Major Problems In Moral Purity (No. 2)
Last month, in introducing this subject, I wrote, "The light that would shine from our lives because of the good works we do is often obscured by the defilements of moral impurity . . . 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'." In last month's article we considered two major problems: Pure thoughts and pure motives. Let us now consider more of the real problems we face in efforts to main tain moral purity.
Paul wrote much about this matter. In Phil. 1 :27 we read: "Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ." The revised says "let your manner of life" be as becometh the gospel. This is even more comprehensive. Some people are very skillful in selecting clothing that is "becoming" to them. All of us should be very careful to use speech and to altogether behave ourselves in such a way as is "becoming" to the gospel of Christ. Would the words that flow from our lips compare favorably if put down beside those of the New Testament? Again Paul wrote, "Let your speech be always with grace . . ." Col. 4:6. That is, our speech should always be courteous and pleasant and from our lips should come only those words that are clean and pure. Paul wrote to Titus (2:8) and admonished him to use "sound speech that cannot be condemned." "Sound" means pure, true, whole, valid, right. Our words, then should be those that are true and pure, but, not on1y that but they must not be made up of half-truths and doubtful sayings.
Let us notice this problem from two sides: First we must speak; we must speak truth; we must not withhold proper and necessary words. Peter wrote, "Be ready always to give an answer . . ." (I Pet. 3:15). To fail to speak when duty demands it would in one sense be to fail to behave as becometh the gospel. "Silence is golden," somebody has said, but sometimes to be silent is to be a coward and a traitor.
Second, we must refrain from the use of any bad words. The command of the law of Moses which said, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" is actually amplified in the positive instruction we have already quoted from the pen of Paul, which demands not only that we refrain from the evil but that we use the good. On the other hand, we must not forget that careless, useless, empty and evil words may easily ruin any "answer" we may give regarding scriptural subjects. The speech we make to convince the sinner of the truth may well be the very stumbling block that prevents his obedience if our words are tainted with the language of worldliness.
Many children of God unintentionally use unbecoming speech by the use of euphemisms. One such occurrence is when a good word is used in a bad way. The common use of "Oh, Lord" and "My God" are examples of this abuse. Another use of euphemisms in the of one word for another, as when "Golly" or "gosh" are used, for these words actually mean "God." "Gee" is simply short for "Jesus." Now of course many who use these words do not mean to use the name of God or Jesus in vain, but if the word means that, it cannot be used with complete purity regardless of our thoughts about it.
The television programs which our children see and hear and the material which they read for leisure pastime is filled so full of the euphemisms that it requires constant and diligent effort on the part of parents to prevent such from becoming a part of the vocabulary of the children. Furthermore almost all of their associates will use such words, thus making the problem even more acute. Nevertheless children can be so trained as to enable them to keep such words from their lips, but this can only be accomplished effectively if the parents are very careful of their own speech habits. (And we must remember that most of our speech becomes habitual-we speak good or bad words, depending upon our speech habits. The man or woman, boy or girl who constantly use good words will not have to worry about the spontaneous words that will come from his lips when he accidently hits his finger with the hammer, for even those words will not he profane if his pattern of speech is well established.
To children of God the Holy Spirit says, "Let us walk . . . not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness . . ." Rom. 13:13. In Gal. 5:19-24 we are given a long list of "works of the flesh," all of which are to be avoided. Of course the list of things that could be considered here could require pages and pages of discussion, but we will limit ourselves to just a few that may seem most significant today because of their extreme and wide abuse.
Old-fashioned honesty is a necessary characteristic of the real and devoted Christian. Paul wrote that we should provide for things that are honest, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men (Rom. 12:17; 2 Cor. 8:21 ). This demands that we not only be sure we are honest, and thus be assured that God knows it, but that we so conduct ourselves that our neighbors will know it too. The child of God who will sneak away and keep the money when he has been given too much change by the grocery clerk, lacks this basic moral attribute, for in his heart the one who steals great sums is no more dishonest than the one who keeps small amounts which do not belong to him.
Furthermore, this matter of honesty goes farther than in handling money. Real honesty forbids hypocrisy. "Yes-men" who will agree with everybody on both sides of any issue are basically dishonest. Christians who willingly give encouragement to people in religious error have simply failed to be really honest with them. Excuse-making that is so common among professed Christians often, and perhaps usually, becomes a manifestation of a careless attitude toward the real truth. The person who says he was to sick to go to the place of assembly on Sunday and still goes to work on Monday when he is in the same condition has simply been dishonest with himself, with the church and with the Lord. Significantly, if we possess any characteristics of dishonesty, we need to overcome them, even if they seem minor to us, for if such are retained in our hearts they will likely manifest themselves in greater and greater ways as time goes by. Furthermore, honestv is a matter of our own will, and is something that we must endeavor and determine to have if we are to possess it. We will not accidently become honest, but we can deliberately be so.
