Reap Rich Benefits
19. What evidence have you seen that men are lovers of themselves?
19 Paul begins his list by predicting that in the last days, “men will be lovers of themselves.” (2 Timothy 3:2) What did he mean? You would be right to say that throughout history there have been conceited, self-serving men and women. Yet, there is no doubt that this defect is unusually common today. It is extreme in many people. It is almost the norm in the political and commercial world. Men and women pursue power and fame at any cost. Usually that is at any cost to others, for such lovers of self care little how they harm other people. They are quick to sue or cheat others. You can understand why many call this the “me generation.” Prima donnas and egotists abound.
2, 3. How is Paul’s prediction about men being lovers of money being fulfilled today?
2 Our studying 2 Timothy 3:1-5 can help us to see the results of being instructed by God in “the last days.” In the preceding article, we began by noting benefits coming to those who take to heart Paul’s warning not to be “lovers of themselves.” Paul added that in our time men would also be “lovers of money.”
3 No one needs a college degree in modern history to see how well those words fit our times. Have you not read of financiers and corporate leaders who are not satisfied with earning millions each year? These lovers of money keep wanting more, even by illegal means. Paul’s words also fit many today who, while not wealthy, are just as covetous, never satisfied. You may know many of such in your area.
4-6. How does the Bible help Christians to avoid becoming lovers of money?
4 Is what Paul mentioned just an unavoidable aspect of human nature? Not according to the Author of the Bible, who long ago set out this truth: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” Notice, God did not say, ‘Money is the root of all injurious things.’ He said that it is “the love of money.”—1 Timothy 6:10.
5 Interestingly, the context of Paul’s words acknowledged that some fine Christians in the first century were rich in the present system of things, whether they inherited wealth or earned it. (1 Timothy 6:17) It should be evident, then, that whatever our financial status, the Bible warns us of the danger of becoming a lover of money. Does the Bible offer any further instruction about avoiding this grievous and common defect? Indeed it does, such as in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Its wisdom is world famous. Note, for example, what Jesus said at Matthew 6:26-33.
6 As recorded at Luke 12:15-21, Jesus spoke of a rich man who kept trying to accumulate more wealth but who suddenly lost his life. What was Jesus’ point? He said: “Guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” Along with giving such counsel, the Bible condemns laziness and stresses the value of honest labor. (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12) Oh, some may object that these teachings do not fit our times—but they do, and they are working.
Instructed and Benefited
7. What reason do we have for confidence that we can successfully apply the Bible’s counsel about riches?
7 In nation after nation, you can find real-life examples of men and women from all social and economic levels who have applied divine principles about money. They have benefited themselves and their families, as even outsiders can see. For instance, in the book Religious Movements in Contemporary America, from the publisher for Princeton University, an anthropologist wrote: “In [Witness] publications and in congregation talks they are reminded that they do not depend upon new cars, expensive clothes, or lavish living for their status. At the same time a Witness is to give a just day’s work to his employer [and is to] be scrupulously honest . . . Such traits make even a man without many skills a useful employee, and some Witnesses in North Philadelphia [U.S.A.] have moved up to positions of considerable job responsibility.” Clearly, people who have accepted instruction from God through his Word have been alerted to attitudes that make it harder to deal with present conditions. Their experience proves that Bible instruction leads to a better, happier life.
8. Why can “self-assuming,” “haughty,” and “blasphemers” be linked, and what is the meaning of these three terms?
8 We can link the next three things Paul lists. In the last days, men would be “self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers.” These three are not identical, but all are related to pride. The first is “self-assuming.” A dictionary says that the basic Greek word here means: “‘One who makes more of himself than reality justifies,’ or ‘promises more than he can perform.’” You can understand why some Bibles use the term “boastful.” Next comes “haughty,” or literally “superior-appearing.” Last, “blasphemers.” Some may think of blasphemers as those who speak irreverently of God, but the underlying term includes injurious, defamatory, or abusive speech against humans. So Paul is referring to blasphemy directed against both God and man.
9. In contrast with prevailing harmful attitudes, what attitudes does the Bible encourage people to develop?
9 How do you feel when you are around people who fit Paul’s description, whether they be workmates, schoolmates, or relatives? Does it make your life easier? Or do such people complicate your life, making it harder for you to deal with our times? God’s Word, though, teaches us to shun these attitudes, offering instruction such as found at 1 Corinthians 4:7; Colossians 3:12, 13; and Ephesians 4:29.
10. What indicates that Jehovah’s people are benefited from accepting Biblical instruction?
10 Though Christians are imperfect, their applying this fine instruction greatly helps them in these critical times. The Italian journal La Civiltà Cattolica said that one reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses keep growing “is that the movement gives its members a precise and strong identity.” But, by “strong identity,” did the writer mean “self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers”? On the contrary, the Jesuit magazine notes that the movement “gives its members a precise and strong identity, and it is a place for them where they are welcomed with warmth and a sense of brotherhood and solidarity.” Is it not evident that the things the Witnesses have been taught are helping them?
