Fortified to Say No to Wrongdoing
“WHEN I was still in my teens and working at a grocery store,” explains Timothy, “a workmate invited me over to his house. He said that his parents would be away, girls would be there, and there would be opportunity to engage in sex.” Many young people today would be quick to say yes to such an invitation. But what was Timothy’s response? “I told him there and then that I would not be coming and that because of my Christian conscience, I did not wish to have sex with someone to whom I was not married.”
While explaining his refusal, Timothy was unaware that a young female employee was listening in. His innocence challenged her, and soon he was faced with having to say no to her as well—on a number of occasions, as we shall see later.
Having temptation thrown before us is, of course, not unique to our times. Some 3,000 years ago, King Solomon wrote: “My son, if sinners try to seduce you, do not consent. . . . Hold back your foot from their roadway.” (Proverbs 1:10, 15) Jehovah himself commanded the nation of Israel: “You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends.” (Exodus 23:2) Yes, at times we must say no, resisting the temptation to do wrong, even though it may not be the popular course.
Saying No Is Especially Important Today
Saying no to wrongdoing has never been easy, and nowadays it can be especially difficult, for we are living in what the Bible calls “the last days” of this system of things. True to Bible prophecy, people en masse have become lovers of pleasures and violence, devoid of both spirituality and morality. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) A Jesuit university president stated: “We’ve had a traditional set of standards that have been challenged and found wanting or no longer fashionable. Now there don’t seem to be any moral landmarks at all.” In a similar vein, a superior court judge said: “Things aren’t black and white anymore. Everything is gray. . . . Fewer people recognize the difference between right and wrong. The sin now is getting caught, not the violation.”
The apostle Paul wrote about people with such attitudes: “They are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts. Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:18, 19) But trouble looms for them. Isaiah declared: “Woe to those who are saying that good is bad and bad is good, those who are putting darkness for light and light for darkness.” (Isaiah 5:20) Not only do these ones reap what they sow now but they will soon experience their greatest “woe”—adverse judgment from Jehovah.—Galatians 6:7.
“When the wicked ones sprout as the vegetation and all the practicers of what is hurtful blossom forth, it is that they may be annihilated forever,” says Psalm 92:7. In other words, this bumper crop of wickedness will not go on indefinitely, making life unbearable for all. In fact, Jesus said that the “generation” sponsoring this wickedness will be the very one that God will do away with in a “great tribulation.” (Matthew 24:3, 21, 34) So if we want to be spared through that tribulation, we need to know right from wrong according to God’s standards; and, of course, we also need the moral strength to say no to wrongdoing in all its forms. Though this is not easy, Jehovah has furnished us with some encouraging examples in Bible times and today.
Learning From a Young Man Who Said No
Saying no to fornication and adultery seems to be especially difficult, even for some in the Christian congregation. Timothy, mentioned in the opening paragraph, took to heart the example of young Joseph, recorded in the Scriptures at Genesis 39:1-12. Joseph displayed moral strength when invited repeatedly by the wife of the Egyptian official Potiphar to have relations with her. Joseph, the account says, “would refuse and would say . . . ‘How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?’”
How did Joseph acquire the moral strength to say no to Potiphar’s wife day after day? For a start, he valued his relationship with Jehovah far more than he valued momentary pleasures. Additionally, although he was not under a divine law code (the Law of Moses was yet to come), Joseph had a clear grasp of moral principles; he knew that committing fornication with Potiphar’s infatuated wife would be a sin not only against her husband but also against God.—Genesis 39:8, 9.
Joseph evidently understood the importance of not even lighting the match of desire that could ignite an uncontrollable inferno of passion. A Christian is wise to follow Joseph’s example. The July 1, 1957, Watchtower stated: “He must recognize his fleshly weaknesses and not think he can follow sensual desires to the Scriptural boundary line and stop there. Even if he may succeed in doing that for awhile, he will eventually be drawn over that boundary line into sin. This is certain to happen, since lusts that are nourished grow in strength and get a tighter grip on a person. He then has greater difficulty getting his mind off them. His best defense is to resist them at the outset.”
Resisting at the outset becomes easier as we develop a love for what is right and a hatred for what is wrong. (Psalm 37:27) But we need to keep working at it, to be persistent. If we do, with Jehovah’s help our love for right and our contempt for wrong will grow stronger. Meanwhile, of course, we must remain vigilant, as Jesus directed, constantly praying to be spared from temptation and to be delivered from the wicked one.—Matthew 6:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
Saying No to Peer Pressure
Another influence toward wrongdoing is peer pressure. One youth confessed: “I’m living two lives—one at school and one at home. At school I hang around kids who swear almost every time they open their mouths. And I’m turning out just like them. What should I do?” What is needed is the courage to be different, and one way to obtain it is by reading and meditating on Bible accounts that tell us about God’s loyal servants like Joseph. Other fine examples are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—four young men who had the courage to be different from their peers.
