjoy it forever in peace and happiness. We do not wish to throw it away for a few fleeting moments of fleshly gratification. We have complete trust that God will give us everlasting life in his new order as a reward for our faithfulness. Love for our fellowman motivates us to tell others of this grand hope as we keep putting forth determined efforts to live with God’s new order in view.
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Many live for the pleasures of drink. For what are you living
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Entertaining worldlings for business reasons poses subtle danger. Such associations may appear desirable to the heart
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Teen-age dating may seem innocent, but it can easily lead to immorality