Maintain Chastity by Safeguarding Your Heart
“More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”—PROVERBS 4:23.
1-3. (a) How do people often show that they do not value their chastity? Illustrate. (b) Why is it important to examine the value of chastity?
THE painting may have seemed old-fashioned. Perhaps it did not fit in with the decor of the house. At any rate, the owner evidently had little use for it. The picture wound up at a rummage sale, bearing a price tag of 29 dollars (U.S.). A few years later, though, it was found to be worth nearly a million dollars! Yes, it turned out to be a rare masterpiece. Imagine the feelings of the former owner, who had undervalued this treasure!
2 Something similar often happens with chastity, an individual’s moral cleanness, or purity. All too many people today put a low value on their own chastity. Some regard it as an old-fashioned notion, one that does not fit in with a modern life-style. Thus, they give it up for a small return. Some trade in their chastity for a few moments of sexual gratification. Others sacrifice it in hopes of acquiring greater standing in the eyes of their peers or a member of the opposite sex.—Proverbs 13:20.
3 Many discover too late just how valuable a possession their chastity really was. Their loss is often tragic. As the Bible puts it, the aftereffects of immorality can be like poison, “as bitter as wormwood.” (Proverbs 5:3, 4) In view of today’s corrupt moral climate, how can you cherish and maintain your chastity? We will focus on three related steps we can take.
Safeguard Your Heart
4. What is the figurative heart, and why should we safeguard it?
4 The key to maintaining chastity is to safeguard the heart. The Bible says: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) What is “your heart,” referred to here? It is not the literal organ. This heart is figurative. It refers to the person you are inside, including your thoughts, feelings, and motivations. The Bible says: “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Jesus referred to this commandment as the greatest of all. (Mark 12:29, 30) Clearly, this heart of ours is of enormous value. It is worth safeguarding.
5. How can the heart be valuable and dangerous at the same time?
5 However, the Bible also says that “the heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.” (Jeremiah 17:9) How can the heart be treacherous—a danger to us? Well, an automobile, for example, is a valuable tool, even a lifesaver in an emergency. But if the driver does not control the car, constantly guiding the steering wheel, that same car may easily become a deadly weapon. Similarly, unless you safeguard your heart, you will be at the mercy of your every inner desire and impulse, and your life course will veer into disaster. God’s Word says: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid, but he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.” (Proverbs 28:26) Yes, you can walk in wisdom and escape disaster if you use God’s Word to guide you, much as you would consult a road map before beginning a trip.—Psalm 119:105.
6, 7. (a) What is holiness, and why is it important to servants of Jehovah? (b) How do we know that imperfect humans can reflect Jehovah’s holiness?
6 Our heart will not naturally veer toward chastity. We must steer it that way. One way to do so is to contemplate the true value of chastity. This quality is closely related to holiness, which signifies cleanness, purity, separation from sinfulness. Holiness is a precious quality that is part of the very nature of Jehovah God. Hundreds of Bible verses associate that quality with Jehovah. In fact, the Bible says that “Holiness belongs to Jehovah.” (Exodus 28:36) What, though, does that lofty quality have to do with us imperfect humans?
7 In his Word, Jehovah tells us: “You must be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) Yes, we can imitate Jehovah’s holiness; we can be clean before him, maintaining our chastity. So when we refrain from unclean, defiling acts, we are reaching out for a lofty, thrilling privilege—that of reflecting a beautiful trait of the Most High God! (Ephesians 5:1) We should not assume that it is out of our reach to do so, for Jehovah is a wise and reasonable Master who never demands more of us than we are able to do. (Psalm 103:13, 14; James 3:17) Granted, remaining spiritually and morally chaste requires effort. The apostle Paul noted, though, that “sincerity and . . . chastity . . . are due the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) Do we not owe it to Christ and to his Father to make every effort to keep morally chaste? After all, they have shown us more love than we can ever begin to repay. (John 3:16; 15:13) It is a privilege for us to express our gratitude by living a clean, moral life. By thinking of our chastity in this way, we will value it, safeguarding our heart.
8. (a) How can we nourish the figurative heart? (b) What may our conversation reveal about us?
