Are You Remaining Clean in Every Respect?
“Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah.”—ISAIAH 52:11.
1. (a) How did a royal decree permit the utensils of Jehovah to be returned to Jerusalem? (b) How had some of those vessels been defiled?
SUDDENLY they were free—after 70 years of slavery! A royal decree of about 538 B.C.E. allowed the Jewish nation to return “and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel.” (Ezra 1:2, 3) Next, another startling development: “King Cyrus [of Persia] himself brought forth the utensils of the house of Jehovah, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought out from Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:7, 8) Among these were the sacred vessels Belshazzar and his grandees had defiled on the night of Babylon’s fall by brazenly using them to praise false gods! (Daniel 5:3, 4) Now the former exiles could return these utensils to Jerusalem and use them in praise of Jehovah!
2. (a) What prophecy of Isaiah would the returnees call to mind? To whom would it apply? (b) Why were they exhorted not to touch anything unclean?
2 As they excitedly prepared for departure, the returning Jews doubtless recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 52:11) The Levites, of course, did the actual transporting of the utensils. (Numbers 1:50, 51; 4:15) However, Isaiah had foretold that all returnees would be honorary vessel bearers. All were thus obliged to be clean. They were not to strip the Babylonians of valuables as did the Israelites when leaving Egypt. (Compare Exodus 12:34-38.) They had to be free of any materialistic or selfish motive in returning. As for Babylon’s “dungy idols,” just touching one would be defiling.* (Jeremiah 50:1, 2) Only by being clean in every way could the Jews walk “the Way of Holiness” back to Jerusalem.—Isaiah 35:8, 9.
3. Who today bear Jehovah’s “utensils”? Why is it such a challenge for them to remain clean?
3 Jehovah’s Witnesses today must similarly be clean as bearers of Jehovah’s “utensils.” The apostle Paul quoted Isaiah’s words and applied them to Christians of his day, saying: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” (2 Corinthians 6:17–7:1) Besides living in an unclean world, we have to grapple with our inherited fallen tendencies. (Genesis 8:21) Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” Some deceive themselves and others into believing that their lives are clean and acceptable to God, when in reality such is not the case. They practice a form of hypocrisy. Each of us must therefore ask, ‘Am I putting forth every effort to be clean before Jehovah in every respect?’ To assist us in doing so, let us now focus on four aspects of cleanness.
Physical Cleanness: A Priority
4. (a) Why is physical cleanness a priority among Jehovah’s people? (b) Why may it be difficult sometimes to maintain a high standard of cleanliness?
4 Physical cleanness is a priority among Jehovah’s people today as it was in ancient times. (Exodus 30:17-21; 40:30-32) After all, would we be treating the “utensils of Jehovah” with respect if our hair, hands, face, teeth, or fingernails were dirty, or if we emitted unpleasant body odors? It is easy, though, to let the world’s low standards influence us.—Romans 12:2.
5. (a) Why is it so important that we keep our standard of cleanness high? Give local examples of how this counsel could be applied. (b) How can elders assist?
5 How can we stand out as different from the world if we settle for the world’s low standards? Would not a dirty home or a slovenly place of worship cause ‘the word of God to be spoken of abusively’? (Titus 2:5) But when we practice good personal hygiene, pick up litter at convention sites, assist in Kingdom Hall maintenance, and keep our homes—even the humblest abode—neat and clean, we bring glory to God! (Compare 1 Peter 2:12.) Elders, set a good personal example in cleanliness. Do not “hold back” from giving appropriate counsel where necessary.—Acts 20:20.
6. What should be our standard of dress for meetings and field service?
6 What about the clothing we wear when worshiping at meetings and when in field service? Should it not be ‘modest and well arranged’? (1 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 10:23-25) Do not reason that we are obliged to dress up only if we have a part on the meeting. Overly casual attire is immodest and inappropriate for worship. Worn-out book bags and dog-eared or soiled Bibles also detract from the Kingdom message.
Avoiding Mental Contamination
7. What is the key to mental cleanness, according to Philippians 4:8?
7 At Philippians 4:8 Paul counseled: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” Nevertheless, everywhere we are assailed with temptations to peer into “the ‘deep things of Satan.’”—Revelation 2:24.
