Youths—Resist the Spirit of the World
“Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God.”—1 CORINTHIANS 2:12.
1, 2. (a) What contrast can be seen between the young people in the world and the young ones in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) What warm commendation can be given to most Witness youths?
“OUR younger generation is dispirited, rejected and rebelling.” So declared the Australian newspaper The Sun-Herald. It added: “Court records show a 22 per cent rise [over the previous year] in the number of juveniles appearing on charges of serious assault . . . Kids are killing themselves at a rate that’s tripled since the mid-60s . . . And the generation gap has become a veritable gulf down which young people are sliding in ever-increasing numbers into a drug, alcohol and self-annihilation oblivion.” This situation is hardly limited to one land, however. Throughout the world, parents, teachers, and mental-health professionals lament the state of young ones.
2 What a dramatic contrast there is between most of today’s youths and the wholesome young ones found in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses! Not that they are perfect. They too have their struggles with “the desires incidental to youth.” (2 Timothy 2:22) But as a group, these young ones have taken a courageous stand for what is right and have refused to give in to the world’s pressures. We wholeheartedly commend all of you young ones who are winning the war against Satan’s “crafty acts”! (Ephesians 6:11, footnote) Like the apostle John, we are moved to comment: “I write you, young men [and women], because you are strong and the word of God remains in you and you have conquered the wicked one.”—1 John 2:14.
3. What can the word “spirit” mean?
3 Nevertheless, to continue winning your battle against the wicked one, you must strenuously resist what the Bible calls “the spirit of the world.” (1 Corinthians 2:12) According to one authority on Greek, “spirit” can mean “the disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of any one.” For example, if you observe that someone is ill-tempered, you might say that he has a bad “spirit.” Your “spirit,” disposition, or mental inclination influences the choices you make; it drives your actions and speech. Interestingly, both individuals and groups can manifest a “spirit.” The apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians: “The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you people show.” (Philemon 25) Just what spirit, then, does this world manifest? Since “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil, the spirit of the world cannot possibly be wholesome, can it?—1 John 5:19.
Identifying the World’s Spirit
4, 5. (a) What spirit had influenced those in the Ephesian congregation before they became Christians? (b) Who is “the ruler of the authority of the air,” and what is the “air”?
4 Paul wrote: “It is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience. Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest.”—Ephesians 2:1-3.
5 Before learning the Christian way, Christians in Ephesus had been unwitting followers of “the ruler of the authority of the air,” Satan the Devil. That “air” is not some literal place where Satan and his demons dwell. When Paul wrote these words, Satan the Devil and his demons still had access to heaven. (Compare Job 1:6; Revelation 12:7-12.) The word “air” means the spirit, or mental attitude, that dominates Satan’s world. (Compare Revelation 16:17-21.) Like the air around us, this spirit is everywhere.
6. What is “the authority of the air,” and how is it exercised over many young ones?
6 But what is “the authority of the air”? Evidently, this refers to the profound influence this “air” has on people. Paul said that this spirit “operates in the sons of disobedience.” So the spirit of the world breeds a spirit of disobedience and rebellion, and peer pressure is one way in which this authority is exercised. “When you’re in school,” says a young Witness girl, “everyone’s always encouraging you to be a little rebellious. The kids respect you more if you do something on the edge.”
Manifestations of the World’s Spirit
7-9. (a) Name some ways in which the world’s spirit is manifested among young people today. (b) Have you observed any of these things locally?
7 What are some manifestations of the spirit of the world among young people today? Dishonesty and rebelliousness. One magazine report stated that more than 70 percent of college juniors and seniors said that they had cheated during high school. Flippant, sarcastic, and unclean speech are also prevalent. True, on occasion Job and the apostle Paul used what some might view as sarcasm to express righteous indignation. (Job 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:13) However, the cruel sarcasm heard on the lips of many young people often amounts to verbal abuse.
