Pursuing a Satisfying Way of Life
1. Why are millions of persons today not finding real satisfaction in life?
VAST numbers of earth’s inhabitants are not finding real satisfaction in life. Many are enslaved because of false religious teachings about death and the dead. Still others are giving way to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Millions upon millions of persons are in desperate need of liberation so that they might begin to pursue a way of life that is truly satisfying. Consider:
2-4. How have beliefs about the dead affected members of non-Christian religions?
2 Throughout most of Asia and parts of Africa millions of persons believe that during all their life they must pay homage to dead ancestors. In front of the tablets of their deceased relatives, they burn incense, pray, place flowers and even offer food. Why do they perform these acts? They have been taught that such veneration will help the dead to enjoy a pleasant existence in the next life and will prevent them from becoming hostile spirits.
3 Especially in connection with mourning and funerals do the survivors put forth costly efforts to help the deceased. There are parts of the Orient where paper houses and other paper objects costing hundreds of dollars, at times even thousands, are burned to help the spirits of the dead.
4 Belief in a purgatory is the underlying basis for this practice. After a person’s death, the spirit is believed to wander in purgatory for two years, needing help to enter heaven. The offerings made in the form of paper items are designed to show that the dead man lived a good life and has everything needed to function in the next world. Many Orientals believe that by such means his spirit will be freed from purgatory sooner.
5. What have many in Christendom done in the hope of reducing their own or their loved ones’ time in purgatory?
5 Is it any different in Christendom? Not really. For centuries rich and poor alike have been paying vast sums of money to religious organizations in the hope of reducing their own and their loved ones’ time in purgatory. In regard to these practices, author Corliss Lamont in his book The Illusion of Immortality observes:
“Since the early Middle Ages the Catholic Church has obtained, through the granting of indulgences alone, huge sums from rich and poor alike. These indulgences, given in return for money payments, almsgiving or other kinds of offerings, provide that one’s own soul or the soul of a deceased relative or friend be spared all or part of its destined punishment in purgatory. . . . In Russia the Orthodox Church accumulated enormous wealth through similar intercessions on behalf of the dead. Besides the steady income from workers and peasants anxious to mitigate divine retribution, many members of the nobility and upper class endowed monasteries and churches on condition that daily prayers be said for their departed souls.”—Pp. 17, 18.
6. What view do many people have of what the dead can do to the living?
6 Widespread, too, is the belief that the living need to be safeguarded from the dead. In many parts of Africa, when sickness strikes a family, when a child dies, when a business fails or any other misfortune occurs, a person will quickly consult a juju priest. Usually the priest tells him that a dead family member has been offended. The oracle is consulted and sacrifices are prescribed. Of course, the juju priest charges much money for this. He also gets the meat of the animal offered in sacrifice.
7, 8. What does the Bible reveal about the state of the dead?
7 The truth of God’s Word brings liberation from such enslaving falsehoods. The Bible clearly shows that the soul dies and that nothing survives the body to continue conscious existence. (Ezek. 18:4, 20) There is no reason to fear the dead. Ecclesiastes 9:6 says of them: “Their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun.”
8 For like reasons, the dead cannot be helped by the living. They have returned to the lifeless dust. (Gen. 3:19; Ps. 104:29) Being lifeless, unconscious, they simply could not be in any place of permanent or temporary torment. God’s Word, at Romans 6:7, plainly says: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” That would not be true if he continued to be punished for his sins after death. Rather than being acquitted, he would still be paying for his sins.
9, 10. What acknowledgments do Christendom’s theologians make about the human soul, hell and purgatory?
9 Christendom’s scholars know what the Bible teaches about the state of the dead. In their theological literature they admit that the Scriptures do not teach the immortality of the human soul and that this and other doctrines are a product of pagan Grecian philosophy. “Christian theology,” writes Professor Douglas T. Holden, “has become so fused with Greek philosophy that it has reared individuals who are a mixture of nine parts Greek thought to one part Christian thought.” (Death Shall Have No Dominion, p. 14) And French theologian Oscar Cullmann referred to belief in the immortal soul as “one of the greatest misunderstandings of Christianity.”—Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?, p. 15.
