Help Youths to ‘Become Examples to the Faithful Ones’
“Let no man ever look down on your youth. On the contrary, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.”—1 Tim. 4:12.
1-3. (a) Why are many parents proud of their young people? (b) Give examples of youthful integrity to Christian principles, including any in your locality. (c) How are the Scriptures proved true in such cases?
AS NEVER before in history, the eyes of the world are upon young people. They are a center of attention. Many parents think highly of their children. As a group, Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular are proud of their youths, and for good reasons. For the most part their children have proved themselves outstanding examples for good, and this at a time when moral integrity is on a steep decline.
2 For example, there is Richard, a young Witness, who said: “My schoolteacher wanted me to support evolution in class. I told him that I was a Christian and that I could not conscientiously do so.” For standing firm for his belief in creation, he was given a failing mark. However, the youth felt rewarded at heart for remaining steadfast to what he believed to be true. Randy, another Witness, in his senior year, refused to cheat during a French examination. “I was the only one in class who didn’t pass,” he said. When the teacher asked, “Why didn’t you look in the book?” which was made conveniently available, he simply said: “I couldn’t cheat.” Even though the teacher and the other children frowned at such honesty, Randy still felt that he did the right thing. Integrity to principle meant more to him than a passing grade. And there was Debbie, a teen-age Witness, who worked in an ice-cream parlor. Her supervisor demanded that she wear shorter skirts to work or be fired. Debbie went to the manager and explained that she was a Christian witness of Jehovah who believed in dressing modestly. She was not fired, because she was a good worker. However, to Debbie it was a moral victory. She remained true to herself and to her God-given principles.
3 Multiply these cases of faith, of honesty, of chasteness and of integrity to principle and conscience a thousand times over and you can see why the parents among Jehovah’s Witnesses have reason to be proud of their young people. Concerning the parents of such children the proverb says: “Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.”—Prov. 23:25; 1 Pet. 2:12.
4. (a) What is involved in building moral integrity in children? (b) What benefits result to children when parents live exemplary lives?
4 Children, however, do not just happen to be good in an immoral world—no more so than “do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles.” (Matt. 7:16-18) If parents want their children to ‘become examples to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness,’ then they themselves must set the pattern for their children to follow. (1 Tim. 4:12) It is not enough just to want children to be morally good. Effort is required. Children are not born with moral integrity. Goodness and morality are learned by direct instruction and observation. The father who lives by the moral code of the Bible and the wife who is an example of moral integrity teach by word and example. (Deut. 6:4-9) This method of teaching comes from the highest authority, for Jehovah God himself uses it. Speaking of his heavenly Father, Jesus said: “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father has affection for the Son and shows him all the things he himself does.” (John 5:19, 20) So by their own exemplary lives “in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness,” affectionate parents may show their children how they want them to conduct their lives.
5, 6. (a) What may happen if parents do not practice what they teach? Illustrate. (b) Why is the proper exercise of authority important?
5 Recently, ten-year-old Lisa lied to her mother and to the school’s principal about returning a book to the library. Her mother wondered: “Why has Lisa lied?” And, perhaps even more important: “How has she learned to lie in such detail and so stubbornly?” The mother took her daughter into her arms. “Lisa,” she said, “don’t you know that you must never lie?” Lisa felt cornered and struck back: “You and Daddy tell lies. Lots and lots of times. Why shouldn’t I?” Lisa’s mother could have easily said: “Who do you think you are speaking to in that way? I’m your mother!” That might have silenced Lisa, but would it have solved anything? Lisa meant no disrespect by what she said. Lisa’s mother quietly talked things over with her daughter, admitted and corrected flaws that Lisa called to her attention, and so gained Lisa’s confidence.
6 Child-parent controversies often focus on the use of parental authority. True, parents have the God-given right of authority, but the apostle Paul cautions them not to abuse it, saying: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) Authority can deter and even punish those who offend the law, but what authority alone does not and cannot do is to teach young people how to want to be good.
7. How may parents motivate children toward righteousness and what is good?
7 What is additionally required is that parents reach children’s hearts and help them to make their minds over, not merely to change their behavior. (Rom. 12:1, 2) The will to do good must come from within the child, if there is to be an effective and meaningful change for the better. Children must come to sense within themselves a higher need for being morally good. This they may do by imitating parents who look to Jehovah God as their Example of goodness. (1 Pet. 1:15, 16) In this way children also develop the desire to please Jehovah. It is by the parents’ example of morality that children come to believe that God sees what they do, and that he cares. (1 Pet. 3:12; 5:7) Fortified with both Bible teaching and fine adult examples, young minds and hearts are thus motivated toward “righteousness and judgment and uprightness, the entire course of what is good.”—Prov. 2:9.