8 We also safeguard our heart by the way we feed ourselves. We need to nourish our mind and heart regularly with good spiritual food, keeping our focus on the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Colossians 3:2) Even our conversation should reflect such a focus. If we are known for talking about fleshly, immoral subjects, we are revealing something about the condition of our heart. (Luke 6:45) Let us be known, rather, for talking about matters that are spiritual and upbuilding. (Ephesians 5:3) To safeguard our heart, there are serious dangers we must avoid. Let us discuss two of these.
Flee From Fornication
9-11. (a) Why are those who ignore the counsel of 1 Corinthians 6:18 more likely to get involved in serious immorality? Illustrate. (b) If we are fleeing from fornication, what do we avoid? (c) The faithful man Job set what positive example for us?
9 Jehovah inspired the apostle Paul to pen some counsel that has helped many to safeguard their heart and maintain chastity. Paul said: “Flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) Note that he went further than simply saying, “Avoid fornication.” Christians should do more. They should run away from such immoral acts, just as they would run from a life-threatening danger. If we ignore that counsel, we increase the likelihood of becoming involved in serious immorality and losing God’s favor.
10 To illustrate: A mother has washed and dressed her small boy in preparation for an important occasion. He asks if he can play outdoors before the family departs, and she agrees—on one condition. She says: “Don’t go anywhere near that puddle outside. If you get muddy, you will be punished.” Within minutes, though, she sees the boy teetering on his toes at the very edge of the puddle. He is not muddy—yet. Still, he is ignoring her warning not to go near the puddle, and trouble is almost sure to ensue. (Proverbs 22:15) Many youths and adults who should know better make a similar mistake. How so?
11 In these times when so many have given in “to disgraceful sexual appetites,” an entire industry has arisen around the promotion of illicit sexual relations. (Romans 1:26, 27) The pornography plague has proliferated in magazines, books, videos, and on the Internet. Those who choose to take such images into their mind are hardly fleeing from fornication. They are toying with it, teetering on the verge, disregarding the Bible’s warning. Instead of safeguarding the heart, they are poisoning it with vivid images that may take years to fade from memory. (Proverbs 6:27) Let us learn from faithful Job, who made a covenant—a formal agreement—with his own eyes, not to expose them to what would only tempt him to do wrong. (Job 31:1) Now, that is an example to follow!
12. How may Christian couples “flee from fornication” during courtship?
12 It is particularly vital to “flee from fornication” during courtship. That period should be a joyful time, full of hope and anticipation, but some young couples mar it by toying with immorality. In the process, they deprive each other of the best foundation for a good marriage—a relationship based on unselfish love, self-control, and obedience to Jehovah God. One Christian couple engaged in immoral behavior during their courtship. After they married, the wife admitted that her conscience tormented her, even ruining the joy of her wedding day. She confessed: “I have asked Jehovah’s forgiveness many times, but even though seven years have passed since then, my conscience continues to accuse me.” It is vital that those who commit such sins seek help from Christian elders. (James 5:14, 15) However, many Christian couples act wisely and avoid these dangers during courtship. (Proverbs 22:3) They limit their expressions of affection. They make use of chaperons and carefully avoid being alone together in isolated places.
13. Why should Christians not court someone who does not serve Jehovah?
13 Christians who enter into courtship with those who do not serve Jehovah are likely to face terrible challenges. For example, how could you join yourself to one who does not love Jehovah God? It is vital that Christians yoke themselves only to those who love Jehovah and respect his standards of chastity. God’s Word tells us: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness?”—2 Corinthians 6:14.
14, 15. (a) What mistaken view do some entertain regarding the meaning of “fornication”? (b)“Fornication” includes what sort of acts, and how may Christians “flee from fornication”?
14 Knowledge is also essential. We cannot properly flee from fornication if we do not really know what it is. Some in today’s world have adopted a false idea as to the meaning of “fornication.” They imagine that they can satisfy their sexual impulses outside of marriage as long as they refrain from actual sexual intercourse. Even some respected health institutions that seek to reduce the number of unwanted teenage pregnancies have encouraged youths to engage in deviant sexual behavior that does not result in pregnancy. Such advice is sadly misguided. Avoiding pregnancy out of wedlock is not the same thing as maintaining chastity, and the real definition of “fornication” is not so limited or narrow.
