Learn and Teach Christian Morality
“Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?”—ROMANS 2:21.
1, 2. What reasons do you have for wanting to study the Bible?
YOU have many reasons for studying God’s Word. You likely want to know the facts in it—about people, events, places, and other things. You want to know doctrinal truth, as opposed to religious errors, such as the Trinity or hellfire. (John 8:32) You also should want to get to know Jehovah better so that you can be more like him and walk before him in an upright manner.—1 Kings 15:4, 5.
2 A related and significant reason to study the Word of God is to equip yourself to teach others—your loved ones, acquaintances, and even those whom you may not yet know. Doing this is not optional for true Christians. Jesus told his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
3, 4. Why is it honorable for you to teach as Jesus commanded?
3 Studying the Bible with a desire to teach others is honorable and can be the source of lasting satisfaction. Teaching has long been a respected profession. The Encarta Encyclopedia states: “Among the Jews, many adults considered teachers the guides to salvation and urged children to honor their teachers even more than their parents.” It is particularly honorable for Christians to teach themselves by studying the Bible and then to teach others.
4 “More people engage in teaching than in any other profession. About 48 million men and women throughout the world are teachers.” (The World Book Encyclopedia) A secular teacher is entrusted with the minds of young people and can influence them for years to come. The effect is even more far-reaching when you obey Jesus’ command to teach others; you can influence them with eternity in view. The apostle Paul highlighted this when he urged Timothy: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Yes, your teaching involves salvation.
5. Why is Christian teaching of the highest sort?
5 Teaching yourself and then others is authorized and directed by the highest Source, the Sovereign of the universe. That of itself makes this field of teaching more elevated than any of a secular sort, whether that of teaching elementary subjects, employment skills, or even medical specialties. Christian teaching involves that the student learn personally to imitate God’s Son, Christ Jesus, and to teach others to do the same.—John 15:10.
Why Teach Yourself?
6, 7. (a) Why must we first teach ourselves? (b) In what sense had first-century Jews failed as teachers?
6 Why is it said that we must first teach ourselves? Well, we cannot properly teach others if we have not first taught ourselves. Paul stressed this fact in a thought-provoking passage that had import for Jews back then but that carries a serious message for Christians today. Paul asked: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You, the one expressing abhorrence of the idols, do you rob temples? You, who take pride in law, do you by your transgressing of the Law dishonor God?”—Romans 2:21-23.
7 Rhetorically, Paul brought up two wrongs that the Ten Commandments directly addressed: Do not steal, and do not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14, 15) Some Jews in Paul’s day were proud that they had God’s Law. They ‘were orally instructed out of the Law and were persuaded that they were guides of the blind and a light for ones in darkness, teachers of babes.’ (Romans 2:17-20) However, some were hypocrites because in secret they were committing theft or adultery. That would dishonor both the Law and its Author in heaven. You can see that they were hardly qualified to teach others; they really were not even teaching themselves.
8. How might some Jews in Paul’s day have been ‘robbing temples’?
8 Paul mentioned robbing temples. Did some Jews literally do that? What did Paul have in mind? Frankly, in view of the limited information in this passage, we cannot be dogmatic as to how some Jews ‘robbed temples.’ Earlier the city recorder of Ephesus declared that Paul’s companions were not ‘temple robbers,’ which suggests that at least some people thought that Jews were open to that accusation. (Acts 19:29-37) Were they personally using or commercializing precious items that came from pagan temples that had been plundered by conquerors or religious zealots? According to God’s Law, the gold and silver of idols were to be destroyed, not appropriated for personal use. (Deuteronomy 7:25)* So Paul might have been alluding to Jews who disregarded God’s command and used or profited from items originating in pagan temples.
9. What wrong practices involving the temple in Jerusalem might have been much the same as robbing the temple?
9 On the other hand, Josephus told of a scandal in Rome caused by four Jews, the leader being a teacher of Law. Those four convinced a Roman woman, a Jewish proselyte, to turn over gold and other valuables as a contribution to the temple in Jerusalem. Once they got these from her, they used the riches for themselves—as much as robbing from the temple.* Others were in a sense robbing God’s temple by their offering defective sacrifices and promoting greedy commercialism on its grounds, turning the temple into “a cave of robbers.”—Matthew 21:12, 13; Malachi 1:12-14; 3:8, 9.