8. How may the dangers posed by various forms of entertainment be illustrated? Give local examples.
8 For example, the easy availability of pornographic and excessively violent material has resulted in serious problems for some users of videocassette recorders. In Europe, a married brother would watch unclean tapes after his wife had gone to bed. The seed of wrongdoing was firmly planted, resulting in adultery. (Compare James 1:14, 15.) In one African land, a group of Witness youths borrowed unclean tapes from school friends and watched them while their parents were away. An elder in Nigeria, however, observes: ‘Greater danger often lies in regular TV programs that similarly depict violence, crime, war, lovemaking scenes, and contempt for marital integrity.’ Cheap tabloid newspapers, pornographic magazines, sexually arousing novels, movies, and debasing music are also prevalent dangers.
9. (a) Why must we be selective about what we listen to, watch, and read? (b) How should we react if confronted with objectionable material?
9 We cannot afford to dirty our minds with things “shameful even to relate.” (Ephesians 5:12) So be selective about what you listen to, watch, and read. Be on guard and react quickly to reject objectionable material. (Psalm 119:37) This will require real self-control, perhaps figuratively ‘pummeling your body and leading it as a slave.’ (1 Corinthians 9:27) Always remember, though, that what we watch in secrecy is observed by “the One who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27) So shun what is questionable. “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—Ephesians 5:10.
“Keeping on Guard” to Stay Morally Clean
10. (a) What is one reason so many are reproved or disfellowshipped each year? (b) What Bible principle should guide our conduct on vacations and at work?
10 At Ephesians 5:5 Paul warned: “For you know this, recognizing it for yourselves, that no fornicator or unclean person or greedy person—which means being an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.” Yet, thousands each year are reproved or disfellowshipped because of sexual immorality—‘sinning against the body.’ (1 Corinthians 6:18) Often, it is simply a result of not “keeping on guard according to [God’s] word.” (Psalm 119:9) Many brothers, for example, drop their moral guard during vacation periods. Neglecting theocratic association, they strike up friendships with worldly vacationers. Reasoning that these are ‘really nice people,’ some Christians have joined them in questionable activities. Similarly, others have become overly friendly with their workmates. One Christian elder became so involved with a female employee that he abandoned his family and took up living with her! Disfellowshipping resulted. How true the Bible’s words, “Bad associations spoil useful habits”!—1 Corinthians 15:33.
11. Why should Christian gatherings be properly supervised?
11 From South Africa comes this report: “Another danger that threatens the moral uprightness of many is large parties . . . some of which were held after sessions of the district convention.” However, smaller Christian gatherings that are well supervised seldom deteriorate into “revelries.” (Galatians 5:21) If alcoholic beverages are to be served, do so under supervision and in moderation. “Wine is a ridiculer,” and under its influence, some brothers have dropped their moral guard or awakened slumbering weaknesses. (Proverbs 20:1) Thus, two young ministers engaged in homosexual acts after overindulging in alcohol.
12, 13. (a) How have some justified immoral conduct? Why is such reasoning fallacious? (b) How can we stay on guard against threats to good morals?
12 When tempted to err, call to mind that, no matter how clean we may appear outwardly, it is what we are inside that counts. (Proverbs 21:2) Some evidently feel that God will forgive repeated excursions into immoral conduct because they are weak. But is this not “turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct”? (Jude 4) Some even imagine that “Jehovah is not seeing us.” (Ezekiel 8:12) Remember, though, that “there is not a creation that is not manifest to his sight, but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.”—Hebrews 4:13.
13 So be on guard against threats to good morals! “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming.” (Ephesians 5:3, 4) “Abhor what is wicked,” no matter how pleasurable it might be to the flesh.—Romans 12:9.
Keeping Spiritually Clean
14, 15. (a) How have some exposed themselves to spiritual contamination? (b) How do apostates use their ‘mouths to bring their fellowman to ruin’? (c) In what ways are apostates really unclean, and what have they forgotten?
