Scandals in government, industry and religion have captured considerable media attention of late. More sad stories of corruption, greed and moral laxity seem to appear each day. We expect our leaders to be better than we are. When they're not, we're always surprised. But are their moral lapses exceptions to the rule, or are they symptoms of a crisis at the heart of our societies?
The fact is that the line between right and wrong has become so blurred today that many people wonder if there is a difference anymore. The biblical prophet Isaiah described our moral confusion perfectly: "We look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness! We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight.. ." (Isaiah 59:9-10).
The articles in this brochure take a frank look at where our moral blindness is leading us and what we, as individuals and as societies, can do about it. The articles originally appeared in The Plain Truth magazine. For more than five decades, The Plain Truth has examined the moral and ethical problems facing our societies. We have collected these articles from the magazine to provide some light in the midst of today's moral darkness.
If you're not already a subscriber to The Plain Truth, you can request your free one-year subscription to the magazine by writing to the office closest to you. You can find a list of addresses on the back cover of this brochure.
Page 1, text by David Hulme. Page 5, text by Paul Kroll. Page 10, text by Norman Shoaf. Page 12, text by Gene Hogberg. Page 16, text by Ronald Kelly. Page 19, text by Donald Schroeder. © 1989 Worldwide Church of God. All Rights Reserved.
Many of the scriptures quoted in this publication are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.
A story in a major news magazine went like this:
"Students were debating whether one student was right in returning $100 she'd found in the hallway to its owner. They concluded that she'd done a dumb thing, and asked the counselor's opinion.
"He replied, Well, I think she did the right thing. But I'm not going to push my idea of right and wrong on you. After all, I'm your counselor.'"
But what's a counselor for, if it isn't to steer people toward taking a right course of action? What good is a neutral stand like that? How can there be a neutral position between right and wrong?
This counselor, whoever he is, was correct not to want to push his own ideas of right and wrong onto his students. But what made him think that telling young people it's wrong to steal was his idea? And why was he willing to concede for one second that the students might have a point when they thought the finder was stupid to return the money?
Is stealing or not stealing just a "matter of opinion"?
It's time we took a long, hard look at what's been happening to the difference between right and wrong in our societies over the last 50 years or so.
When Right Was Right
The world of the 1930s was a very different world from today. In some ways circumstances were much worse. During the years of the Great Depression many were living under conditions of great privation. The lines of the unemployed stretched for blocks, and once-proud breadwinners were forced to the soup kitchens.
People ate stale food, wore old clothing and struggled to survive through those bleak years. But in spite of that, there was still popular understanding of the difference between right and wrong. People weren't perfect, but there was no serious question that it was wrong to commit adultery or to lie or cheat or steal.
But our attitudes have changed dramatically since. Now, it's quite acceptableeven fashionableto cheat on government taxes, to have an affair, to have sex before marriage or to adopt what we euphemistically call "alternative lifestyles," just so long as it "doesn't hurt anyone else." It seems that as long as we're consenting adults, anything goes and nothing should be considered wrong.
Now that might be so, if there were no moral law, absolute in nature, governing human conduct. Today, it's old-fashioned to think that there might be such a timeless law. But why should it be? Let's look at this question objectively.
A Universe Governed by Law
We live in a law-abiding universe with the law of gravity, laws of physics, of chemistry, of motion.
We didn't make these laws, but over the centuries, we've learned to define and respect them, to understand them, and to rely on them. Because we study the laws that govern the universe, and are willing to apply them, we're able to launch space probes from earth and have them rendezvous with distant planets years later. Because we accept the inevitability of physical laws, we can predict where planets will beand where our spacecraft must beto the exact moment in time.
It would be arrogant and foolish to think we could ignore such laws. Rather, we spare no effort to get in step with themand because we do, we succeed. So what makes us think that we can disregard the laws governing morality-showing us the difference between right and wrong?
Every society has realized that it must have laws to live by. When laws are kept, society is stabilized. When they're broken, penalties are paid. If enough people break laws for long enough, the society collapses.
In the Western world, when we think of the highest law we usually think of the Ten Commandments that God gave to ancient Israel. They've been the basis of our concepts of right and wrong for centuries. Great lawmakers, such as King Alfred the Great of England and the men who drafted the Constitution of the United States, held God's law in high esteem.
An Enlightened Society
Even what we sometimes think of as primitive societies govern themselves with codes of ethics. The Pygmies of the Central African Ituri Forest have a body of moral law and practice predating the coming of Europeans to that continent.
The Efe Pygmies of the Ituri Forest in Zaire have an enlightened philosophy and laws regulating their relationship to one another, to their forest environment and to a God they recognize as a Creator and Sustainer. Their moral law forbids killing, adultery, lying, theft, blasphemy, demon worship and sorcery, disrespect toward elders and other forms of misbehavior.
Therefore, the Efe Pygmies don't indulge in cannibalism or human sacrifice, mutilation, sorcery, ritual murder, intertribal war, initiation ordeals or any other cruel customs. It's interesting to notice how many of the commandments of the Pygmies coincide with the Ten Commandments God gave Israel.
The Need for Law
It seems that deep down man recognizes that he must have laws against stealing, adultery and murder, if a society is to function.