Teach Christian Morality
10. We should not miss what thrust of Paul’s words recorded at Romans 2:21-23?
10 Whatever the first-century practices involving stealing, adultery, and robbing temples that Paul was alluding to, let us not miss the thrust of his comments. He asked: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?” It is noteworthy that the examples that Paul raised had to do with morality. The apostle did not here focus on Bible doctrines or history. The teaching of oneself and of others to which Paul referred had to do with Christian morality.
11. Why should you give attention to Christian morality as you study God’s Word?
11 For us to apply the lesson of Romans 2:21-23 means learning Christian morality from God’s Word, acting in line with what we learn, and then instructing others to do the same. Accordingly, as you study the Bible, be alert for indications of Jehovah’s standards, from which true Christian morality is derived. Meditate on the counsel and the lessons that you find in the Bible. Then bravely apply what you learn. And doing so does take courage combined with determination. It is easy for imperfect humans to develop excuses, reasons why a situation allows for or even requires disregarding Christian morality in a particular case. Perhaps the Jews whom Paul mentioned were experienced in such subtle reasoning intended to rationalize or to mislead others. Paul’s words show, though, that Christian morality is not to be minimized or ignored at personal discretion.
12. How does good conduct or misconduct reflect on Jehovah God, and why is it helpful to bear this fact in mind?
12 The apostle highlighted a prime reason for learning and then applying the morality that you find in the Bible. The Jews’ misconduct reflected on Jehovah: “You, who take pride in law, do you by your transgressing of the Law dishonor God? For ‘the name of God is being blasphemed on account of you people among the nations.’” (Romans 2:23, 24) It is equally true now that if we ignore Christian morality, we dishonor its Source. Conversely, if we hold firmly to God’s standards, it reflects well on him, honoring him. (Isaiah 52:5; Ezekiel 36:20) Your being aware of this can strengthen your resolve if you face temptations or situations where ignoring Christian morality might seem the easiest or most convenient way to act. Moreover, Paul’s words teach us something else. Beyond being personally aware that your conduct reflects on God, as you teach others, help them to see that how they apply the moral standards that they are learning will reflect on Jehovah. It is not simply that Christian morality promotes contentment and protects one’s health. It also reflects on the One who provided and encourages that morality.—Psalm 74:10; James 3:17.
13. (a) How does the Bible help us as to morality? (b) Give the gist of the counsel at 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.
13 Morality affects other humans too. You can see that from examples in God’s Word that illustrate the value of applying God’s moral standards and the results of disregarding them. (Genesis 39:1-9, 21; Joshua 7:1-25) You can also find such pointed counsel on morality as: “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, not in covetous sexual appetite such as also those nations have which do not know God; that no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother in this matter, . . . for God called us, not with allowance for uncleanness, but in connection with sanctification.”—1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.
14. What might you ask yourself about the counsel at 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7?
14 Almost anyone can see from this passage that sexual immorality breaches Christian morality. Yet, you can go beyond the obvious. Some texts offer avenues for considerable study and meditation, with resulting insight. For instance, you might reflect on what Paul meant in saying that engaging in fornication can bring one “to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother in this matter.” What rights are included, and how will a better understanding of this provide you with added incentive to maintain Christian morality? How could the results of such research further equip you to teach others and help them to honor God?
Study in Order to Teach
15. What tools could you use to teach yourself through personal study?
15 Jehovah’s Witnesses have tools they use to research questions or issues that arise as they study to teach themselves or others. One tool available in many languages is the Watch Tower Publications Index. If you have access to it, you can use it to locate information in the Bible-based publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can search by subject or under a listing by Bible verse. Another tool available to Jehovah’s Witnesses in many major languages is the Watchtower Library. This computer program on CD-ROM holds a large collection of publications in electronic form. Its program enables one to research topics and discussions of scriptures. If either or both these tools are available to you, utilize them regularly as you study God’s Word so as to teach others.