Modesty is another problem in pure actions. In this usage the word modest means decent, pure, behaving according to a standard of what is proper. And, remember, that standard is set for Christians by the Bible, not by customs of men. For instance, even if the whole world undresses in public, it will never be modest or proper for the Christian. From Gen. 3:7 to Rev. 3 :17 nakedness is portrayed as a shame. But our problem today is a grave one, for children are no longer trained in modesty. Little three-year old girls are dressed in gay dresses that are just a little shorter than their brother's shirt, ten-year old girls are dressed in the scantiest shorts and the narrowest and thinnest "halter" possible, fifteen-year old girls wear less clothing on the street than they wore home from the hospital when they were a week old, and even mothers and grandmothers go everywhere except to wedding, funerals and church services dressed ( ?) in shorts. (If the trend continues, preachers will soon not only discuss whether or not a woman should wear a hat in worship assemblies but also whether or not she must wear a dress!)
Blushing is an evidence of shame, but blushing is a lost art, for shame is a forgotten attribute. (How long has it been since you have seen anyone blush because of something that was considered shameful or immodest?)
If decency is to prevail, modesty must precede it. Indecency and immodesty are not synonyms, but the former certainly follows in the wake of the latter.
Modesty is not an attribute that is reserved for the feminine sex, for men and boys can not only be immodest in their dress, speech and conduct, but they may have a large part of the responsibility for the immodesty of the women and girls. Perhaps a significant factor in production of more and more immodesty is the unwillingness of people to be different from the popular trend. It no doubt takes fortitude and courage today for a girl to wear a dress on a hot day, not because of the weather but because of the scorn of the multitude. Paul wrote, "Be not . . . ashamed of the testimony of the Lord." Jesus was not unwilling to suffer the shame of the cross, and his true disciples today must be willing to suffer the humiliation that may accompany a life that portrays modesty to the world.
"Evil communications (companionship, RV) corrupt good manners (morals, RV)" ( I Cor. 15:33). Again Paul wrote, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers " (2 Cor. 6:14). Any association in this life is bound to have some effect upon all concerned. In some cases the weak are strengthened by the strong, but in other cases the strong are weakened by the weak. Some cases may even be a compromise-where both strength and weakness are minimized. So, the problem of companionships really can be summed up in two expressions: (1) Choose the very best associates possible. (2) Be sure that the weaknesses of any companion do no become our weaknesses too.
There is an old man-made proverb, "Lie down with the dogs and you will get up with the fleas." In everyday-life we need to recognize that we cannot choose evil companions, without expecting to be influenced by their evil to some extent. A good girl does not run with a bad crowd long without partaking of some of their sins. A good boy cannot associate with a gang of hoodlums without having some part in their vices. A godly husband and wife will not keep close company with a vulgar, corrupt couple without being contaminated. Few people of faith and fidelity can maintain a very close friendship with people who are skeptical or atheistic without having their faith shaken at least a little, and without hindering their fidelity in service to the Lord. These facts are illustrated so often in marriage -a good Christian marries a worldly, wicked person with the hope of reforming that one, but usually it doesn't work out that way. Usually the vitality of the Christian is minimized and the worldly person is no better off either.
When it does become our lot to associate, at work or in school, or in some such manner, with those who are worldly, we must prepare ourselves to stand the test. We will have to begin by guarding our thoughts so that we won't think like the world thinks. We will also have to be very careful about our words to be sure we do not acquire the vocabulary of the world. Finally, we must exercise strict control over our actions so that we will not be guilty of the deeds of the world. For instance, a Christian may properly think in terms of the golden rule" until he sees the rule of "the survival of the fittest" demonstrated in the office, shop or school, at which time he may give up and begin to think like the world thinks. It is not uncommon to notice one whose words are pure begin association with people whose language is vile and soon begin to hear these vile words creep from those lips from which only good words had formerly come. People who have never done so before are often led by the office crowd to gamble, flirt, etc. The Christian must stand firmly and resolutely when his companions are worldly, for in so doing he will not only maintain his own integrity but will also have a good influence upon others.
In these two articles we have not tried to discuss each and every moral problem that is common today, but we have tried to point out some of the more significant principles that will guide us in each and every thought, word and deed. In today's world truth must be upheld faithfully and principles of salvation must be proclaimed with zeal. The church must be kept pure in work and worship, and zeal and faith must be manifested in the lives of Christians. Let us not also forget that moral purity must also be maintained among God's people if success is to accompany our preaching, teaching, work and worship.
Truth Magazine II:8, pp. 2-3, 21