The difference is that the Ten Commandments were not something man dreamed up. They were given by God to regulate every aspect of human behavior-from the obvious prohibitions against murder, stealing and lying, to the perhaps less obvious laws concerning idolatry and the Sabbath.
God made these laws-just as surely as he made the laws governing the universe. In fact, they're even more binding. Remember, Jesus said in Luke 16:17: "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle [the smallest detail] of the law to fail." Yet today, those laws are under attack.
That's why we have situations like the one in which a high school counselor was reluctant to teach his students it's wrong to steal, in case he was pushing his ideas of right and wrong. It isn't his idea. "Thou shalt not steal" is God's law-one of the Ten Commandments. Why should there be any question about it?
In the days when the New Testament was being written, the apostle Paul was very concerned how wrong ideas were affecting the thinking of the people of his day. He wrote to the Christians in the Greek city of Colossae, in Colossians 2:8: "Beware lest anyone cheat [or deceive] you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ."
Most of us don't know much about those philosophers, but we have our modern philosophers who've changed the thinking of our world. Today many people question the relevance of the Ten Commandments. We have to ask: What has happened that has changed the way we think about God and his law today?
Minds That Spellbind the World
There are several powerful ideas that have dominated our time. They come directly, or indirectly, from the minds of men like Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud-three great thinkers of recent times.
Darwin was one of the first proponents of the theory of evolution; Karl Marx was the originator of the system known today as communism; and Sigmund Freud is recognized as the father of modem psychiatry.
These men's ideas have been greatly modified-and in some instances even discarded-by some of their most devoted disciples. Yet the notions of these three men have come together at this point in modem history with an incredible impact on civilization. It's as if the effects of their thinking 100 years ago have finally reached critical mass.
Let's look briefly at their ideas and how they've changed humanity's thinking about morality, about what's right and what's wrong.
A common starting point for each man was the recognition that traditional religion doesn't provide the answer to life's fundamental questions.
Charles Darwin's works on evolution gave expression to the notion that mankind is the outcome of a natural progression from lower forms of life. That isn't a new idea. Aristotle wondered about that.
But Darwin brought together several isolated threads of human reasoning and produced his version of the origin of the species. He cast doubt on the cherished belief that mankind is a special creation in the universe. Darwin's theory postulated that mankind is nothing but the result of the evolution of life forms over millions of years from the simple to the more complex.
In his autobiography he wrote this: "I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation.... This disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but at last was complete."
But he also came to doubt the validity of his own revolutionary theories. Writing to a friend, he admitted this: "I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design."
The theory of evolution as expounded by Charles Darwin is now under great stress, and leading scientists are questioning some of Darwin's most basic conclusions. But the damage has been done. Darwin has had a massive effect on the 20th century and its thinking about God's authority over people.
The second great influence on 20th century morality is that of Karl Marx. His arena was economics and politics, but the effect of his theories on morality has been no less remarkable. He, too, was opposed to traditional religion. He dismissed it as "the opium of the people," and wrote:
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness."
Marx developed his ideas during the early days of the Industrial Revolution-a time of great social upheaval in Europe. He rightly identified the abuses suffered by the working classes. He campaigned against the exploitation of the working man by the manipulative boss. But as with all human reasoning there was a flaw in his thinking.
Prosecuted on a charge of plotting to overthrow the government in Germany, Marx gave a speech in his own defense that shows his view of law.
"Society is not based on the law. That is a legal fiction. Rather, law must be based on society. It must be the expression of society's common interests and needs." He went on to say, "Any attempted assertion of the eternal validity of laws continually clashes with present needs."
So for Marx the idea of absolute moral law is a fiction of man's imagination. Marx has changed the way people think in many different societies. Whether we agree with him or not, Karl Marx has played a part in shaping our ideas about society.
Another great influence in our time has been that of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. Like Darwin and Marx, Freud was a product of the Europe of a hundred years or so ago. And like them, his ideas reflected the times in which he lived. Freud certainly had problems believing in God's Word. Like Marx, Freud was of Jewish background, and he too seemed desirous of denying his past, and, of course, the religion of his forefathers.
In turn-of-the-century Vienna Freud practiced the new science of psychiatry. From the case histories of his patients, he devised an elaborate road map of man's mental structure. He put together an entire system that purported to explain the dark stirrings of the human heart, of the unconscious mind and its attendant fantasies. The idea of the unconscious mind determining what we do was an invention of Freud's own mind. It allowed modern man to believe that he can free himself from the guilt and responsibility for his actions. Blame and guilt have become irrelevant.
But are we just victims of our unconscious minds with all of their bizarre sexual conflicts? If that is true, we certainly can't be held responsible for our actions in any meaningful way. This view of man has promoted a hopelessness about the human condition and justified wrong actions.
Although Freud himself was quite prudish about sex, his theories and speculations about the human mind have been construed by many as a justification for disregarding standards and ethics in their own sexual lives. Later disciples of Freud took his ideas even further than Freud ever intended. As the moral barriers came down, compounded by the turmoil of two world wars, the floodgates burst open.
So instead of hearing about right and wrong today, we hear about right and repressed, or right and not mentally healthy, or right and liberated. What used to be self-indulgence is now self-fulfillment. What we used to call living in sin is now a meaningful relationship. What was once discipline is now unhealthy repression.