10 Regarding the idea of eternal torment in a fiery hell, the Catholic periodical Commonweal (January 15, 1971, p. 370) notes: “For many people, some philosophers included, hell answers a need of the human imagination—a sort of Santa Claus in reverse. . . . Who among the righteous doesn’t like to see the unjust get punished with some equity? And if not in this life, why not in the next? Such a view, however, is not compatible with the New Testament, which invites man to life and to love.” As to the doctrine of purgatory, the New Catholic Encyclopedia frankly admits: “The Catholic doctrine on purgatory is based on tradition, not Sacred Scripture.”—Vol. 11, p. 1034.
11, 12. (a) Why can it be rightly said that Christendom’s religious leaders have been propagating “teachings of demons”? (b) What exploitation has been carried on by religious leaders of Christendom?
11 Yet are these things actually being taught in the churches? Are the religious leaders telling their congregations that the soul dies, that the doctrine of eternal torment in a fiery hell is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and that belief in purgatory is not based on the Bible? Or, do Christendom’s clergymen as a whole persist in propagating “teachings of demons”? (1 Tim. 4:1) Is the answer Yes to the latter question too severe a judgment? Well, are not Christendom’s own scholars acknowledging such teachings to be false? And if the clergy persist in teaching doctrines that are known to be false, are they not imitating the one whom Jesus spoke of as the “father of the lie”? (John 8:44) Furthermore, does not the teaching of eternal torment reflect the morbid, vicious and cruel disposition of the demons?
12 The Bible says: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) But the doctrines of hellfire and purgatory grossly misrepresent him. Those teaching such doctrines are therefore saying blasphemous things against God. This being the case, religious organizations have also been obtaining large sums of money under false pretenses. Instead of comforting orphans and widows in their time of extreme grief, many religious leaders have hardheartedly exploited them by accepting money for worthless ceremonies. This has been especially hard on the poor, who could have used such money for necessities of life.
13. Why can Christendom’s clergymen not excuse their teaching of false doctrines?
13 While some clergymen may not be familiar with the Biblical evidence, they should be. They represent themselves as speaking God’s message and therefore are under obligation to know what the Bible says. They certainly know full well that what they do and say can deeply affect the lives of those who look to them for instruction. That should cause them to be careful in making sure of their teaching. Any misrepresentation of God can turn people away from true worship, to their injury.
14. In view of false religion’s misrepresentation of God and its exploitation of people, what questions might we ask ourselves?
14 How do you feel about false religion’s exploitation of people and its misrepresentation of our Creator? Do you want to see God’s name cleared of the reproach brought upon it through the teaching of false doctrines? Do you desire to see every effort put forth to free honest-hearted ones from bondage to religious falsehoods? Are you willing to share in exposing religious error? That is certainly the desire of every devoted servant of Jehovah God.
FREEDOM FROM DESPAIR
15. Why are many who recognize the exploitation carried on by false religion still not finding satisfaction in life?
15 Of course, many people today have seen through the exploitation carried on by false religion. But that has not been enough to give them true freedom and to start them in a way of life that is truly satisfying. Why not? Because they lack genuine faith and hope. So they are not safeguarded against the hurtful impact that world developments can have on them mentally and emotionally.
16. Just what has been happening in the world, and what attitude has this brought about among many people?
16 Consider for a moment what has happened. Millions have perished as victims of war, crime, riots and famine. Life-sustaining air and water are being polluted at an alarming rate. Seemingly from every quarter man’s life is being threatened. And there is nothing to give real assurance that mankind will be able to solve its problems in the near future. This has caused even many of those who have turned their backs on false religion to give way to hopeless despair. As far as they can see, this life is all there is. Aptly the Bible describes their attitude. They say: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.”—1 Cor. 15:32.
17. What are many persons doing today in an attempt to escape harsh realities of life?
17 In an endeavor to escape the harsh realities of life, many turn to alcohol or drugs. Others try to find an outlet for their frustrations by indulging in sexual immorality. They engage in fornication, adultery, homosexuality through sodomy and lesbianism. Regarding the effect life’s uncertainty is having on people, Ignace Lepp, in his book Death and Its Mysteries (translated from the French by Bernard Murchland), says: “It seems that more normal people today are affected by this fear of collective death, at least unconsciously. This is at least a partial explanation of the disarray of our times, which is expressed in gratuitous crime, vandalism, eroticism and the accelerated pace of life. Even modern music and dances seem to express the despair of a humanity that no longer believes in its own future.” (P. 49) What has been the effect of giving in to feelings of despair and then trying to escape them?
18-20. What bad fruitage has resulted from excessive drinking, drug addiction and sexual immorality?