Instruction Benefits Family Members
11, 12. How did Paul accurately indicate what the situation in many families would be like?
11 We might group the next four things, which are somewhat related. Paul foretold that during the last days, many would be “disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection.” You know that two of these defects—being unthankful and being disloyal—are all around us. Still, we can easily see why Paul set them between being “disobedient to parents” and “having no natural affection.” The four are intertwined.
12 Virtually any observant person, young or old, would have to admit that disobedience to parents is rampant, and it is growing worse. Many parents complain that young people seem unthankful for all that is done for them. Many youths protest that their parents are not really loyal to them (or to the family in general) but are wrapped up in their jobs, pleasures, or themselves. Rather than try to figure out who is at fault, look at the results. Estrangement between adults and youths often leads teenagers to form their own code of morality, or immorality. The consequence? A soaring rate of teenage pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases. All too often, lack of natural affection at home leads to violence. You can probably relate examples from your area, proof that natural affection is evaporating.
13, 14. (a) In the face of the deterioration of many families, why should we give attention to the Bible? (b) What sort of wise advice does God offer about family life?
13 This may explain why more and more are turning against those who once seemed to be part of their extended family, of the same clan, tribe, or group. Keep in mind, however, that we are not bringing these things up to stress the negatives of life today. Our two key interests are: Can Bible teachings help us to avoid suffering from the faults that Paul listed, and will we benefit from applying Bible teachings in our lives? The answers can be yes, as is evident regarding those four points in Paul’s list.
14 A sweeping statement is well justified: No teaching excels that from the Bible in producing family life that warms the heart and has good success. That is borne out by a mere sample of its counsel that can help family members not just to avoid pitfalls but to succeed. Colossians 3:18-21 well illustrates that, though there are many other beautiful and practical passages directed to husbands, wives, and children. This instruction works in our day. Granted, even in families of true Christians, there are complications and challenges. Yet, the overall results prove that the Bible is providing very helpful teaching for families.
15, 16. What situation did a researcher find when studying Jehovah’s Witnesses in Zambia?
15 For a year and a half, a researcher from the University of Lethbridge, Canada, studied social life in Zambia. She concluded: “Jehovah’s Witnesses experience greater success than members of other denominations in maintaining stable marital unions. . . . Their success represents a modified exchange relationship between husband and wife, who, in their newly discovered, nonthreatening, cooperative endeavors, have become accountable in their treatment of one another to a new figurehead, God. . . . The Jehovah’s Witness husband is taught to mature into practicing responsibility for the well-being of his wife and children. . . . Husband and wife are encouraged to be individuals with integrity . . . This overriding demand for integrity cements marriage.”
16 That study was based on numerous real experiences. For instance, this researcher said that contrary to the norm, “Jehovah’s Witness men more frequently are found helping their wives in gardens, not only during the preparation phase, but also with planting and digging.” It is thus evident that countless experiences earth wide show that Bible instruction touches lives.
17, 18. What surprising results surfaced in a study about religious heritage and premarital sex?
17 The preceding article mentioned findings in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. In 1991 it contained an article entitled “Religious Heritage and Premarital Sex: Evidence From a National Sample of Young Adults.” You probably know how prevalent premarital sex is. At a young age many give in to passion, and many teenagers have multiple sex partners. Can Bible teachings alter this common pattern?
18 Three associate professors who studied the issue expected to find ‘that adolescents and young adults raised in the more conservative Christian tradition would be less likely to have premarital sex.’ But what did the facts show? Overall, between 70 percent and 82 percent had engaged in premarital sex. For some “a fundamentalist heritage [reduced] the likelihood of premarital sex, but not in the case of ‘teenage premarital sex.’” The researchers commented on some youths from seemingly religious families who “exhibited a significantly higher probability of premarital sex when compared to Mainline Protestants.”—Italics ours.
19, 20. How has God’s instruction helped and protected many youths among Jehovah’s Witnesses?
19 The professors found just the opposite among youths of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were among “the group most distinct from others.” Why? “The level of commitment and social integration engendered by experiences, expectations, and involvement . . . may generally create higher levels of adherence to principles of faith.” They added: “Witnesses are expected to fulfill missionary responsibilities as adolescents and young adults.”
20 So Bible instruction affected Jehovah’s Witnesses for the good by helping them to avoid immorality. That means protection from sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are incurable and others fatal. It means no pressure toward abortions, which the Bible teaches are the equivalent of taking life. It also means young adults who are able to enter marriage with clean consciences. That means marriages built on a more solid foundation. It is such teachings that can help us to cope, to be healthier, happier.