But What Does God Say?
Like it or not, thinkers like Darwin, Marx and Freud have had a massive effect on modern man's view of God. We react strongly against someone imposing his or her ideas of right and wrong on others. But that's exactly what these men have done. They set up their own structures of morality on the shakiest of foundations - human reasoning.
Every one of us has to some extent been influenced by these and other philosophers who thought they knew better than God. God time and again warned the people he chose:
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:20-21).
He explained the reason for this moral confusion in verse 24: "Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel."
God places much of the blame on teachers, ministers and philosophers who set themselves up as authorities to decide on right and wrong. Those are positions of trust, and God doesn't take it lightly when such individuals disregard his law.
Look at God's blistering condemnation of the false teachers in the ancient nations of Israel and Judah as found in Jeremiah 23:13-14:
"And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria: They prophesied by Baal and caused My people Israel to err. Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; they also strengthen the hands of evildoers [and that's precisely what's happening today], so that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah."
And what does God say to those who listen to these false prophets? "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord.'"
Can't we realize that this isn't some old-fashioned biblical epic? This is what always happens when people drift away from the laws of God, and decide for themselves what's right and wrong. Ancient Israel and Judah lost their moorings. They drifted. As Isaiah wrote, "We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight; we are as dead men in desolate places" (Isaiah 59:10).
And that's what we're like today. We want to be tolerant but we're at the point of tolerating things that society cannot put up with and stay healthy. We shy away from judging others, but we're at the point of believing that all judgments are wrong. We're lost at sea without a compass. Many of our young people are not being taught the difference between right and wrong. They're not immoral anymore, they're amoral-they don't even know the law, never mind the difference. And confusion reigns.
Another Old Testament prophet, Hosea, speaking for God, puts it all together very succinctly: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6).
It wasn't that ancient Israel and Judah didn't h ave the knowledge. They'd simply rejected it.
God's Laws Don't Change
We too have the same knowledge. Never before has the Bible been so available as it is in the Western world today. There are more copies of the Ten Commandments now than ever. They're in your Bible, in Exodus 20. They're repeated in Deuteronomy chapter 5.
But knowledge demands responsibility. And responsibility in turn demands accountability. Like it or not, and despite some of Sigmund Freud's theories, we are responsible for our actions. Times change-but the laws of God don't change. The penalty for breaking them is as sure today as it was those thousands of years ago.
You need our free booklet The Ten Commandments. These laws are still the basis of any successful society. You need to know how to put them into practice in your life now, and see why obedience to them will lead to success, with real prosperity and security and stability.
The United States sees itself as a land of religious, even God-fearing people. Americans say they are strong believers in the Ten Commandments-and think they are more so than some other Western countries. Yet, the judgment of God is hanging over the nation. Why?
A Galiup survey taken several years ago found that Americans in overwhelming percentages said the Ten Commandments "applied fully" to themselves. Here's a sample:
o You shall not kill. 93 percent said it applied personally.
o You shall not steal. 93 percent said it applied to them.
o Honor your parents. 90 percent.
o You shall not bear false witness. 89 percent said it applied to them personally.
o You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. 89 percent.
o You shall not covet your neighbor's goods. 88 percent.
o You shall not commit adultery. 87 percent said it applied.
Some 57 percent of the respondents even said the commandment, "Thou shalt keep the Sabbath holy," applied to them.
Studies show 90 to 95 percent of Americans professed a belief in God. A large percentage (65 percent) believe God to be a personal deity. About 70 percent say they are church members and 60 percent claim to attend worship services at least once a month. About 69 percent of Americans feel their important life decisions have been specifically guided by God.
Chief executives of leading U.S. corporations claim even a greater degree of religious commitment.
Forbes magazine surveyed leaders of the nation's 100 largest corporations. It found that most of these executives "called religion an important influence in their lives." Some 65 percent said they and their families regularly attended church or synagogue. College students say religion is very important (50 percent) or fairly important (33 percent) to them. American Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush have been perceived as strong believers in Bible, God and morality.
Clearly, Americans from all walks of life and in overwhelming numbers view themselves as God fearing people. They are a people who readily claim to accept one of the oldest and most influential ethical codes known to man-the Ten Commandments.
Then, how can someone presume to say that God's judgment for sin, evil or immorality is hanging over the United States?
Majority Stands for Morals
America stands behind a commitment to human rights, fair laws, justice and equality for all. Bringing these principles to other nations is a major if not overriding objective of American foreign policy.
Here's what former President Carter said in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1977: "In this outward and physical ceremony we attest once again to the inner and spiritual strength of our nation.... "Here before me is the Bible used in the inauguration of our first President in 1789, and I have just taken the oath of office on the Bible my mother gave me just a few years ago, opened to a timeless admonition from the ancient prophet Micah:
" 'He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God' " (Micah 6:8, Authorized Version).
President Carter continued:
"Our commitment to human rights must be absolute. . . . There can be no nobler nor more ambitious task for America to undertake on this day of a new beginning than to help shape a just and peaceful world that is truly humane."