18 Those given to heavy drinking may temporarily forget their troubles. But they sacrifice their dignity and, while intoxicated, at times injure themselves or others. And the next day, they find that they have added an agonizing headache to the troubles that they already had. Serious illnesses are also a result of heavy drinking.
19 Drug addicts, too, pay a high price for their efforts to escape reality. They often experience lasting physical and mental harm. And to support their costly habit, many degrade themselves by engaging in theft or prostitution.
20 What about promiscuous sex relations? Do they help to improve one’s lot in life? To the contrary, the fruitage is often loathsome venereal disease, unwanted pregnancies, illegitimate children, abortions, broken homes, bitter jealousy, fighting and even murder.
21, 22. What good results come from applying Bible principles?
21 Sad indeed is the lot of many. They need hope and genuine faith to be freed from their despair and the resultant problems. God’s Word can help them, if they will but study and apply it. This has been the experience of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. They have found that the application of Bible principles improves relationships at home, at work and in daily contacts with others. (Rom. 12:17-21; 13:8-10; Eph. 5:22-6:4; 1 Pet. 3:1-7) This has contributed much toward making their life happier and more satisfying even now.
22 Does this mean that the person who applies Bible principles in his daily life will be immune from the problems and pressures of the world? No, he still lives among people who have no love of righteousness. But he can cope with the problems of life far more effectively than those who rely on mere human reasoning. He does not become bitter because of injustices that he may suffer. He knows the reason for them and has the firm conviction that God’s kingdom by Christ will soon put an end to all the things that detract from full enjoyment of life. (2 Pet. 3:11-13) He is safeguarded against succumbing to despair and injuring himself in vain attempts to escape it.
23, 24. How should the benefits we have gained from practicing true worship affect what we do for our fellowmen?
23 Appreciating this, dedicated Christians should certainly be stirred in their hearts to help their fellowmen to begin following a way of life that is satisfying. That means proving oneself to be the kind of person of whom Jesus Christ spoke at Matthew 13:23: “This is the one hearing the word [of the kingdom] and getting the sense of it, who really does bear fruit and produces, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty.”
24 Are you that kind? Is your heart continuing to respond appreciatively to the ‘word of the kingdom’? Does this move you to make opportunities to share with others the Kingdom message so that they might begin enjoying the best way of life now? If that is the case, you can rest assured of Jehovah’s approval and blessing.
DILIGENT EFFORT NEEDED
25. Why is diligent effort required to pursue a way of life that is satisfying?
25 Pursuing a way of life that is satisfying requires our putting forth strenuous efforts. We humans are sinners and therefore need to exert ourselves to keep sinful tendencies in check. We cannot allow such tendencies to gain the mastery over us, thereby bringing us into slavery to the ruler of this world, Satan. (John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4) Regarding himself, the faithful apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “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) He used every means available to him to subdue sinful tendencies, gaining the victory over them.
26. What show that Christendom’s clergymen are wrong in claiming that belief in hellfire serves as an incentive for proper conduct?
26 What motivated Paul and other faithful disciples of Jesus to do this? Many of Christendom’s clergymen have claimed that fear of the torments of hellfire serves as an incentive for proper conduct. But the facts of history prove otherwise. The horrible inquisitions and blood-spilling crusades of Christendom are proof that some of the greatest cruelties have been perpetrated by believers in the unscriptural doctrine of hellfire.
27. What is the proper motivation for serving Jehovah God?
27 Fear of punishment is not the proper motivation for serving God. Jehovah God wants our worship to be motivated by love. That has always been his desire respecting his intelligent creatures. Note the appeal that Moses made to the Israelites: “I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him; for he is your life and the length of your days.”—Deut. 30:19, 20.
28, 29. (a) Why do we have good reason to love Jehovah? (b) How does the apostle Peter emphasize this point in his first letter?
28 We certainly have good reason to love Jehovah deeply and to demonstrate our love by obedience to his commandments. It was Jehovah who took the initiative in showing love to us in the superlative degree. As sinful humans we could never on our own merit gain a favorable standing before him. The only wages that we sinners deserve is death. (Rom. 6:23) Yet in his boundless love Jehovah God gave his Son in our behalf, that we might have our sins atoned for and be able to gain a righteous standing. That was no little thing on Jehovah’s part. He deeply loved his Son and yet allowed him to undergo the greatest of humiliations, yes, even a shameful death on an executional stake. As for Jesus Christ, he was willing to undergo this in expression of his love for mankind.—John 10:17, 18.
