“Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 COR. 15:33.
1. In what time period are we now living?
WE ARE living in very difficult times. The Bible calls the era that began in 1914 “the last days.” These “critical times hard to deal with” are marked by conditions that are far worse than any experienced by mankind prior to that climactic year. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Moreover, the world will continue to deteriorate, for Bible prophecy foretold that “wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse.”—2 Tim. 3:13.
2. What is characteristic of this world’s entertainment? (See opening image.)
2 For entertainment, many people view or practice things that the Bible identifies as violent, sexually immoral, spiritistic, or ungodly in other ways. For instance, the Internet, television programs, movies, novels, and magazine articles often present violence and immorality in a favorable light. Behavior once considered unacceptable has even been legalized in some places. But that does not make such conduct acceptable to God.—Read Romans 1:28-32.
3. How are those who live by Scriptural standards often viewed?
3 In the first century, Jesus’ followers shunned unclean entertainment. Because of this and their godly conduct in general, they were maligned and persecuted by others. “They are puzzled that you [Christians] do not continue running with them in the same decadent course of debauchery,” wrote the apostle Peter, “so they speak abusively of you.” (1 Pet. 4:4) Today, too, those who live by God’s standards are considered peculiar by the world. Furthermore, “all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.”—2 Tim. 3:12.
“BAD ASSOCIATIONS SPOIL USEFUL HABITS”
4. What do the Scriptures counsel us not to do with regard to this world?
4 The Scriptures counsel those who want to do God’s will not to love this world and its practices. (Read 1 John 2:15, 16.) The religious, political, and commercial elements of this world—including their information channels—are under the influence of “the god of this system of things,” Satan the Devil. (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19) As Christians, therefore, we need to watch our associations. God’s inspired Word declares this fundamental truth: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
5, 6. We should avoid companionship with whom, and why?
5 To avoid spoiling our useful habits, we must not have as close associates those who practice bad things. This applies not only to associating with unbelieving wrongdoers but also to associating with those who claim to worship Jehovah but who deliberately violate his laws. If such professing Christians engage in serious wrongdoing and do not repent, we do not continue to associate with them.—Rom. 16:17, 18.
6 If we were to associate with those who do not obey God’s laws, we might have the tendency to do what they do in order to be accepted by them. For example, if we were to have close association with sexually immoral people, we might be tempted to practice immorality. That has happened to some dedicated Christians, and some of them were disfellowshipped because they were not repentant. (1 Cor. 5:11-13) Unless they repent, their condition can become like that described by Peter.—Read 2 Peter 2:20-22.
7. Whom should we choose as close friends?
7 Although we want to be kind even to those who do not follow God’s laws, we should not become their intimate associates or close friends. It would therefore be wrong for one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who is a single person to date such an individual who is not dedicated and faithful to God and who does not respect His high standards. Maintaining Christian integrity is far more important than becoming popular with people who do not live by Jehovah’s laws. Our close associates should be those who do God’s will. Jesus said: “Whoever does the will of God, this one is my brother and sister and mother.”—Mark 3:35.
8. How did bad associations affect the people of ancient Israel?
8 The disastrous results of bad associations were experienced by the Israelites. When Jehovah rescued them from Egyptian slavery and was leading them to the Promised Land, he said this about their dealings with its inhabitants: “You must not bow down to their gods or be persuaded to serve them, and you must not imitate their practices. Instead, you must demolish them and smash their sacred pillars. You must serve Jehovah your God.” (Ex. 23:24, 25) Ultimately, most of the Israelites did not obey God’s instructions. (Ps. 106:35-39) Because they became unfaithful to God, Jesus later told them: “Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matt. 23:38) Jehovah cast off Israel, transferring his blessing to the newly formed Christian congregation.—Acts 2:1-4.
CAREFULLY CONSIDER WHAT YOU READ AND WATCH
9. Why can this world’s media be dangerous?
9 Much of what is produced by this world’s media can be spiritually dangerous to Christians. Such material is not designed to build faith in Jehovah and his promises. Instead, it reflects Satan’s evil world and its goals. Therefore, we need to exercise great caution so that we do not choose material that could arouse “worldly desires.”—Titus 2:12.
10. What will happen to this world’s harmful reading and viewing material?
10 Soon, harmful reading and viewing material will no longer exist. All of it will be removed when the world that it represents—Satan’s world—is destroyed. God’s Word states: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Similarly, the psalmist sang: “Evil men will be done away with, but those hoping in Jehovah will possess the earth. But the meek will possess the earth, and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” For how long? “The righteous will possess the earth, and they will live forever on it.”—Ps. 37:9, 11, 29.
