Moral Cleanness Is the Beauty of Youth
“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.”—ECCLESIASTES 11:9.
1, 2. (a) What does Jehovah want for youth? (b) Why is it foolish to pursue whatever appeals to your heart and eyes?
“YOUTH, enthusiasm, and tenderness are like the days of spring. Instead of complaining . . . of their brief duration, try to enjoy them.” So wrote a 19th-century German poet. Those words of advice to you younger ones echo those written thousands of years earlier in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes: “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, and let your heart do you good in the days of your young manhood [or, womanhood], and walk in the ways of your heart and in the things seen by your eyes.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9a) So Jehovah God does not necessarily take a negative view of what appeals to youthful desires. He wants you to enjoy to the full the strength and vigor of your youth.—Proverbs 20:29.
2 Does this mean, though, that you can pursue whatever appeals to your heart and eyes? Far from it! (Numbers 15:39; 1 John 2:16) The scripture goes on to say: “But know that on account of all these [the pursuits you select to satisfy your desires] the true God will bring you into judgment.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9b) Yes, you cannot escape the consequences of your actions; young ones, like older ones, are subject to Jehovah’s judgment.—Romans 14:12.
3, 4. (a) Why maintain a high standard of moral cleanness? (b) What pressure is there on you to lose your clean standing with God, and what questions are raised?
3 Receiving Jehovah’s favorable judgment leads not only to everlasting life but to an intimate relationship with God now. You must, however, maintain a high standard of moral cleanness. Psalm 24, verses 3 to 5, puts it this way: “Who may ascend into the mountain of Jehovah, and who may rise up in his holy place? Anyone innocent in his hands and clean in heart, who has not carried My soul to sheer worthlessness, nor taken an oath deceitfully. He will carry away blessing from Jehovah and righteousness from his God of salvation.” Yes, you are beautiful in the eyes of Jehovah when you maintain moral cleanness.
4 Yet, there is constant pressure on you to lose your clean standing with God. As these last days move toward their finish, there is an epidemic of immoral behavior and unclean influences. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Never has the challenge to maintain moral cleanness been greater for youths. Are you successfully meeting the challenge? Will you continue to do so?
The Challenge You Face
5. What unclean influences make it difficult to maintain a clean standing before God?
5 The entertainment media assault youths with things that shove aside what is decent and glorify what is blatantly immoral. For example, upon the release of one in a series of violent horror films, one movie critic wrote: “The alternation of sex-shock, murder-shock, and obscenity-shock in massive doses is this picture’s routine. If it sets attendance records, it will memorialize another huge descent in the degradation of . . . taste in movies.” Added to such movies are songs that contain sexually explicit lyrics and television programs that glorify illicit sex. Can you expose yourself to such graphic depictions of the “low sink of debauchery” and maintain your clean standing before God? (1 Peter 4:4) As the proverb says: “Can a man rake together fire into his bosom and yet his very garments not be burned?”—Proverbs 6:27.
6. What pressure do youths face from their peers?
6 Pressure on you to lose your clean standing with God comes also from another source—your peers. A 17-year-old worldly girl lamented: “I had sex for the first time for all the wrong reasons: because my boyfriend insisted and because I thought everyone was doing it.” Nobody wants to be laughed at. It is natural to want to be liked by others. But when you take a stand for Bible morality, other youths may ridicule you. The desire to fit in, to gain the acceptance of your peers, can put you under pressure to do something that you know is wrong.—Proverbs 13:20.
7. Why is fighting unclean influences particularly difficult for youths, but what have thousands of young persons in Jehovah’s organization shown themselves to be?
7 Fighting these influences is particularly difficult during “the bloom of youth,” when sexual urges are strong. (1 Corinthians 7:36) No wonder that one research organization concluded: “It is the exceptional young person who has not had premarital intercourse by age 19.” Yet, thousands of you young persons in Jehovah’s organization have shown yourselves to be exceptional. You are facing the challenge squarely and maintaining moral cleanness.
