A Godly View of Moral Cleanness
“I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.”—ISAIAH 48:17.
1, 2. (a) How do people in general view sexual morality? (b) What view of sexual morality do Christians have?
TODAY, in many parts of the earth, moral conduct has come to be considered a personal matter. People view sexual relations as a natural expression of affection to be indulged in whenever they wish, not as something that should be limited to marriage. They feel that if nobody gets hurt, there is nothing wrong with deciding for oneself how to behave. In their view, people should not be judged in matters of morality, especially when it comes to sex.
2 Those who have come to know Jehovah have a different view. They gladly follow Scriptural guidelines because they love Jehovah and want to please him. They recognize that Jehovah loves them and gives direction that is for their good, direction that will truly benefit them and make them happy. (Isaiah 48:17) Since God is the Source of life, it is reasonable that they should look to him for guidance in how they use their bodies, especially in this matter that is so closely linked to the transmission of life.
A Gift From a Loving Creator
3. What have many in Christendom been taught about sexual relations, and how does that compare with what the Bible teaches?
3 In contrast with today’s secular world, some in Christendom have taught that sexual relations are shameful, sinful, and that the “original sin” in the garden of Eden was the sexual seduction of Adam by Eve. Such a view is contrary to what the inspired Scriptures say. The Bible record refers to the first human couple as “the man and his wife.” (Genesis 2:25) God told them to have children, saying: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) It would make no sense for God to command Adam and Eve to produce children and then punish them for carrying out those instructions.—Psalm 19:8.
4. Why did God give humans sexual powers?
4 In that command given to our first parents, which was repeated to Noah and his sons, we see the main purpose of sexual relations: to produce children. (Genesis 9:1) However, God’s Word shows that his married servants are not obliged to limit sexual relations solely to efforts to produce children. Such relations can properly fill emotional and physical needs and be a source of pleasure to a married couple. It is a way for them to express deep affection for each other.—Genesis 26:8, 9; Proverbs 5:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.
5. What prohibitions has God placed on human sexual activity?
5 While sexuality is a gift from God, it is not to be expressed without restraint. This principle applies even within the marriage arrangement. (Ephesians 5:28-30; 1 Peter 3:1, 7) Outside of marriage, sexual relations are forbidden. The Bible is quite specific on this matter. In the Law that God gave to the nation of Israel, it was stated: “You must not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) Later, Jesus included “fornications” and “adulteries” with the “injurious reasonings” that originate in the heart and defile a person. (Mark 7:21, 22) The apostle Paul was inspired to admonish the Christians in Corinth: “Flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) And in his letter to the Hebrews, Paul wrote: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”—Hebrews 13:4.
6. In the Bible, what is covered by the word “fornication”?
6 What is meant by the word “fornication”? It comes from the Greek word por·neiʹa, which is sometimes used to apply to sexual relations between unmarried people. (1 Corinthians 6:9) Elsewhere, such as at Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9, the term is broader in meaning and refers additionally to adultery, incest, and bestiality. Other sexual practices between individuals not married to each other, such as oral and anal sex and the sexual manipulation of another person’s genitalia, can also be designated as por·neiʹa. All such practices are condemned—either explicitly or by implication—in God’s Word.—Leviticus 20:10, 13, 15, 16; Romans 1:24, 26, 27, 32.*
Benefiting From God’s Moral Laws
7. How do we benefit by keeping morally clean?
7 To obey Jehovah’s direction about sexual conduct can be a challenge for imperfect humans. The famous 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides wrote: “No prohibition in all the Torah [Mosaic Law] is as difficult to keep as that of forbidden unions and illicit sexual relations.” Yet, if we obey God’s direction, we benefit greatly. (Isaiah 48:18) For example, obedience in this matter helps to protect us from sexually transmitted diseases, some of which have no cure and can kill.* We are protected from out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Applying godly wisdom also contributes to a clean conscience. Doing so promotes self-respect and earns the respect of others, including our relatives, our mates, our children, and our Christian brothers and sisters. It likewise promotes in us a healthy, positive attitude toward sex that will contribute to happiness in marriage. Wrote one Christian woman: “The truth of God’s Word is the best protection there is. I am waiting to be married, and when I am I’ll be proud to tell the Christian man I marry that I’ve remained chaste.”