8 Excesses in recreation are also manifestations of the world’s spirit. Youth nightclubs, raves,* and other forms of wild reveling are popular among young people. Extremes in dress and grooming are likewise prevalent. From oversized hip-hop styles to shocking fads, such as body-piercing, many of today’s youths identify themselves with the world’s rebellious spirit. (Compare Romans 6:16.) Preoccupation with material possessions is another manifestation. According to one educational journal, “marketers are pummeling kids at every turn with a formidable arsenal of techniques and a panoply [an array] of products.” By the time youths in the United States graduate from high school, they will have been exposed to 360,000 TV ads. Your peers may also pressure you to buy. Says a 14-year-old girl: “Everyone is always asking, ‘What brand is your sweater, jacket, or jeans?’”
9 Since Bible times, unwholesome music has been a tool of Satan to stimulate unclean behavior. (Compare Exodus 32:17-19; Psalm 69:12; Isaiah 23:16.) Not surprisingly, then, music with sexually seductive—if not explicit—lyrics, profanity, and wild, arousing tempos is popular. Yet another manifestation of this world’s unclean spirit is sexual immorality. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Reports The New York Times: “Sex for many teen-agers has become almost a rite of passage . . . More than two-thirds of high school seniors have had sexual intercourse.” An article in The Wall Street Journal cited evidence that children between the ages of 8 and 12 are “becoming more sexually active.” Says a recently retired school counselor: “We’re beginning to see a few pregnant sixth-graders.”*
Rejecting the World’s Spirit
10. How have some youths from Christian families succumbed to the world’s spirit?
10 Tragically, some Christian youths have succumbed to the world’s spirit. “I displayed a fine attitude in front of my parents and fellow Christians,” admits one Japanese girl. “But I was also living another life.” Says a youth from Kenya: “For some time I lived a double life, which included parties, rock music, and having the wrong friends. I knew this was wrong, but I tried to ignore it, hoping that in time it would just go away. But it didn’t. Things just got worse.” Another youth, from Germany, says: “It all started with having the wrong kind of friends. Then I took up smoking. I wanted to hurt my parents, but I only hurt myself.”
11. How was Caleb able to resist going along with the crowd when ten spies brought back a bad report?
11 Still, it is possible to resist, yes reject, the world’s spirit. Consider the ancient example of Caleb. When the ten cowardly spies brought back a bad report about the Promised Land, he, along with Joshua, refused to be intimidated and go along with the crowd. They courageously declared: “The land that we passed through to spy it out is a very, very good land. If Jehovah has found delight in us, then he will certainly bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that is flowing with milk and honey.” (Numbers 14:7, 8) What enabled Caleb to stand up to all that pressure? Jehovah said of Caleb: “A different spirit has proved to be with him.”—Numbers 14:24.
Showing “a Different Spirit”
12. Why is it important to show “a different spirit” with regard to one’s speech?
12 Today, it takes courage and strength to show “a different spirit,” or mental attitude—one different from the world’s. One way you can do so is by avoiding sarcastic, disrespectful speech. Interestingly, the English word “sarcasm” is derived from a Greek verb that literally means “to tear flesh like dogs.” (Compare Galatians 5:15.) Just as a dog’s teeth can tear flesh off a bone, sarcastic “humor” can strip others of their dignity. But Colossians 3:8 exhorts you to “put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth.” And Proverbs 10:19 states: “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” If someone insults you, have the self-control to ‘turn the other cheek,’ perhaps calmly and peacefully speaking to the abuser in private.—Matthew 5:39; Proverbs 15:1.
13. How can youths show a balanced view of material things?
13 Another way to show “a different spirit” is to maintain a balanced view of material things. Of course, it is only natural to want to have nice things. Jesus Christ himself evidently owned at least one quality garment. (John 19:23, 24) However, when owning things becomes an obsession and you are constantly begging your parents to buy things they really cannot afford, or when you just want to imitate other youths, then the world’s spirit may have more authority over you than you realize. The Bible says: “Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” Yes, do not give in to the authority of the world’s materialistic spirit! Learn to be content with what you have.—1 John 2:16; 1 Timothy 6:8-10.
14. (a) How did God’s people in Isaiah’s day show an unbalanced view of recreation? (b) What dangers have some Christian youths encountered at nightclubs and wild parties?