With such noble aims-how dare anyone say that America is suffering from a crisis in morality? Even when excluding God and religion from ethical questions, American secularists also often come down hard on the side of morality.
Let's look at the question of adultery. What do Americans think about it? In a survey by a leading newsmagazine, respondents were asked whether they thought extramarital sex was wrong. Some 72 percent said it was always wrong and another 16 percent said it was "almost always wrong." Only 2 percent said it was not wrong at all. How can anyone claim that America is an immoral nation?
Numerous Americans are distressed about the moral and ethical condition of their nation. In recent years several crises of the spirit seemed to strike America almost simultaneously. They ran the gamut from spy tragedies to Wall Street insider trading scams to religious scandals to various peccadilloes among political leaders.
An astounding national debate about ethics began. People were angry and frightened. Newspaper and magazine articles as well as books were published, laced with obvious moral overtones. In view of such concern about ethical issues, how can we say that the judgment of God is hanging over America?
One Magazine's Discovery
In its February 1988 issue, Time magazine published a short article distilling the response from the 46,000 letters it had received from its readers the previous year. Here's how that magazine summarized its readers' thinking:
"The temper of the TIME reader in 1987 was gloomy and out of sorts.... Moral lapses, abuse of power, greed and hypocrisy were the themes that had readers concerned, indignant, anxious, furious and despairing.... The letters often reflected a sense of moral backsliding, a kind of national fall from grace. Readers mourned a lack of direction."
There was so much interest in the moral condition of the nation that in January 1987 Time inaugurated its "Ethics" section. And even God has his private column in the magazine ("Religion").
Responses to "Whatever Happened to Ethics," a Time cover story, "seemed to mirror the feeling of many readers that the nation needed an ethical corrective. In writing about America's diminished commitment to moral standards, one of the more than 700 correspondents noted, 'You have started a debate that is good for the nation.'"
The United States seems to be a nation concerned with values-with a commitment to good triumphing over evil. Even the nonreligious, who think in terms of morality and ethics rather than sin and righteousness, speak out for higher moral standards. Americans certainly consider themselves as down-to-earth, concerned, helpful and basically good people.
But could America's concern with things ethical merely be a veil hiding an underlying spiritual problem?
A Personal Reflection
Imagine yourself reading this article while at lunch in a restaurant. You're watching the waiters scurrying back and forth taking orders, putting in orders, chatting with customers, careening around corners with platters of food. People of various ages, colors and sizes are ordering food, laughing and eating. They are talking about the usual things humans all talk about.
You say to yourself: These are just ordinary folks like myself. They are decent, hardworking, concerned with family and friends, facing many of life's problems. These people are America.
Then you reflect on this article and conclude: Yet this magazine is writing about God's impending judgment hanging over these people-the nation-the world-because of the way they live their lives.
Is this fair, you wonder? Humanly speaking, these people are wrestling with the same concerns people are wrestling with the world over. Trying to make ends meet. Worrying about health. Feeling pangs of tension about the latest round of fighting in Central America or the Middle East. They, like people everywhere, know the world is a jungle, full of problems that could potentially ignite World War III and cause the virtual extinction of the human race. They're worried about peace like everyone else is.
They're fretting about overcrowding, traffic jams and the state of the environment. They're trying to make a better life for themselves and their kids. They want to have fun and an exciting life just as the rest of our human family does. They're Americans, part of a nation that claims to believe in God. A nation that doesn't tolerate leaders suspected of personal or political indiscretions.
Americans are a nation of people ostensibly concerned with bringing a better life and human rights to the whole world. And like human beings in all parts of the world, they're against poison gas, and apartheid, terrorist hijackings and people starving in Ethiopia.
So what is this about some impending divine wrath to fall on these nice folks?
Sadly, there's another, darker side to the face of American society. And it's not a pretty profile from God's viewpoint. That's the side that has God concerned and grieving-a side, in part, exposed by various national scandals. Those scandals have frightened many Americans. Perhaps for a fleeting moment they see their own sins mirrored in the nation's foibles. But there's something more profoundly wrong with America, however. You won't hear too much of this discussed in the media. It is a spiritual indifference that the majority of Americans have toward God's way and God himself. It's a fundamental attitude toward God-one that admits belief in the divine, but does not do what God says. That attitude allows and is responsible for all the other evils in American society.
What does God see when he looks closely at the nation?
Americans, he sees, strongly endorse the Ten Commandments- even use them as guidelines for judging their leaders-but they tend to situation ethics. One Galiup poll found that 59 percent of Americans thought there "can never be clear absolute guidelines about what is good and evil."
As one article on the subject put it, "Americans are strong on religion but weak in morality." The paradox is clear: Religious concerns are up; morality is down. George Galiup Jr. has said, "Religion is growing in importance among Americans, but morality is losing ground." He should know. His organization has conducted numerous polls of U.S. morality throughout the years. Americans tend to base values and morality not on the Ten Commandments, but on their own yardstick of what's right and wrong, often flip-flopping the two. God is not happy. He says, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20).
One newsmagazine-sponsored poll found some 61 percent of the population said it was not wrong for a man and woman to have sexual relations before marriage. It's considered a normal rite of passage. God is not pleased with that statistic or that attitude.