8. In what ways might our chaste conduct promote pure worship?
8 By our maintaining chaste conduct, we can also do much to counter misconceptions about true worship and attract people to the God we worship. The apostle Peter wrote: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” (1 Peter 2:12) Even if those who do not serve Jehovah fail to recognize or approve of our chaste conduct, we can be certain that our heavenly Father sees, approves, and even rejoices in our efforts to follow his direction.—Proverbs 27:11; Hebrews 4:13.
9. Why should we have confidence in God’s direction, though we may not fully grasp his reasons? Illustrate.
9 Faith in God involves confidence that he knows what is best for us, even if we do not fully grasp all the reasons why he directs us in the way that he does. Consider an example from the Mosaic Law. One regulation regarding military encampments required that excrement be buried outside the camp. (Deuteronomy 23:13, 14) Perhaps the Israelites wondered about the reason for such direction; some may have thought it unnecessary. Since then, however, medical science has come to recognize that this law helped keep the water sources free from contamination and provided protection from many illnesses carried by insects. Similarly, there are spiritual, social, emotional, physical, and psychological reasons why God has limited sexual relations to the marriage bed. Let us now consider a few Bible examples of those who maintained moral cleanness.
Joseph—Blessed for His Moral Conduct
10. Who tried to seduce Joseph, and how did he reply?
10 Likely you are familiar with the Bible example of Joseph, the son of Jacob. At the age of 17, he found himself a slave belonging to Potiphar, chief of the bodyguard of Pharaoh of Egypt. Jehovah blessed Joseph, and in time he was appointed over all the house of Potiphar. By the time he reached his 20’s, Joseph had become “beautiful in form and beautiful in appearance.” He attracted the attention of Potiphar’s wife, who tried to seduce him. Joseph made clear his position, explaining that to consent would be not only a betrayal of his master but also a “sin against God.” Why did Joseph reason as he did?—Genesis 39:1-9.
11, 12. Though there was no divinely provided written law prohibiting fornication and adultery, why must Joseph have reasoned as he did?
11 Evidently, Joseph’s decision was not based on fear of being found out by humans. Joseph’s family lived far away, and his father thought he was dead. If Joseph engaged in sexual immorality, his family would never know of it. Such a sin could probably also be concealed from Potiphar and his male servants, since there were times when they were not in the house. (Genesis 39:11) Yet, Joseph knew that such conduct could not be hidden from God.
12 Joseph must have reasoned on what he knew about Jehovah. Doubtless he knew what Jehovah had proclaimed in the garden of Eden: “That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Further, Joseph was likely aware of what Jehovah had told a Philistine king who was bent on seducing Joseph’s great-grandmother Sarah. Jehovah told that king: “Here you are as good as dead because of the woman whom you have taken, since she is owned by another owner as his wife. . . . And I was also holding you back from sinning against me. That is why I did not allow you to touch her.” (Genesis 20:3, 6) So while Jehovah had not as yet provided a written law, his feelings about marriage were clear. Joseph’s moral sense, along with his desire to please Jehovah, made him reject immorality.
13. Likely, why could Joseph not avoid Potiphar’s wife?
13 Potiphar’s wife, however, was persistent, imploring him “day after day” to lie with her. Why did Joseph not simply avoid her? Well, as a slave, he had duties to perform and could do little to change his situation. Archaeological evidence suggests that the design of Egyptian houses made it necessary to pass through the main part of the home to reach the storerooms. Hence, it may have been impossible for Joseph to avoid Potiphar’s wife.—Genesis 39:10.
14. (a) What happened to Joseph after he fled from Potiphar’s wife? (b) How did Jehovah bless Joseph for his faithfulness?
14 The day came when they were alone in the house. Potiphar’s wife reached for Joseph and cried out: “Lie down with me!” He fled. Stung by his rejection, she accused him of attempted rape. What were the consequences? Did Jehovah immediately reward him for his course of integrity? No. Joseph was thrown into prison and bound in fetters. (Genesis 39:12-20; Psalm 105:18) Jehovah saw the injustice and eventually elevated Joseph from a prison to a palace. He became the second most powerful person in Egypt and was blessed with a wife and children. (Genesis 41:14, 15, 39-45, 50-52) Further, the account of Joseph’s integrity was recorded 3,500 years ago for the consideration of God’s servants ever since. What wonderful blessings for adhering to God’s righteous laws! Similarly, we today may not always see the immediate benefits of maintaining moral integrity, but we can be assured that Jehovah sees and will bless us in due time.—2 Chronicles 16:9.