11. How does God provide good spiritual food for his people?
11 In contrast with what the world produces, the material produced by Jehovah’s organization in these last days encourages conduct that leads to eternal life. In prayer to Jehovah, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Through his organization, our heavenly Father is providing an abundance of upbuilding spiritual food. How blessed we are to have magazines, brochures, books, videos, and Web pages that promote true worship! God’s organization also provides regular meetings in more than 110,000 congregations worldwide. At those meetings and at assemblies and conventions, we consider Bible-based material that builds faith in God and his promises.—Heb. 10:24, 25.
MARRY “ONLY IN THE LORD”
12. Explain the Bible’s counsel to marry “only in the Lord.”
12 Watching their associations is particularly important for single Christians who want to get married. God’s Word clearly counsels: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14) The Bible counsels God’s servants who are seeking a marriage mate to marry “only in the Lord,” that is, to marry only a dedicated, baptized worshipper of Jehovah who lives according to Scriptural teachings. (1 Cor. 7:39) By marrying fellow believers, Christians gain companions who are dedicated to Jehovah and will help them maintain their integrity to him.
13. What command regarding marriage did God give the Israelites?
13 Jehovah knows what is best for his servants, and he has been consistent in stating his viewpoint regarding marriage. Note his easily understood command to Israel through Moses. With reference to the inhabitants of surrounding nations—people who did not serve Jehovah—the Israelites were instructed: “You must not form any marriage alliances with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods; then Jehovah’s anger will blaze against you, and he will swiftly annihilate you.”—Deut. 7:3, 4.
14, 15. How did ignoring Jehovah’s direction affect Solomon?
14 Early in the kingship of David’s son Solomon, the younger man prayed for wisdom, and God gave it to him in abundance. King Solomon thus became famous as the wise ruler of a prosperous land. In fact, when the queen of Sheba visited Solomon, she exclaimed: “I did not put faith in the reports until I had come and had seen it with my own eyes. And look! I had not been told the half. You have far surpassed in wisdom and prosperity the report that I heard.” (1 Ki. 10:7) But Solomon became a sad example of what can happen when a person ignores God’s command not to marry an unbeliever.—Eccl. 4:13.
15 Despite everything that God had done for him, Solomon ignored the divine command not to marry women from surrounding nations, individuals who did not worship Jehovah. Solomon “loved many foreign women” and eventually had 700 wives and 300 concubines. What was the result? In Solomon’s old age, his pagan wives “inclined his heart to follow other gods, . . . and Solomon did what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah.” (1 Ki. 11:1-6) Solomon’s bad associations undermined his wisdom and caused him to fall away from true worship. What a warning that is for Christians who might think about marrying someone who does not love Jehovah!
16. What Scriptural counsel applies to a servant of God who is married to an unbeliever?
16 What if someone becomes a worshipper of God while married to an unbeliever? The Bible says: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, so that if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives.” (1 Pet. 3:1) Those words are addressed to Christian wives, but the same words apply to a husband who becomes a worshipper of Jehovah while married to an unbeliever. The Bible’s counsel is clear: Be a good mate, and live up to God’s high standards for marriage. Many unbelieving mates have accepted the truth because of observing a husband or a wife who changed after complying with God’s requirements.
ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE WHO LOVE JEHOVAH
17, 18. Why did Noah and first-century Christians survive the end of the system in which they lived?
17 Although bad associations spoil useful habits, good associations produce fine results. Consider Noah, who lived in an evil world but had no desire to make its inhabitants his close friends. At that time, “Jehovah saw that man’s wickedness was great on the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” (Gen. 6:5) God therefore determined to wipe out that evil system and its supporters by means of a global deluge. However, “Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the true God.”—Gen. 6:7-9.
18 Noah certainly did not seek the companionship of ungodly people. He and the seven members of his family occupied themselves with the doing of God-given work, which included building an ark. Meanwhile, Noah was also “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:5) Noah’s preaching, his work on the ark, and his association with his family kept him busy doing good things that pleased God. As a result, Noah and his immediate family survived the Flood. We should be grateful to them because all of us today are the descendants of those who served Jehovah—faithful Noah, Noah’s wife, his sons, and their wives. Similarly, loyal and obedient first-century Christians kept themselves separate from ungodly people and survived the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish system of things in 70 C.E.—Luke 21:20-22.
19. To gain God’s favor, what must we do?
19 As worshippers of Jehovah, we need to imitate Noah and his family and obedient first-century Christians. We must keep separate from the wicked system of things around us and seek upbuilding associates among the millions of our faithful brothers and sisters. Sticking with those who are guided by God-given wisdom will help us to “stand firm in the faith” during these very difficult times. (1 Cor. 16:13; Prov. 13:20) And just think of our wonderful prospects! If we watch our associations in these last days, we may personally live right through the end of this evil system and into Jehovah’s righteous new world now so near at hand!