Are You Pursuing Virtue?
“Whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”—PHILIPPIANS 4:8.
1. What is vice, and why has it not corrupted Jehovah’s worship?
VICE is moral depravity or corruption. It permeates the world in which we live. (Ephesians 2:1-3) However, Jehovah God will not allow his clean worship to be corrupted. Christian publications, meetings, assemblies, and conventions give us timely warnings against unrighteous conduct. We receive sound Scriptural help to “cling to what is good” in God’s eyes. (Romans 12:9) As an organization, therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses are striving to be clean, virtuous. But what about us as individuals? Indeed, are you pursuing virtue?
2. What is virtue, and why is effort required to remain virtuous?
2 Virtue is moral excellence, goodness, right action and thinking. It is not a passive quality but an active, positive one. Virtue involves more than avoiding sin; it means pursuing what is good. (1 Timothy 6:11) The apostle Peter exhorted fellow Christians: “Supply to your faith virtue.” How? By “contributing in response [to God’s precious promises] all earnest effort.” (2 Peter 1:5) Because of our sinful nature, it takes real effort to remain virtuous. Yet, God-fearing individuals of the past have done so, even in the face of immense obstacles.
He Pursued Virtue
3. Of what wicked acts was King Ahaz guilty?
3 The Scriptures contain many accounts of those who pursued virtue. For instance, consider virtuous Hezekiah. His father, King Ahaz of Judah, evidently worshiped Molech. “Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and for sixteen years he reigned in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the eyes of Jehovah his God like David his forefather. And he went walking in the way of the kings of Israel, and even his own son he made pass through the fire, according to the detestable things of the nations whom Jehovah drove out because of the sons of Israel. And he kept sacrificing and making sacrificial smoke on the high places and upon the hills and under every luxuriant tree.” (2 Kings 16:2-4) Some claim that ‘passing through the fire’ signified some sort of purification ritual and not human sacrifice. However, the book Molech—A God of Human Sacrifice in the Old Testament, by John Day, observes: “There is evidence in classical and Punic [Carthaginian] sources, as well as archaeological evidence, for the existence of human sacrifice . . . in the Canaanite world, and so there is no reason to doubt the Old Testament allusions [to human sacrifice].” Furthermore, 2 Chronicles 28:3 specifically says that Ahaz “proceeded to burn up his sons in the fire.” (Compare Deuteronomy 12:31; Psalm 106:37, 38.) What wicked acts!
4. How did Hezekiah conduct himself in a vice-filled environment?
4 How did Hezekiah fare in this vice-filled environment? The 119th Psalm is of interest, for some believe that Hezekiah composed it, doing this while still a prince. (Psalm 119:46, 99, 100) So his circumstances may be indicated by the words: “Even princes have sat; against me they have spoken with one another. As for your servant, he concerns himself with your regulations. My soul has been sleepless from grief.” (Psalm 119:23, 28) Surrounded by practicers of false religion, Hezekiah may have become an object of scorn among members of the royal court, so much so that sleep was difficult. Yet, he pursued virtue, in time became king, and “continued to do what was right in Jehovah’s eyes . . . In Jehovah the God of Israel he trusted.”—2 Kings 18:1-5.
They Remained Virtuous
5. What trials did Daniel and his three companions face?
5 Also exemplary in virtue were Daniel and his three Hebrew companions, named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were forcibly taken from their homeland and exiled to Babylon. The four youths were given Babylonian names—Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were offered “the delicacies of the king,” including foods forbidden by God’s Law. Moreover, they were compelled to undergo a three-year training course related to “the writing and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” This involved more than simply learning another language, for it is likely that the term “Chaldeans” here designates the learned class. Thus, these Hebrew youths were exposed to warped Babylonian teachings.—Daniel 1:1-7.
6. Why can we say that Daniel pursued virtue?
6 In spite of enormous pressures to conform, Daniel and his three companions chose virtue over vice. Daniel 1:21 says: “Daniel continued on until the first year of Cyrus the king.” Yes, Daniel “continued on” as a virtuous servant of Jehovah for over 80 years—through the rise and fall of several powerful kings. He remained faithful to God despite the intrigues and plots of corrupt government officials and the sexual vice permeating Babylonian religion. Daniel kept on pursuing virtue.