29 Really, what Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have done in our behalf should stir within our hearts a burning desire to conduct ourselves in harmony with the divine will. This is the point the apostle Peter made when encouraging fellow believers: “Conduct yourselves with fear [that is, with a wholesome awe or dread of not wanting to displease Jehovah God] during the time of your alien residence. For you know that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, that you were delivered from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s. True, he was foreknown before the founding of the world, but he was made manifest at the end of the times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, the one who raised him up from the dead and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God.”—1 Pet. 1:17-21.
30, 31. Contrast the conduct of true Christians with the way they lived before learning the truth.
30 Do you really appreciate the precious sacrifice of Jesus Christ? Do you show this by the way you conduct yourself? Are you doing what is proper for one who has been shown love and for whom such a priceless sacrifice was made? All of us should be. For that reason, at 1 Peter 1:14, 15, spirit-begotten Christians are urged: “As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance, but, in accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct.”
31 If we are dedicated Christians, we have definitely benefited from Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. We should therefore hate the way we lived our lives before we had real faith and hope, when we lacked appreciation for what Jehovah God and Jesus Christ did in our behalf. In our ignorance, we lived only for self-interest. We gave in to our desires, unless perhaps restrained by fear of authority or fear of harm to our health, property or reputation. But how many of us really felt accountable to our Creator and Life-Giver?
32. What is meant by Jehovah’s being “holy”?
32 Now, however, we have strong incentive for seeking to conform to the standard of holiness exemplified by our loving heavenly Father. Jehovah God is “holy,” pure or clean in the absolute sense. He is good through and through, free from even the faintest trace of badness or taint of corruption. He is the Source of all righteous principles and laws.—Prov. 19:7-10; Ps. 119:137, 138, 160.
33, 34. What does following the counsel of 1 Peter 2:1 require of us?
33 Moved by love for him, we should want to be like him. Therefore we should want to cast off every inclination that is in opposition to his holiness. That is the admonition given at 1 Peter 2:1, where we read: “Put away all badness and all deceitfulness and hypocrisy and envies and all sorts of backbiting.” What does this require of us?
34 The dominant inclination of our hearts should not be given to any kind of badness. We should repel even the thought of deceiving others for selfish gain, no matter how large or how small. The tendency to envy should be kept in check so that we do not resort to fraud or other dishonest practices to gain what others have. Nor do we want to fall into the snare of backbiting, trying to downgrade fellow Christians by undue criticism or by questioning their abilities and motivations. What we say should be in good taste, serving to build others up and not to tear them down. We do not want to act the part of hypocrites, pretending to be what we are not and hiding wicked designs under the cover of a form of godly devotion.
35. What should all aspects of a Christian’s life reveal, and what wholesome effect can this have on others?
35 Yes, our everyday experiences—at home, at our place of secular work, at school, in our daily contacts with others—should give evidence that our life is more satisfying than it was before we began obeying God’s Word of truth. That should especially be our desire in view of the wholesome effect fine conduct can have on sincere observers. Said the apostle Peter: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.”—1 Pet. 2:12.
36, 37. What are some benefits that Jehovah’s servants enjoy, and what should this cause them to do?
36 If we are devoted Christians, we do indeed experience many blessings and joys. By resisting the pressure to give in to selfishness, we find satisfaction in being able to prove that our service to God is motivated by love. We experience Jehovah’s direction, care and help as we confront life’s problems. We enjoy spiritual health and contentment. We preserve the peace of mind and heart that only a clean conscience can give us. Our life has purposeful direction in that it revolves around an enduring relationship with Jehovah God.
37 Truly, dedicated Christians have reason to continue exerting themselves to maintain the freedom that they have gained by conforming to God’s truth. Is that what you are doing? Are your attitude, words and actions coming ever closer to God’s standard of holiness? Are your faith and hope safeguarding you against anything that could destroy a good relationship with Jehovah God and result in losing out on “the life . . . which is to come”? (1 Tim. 4:8) If so, continue your fine efforts. Heed the inspired admonition: “Take exquisite delight in Jehovah, and he will give you the requests of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4) May your real delight continue to be in maintaining the love and approval of Jehovah God, convinced that this leads to satisfaction now and holds promise of life eternal in God’s righteous new order, which is near at hand.—Rev. 21:3, 4.