While being educated with other young men in the royal court of Babylon, these four young Israelites were required to eat “a daily allowance from the delicacies of the king.” Not wanting to violate the dietary aspects of the Law of Moses, they said no to this food. That took strength—and all the more so because the dishes, being “delicacies of the king,” were probably quite tempting. What a fine example these young men set for Christians today who may be tempted, even pressured, to overindulge in alcohol or to take drugs and use tobacco!—Daniel 1:3-17.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also demonstrated the truth of what Jesus Christ later said: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” (Luke 16:10) Their courageous stand on the comparatively small matter of food and the fine outcome Jehovah gave no doubt fortified them for a later, more serious test. (Daniel 1:18-20) This test came when they were ordered, on pain of death by fire, to participate in idolatry. Courageously, the three young men remained determined to worship only Jehovah, trusting fully in him whatever the outcome might be. Once again Jehovah blessed them for their faith and courage—this time by miraculously protecting them from the flames when they were thrown into a superheated furnace.—Daniel 3:1-30.
God’s Word contains many other examples of those who said no to wrongdoing. Moses said no to being “called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh,” even though this would have given him ample opportunity to indulge in “the temporary enjoyment of sin” in Egypt. (Hebrews 11:24-26) The prophet Samuel refused to abuse his authority by accepting bribes. (1 Samuel 12:3, 4) The apostles of Jesus Christ boldly answered no when ordered to stop preaching. (Acts 5:27-29) Jesus himself firmly said no to all wrongdoing—right down to the last moments of his life when soldiers offered him “wine drugged with myrrh.” Accepting it might have weakened his resolve at that critical time.—Mark 15:23; Matthew 4:1-10.
Saying No—A Matter of Life and Death
Jesus said: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matthew 7:13, 14.
The broad road is popular because it is easy to travel. Its travelers are self-indulgent, given to fleshly thinking and ways, and they want, not to be different, but to conform to Satan’s world. They feel morally hemmed in by God’s laws and principles. (Ephesians 4:17-19) Yet, Jesus specifically said that the broad road leads “off into destruction.”
But why did Jesus say that only a few choose the cramped road? Primarily because only a minority want God’s laws and principles to govern their lives and to help them resist the many inducements to and opportunities for wrongdoing around them. Furthermore, only a comparative few are prepared to fight illicit desire, peer pressure, and the fear of ridicule that may come their way because of the path they have chosen.—1 Peter 3:16; 4:4.
These ones understand fully how the apostle Paul felt when he described the fight that he had in saying no to sin. Like today’s world, the Roman and Greek world of Paul’s time provided a broad road of opportunity to indulge in wrongdoing. Paul explained that his mind, which knew what was right, waged an ongoing ‘war’ with his flesh, which leaned toward wrongdoing. (Romans 7:21-24) Yes, Paul knew that his body was a good servant but a bad master, so he learned to say no to it. “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave,” he wrote. (1 Corinthians 9:27) How did he achieve such mastery? Not in his own strength, which was unequal to the task, but with the help of God’s spirit.—Romans 8:9-11.
As a result, Paul, though imperfect, kept his integrity to Jehovah right to the end. Not long before his death, he could write: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith. From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness.”—2 Timothy 4:7, 8.
As we war against our imperfections, what encouraging examples we have, not just in Paul, but also in those who served as examples to him—Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and many others. Imperfect humans though they were, each one of these men of faith said no to wrongdoing, not because of doggedness or stubbornness, but because of moral strength born of Jehovah’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) They were spiritual men. They hungered for every utterance of Jehovah’s mouth. (Deuteronomy 8:3) His word meant life to them. (Deuteronomy 32:47) Above all, they loved Jehovah and feared him, and with his help, they patiently cultivated a hatred for wrongdoing.—Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 1:7.
May we be like them. Indeed, to endure in saying no to wrongdoing in all its forms, we need Jehovah’s spirit just as they did. Jehovah generously gives us his spirit if we sincerely ask for it, study his Word, and regularly attend Christian meetings.—Psalm 119:105; Luke 11:13; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Timothy, mentioned at the outset, was glad he did not neglect his spiritual needs. The young female employee, who overheard his conversation with his workmate and was wrongly attracted by Timothy’s innocence, later quietly invited Timothy to her home when her husband was out. Timothy declined. Not easily put off, she extended the invitation on many occasions, like Potiphar’s wife. Timothy firmly but kindly said no each time. He even gave this woman a fine witness from God’s Word. Deeply grateful to Jehovah for giving him the moral fortitude to say no, Timothy is now happily married to a delightful fellow Christian. Indeed, Jehovah will bless and fortify all who want to maintain their Christian integrity by saying no to wrongdoing.—Psalm 1:1-3.