7. What can be learned from the course followed by Daniel and his three companions?
7 We can learn much from God-fearing Daniel and his companions. They pursued virtue and refused to be assimilated into Babylonian culture. Though given Babylonian names, they never lost their identity as Jehovah’s servants. Why, some 70 years later, the Babylonian king addressed Daniel by his Hebrew name! (Daniel 5:13) Throughout his long life, Daniel refused to compromise even in small matters. As a young person, he had “determined in his heart that he would not pollute himself with the delicacies of the king.” (Daniel 1:8) This uncompromising stand taken by Daniel and his three companions no doubt strengthened them to survive the life-and-death trials they later faced.—Daniel, chapters 3 and 6.
Pursuing Virtue Today
8. How can Christian youths resist assimilation into Satan’s world?
8 Like Daniel and his three companions, God’s people today resist assimilation into Satan’s wicked world. (1 John 5:19) If you are a Christian youth, you may be experiencing strong pressure from peers to mimic their extreme tastes in dress, grooming, and music. Instead of following every fad or style that comes along, though, stand firm, and do not let yourself be “fashioned after this system of things.” (Romans 12:2) “Repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and . . . live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion.” (Titus 2:11, 12) The important thing is the approval not of your peers but of Jehovah.—Proverbs 12:2.
9. What pressures might Christians in the business world face, and how should they conduct themselves?
9 Adult Christians too face pressures and must be virtuous. Christian businessmen may be tempted to employ questionable methods or to ignore government regulations and tax laws. Regardless of how business competitors or workmates behave, however, “we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) We are Scripturally required to be honest and fair with employers, employees, customers, and secular governments. (Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Matthew 5:37; Romans 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:18; Titus 2:9, 10) Let us also strive to be orderly in our business affairs. By keeping accurate records and putting agreements in writing, we can often prevent misunderstandings.
Keep on Guard!
10. Why is there a need to ‘keep on guard’ when it comes to our choice of music?
10 Psalm 119:9 highlights another aspect of remaining virtuous in God’s sight. The psalmist sang: “How will a young man cleanse his path? By keeping on guard according to your word.” One of Satan’s most effective weapons is music, which has power to stir emotions. Sadly, some Christians have failed to ‘keep on guard’ when it comes to music, and they find themselves drawn to extreme forms of it, such as rap and heavy metal. Some may argue that such music does not harm them or that they pay no attention to the lyrics. Others say that they simply enjoy a strong beat or the sound of loud guitars. For Christians, though, the issue is not whether something is enjoyable. Their concern is whether it is “acceptable to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:10) By and large, heavy metal and rap music promote such vices as profanity, fornication, and even Satanism—things that certainly have no place among God’s people.* (Ephesians 5:3) Young or old, each of us would do well to reflect on this question, By my choice of music, am I pursuing virtue or vice?
11. How can a Christian keep on guard with respect to television programs, videos, and movies?
11 Many television programs, videos, and movies promote vice. According to one prominent mental-health expert, ‘hedonism, sexuality, violence, greed, and selfishness’ predominate in most of the movies being produced today. Therefore, keeping on guard includes being selective about what we choose to watch. The psalmist prayed: “Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless.” (Psalm 119:37) A Christian youth named Joseph applied this principle. When a certain film began to portray graphic sex and violence, he left the theater. Was he embarrassed to do this? “No, not at all,” says Joseph. “I thought of Jehovah first and of pleasing him.”
The Role of Study and Meditation
12. Why are personal study and meditation needed in order to pursue virtue?
12 It is not enough to avoid bad things. Pursuing virtue also involves studying and meditating on the good things recorded in God’s Word so that its righteous principles can be applied in life. “How I do love your law!” exclaimed the psalmist. “All day long it is my concern.” (Psalm 119:97) Is personal study of the Bible and Christian publications a part of your weekly schedule? True, making time for diligent study of God’s Word and prayerful meditation on it can be challenging. But often it is possible to buy out time from other activities. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Perhaps the early morning hours would serve you well as a time for prayer, study, and meditation.—Compare Psalm 119:147.
13, 14. (a) Why is meditation invaluable? (b) Meditating on what scriptures can help us to abhor sexual immorality?