Job’s ‘Covenant With His Eyes’
15. What was Job’s ‘covenant with his eyes’?
15 Another integrity keeper was Job. During the trials brought on him by the Devil, Job reviewed his life and declared himself willing to undergo severe punishment if he had violated, among other things, Jehovah’s principle of sexual morality. Job said: “A covenant I have concluded with my eyes. So how could I show myself attentive to a virgin?” (Job 31:1) By this, Job meant that in his determination to keep integrity to God, he had resolved to avoid even gazing lustfully at a woman. Of course, he would see women in daily life and would likely help them if they needed assistance. But as to being attentive in the sense of pursuing romantic objectives, that was off-limits. Before his trials began, he had been a man of great wealth, “the greatest of all the Orientals.” (Job 1:3) He did not, however, use the power of wealth to attract many women. Clearly, he never toyed with the prospect of indulging in illicit sexual relations with younger women.
16. (a) Why is Job a fine example for married Christians? (b) How was the behavior of men in Malachi’s day very different from that of Job, and what of today?
16 Thus, through good times as well as hard times, Job showed moral integrity. Jehovah observed this and blessed him richly. (Job 1:10; 42:12) What a fine example Job is for married Christians, both men and women! No wonder Jehovah loved him so! In contrast, the behavior of many today more closely resembles what happened in Malachi’s day. That prophet decried the way many husbands deserted their mates, often to marry younger women. Jehovah’s altar was covered with the tears of abandoned wives, and God condemned those who thus “dealt treacherously” with their mates.—Malachi 2:13-16.
A Chaste Young Woman
17. How was the Shulammite like “a garden barred in”?
17 A third integrity keeper was a Shulammite maiden. Young and beautiful, she attracted the affections of not only a shepherd boy but also the wealthy king of Israel, Solomon. Throughout the beautiful story told in the Song of Solomon, the Shulammite remained chaste, thus earning the respect of those around her. Solomon, though rejected by her, was inspired to record her story. The shepherd she loved also respected her chaste conduct. At one point he mused that the Shulammite was like “a garden barred in.” (Song of Solomon 4:12) In ancient Israel, beautiful gardens contained a delightful variety of vegetables, fragrant flowers, and stately trees. Such gardens were typically enclosed by a hedge or a wall and could be entered only through a locked gate. (Isaiah 5:5) To the shepherd, the Shulammite’s moral purity and loveliness were like such a garden of rare beauty. She was completely chaste. Her tender affections would be available only to her future husband.
18. Of what do the accounts of Joseph, Job, and the Shulammite remind us?
18 In moral integrity, the Shulammite set an excellent example for Christian women today. Jehovah saw and appreciated the virtue of the Shulammite girl and blessed her just as he blessed Joseph and Job. For our guidance, their acts of integrity are recorded in God’s Word. While our efforts to keep integrity today are not recorded in the Bible, Jehovah has a “book of remembrance” for those seeking to do his will. Let us never forget that Jehovah is “paying attention” and rejoices as we loyally strive to keep morally clean.—Malachi 3:16.
19. (a) How should we view moral cleanness? (b) What will be discussed in the following article?
19 Although those without faith may scoff, we rejoice in our obedience to our loving Creator. We have a higher morality, a godly morality. It is something to be proud of, something to treasure. By maintaining a clean moral standing, we can delight in God’s blessing and can maintain a bright hope of endless future blessings. In a practical sense, though, what can we do to remain morally clean? The next article will discuss this important question.
See The Watchtower, March 15, 1983, pages 29-31.
Sadly, there are situations in which an innocent Christian acquires a sexually transmitted disease from an unbelieving mate who has not followed God’s direction.
Can You Explain?
• What does the Bible teach about sexual relations?
• What is covered by the word “fornication” in the Bible?
• How do we benefit by remaining morally clean?
• Why are Joseph, Job, and the Shulammite maiden fine examples for Christians today?
[Picture on page 9]
Joseph fled from immorality
[Picture on page 10]
The Shulammite girl was like “a garden barred in”
[Picture on page 11]
Job had made ‘a covenant with his eyes’