14 Keeping recreation in its place is also important. The prophet Isaiah declared: “Woe to those who are getting up early in the morning that they may seek just intoxicating liquor, who are lingering till late in the evening darkness so that wine itself inflames them! And there must prove to be harp and stringed instrument, tambourine and flute, and wine at their feasts; but the activity of Jehovah they do not look at, and the work of his hands they have not seen.” (Isaiah 5:11, 12) Sad to say, some Christian youths have engaged in similar wild partying. When a group of Christian youths were asked to describe what goes on at youth nightclubs, one young sister said: “Fights happen all the time. I’ve found myself in the middle of them.” Added a young brother: “Drinking, smoking, things like that.” Another young brother admitted: “People get drunk. They act like idiots! And there are drugs. A lot of bad things happen. If you go there and think you won’t be affected, you’re wrong.” For good reason, then, the Bible lists revelries, or “wild parties,” as one of the “works of the flesh.”—Galatians 5:19-21; Byington; Romans 13:13.
15. What balanced view of recreation does the Bible give?
15 Avoiding harmful recreation will not condemn you to a joyless life. We worship a “happy God,” who wants you to enjoy your youth! (1 Timothy 1:11; Ecclesiastes 11:9) But the Bible warns: “He that is loving merriment [“entertainment,” Lamsa] will be an individual in want.” (Proverbs 21:17) Yes, if you make recreation the most important thing in your life, you will suffer spiritual want. So follow Bible principles in your choice of recreation. There are many ways to enjoy yourself that will build you up and not tear you down.*—Ecclesiastes 11:10.
16. How can Christian youths show that they are different?
16 Showing modesty in your dress and grooming, rejecting the world’s fads, will also mark you as different. (Romans 12:2; 1 Timothy 2:9) So will being selective in your choice of music. (Philippians 4:8, 9) “I have music that I know I’m supposed to throw out,” confesses one young Christian, “but it sounds so good!” Another young man similarly admitted: “For me music is a pitfall because I love it. If I find out something is wrong with it, or if my parents call it to my attention, I really have to force my mind to take command over my heart because in my heart I love that music.” Youths, do not be “ignorant of [Satan’s] designs”! (2 Corinthians 2:11) He is using music in an effort to turn young Christians away from Jehovah! Articles have appeared in Watch Tower publications discussing rap, heavy metal, and alternative rock music.* However, Watch Tower publications cannot possibly comment on every new form and style of music that might come along. You must, therefore, use “thinking ability” and “discernment” when you select music.—Proverbs 2:11.
17. (a) What is por·neiʹa, and what acts does it include? (b) What is God’s will when it comes to matters of morality?
17 Finally, you must keep yourself morally clean. The Bible urges: “Flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) The original Greek word for fornication, por·neiʹa, refers to all illicit sexual activity involving the use of the genital organs carried on outside the bonds of marriage. That would include oral sex and the deliberate fondling of sexual organs. A number of Christian youths have engaged in such behavior, imagining that they really were not committing fornication. However, God’s Word clearly says: “This is what God wills, the sanctifying of you, that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor.”—1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4.
18. (a) How can a youth avoid being contaminated by the world’s spirit? (b) What will be discussed in the next article?
18 Yes, with Jehovah’s help, you can avoid being contaminated by the world’s spirit! (1 Peter 5:10) Nevertheless, Satan often camouflages his lethal traps, and it can sometimes take real discernment to sense danger. Our next article is designed to help youths develop their perceptive powers.
Dance parties usually lasting all night. For more information see “Young People Ask . . . Are Raves Harmless Fun?” in the December 22, 1997, issue of Awake!
Children about 11 years old.
For suggestions, see pages 296-303 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work.
See the April 15, 1993, issue of The Watchtower.
Questions for Review
□ What is “the spirit of the world,” and how does it have “authority” over people?
□ What are some manifestations of the world’s spirit among youths today?
□ How can Christian youths show “a different spirit” in regard to speech and recreation?
□ How can Christian youths show “a different spirit” in regard to morals and music?
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Many youths show by their conduct that they are under the “authority” of the world’s spirit
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Be selective in your choice of music
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It takes courage to resist the world’s spirit