15 The Greek word por·neiʹa, translated “fornication,” has a fairly broad meaning. It relates to sexual relations involving persons not married to each other and focuses on the misuse of the sexual organs. Por·neiʹa includes such acts as oral sex, anal sex, and masturbating another person—conduct commonly associated with houses of prostitution. People who think that such acts are not “fornication” are fooling themselves and have fallen victim to one of Satan’s snares. (2 Timothy 2:26) Furthermore, maintaining chastity means more than merely refraining from any act that constitutes fornication. To “flee from fornication,” we must avoid all forms of sexual uncleanness and loose conduct that could lead to the gross sin of por·neiʹa. (Ephesians 4:19) In that way we maintain chastity.
Avoid the Dangers of Flirting
16. Amorous behavior is appropriate in what setting, as illustrated by what Scriptural example?
16 If we are to maintain our chastity, another danger we need to beware of is flirting. Some may insist that flirting is innocent, harmless fun between members of the opposite sex. Admittedly, there is a time and place for amorous behavior. Isaac and Rebekah were observed “having a good time” together, and it was evident to onlookers that they were not merely brother and sister. (Genesis 26:7-9) However, they were husband and wife. Expressions of affection between them were appropriate. Flirting is another matter.
17. What is flirting, and how may the problem be controlled?
17 Flirting may be defined this way: to signal romantic interest when there is no real intention to marry. Humans are complex creatures, so there are no doubt countless ways to flirt, some of them very subtle. (Proverbs 30:18, 19) Hard-and-fast rules, then, cannot really address the matter. Rather, something more elevated is called for—honest self-examination and the conscientious application of Bible principles.
18. What impels some to flirt, and why is flirting harmful?
18 If we are honest with ourselves, most of us will likely have to admit that when we sense that someone of the opposite sex has a romantic interest in us, we feel flattered. That is natural. But do we flirt in order to elicit such interest—just to give our ego a little boost or to evoke such a response in another? If so, have we considered the pain that we might be causing? For example, Proverbs 13:12 says: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick.” If we deliberately flirt with someone, we probably do not know just how that person is affected. He or she may develop expectations about courtship and even an eventual marriage. The ensuing disappointment can be crushing. (Proverbs 18:14) To toy with the feelings of others intentionally is cruel.
19. How may flirting endanger Christian marriages?
19 It is particularly important to guard against flirting when it comes to married people. To signal romantic interest in a married person—or for a married person to show such interest in someone outside the marriage bond—is wrong. Sadly, some Christians have held the mistaken belief that it is acceptable to cultivate romantic feelings for members of the opposite sex other than their mate. Some reveal their innermost concerns to such a “friend,” even confiding private thoughts that they do not share with their mate. As a result, romantic feelings have blossomed into an emotional dependency that may undermine and even destroy a marriage. Married Christians do well to remember Jesus’ wise warning about adultery—it begins in the heart. (Matthew 5:28) Let us, then, safeguard the heart and avoid situations that could lead to such ruinous results.
20. How should we be determined to view our chastity?
20 Granted, it is not easy to remain chaste in today’s immoral world. Remember, though, that it is far easier to maintain your chastity than to regain it once it is lost. Of course, Jehovah can “forgive in a large way” and is able to cleanse those who truly repent of their sins. (Isaiah 55:7) However, Jehovah does not shield those who commit immorality from the consequences of their actions. The aftereffects may last for years, even a lifetime. (2 Samuel 12:9-12) By all means, maintain your chastity by safeguarding your heart. View your clean, chaste standing before Jehovah God as a precious treasure—and never let it go!
How Would You Answer?
• What is chastity, and why is it so important?
• How can we safeguard our heart?
• What is involved in fleeing from fornication?
• Why should we avoid flirting?
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A car can be dangerous if not guided properly
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What can happen if we ignore warnings?
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A chaste courtship is joyful and honors God