14 Some have exposed themselves to possible spiritual contamination by tuning in to religious radio and television broadcasts. In one African land, some have watched TV dramas that portray the superstitions of traditional animist religions in a favorable light. The apostle Paul, though, warned of a more lethal danger—apostate men who were “subverting the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:16-18) Individuals like that still exist! (2 Peter 2:1-3) And at times they have succeeded in sullying the thinking of others. As Proverbs 11:9 says: “By his mouth the one who is an apostate brings his fellowman to ruin.”
15 Apostates often appeal to the ego, claiming that we have been deprived of our freedoms, including the freedom to interpret the Bible for ourselves. (Compare Genesis 3:1-5.) In reality, these would-be defilers offer nothing more than a return to the nauseating teachings of “Babylon the Great.” (Revelation 17:5; 2 Peter 2:19-22) Others appeal to the flesh, urging former associates to “take it easy” because the humble work of witnessing from house to house is “unnecessary” or “unscriptural.” (Compare Matthew 16:22, 23.) True, such smooth talkers may look outwardly clean in a physical and moral way. But inside they are spiritually unclean, having given in to prideful, independent thinking. They have forgotten all that they learned about Jehovah, his holy name and attributes. They no longer acknowledge that all they learned about Bible truth—the glorious hope of the Kingdom and a paradise earth and the overturning of false doctrines, such as the Trinity, the immortal human soul, eternal torment, and purgatory—yes, all of this came to them through “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45-47.
16. How are the righteous rescued “by knowledge”?
16 Interestingly, a circuit overseer in France observes: “Some brothers are deceived because they lack accurate knowledge.” That is why Proverbs 11:9 states: “By knowledge are the righteous rescued.” This does not mean giving apostates a hearing ear or delving into their writings. Rather, it means coming to “an accurate knowledge of the sacred secret of God” through diligent personal study of the Bible and the Society’s Bible-based publications. Having this accurate knowledge, who would become so curious as to pay any attention to apostate mouthings? May no man “delude you with persuasive arguments”! (Colossians 2:2-4) False religious propaganda from any source should be avoided like poison! Really, since our Lord has used “the faithful and discreet slave” to convey to us “sayings of everlasting life,” why should we ever want to look anywhere else?—John 6:68.
Will You Remain Clean?
17, 18. Why is it vital to cultivate (a) physical cleanness, (b) mental cleanness, (c) moral cleanness, and (d) spiritual cleanness?
17 Much is therefore involved in remaining clean before Jehovah God. Keeping our bodies, our homes, our clothing, and our Kingdom Halls physically clean adorns our Kingdom message. Keeping mentally clean helps us stay clean morally and spiritually. This calls for our heeding Paul’s admonition at Philippians 4:8, to keep our minds on things that are true, chaste, and praiseworthy.
18 We can also appreciate more than ever that we must stay morally clean in both word and deed. Jehovah explicitly warns us that those who engage in any form of immorality will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) No matter how pleasant such unclean things may seem, if we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption from the flesh. (Galatians 6:8) Finally, there is the matter of remaining spiritually clean, doctrinally clean. Such cleanness helps us maintain the purity of our hearts and minds. We are thus moved always to seek God’s thoughts on matters—not our own.
19. What can aid both the anointed and the “great crowd” in remaining clean in all respects?
19 Soon the main promoter of uncleanness—Satan the Devil—will, along with his demons, be cast into the deep abyss. Until then, may all of Jehovah’s servants—of the anointed and of the “great crowd”—remain clean as bearers of Jehovah’s vessels. (Revelation 7:9, 13-15; 19:7, 8; 20:1-3) The fight is unrelenting and hard. Remember, though, that Jehovah gives freely of his “spirit of holiness.” (Romans 1:4) His clean organization, with its elders, also stands ready to assist us by offering sound, Scriptural advice. With such help and our own determination, we can remain clean in every respect!
Questions for Review
□ Why did the Jews returning from Babylon have to be clean?
□ How can we give attention to physical cleanness?
□ How can we protect our minds from contamination?
□ How can we stay on guard against moral dangers?
□ How can we maintain our spiritual cleanness?
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Our homes should be models of cleanness
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Christians must use good judgment in avoiding video tapes and TV programs that could contaminate the mind
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Small gatherings can be morally upbuilding
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Zealous Witnesses keep spiritually clean and find protection and joy through diligent Bible study