Major Problems In Moral Purity (No. 1)
Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify the Father which is in heaven." By doing good the Christian bears fruit which, to the people of the world, is a shining light, radiating and reflecting the love of God. However, good work is not the only way the Christian is made into a shining light. He is to "keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1 :27), and to "abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good" (Rom. 12:9). Since the Christian is really not a light except as he reflects Christ, then any impurity in his life will minimize that light. The light that would shine from our lives because of the good works we do is often obscured by the defilements of moral impurity.
We are inclined to consider our age as one that is especially vexed with moral problems, but evidently these same matters were the concern of God's people since the days of Adam and Eve. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, so let us consider some of the major problems which we must face from day to day if we are to be real and effective "lights in the world."
Solomon said, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," and Jesus emphasized this in the sermon on mount when he showed that one can commit adultery "in his heart," by harboring evil thoughts even though the overt act has not been committed. In Phil. 4:8 Paul admonished us to think on the things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.
"Thought control" then becomes a very real problem to the child of God. There are three reasons why we must exercise strict control over our own thinking processes: (1) It is a plain command of the New Testament (Phil. 4:8). (2) Our thinking determines our character, for what we think in our hearts we actually are in our lives (Prov. 23:7). (3) Defiled, debased thinking will lead us on to more and more defilement in the flesh. Somebody said that one reason so many people jump off high buildings and bridges is that they "look too long." We follow our eyes - our thoughts. Likewise many look upon sin so long and so willingly that sin loses its horrible appearance. We may be able to think about evil things without contrasting them with the good and pure until, in our thoughts the thing is no longer sinful. For instance Americans have looked so long upon near-nudity that it seems less offensive than it did 30 years ago, not only because some have become calloused to such sights, but probably mostly because so many people no longer consider it wrong to have evil thoughts. Too many women today don't care if a man commits adultery in his heart with her!
Lasciviousness promotes evil thoughts, for one definition of the word is "tending to excite lustful desires." Most dancing is lasciviousness. The Indian war dance was intended to stir up one emotion-the desire to fight. The modern dances in which one sex fondles the other stirs up another emotion and the resulting thoughts tear down inhibitions to sinful conduct. The man who thinks of evil relations for hours on the dance floor will have little power to restrain himself at the end of such experience.
The safest way, then, to safeguard our conduct is to control our thoughts. It is not only important that we recognize this need in our own selves, but that we make every effort to contribute to purity of thought among others with whom we associate in the home, school, office, factory, etc. There is certainly a sense in which we can and must be "our brother's keeper," even as we help him keep his thoughts undefiled.
In Heb. 4:12 we learn that the word of God is a "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Purity of motive does not guarantee purity of action, but on the other hand action can hardly be pure if the intent is defiled. In this article we shall not try to identify all motives which may be bad, but we shall consider three significant ones.
Selfishness is an evil motive which may manifest itself many times. Perhaps this was the motivating cause with James and John when they desired to sit on either side, one on the right and one on the left, of Jesus in his kingdom. Selfishness is not simply real concern for self, but actually it is the showing of so much regard for one's own self that the interests and welfare of others is disregarded. This evil motive might cause a child of God to consider his own welfare, and that of his family, so important that he is unwilling to leave a sheltered environment even to teach and preach the gospel to lost men. Selfishness on the part of preachers and their families probably prevents more fruitful work in the Lord's vineyard than any other hindering cause. The following poem by G. McDonald should cause many of us to consider our motives in gospel work:
I said, "Let me walk in the fields,"
He said, "No, walk in the town."
I said, "There are no flowers there,"
He said, "No flowers, but a crown."
I said, "But the skies are black;
There is nothing but noise and din"
And he wept as he sent me back,
"There is more," he said, "there is sin."
I said, "But the air is thick,
And the fogs are veiling the sun."
He answered, "Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark are undone."
I said, "I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say,"
He answered, "Choose tonight,
If I am to miss you, or they."
I pleaded for time to be given;
He said, "Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in heaven,
To have followed the steps of your guide."
I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town,
He said, "My child, do you yield ?
Will you have the flowers or the crown?"
Then into his hand went mine,
And into my heart came he.
And I walked in a light divine,
The path I had feared to see.
Jealousy is another motive which produces much evil. The brother of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15) demonstrated the evil which may result when jealousy invades our hearts. Jealousy may so warp our nature that it will hinder our usefulness and it may also cause us to throw obstacles in the way of other servants of Christ. Jealousy manifests itself among preachers in so many ways: unwise and undue criticisms of other preachers; complaints because others preach to more people or receive more support; etc. Likewise, other Christians give every evidence of jealousy when they bicker, wrangle and/or pout over such things as who will lead the singing, who will teach a class, who will wait on the table, etc. Any amount of jealousy among Christians will cause discord and difficulty.
Greed is the third evil motive we shall mention. Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom and eventually lost everything he had except two daughters, because he "lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere . (Gen. 13:10). How much better it might have been for Lot and his family if he had forgotten his desire for fine pastures for his flocks and would have considered the dangers to his family in the sin-cursed cities of the plain. Today we see many similarities in the way children of God migrate to places for financial gain and in their greed for the money to be had from "overtime," abandon the meetings of the church. We have observed in recent months here in Chicagoland, that sometimes even elders of the Lord's church and preachers of the gospel move here to make money and greedily pursue that course even when it means failing to assemble one hour per week to worship God. Significantly this greed is not for millions, nor even thousands of dollars, but often only for a few hundred with which to get a car or a television set etc. Mothers abandon their children, leaving them for strangers to train, or sometimes leaving them alone to roam the streets, just for a few paltry dollars with which to buy those few extras that the neighbors already have. Revolting indeed is the attitude of some preachers, who, when approached about work in a certain place ask first of all, "What do they pay?" All of us might well ponder the following words:
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold;
Molten, graven, hammered and rolled;
Heavy to get and light to hold.
Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold,
Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled;
Spurned by the young, but hugged by the old
To the very edge of the churchyard mold;
Price of many a crime untold:
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Good or bad, a thousand fold!
Greed not only causes some to engage in dishonest or improper activities, but it may also cause us to take a wrong attitude toward the possessions which we do have. Regardless of whether we have much or little, hoarding is a manifestation of greed. Isaiah described some of those who claimed to be God's people, even those who claimed to be his watchmen thus: "Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough . . . they all look to their own way, every one for his own gain . . ." (Isa. 56:11). Solomon said, "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house" (Prov. 15 :27). Some poet said:
Use your money while you're living,
Do not hoard it to be proud;
You can never take it with you,
There's no pocket in a shroud.
Gold can help you on no farther
Than the graveyard where you lie;
And though you're rich while living,
You're a pauper when you die.
Use it then some lives to brighten
As through life they weary plod;
Place your bank account in heaven,
And grow rich toward your God.
The Christian then must put away selfishness, jealousy and greed. When motives are pure, they will be manifested by an unselfish spirit that may better be described as selflessness. Envy, strife and resentments that characterize the jealous person will be absent in the life of one whose motives harmonize with the will of God. Pure motives forbid the grasping, covetous spirit that is a direct product of greed.
Next month we propose to discuss problems of pure speech, pure actions and pure companionships.
Truth Magazine II:7, pp. 2-3, 23