16, 17. (a) Where can you find enlightening comments on the rights mentioned at 1 Thessalonians 4:6? (b) In what ways can fornication encroach on others’ rights?
16 Let us take the example cited above, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7. The question arose about rights. Whose rights? And how might those rights be encroached on? With the study tools mentioned, you can probably find a number of enlightening comments on these verses, even on the rights that Paul mentioned. You can read such comments in Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, pages 863-4; True Peace and Security—How Can You Find It?, page 145; The Watchtower, November 15, 1989, page 31.
17 Pursuing the study, you will see that those publications show how true Paul’s words are. A fornicator sins against God and exposes himself to diseases. (1 Corinthians 6:18, 19; Hebrews 13:4) A man engaging in fornication encroaches on various rights of the woman with whom he sins. He deprives her of a clean moral standing and a good conscience. If she is single, he encroaches on her right to enter marriage as a virgin and her future husband’s right to expect her to be such. He hurts the woman’s parents and her husband if she is married. The immoral man spoils his own family’s right to a clean moral record. If he is a member of a Christian congregation, he brings reproach on it, hurting its reputation.—1 Corinthians 5:1.
18. How do you benefit from Bible study regarding Christian morality?
18 Do not such comments about rights help that verse to unfold before you? Study of that sort is certainly of great value. As you pursue it, you are teaching yourself. Your grasp of the truthfulness and impact of God’s message grows. You strengthen your determination to hold to Christian morality no matter what temptation may arise. And think how much more effective you can be as a teacher! For instance, while teaching others Bible truth, you can impart insight into 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, increasing their understanding and appreciation for Christian morality. Thus, your study can help you and many others to honor God. And we have mentioned here just one example, from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. There are many other aspects of Christian morality, and correspondingly many other Bible examples and points of counsel, that you can study, apply, and teach.
19. Why is it essential that you hold to Christian morality?
19 There can be no valid question about the wisdom of doing that. James 3:17 says that “the wisdom from above,” from Jehovah God himself, is “first of all chaste.” That clearly implies following God’s moral standards. In fact, Jehovah requires that those who represent him in teaching the Bible are themselves good examples “in chasteness.” (1 Timothy 4:12) The life patterns of such early disciples as Paul and Timothy bear that out; they refrained from immorality, Paul even writing: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting.”—Ephesians 5:3, 4.
20, 21. Why do you agree with what the apostle John wrote, as recorded at 1 John 5:3?
20 While the moral standards presented in God’s Word are clear and specific, they are not an oppressive burden. This was evident to John, the longest-surviving apostle. Based on what he had observed over decades of life, he knew that Christian morality was not harmful. On the contrary, it proved to be good, beneficial, a blessing. John stressed this, writing: “This is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments do not weigh us down.”—1 John 5:3, New English Translation.
21 Observe, however, that John did not present obeying God by Christian morality as the best course merely because it saves us from problems, from the bad consequence of doing otherwise. He put things in the right perspective by first acknowledging that it is an expression of our love for Jehovah God, a precious opportunity to display our love for him. Truly, teaching oneself or others to love God requires that we accept and apply his lofty standards. Yes, it means teaching ourselves and others Christian morality.
While painting the Jews as being free of sacrilege, Josephus restated God’s law in this way: “Let none blaspheme the gods which other cities revere, nor rob foreign temples, nor take treasure that has been dedicated in the name of any god.” (Italics ours.)—Jewish Antiquities, Book 4, chapter 8, paragraph 10.
Jewish Antiquities, Book 18, chapter 3, paragraph 5.
Do You Recall?
• Why must we study to teach ourselves before teaching others?
• How can our conduct reflect on Jehovah?
• A fornicator might be encroaching on whose rights?
• What is your determination regarding Christian morality?
[Picture on page 22]
“His commandments do not weigh us down”