Pockmarks on Society
That same poll found that out of every 100 adult Americans:
o 24 admit to cheating on their income tax returns.
o 20 admit to lying once in a while to boss or colleagues.
o 22 admit to lying often or once in a while to members of their family.
o 33 admit to calling in sick when they're not.
o 18 admit to padding expense accounts.
o 22 feel justified in stealing from an employer under some circumstances.
Now, these might be considered insignificant lapses of personal morality by some. But God is not pleased. And he certainly is very disturbed by murder, child abuse, illicit sex, graft, injustice. Likewise, he's displeased by the casual nature of American sexual practices among young people. More than one half (52 percent) of America's youths have had sexual relations by age 17.
About 80 percent of all females report having sex before marriage. Each year about one million babies are conceived out of wedlock resulting in about 400,000 abortions and the birth of almost 500,000 children to single mothers. Single parenthood often leads to poverty, to unsupervised children, to gangs, to drugs, to violence, to crime. God is distressed with premarital sex and all the evils it leads to.
Let's take a look at stealing-a violation of the Eighth Commandment. Out of every 10 prospective retail workers, three admit stealing from a previous employer. They admit the act. There's one form of "cheating" Americans are particularly known for ("cheating" is a euphemism for adultery). Various authorities estimate that 50 to 65 percent of husbands and 45 to 55 percent of wives commit adultery by the age of 40.
Yet, 87 percent of Americans have said the commandment against adultery should be kept. Almost 90 percent of Americans say adultery is always or "almost always wrong." Ah, there's the catch - almost always wrong. Presumably the act is "almost" always wrong-their situation excepted. Americans may voice displeasure with adultery. They certainly do not let their politicians get away with it. But they hardly practice what they preach.
God is not amused. He excoriated another people for this very sin: " 'When I had fed them to the full, then they committed adultery. ... They were like well-fed lusty stallions; every one neighed after his neighbor's wife. Shall I not punish them for these things?' says the Lord" (Jeremiah 5:7-9). Americans consume about 60 percent of the world's illegal drug production. There are an estimated 18 to 20 million regular users of marijuana, four to eight million abusing cocaine and 500,000 heroin addicts in the United States. Sales of narcotics total $100 billion annually.
Drug use has spread throughout society. Attorneys, doctors, politicians, sports heroes and the couple next door use it. It's estimated that perhaps 80 percent of all Americans will try an illicit drug once before they reach age 25. Drugs then continue to be used recreationally by many millions. Usage now may be down slightly, but it's still a national scandal of immense proportions.
Alongside this problem, drunkenness is a national disgrace. Alcohol abuse can lead to poverty, to disturbed children, to abused families and other shocking evils. More than half of traffic accident deaths are alcohol related. God condemns drunkenness. He instructed a prophet to tell the ancient people of Judah: "Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them!" (Isaiah 5:11). God's feelings have not changed.
In America, street crime and white collar crime costs are staggering. Business crime-from multimillion dollar insider trading scams to petty pilferage by employees-has made America a land of naked greed. God hates graft, corruption and thievery. America demands other nations act morally, but its own people and leaders often do not practice what they preach. While the United States tries to peddle the "American way of life" to other nations, its own sins and immorality are all too clear to the rest of the world.
God is not happy with what's occurring in America. The prophet Hosea's label of an ancient nation certainly applies to the United States: "There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed after bloodshed" (Hosea 4:1-2).
Can the nation be honest and see itself as God sees it? The United States comes down on the side of what's right-sometimes. Its people can be "righteous" when someone else sins. They demand total honesty in their political and business leaders. America sounds righteous; its people quote the Bible at various ceremonies and occasions. Even Presidents refer to it regularly. Entertainers publicly give God credit for their talents. Millions are "fundamentalist Christians" who claim to believe God. Large segments of the population go to the church or faith of their choice each week.
Not everyone is committing adultery but many millions are. Not everyone is indulging in premarital sex. Or divorcing. But many millions are. Not everyone is a thief, a murderer, a rapist or child abuser. But even one is one too many. Not everyone cheats on his or her income tax. Not everyone cheats in business or pulls a deal based on sheer greed. But vast numbers do.
Not Doing as They Say
Above all failings, Americans worship God as they see fit. God is not pleased with this state of affairs, calling it spiritual adultery. Does the nation have the courage to apply these prophetical words to itself? "These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men" (Isaiah 29:13).
Sometimes even in the name of religion, Americans commonly condone behavior that God hates. Shocking as it may seem, the very religious customs most adore are the very things God hates. Americans are like that ancient people whom God chastised in these words: "Learn not the way of the heathen.... For the customs of the people are vain ..." (Jeremiah 10:2-3).
Put all these wrongs-these sins, if you will-together, as God does. Can its citizens admit the United States looks much like a nation to whom the prophet Jeremiah said, "From the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness" (Jeremiah 6:13)? Can Americans believe the prophet Isaiah speaks to them as he did to an ancient people? "Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord" (Isaiah 1:4).
Can Americans see their hypocritical double standard voiced by the prophet Ezekiel? "So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain" (Ezekiel 33:31).
The prophet Jeremiah speaks to America-if the nation will only have the courage to hear: "Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury . . . follow other gods ... and say, 'We are safe'-safe to do all these detestable things?" (Jeremiah 7:9-10, New International Version).