13 Meditation is invaluable, for it helps us to retain what we learn. More important, it can help to promote godly views. To illustrate: It is one thing to know that God prohibits fornication but quite another to ‘abhor what is wicked and cling to what is good.’ (Romans 12:9) We can actually feel the way Jehovah feels about sexual immorality by meditating on key Bible texts, such as Colossians 3:5, which urges: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Ask yourself: ‘What kind of sexual appetite must I deaden? What should I avoid that might arouse unclean desire? Are there changes I need to make in the way I treat the opposite sex?’—Compare 1 Timothy 5:1, 2.
14 Paul urges Christians to abstain from fornication and to exercise self-control so that “no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7) Ask yourself: ‘Why is committing fornication harmful? What damage would I do to myself or to someone else if I sinned in this regard? How would I be affected spiritually, emotionally, and physically? What about individuals in the congregation who have violated God’s law and been unrepentant? How have things turned out for them?’ Taking to heart what the Scriptures say about such conduct can deepen our hatred of what is bad in God’s eyes. (Exodus 20:14; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8) Paul says that a fornicator “is disregarding, not man, but God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:8) What true Christian would disregard his heavenly Father?
Virtue and Association
15. What role does association play in our pursuit of virtue?
15 Another aid to remaining virtuous is good association. The psalmist sang: “A partner I am of all those who do fear you [Jehovah], and of those keeping your orders.” (Psalm 119:63) We need the wholesome association provided at Christian meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) If we isolate ourselves, we might become self-centered in our thinking, and vice could easily overtake us. (Proverbs 18:1) Warm Christian fellowship, however, can strengthen our resolve to remain virtuous. Of course, we must also guard against bad associations. We can be cordial with neighbors, workmates, and fellow students. But if we are really walking wisely, we will avoid getting too close to those not pursuing Christian virtue.—Compare Colossians 4:5.
16. How can the application of 1 Corinthians 15:33 help us to pursue virtue today?
16 Paul wrote: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” By making this statement, he was warning believers that they could lose their faith by associating with professed Christians who rejected the Scriptural teaching about the resurrection. The principle behind Paul’s warning applies to our associations both outside and inside the congregation. (1 Corinthians 15:12, 33) Naturally, we do not want to shun our spiritual brothers and sisters because they do not happen to agree with some purely personal view that we hold. (Matthew 7:4, 5; Romans 14:1-12) Nevertheless, caution is needed if some in the congregation engage in questionable conduct or display a bitter or complaining spirit. (2 Timothy 2:20-22) It is wise to stay close to those with whom we can enjoy “an interchange of encouragement.” (Romans 1:11, 12) This will help us to pursue a virtuous course and remain on “the path of life.”—Psalm 16:11.
Keep On Pursuing Virtue
17. According to Numbers chapter 25, what disaster befell the Israelites, and what lesson does this provide for us?
17 Shortly before the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, thousands of them chose to pursue vice—and suffered disaster. (Numbers, chapter 25) Today, Jehovah’s people stand at the threshold of the righteous new world. Entry into it will be the blessed privilege of those who continue to reject this world’s vices. As imperfect humans, we may have wrong inclinations, but God can help us to follow the righteous leadings of his holy spirit. (Galatians 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4) Let us therefore heed Joshua’s exhortation to Israel: “Fear Jehovah and serve him in faultlessness and in truth.” (Joshua 24:14) Reverential fear of displeasing Jehovah will help us to pursue a virtuous course.
18. Regarding vice and virtue, what should be the determination of all Christians?
18 If it is your heart’s desire to please God, be determined to heed Paul’s exhortation: “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.” If you do this, what will be the result? Said Paul: “Practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8, 9) Yes, with Jehovah’s help you can reject vice and pursue virtue.
See The Watchtower, April 15, 1993, pages 19-24, and the series “Young People Ask . . . ” in Awake! of February 8, February 22, and March 22, 1993, and November 22, 1996.
Points for Review
□ What is required in order to pursue virtue?
□ Under what circumstances did Hezekiah, Daniel, and the three Hebrews remain virtuous?
□ How can we be like Daniel in resisting Satan’s devices?
□ Why must Christians keep on guard respecting entertainment?
□ What role do study, meditation, and association play in pursuing virtue?
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Young Hezekiah pursued virtue even though he was surrounded by worshipers of Molech
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Christians must keep on guard when it comes to entertainment