COPING WITH MATERIALISM
8. Why is materialism a threat to youth, and how do the Scriptures warn against it?
8 Youths growing up in Christian homes should know that one of the greatest threats to their spirituality is materialism. Why? Because to have many fine things, like houses, cars, boats, televisions, and so forth, is equated with success, and youths want desperately to be successful. While there is nothing wrong with possessions in themselves, the Bible warns against “the love of money” and the ‘determination to be rich.’ (1 Tim. 6:9, 10, 17; Luke 12:15-21) It shows wealth to be deceptive, because it can neither deliver from death nor give health and life. Riches can lead one away from the faith, even cause one to forget Jehovah. (Deut. 8:10-14; Prov. 11:4) Therefore, the Bible wisely counsels: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. For he [God] has said: ‘I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.’” (Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:8) Youth must come to appreciate and trust this promise of God, that he will not forsake them. Then they will know that it is “the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—Prov. 10:22.
9. (a) How can parents help youths to guard against materialism? (b) What fine Scriptural examples and admonition are cited in this connection?
9 How can Christian youths be guarded against the subtle snares of materialism? First, parents can help greatly by seeing to it that their own lives are free from the “love of money,” that they reflect a contentment with the things that they have, and that they set a strong spiritual tone in the home. Parents can also direct attention to the Scriptural examples of Jesus and his apostles. Jesus said: “The Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Matt. 8:20; Phil. 2:7, 8) Peter declared: “Look! We have left all things and followed you.” (Matt. 19:27) Paul wrote: “I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8) Not that Christian youths are forced into an austere way of life. Not by any means! Jesus promised them that if they put God’s service first in life, then God would, in turn, add the needed material things. But to combat materialism, it is essential to deny oneself unnecessary luxuries. (Matt. 16:24) Emphasis must be placed on spiritual things. (Matt. 5:3; Gal. 5:16) The apostle Paul counseled: “Pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper. Fight the fine fight of the faith, get a firm hold on the everlasting life.” (1 Tim. 6:11, 12) Then materialism will prove to be no major problem.
ACTIVITY CONQUERS BOREDOM
10. What may give rise to boredom, but how may this be combated?
10 Young people sometimes complain about being bored with life. Boredom usually strikes when the mind and hands are idle of worthwhile things to do. In times past, rural life demanded that everyone work. Even little hands were used to feed chickens, milk cows and harvest crops. Children were needed, and they knew it. Youths still want that sense of being needed, of belonging. At heart, they usually want to be doers and givers, not just observers and receivers. This desire is fine, for Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Paul wrote: “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) Young people of today who are bored often need to give more of themselves. But how? Well, Christian youths could do shopping for the aged in the congregation, visit the sick or help the infirm with house chores. And what joy there can be in reading to those whose eyesight is failing!
11. What can children and parents do to overcome youthful boredom?
11 Sometimes physical activity will help to relieve the mind of boredom. Young girls may try their hand at making a dress, or at cooking or baking. Young boys can learn how to make home repairs, learn simple mechanics or carpentry. Learning a new language, even the “sign” language, has a way of beating boredom. Parents may help by teaching children how to be real homemakers—how to make their beds properly, fold their clothes neatly, dust, sweep and polish, and, occasionally, even sew buttons on father’s shirts. Young people who become cheerful givers and doers find themselves too much in demand to be bored with life. Besides, what fine examples they will be setting for other faithful ones!—1 Cor. 15:58; 13:5; Eccl. 5:18-20.
DATING CAN BE DAMAGING
12. (a) What shows the worldly view of dating to be unsound? (b) What dangers may attend unwise boy-girl relationships?
12 Where there are growing children in the family, sooner or later the problem of dating will come up. How can parents help? Those not guided by Bible principles can easily give misguided counsel. Kathy, who refers to her parents as ‘good Protestants,’ says: “I started dating in the ninth grade, when I was fourteen.” She admits that her father did not like it, but her mother soon settled the debate by assuring the father that Kathy was “old enough.” Old enough for what? By Kathy’s own admission, she was not ready for marriage even when seventeen, not to speak of fourteen. And most girls of her age are not ready physically, emotionally and mentally to accept the problems and responsibilities that marriage thrusts upon them. Then why date? Girls like Kathy view dating as fun or recreation. They say, ‘Petting and necking are natural as long as you do not go all the way.’ But Kathy admits that a number of girls of her age did “get into trouble,” which means that they went all the way, became pregnant and had abortions or babies. In contrast, Christian parents should teach and convince their children that, by Bible standards, views like Kathy’s are wrong, and that God condemns loose conduct. A young Christian who behaves unchastely could be disfellowshiped from the congregation.—Gal. 5:19, 21; 1 Pet. 4:3.
13. (a) How does Jehovah want youths to live and behave? (b) Why is dating a serious matter?