The prophet Isaiah was certainly also addressing superpower America when he wrote to a people "who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth or in righteousness" (Isaiah 48:1). Today, the United States above all other nations swears by the name of the Lord and talks about God. But the nation does not follow God's way.
"In God we trust" is printed on American money. The words One nation under God are in the national pledge of allegiance. The President takes his oath on a Bible. In the courts, witnesses are asked to swear "by God" to tell the truth-when God himself through Jesus tells Christians not to swear an oath. But the reality of American life is ugly. Compare it with the moral landscape painted by the prophet Ezekiel. Is this not a portrait of the United States of America today?
"'In you they have made light of father and mother; in your midst they have oppressed the stranger; in you they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow. " 'You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths [substituting other religious holidays]. " 'In you are men who slander to cause bloodshed; in you ... one commits abomination with his neighbor's wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; and another in you violates his sister, his father's daughter.
" 'In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me,' says the Lord God. " 'Behold, therefore, I beat My fists at the dishonest profit which you have made, and at the bloodshed which has been in your midst'" (Ezekiel 22:7-13).
Handwriting on the Wall
God is perfect justice, perfect righteousness and character. He is not happy with America because the nation is not measuring up to his standard of spiritual morality. God's judgment is waiting for the final warning to go out. God is looking to see what the reaction of Americans will be-yet not just of Americans, but of the British, of the Scandinavians, of Europe's Low Country dwellers, of the Continentals, of the world. Will anyone out there listen and change his or her ways-trusting God with the result?
God says if a nation does evil its days are numbered. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God warns, "Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it..." (Ezekiel 14:13).
God Punishes and Forgives
But God does not punish out of spiteful anger. God is love and mercy.
If any nation makes the necessary spiritual changes, then God will not allow the punishment he spells out to come upon it. Through Jeremiah this God says, "If that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it" (Jeremiah 18:8).
God's words of extended mercy given by the prophet Ezekiel are for any nation that hears today:
"Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?...'" (Ezekiel 33:11).
God is not interested in punishment; he is interested in a deep and lasting spiritual-ethical change in the moral landscape.
Someone has to deliver the message about the choices God offers. Ezekiel was told: "When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people . . . he who takes warning will save his life" (Ezekiel 33:2-3, 5).
The prophet Isaiah was told, "Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).
America, you already have salt and pepper-graying- hair. You are an aging power. As never before, you need your God. Ultimately, you will fail - unless spiritual changes are made individually, and on a grand scale, in the character of your people.
What about it, you American people, you around the world? Are you willing to make changes in your lives? The kind that will bring your actions in harmony with God's law as a humble example for others?
Are you who live in America willing to assume the responsibility of helping to save the United States from destruction?
Make a start. Write in for our free booklet The Ten Commandments. Read it and begin applying its principles to your life. You will be glad you did. So will the United States. And so will God.
Anyone who truly wants success must learn to be honest-even in this dishonest world!
EVERYONE, it seems, agrees that honesty is an ideal to live by. Every major religion teaches honesty. Civil laws exist to enforce it. Individuals and governments claim to want to practice it. But how many people are really committed to dealing honestly as an ongoing, constant way of life? Examples from around the world are not encouraging:
o A civil servant in a major nation in Southeast Asia has a friend who would also like to work for the government. The civil servant has access to the tests the government used to screen people who apply for jobs. So he "helps" his friend by giving him the answers.
o A certain South American country assumes most of its citizens will cheat on their taxes. So the government raises taxes to excessive levels to gain the minimum funds it requires to function. Honest citizens cannot pay what the government says they owe and still stay solvent.
o In a West African nation, dozens of government officials siphon off tax moneys for personal use. Bribery is common. It is nearly impossible for citizens to obtain even basic services from the government without first paying someone off.
o In a Latin American country citizens accept la mordida - the bite-as a part of life. Most have paid bribes to avoid traffic tickets, to get government documents or to speed service from government agencies.
o The United States, which prides itself on being a "Christian" nation, is again rocked by scandals in government. A poll shows that Americans do not think it possible to have a government free of corruption. And Wall Street investors are accused of illegally using inside information to make millions of dollars on the stock market.
Is it possible to be honest and succeed in a world that is rife with dishonesty? Should we be concerned with being honest anyway?
Yes! Read on.
Honesty is a crucial factor in personal and national success. Honesty is one of the basic laws of almighty God.
A famous business consultant who taught seminars around the world polled his audiences on the factors it took to succeed. One of the qualities listed by every single group was honesty. Yet dishonesty is rampant in the world! Why? Because people often act dishonestly without thinking about it.
The toughest problem to beat is the one we don't see. That is, if we don't realize it is a problem, we will never think of changing it.
Unfortunately, dishonesty often is an ingrained aspect of culture. It becomes so natural to fail to practice honesty that millions don't stop to think about what they are doing! They fail to see the ultimate consequences of their dishonesty, as opposed to the apparent short-term benefits.
The civil servant who gives his friend test answers is not really helping. The friend ends up frustrated in a job for which he is not qualified, and government effectiveness as a whole suffers because of an incompetent bureaucracy. The civil servant himself may lose his job for unethical conduct.