8. Why have some Christian youths allowed the world’s immoral attitudes to rub off on them, and with what result?
8 Sad to say, though, a number of Christian youths have allowed the world’s immoral attitudes to rub off on them. While they may profess to love what is good, they do not hate what is bad; at least, they do not hate it enough. (Psalm 97:10) In some cases, they even seem to love it. As Psalm 52:3 puts it: “You have loved what is bad more than what is good, falsehood more than speaking righteousness.” Some go so far as to reject outright the direction from Jehovah’s organization on such things as dating, entertainment, and morality. As a result, they often bring shame on both themselves and their parents. They also lose their beauty in the eyes of God.—2 Peter 2:21, 22.
Help in Meeting the Challenge
9. What is needed to meet the challenge to remain morally clean?
9 How can you meet the challenge to remain morally clean? The psalmist asked the same question: “How will a young man cleanse his path?” He then gave the answer: “By keeping on guard according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9) Yes, you need guidance from God’s Word. And our loving heavenly Father has seen to it that his organization provides such guidance to help you to resist the unclean pressures of this world.
10, 11. (a) What publications have been prepared to help young people to remain morally clean? (b) How have some youths been helped by the series “Young People Ask . . . ”? (c) How have you personally benefited from the series “Young People Ask . . . ”?
10 Over the years a number of publications have been prepared particularly with young people in mind, such as the book Your Youth—Getting the Best out of It. Since 1982, the series “Young People Ask . . ” in Awake! magazine has given much helpful counsel on such matters as pornography, romance novels, and proper conduct during courtship. Has such information really helped young people? Consider an example. Several articles in the series discussed the practice of masturbation, showing that the habit excites “sexual appetite” and can easily cause one to fall into sexual immorality.* (Colossians 3:5) Practical suggestions were offered on how to fight against the habit and how to deal with a relapse. In response to the articles, some youths wrote: “I’ve had the problem of masturbation since I was 12 years old. I’m now 18, and I’m slowly recovering, thanks to your articles.” “Now that I’ve taken the advice the articles have given, I find myself in a much better state of mind. I feel much cleaner than before.”
11 It takes time to read and study such information, but doing so can help you to remain morally clean. Are you taking full advantage of such published material? In response to the “Young People Ask . . ” article “Sex Before Marriage—Why Not?”* one young girl, a Bible student at the time, wrote: “I know the bad, guilty, and jealous feelings that arise after premarital sex, and I regret it very much. Every day I thank Jehovah for his acceptance and his forgiveness. Your article, I hope, will help others before they do as I did. It really hurts. Now I understand why Jehovah God wills that we ‘abstain from fornication.’”—1 Thessalonians 4:3.
12. What will move us to want to please Jehovah?
12 This brings us to something else that will help you to meet the challenge successfully: You must appreciate that Jehovah is the Universal Sovereign and should be obeyed. (Revelation 4:11) At the same time, though, he is a loving heavenly Father, and he has our best interests at heart. (Proverbs 2:20-22; Isaiah 48:17) His laws are intended to protect us, not needlessly restrict us. Obeying them is thus the course of wisdom. (Deuteronomy 4:5, 6) Understanding clearly why Jehovah insists on moral cleanness will help you to see the real beauty in it and will move you to want to please him.—Psalm 112:1.
13. How would you explain that Jehovah’s law prohibiting fornication has our best interests at heart?
13 Consider the fact that God limits sex to marriage and strictly forbids fornication. (Hebrews 13:4) Does obeying this law deprive you of anything good? Would a loving heavenly Father make a law to rob you of enjoyment in life? Of course not! Look at what is happening in the lives of your peers who ignore God’s moral law. Unwanted pregnancies often lead them to abortions or, perhaps, premature marriages. In many cases it means having to rear a child without a husband. Furthermore, youths who practice fornication are ‘sinning against their own bodies’ and expose themselves to sexually transmitted diseases. (1 Corinthians 6:18) And when a youth who is dedicated to Jehovah commits fornication, the emotional side effects can be devastating. Trying to suppress the naggings of a guilty conscience can cause weariness and sleepless nights. (Psalm 32:3, 4; 51:3) Is it not obvious, then, that Jehovah’s law prohibiting fornication is designed to protect you? There is real benefit in maintaining moral cleanness!