13 Jehovah is a happy God, and he wants youths to be happy with life too—not on a debased, corrupt level, but on a high moral plane. (1 Tim. 1:11) Therefore, he says: “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, . . . and walk in the ways of your heart and in the things seen by your eyes. But know that on account of all these the true God will bring you into judgment. So remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh.” (Eccl. 11:9, 10) God wants youth to be happy in a responsible way. For they are accountable to Him for their actions. That is why dating or “going together” is so serious. Dating may serve properly to bring couples together, not for the purpose of petting or necking or sex play, but to acquaint themselves with each other on a social level before marriage. Outside of marriage, sexual arousal can lead to vexation, to emotional upsets and even to calamities such as abortions and suicides. Even couples who are engaged to be married have not the right to toy with sex. Single persons who engage in sexual activities—an exclusive right of married persons—will incur God’s disapproval and inevitably suffer for it.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
14. (a) How can parents foster in their children a wholesome attitude toward dating and marriage? (b) What can children do to occupy their growing years profitably?
14 Parents can help children to appreciate God’s laws by being frank and open with their children in discussing the subjects of dating and marriage. In this way children may gain wholesome knowledge and feel the concern and love that God and their parents have for them. (Prov. 15:3; 1 Pet. 3:12) Children can be reminded that their youthful years provide grand opportunities for developing into real men and women, and then if later they want the responsibilities of marriage, they will be well equipped to take them on. They may also grow to spiritual maturity by ‘becoming examples’ in involving themselves in the activities of the Christian congregation.
FINDING FAITHFUL FRIENDS
15. What does friendship call for, and how may we gain true friends?
15 Having faithful friends in youth may help in surmounting many obstacles. But true friends are not easy to find. Friendship in itself is a two-way street, which involves each person’s being friendly—a drawing near to each other. Friendship calls for loyalty, concern for each other and an interest in each other’s welfare. Friendship is rooted in loving rather than in being loved. “A true companion is loving all the time,” wrote the wise man. (Prov. 17:17) If we want real friends we must let others know what we are thinking. We must let others in and see us as we really are, sharing openly what we have learned.—John 15:15.
16. Why is it wise to be selective in choosing friends?
16 While making friends, however, it is wise to be selective. Why? Because, when we associate with others long enough we tend to become like them. If we are not careful, we may find our useful habits being spoiled. (1 Cor. 15:33) It is very beneficial to choose friends with fine Christian qualities. (Gal. 5:22, 23) Young people should select as friends those who are wholesome in every respect.
WHY GO TO SCHOOL?
17. (a) How can parents help children who are distressed by school morals? (b) How can children protect themselves from unprincipled persons?
17 Many Christian youths are distressed by the low morals at school. What can parents do to protect them from this bad influence? Parents can instill in young minds the privilege that they, as witnesses of Jehovah, have to stand up and be examples for truth and righteousness. Children, as much as adults, have the power of Jesus’ prayer in their behalf that God “watch over them.” (John 17:15) Although contact with unwholesome persons cannot be avoided entirely, yet such contacts can be limited usually to those occasions having to do with schoolwork. And if youths pay attention to their studies, and work at being successful in them, that course can automatically limit their association with unprincipled persons. It is also good for youths who are Jehovah’s Witnesses to let others know as quickly as possible that they are true Christians and that they intend to apply themselves diligently while at school. A good example “in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness” will not go unnoticed.
18. (a) What is education, and why is it important to living? (b) What advice is offered to children now in school?
18 Despite the many difficulties, school is important to life. Its primary function is to train young minds to think, to be creative and to explore. Education has been defined in this way: “The process by which persons grow and are enabled to live significantly.” It can give training to the mind, actively develop the personality, and provide practical preparation for life. School should prepare youths to accept adult responsibilities. So what you do in school can have a great bearing on what kind of person you will be as an adult. Therefore, apply yourself. (Gal. 6:7) During your school years you may learn abilities and skills that will soon be useful in your adult life, and also later in God’s new system of things. (Isa. 65:22) Learn to read and to write well. It is profitable to pay attention to correct spelling, the basic rules of grammar, and to take an interest in historical events and dates. Learn to use your mind, for the more you use it the better it will serve you now and forever.—Prov. 2:10-13; 3:21-23.
19. (a) How can parents care lovingly for their children? (b) Why are children of principle and integrity a credit to their parents?
19 Children of moral integrity are indeed a reward to the parents that raised them. They are also fine examples to other faithful ones. Show love for them by spending some time with them each day in exploring and learning, stimulating new ideas, looking at pictures or just talking about the Bible or other upbuilding things. This direct interest shown by parents can be an outstanding influence in the child’s life. Your expressions of endearment and gratitude can be more important to them than praise from anyone else. They will become a credit to you. And in a large way it will be your love, your faith, your conduct, your chasteness that they will reflect in ‘becoming examples to the faithful ones.’—1 Pet. 1:22.
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Many fine and needed activities are open to Christian youths, such as doing house chores, shopping for the aged in the congregation, reading to those whose eyesight is failing.—1 Cor. 13:4, 5
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By deeply involving themselves with congregation activities and in sharing the good news—not just giving token service—youths ‘become examples to the faithful ones’