Governments that thrive on unfair taxes, official corruption and bribery alienate their citizens, cripple national progress and inject a dangerous air of cynicism into their countries' affairs as a whole. Revolution or foreign intervention may ultimately result.
Government scandals in the United States place the nation in the role of a hypocrite when it tries to tell others how to run their internal affairs.
Intelligent people who thoughtfully look at the long-term effects of honesty and dishonesty must come to the conclusion that honesty is the only way that ultimately pays off in success.
And there is a spiritual dimension to this aspect of success!
The Source of Success
The great God who laid down the Ninth Commandment, the one against lying (Exodus 20:16), is the ultimate source of all true success. Every good and perfect gift comes from him (James 1:17).
God owns the earth and everything in it (Psalms 24:1), and it is God who gives humans the power to acquire prosperity (Deuteronomy 8:18). God's law governs all human efforts, rewarding both now and in the future those who deal honestly and cursing those who deal otherwise.
Yes, lying, cheating, bribery and unbridled self-interest can sometimes appear to win for the moment. Some who have great natural ability and who cheat in this physical world may gain some small measure of physical success, though even that is by no means assured.
But only by following all of God's laws can anyone hope to enjoy true, complete and lasting success, now and in the long run. God's way is the only course that works for sure in this world! Dozens of Bible examples show how people who obeyed God's laws about honesty, along with other revealed laws and statutes, succeeded in spite of giant odds against them. Look up and read the stories of Joseph, of David, of Esther, of Paul and of Jesus Christ himself. Honesty paid for them!
More modern evidence adds further proof.
Simon Bolivar, for instance, who was called the "Liberator of South America," refused to use government money to provide benefits for himself and avoided using power to gain personal influence or advantage. He wrote, "There is no human power that can oblige me to accept a gift that my conscience refuses."
Some 10,000 people were thronging a Chinese department store in the northeastern city of Changchun when the lights went out. Nothing was stolen! People holding goods when the blackout occurred handed them back to staff members. Others lit candles or volunteered to help keep order. Bank notes totaling the equivalent of US$80,000 were lying out in a bank branch in the store, but not one was taken. Store employees commented, "The store was t blacked out, but the customers were a shining example of honesty."
Said the head of a Mexican company that imports industrial machinery: "In my 30 years of business life, in which we have sold the government millions and millions of dollars of equipment, I have never once paid a bribe to make a sale. It is possible for an honest person in Mexico to do business honestly."
Indeed, it is always possible to follow God's law. And it always succeeds! It is the only intelligent course to follow.
Ultimately, in God's soon-to-be-established government over all nations, honesty will be the only policy: "Truth shall spring out of the earth" (Psalms 85:11). Outside that kingdom-in the lake of fire!-will be "whoever loves and practices a lie" (Revelation 22:15; 21:8).
Anyone who truly wants success must learn to be honest, even in this dishonest world. It can be done. And children must be taught to be totally honest. It is a basic key to coming out on top in life.
The 20th Century's
Morality and Family
One of the foremost journalists and authors today is Paul Johnson. Mr. Johnson is equally at home writing a continuous flow of insightful analyses of current affairs for British newspapers and magazines, or exploring the sweep of history in the numerous books he has authored in the past 15 years.
One of Mr. Johnson's most influential books has been the 1983 Modern Times, a penetrating look at the events and trends of the world from the 1920s onward.
Mr. Johnson has outspokenly addressed uncomfortable truths concerning the moral crisis in the Western world as reflected in the alarming spread of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). He describes AIDS as "the first catastrophic consequence of [the] sexual revolution."
Of the British government's efforts to alert the public to the dangers of AIDS and how to limit its spread, Mr. Johnson writes:
"The truth is, the only sensible advice the government can give the public can be summed up in six words: chastity before marriage, fidelity within it. But that would be to endorse traditional Judeo-Christian morality, and so is automatically ruled out."
Plain Truth magazine world news editor Gene H. Hogberg interviewed Paul Johnson in London.
Plain Truth: In your book Modern Times, The World From the Twenties to the Eighties, you write that at the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate "for the first time at a popular level that there were no longer any absolutes." What led to this new way of thinking?
Paul Johnson: It was a combination of factors. One of them was the emergence, at the end of the First World War, of the new cosmology 1of Einstein, who produced his general theory of relativity, which in 1919 was proved by empirical evidence to be correct.
Now Einstein was not a man who believed in moral relativism; quite the contrary. He was an old-fashioned moralist, who believed in absolute values. And the effect of his theory is an example of what has been called the law of unintended consequences, because he was describing cosmology.
But the idea got around that in proving relativity, he had undermined the whole system of absolute values, not just the old straight lines of the Newtonian universe, but absolute values generally.
1Cosmology is the branch of astronomy that deals with the origin, structure and space-time relationship of the universe.
Q: Were there any other contemporary influences undermining morality?
A: It so happened that the proof of Einstein's theory coincided with the arrival in a big way of Freudian psychology. Freud, of course, had been active for 20 years, but it was only at the end of the First World War that his theories began to circulate generally.
He tended to suggest that guilt was something we could and should dispense with. And the combination of Einstein and Freud, together with the debilitating effects of the First World War that had a catastrophic effect on the way in which people saw evil, plus the general decline of religious values, led to the growth of moral relativism.