14 Granted, it is not easy to adhere to God’s strict laws on morality. Because of this, some youths have concluded that the best protection is to get married while they are still in their teens. ‘After all,’ they reason, ‘does not 1 Corinthians 7:9 say: “If they do not have self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion”?’ Such a view, though, is shortsighted. Paul’s words are not addressed to teens but to those who are “past the bloom of youth.” (1 Corinthians 7:36) In most cases those who are still in the bloom of youth have not developed enough emotionally and spiritually to take on the pressures and responsibilities that come with marriage. Reports the Journal of Marriage and the Family: “People who marry early experience lower marital satisfaction because they lack preparation for marital role performance. Poor role performance decreases satisfaction, which in turn leads to marital instability.” So the answer is, not marrying while young, but maintaining chaste singleness until you have developed all the qualities needed to make a success of marriage.
Keep Yourself Clean!
15. What strong measures are needed if you are to remain morally clean?
15 The apostle Paul wrote: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite.” (Colossians 3:5) Yes, strong measures are needed; you must be determined to remain morally clean. Commenting on the verb rendered “deaden,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says: “It suggests that we are not simply to suppress or control evil acts and attitudes. We are to wipe them out, completely exterminate the old way of life. ‘Slay utterly’ may express its force. . . . Both the meaning of the verb and the force of the tense suggest a vigorous, painful act of personal determination.”—Compare Matthew 5:27-30.
16. To remain morally clean, why must you work hard to keep mentally clean, and how can you succeed in doing so?
16 How, though, can you “slay utterly” or ‘wipe out’ morally unclean acts and attitudes? Jesus got to the root of the problem when he said: “From inside, out of the heart of men, injurious reasonings issue forth: fornications, . . . adulteries, covetings.” (Mark 7:21, 22) The figurative heart includes the thinking faculties, which is why it is associated with “reasonings.” To remain morally clean, then, you must strive to keep mentally clean. How? Since the mind is fed through the senses, you need to guard against what you look at with your eyes, avoiding books, TV programs, or movies that portray or condone sexual immorality. Also, you need to be careful about what you listen to with your ears, shunning songs that contain sexually explicit lyrics. It calls for courage to take such a stand, especially in the face of your peers, but doing so will help you to remain morally clean and maintain self-respect.
17. Why should moral uncleanness not even be mentioned among you?
17 The apostle Paul also counseled: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3; see also Eph 5 verse 12.) So moral uncleanness should not even be mentioned, that is, dwelt upon or used as a subject for jesting. Why not? As Bible scholar William Barclay put it: “To talk about a thing, to jest about a thing, to make it a frequent subject of conversation is to introduce it into the mind, and to bring nearer the actual doing of it.” (James 1:14, 15) It takes real determination to ‘set a muzzle as a guard to your mouth,’ especially when other youths are telling dirty jokes or using off-color language to describe sexual activities. (Psalm 39:1) But by remaining upright and clean, you will gladden Jehovah’s heart.—Psalm 11:7; Proverbs 27:11.
18. (a) To win the fight against moral uncleanness, why is it not enough to reject unclean thoughts and speech? (b) How may you benefit from Paul’s counsel to the Philippians?
18 To win the fight against moral uncleanness, it is not enough to reject unclean thoughts and speech. A Chinese proverb says: “A vacant mind is open to all suggestions.” (Compare Matthew 12:43-45.) Paul recognized the need to fill the mind with wholesome, clean thoughts. Hence, he urged the Philippians: “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 [‘make them the subject of careful reflection’*].”—Philippians 4:8.
19. Why make a diligent study of God’s Word, and in what way will this help you to remain morally clean?
19 This means making a diligent study of God’s Word. (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2) It will fortify your mind and heart and will help you to develop a close personal relationship with Jehovah. You will thus be in a much better position to resist temptations to engage in morally unclean conduct. You simply will not risk bringing dishonor on Jehovah’s name and shame to your family and the congregation. Instead, you will use the strength and vigor of your youth in such a way that you will not later have regrets. Yes, you will follow the course of moral cleanness, truly the beauty of youth who are found serving Jehovah!—Proverbs 3:1-4.
The Expositor’s Greek Testament.
Youths—How Would You Answer?
◻ Why must you maintain a high standard of moral cleanness?
◻ What pressures make it challenging to maintain a clean standing with God?
◻ What can help you to meet the challenge to remain morally clean?
◻ What strong measures are needed if you are to keep yourself clean?
[Picture on page 13]
Most of those still in the bloom of youth are too young to care for the responsibilities of parenthood