And that, of course, had its effects, all of them bad in my view, at all levels of society. It tended to undermine absolute moral principles, what you might call the Ten Commandment principle in ordinary life, in ordinary encounters between human beings. But it also had the effect at the very highest political level.
For the first time we got the emergence of the dictatorships, political systems which had absolutely no structural framework based upon Judeo-Christian values. We had, with the growth of moral relativism, the notion that entire political systems could be shaped according to values which were morally relativistic.
For instance, Lenin, who started the first of these regimes in 1917, used to refer to the revolutionary conscience-not the Christian conscience, not the old standard absolute conscience, but the revolutionary conscience, which was relativistic, which could be changed according to the needs of the party.
Q: The family structure, wherein the principles of rights, responsibilities and values are nurtured, seems to be under attack. Can you elaborate?
A: One of the things which emerged very clearly in the history of the 20th century was that the family was a great repository in defense of human freedom and individuality. It is very notable that all the great dictators of this century attacked the family, and all tried to undermine it; they all tried to replace family ties with those of the state.
Mussolini used to say, "Everything for the state; nothing against the state; nothing outside the state." That always struck me as one of the most evil remarks of the whole of the 20th century. It's incompatible with the family, because in a country like Italy where the family bonds are very strong, Mussolini saw that he had to produce this ideology so that people would put the state before the family.
Q: What about in the other dictatorships of the period?
A: Throughout those terrible years during the Stalinist and Hitlerite dictatorships it was the family which remained the one thing which the state could never totally destroy. They could kill all its members, but they couldn't kill the spirit of the family.
And I thought it was very significant that Dr. Konrad Adenauer, one of the really great men of the 20th century, one of the noble men who recreated free Germany after the Second World War, was a man who came from a very large ramifying family. He was very unpopular during the Hitler dictatorship, and in constant danger of arrest. And he found that during all the troubles that the Germans had under the Nazis, the family was a kind of refuge. And therefore, he determined, when he got the opportunity after the Second World War to rebuild Germany, that he would make the family the absolute centerpiece of his recreative, libertarian process. And that is what he did.
The strengthening of the family under Dr. Adenauer was one of the main reasons why Germany's postwar history has been so stable and happy. And I think probably the same could be said in a curious way for what has happened in Japan, because there again the state had been all-dominant up till 1945. Everything had been sacrificed to the state. The result was it brought Japan to the absolute depths of misery and degradation and defeat.
During the postwar period, with thanks to General MacArthur who
created the framework whereby a free Japan could be created, the
family once again emerged as the nodal unit of a free society. This
is one of the main reasons why the Japanese postwar industry's been
so successful. The Japanese were taught to regard not just their own
personal family as a center of loyally, but also the business that
"There is a growing amount of evidence that young people have been shaken by this AIDS explosion . . . that this is some kind of warning."
Q: Mr. Johnson, you've written that young people are under assault today in Britain-and I might add, also the United States-because of wrong-headed concepts and teachings in the schools about sex and the promotion of alternative life-styles. Could you comment?
A: There is in Britain a major public debate about sex education in the schools, because in certain areas, particularly those where the local authority is controlled by what we call a hard left Labour council, the kind of sex education that has been given in the schools has aroused outrage among many parents for two reasons.
The first is that it does not contain any stress upon traditional morality or the family.
Sex is regarded as something which has nothing to do with morals, [but rather] entirely with personal satisfaction, and to some extent health.
The second point is the influence within these hard left councils of homosexual lobbies, which have resulted in the children being instructed in homosexual sex as well as normal sex.
And often in such a way-and one could cite individual textbooks or pamphlets which are used for this purpose-as to imply that homosexual sex is normal and acceptable and moral, if not even preferable, to heterosexual behavior within the confines of marriage.
The assumption in the British anti-AIDS government [educational] propaganda is that the permissive battle has already been completely lost, that we are in a totally permissive society, and that the normal way in which young people behave is an immoral way, that they are absolutely certain to practice sex outside of marriage, and that therefore there's nothing that can be done about that.
You can't teach them to behave better. All you can do is to caution them against AIDS and ask them to protect themselves in some way.
Now this, it seems to me, is not merely wrong in itself, but doesn't actually fit the facts as we know them.
Q: How is that?
A: There is a growing amount of evidence that young people have been shaken by this AIDS explosion, and that it has tended to reinforce in their own minds the suspicion that there is something fundamentally wrong about the permissive society, that this is some kind of warning.
They don't necessarily attribute it to God, but they feel it is a warning, as it were, from nature, particularly since it has its origins in the unnatural sexual activities of the homosexual community.
They feel that it is a warning from nature that the permissive society, that unlimited sex, that sex without responsibility, that sex without the framework of some kind of moral system-marriage and so on-is wrong. And that nature takes its revenge.
Now I think the government could build upon that feeling....
Q: You stress in your writings that a major cause of the fall of Rome was the loss of individual liberty. Is a parallel in our societies today?
A: Liberty is a very complicated thing to keep aloft in a sophisticated world like ours. I think it is true that the biggest single reason why the Roman Empire declined and eventually collapsed was the loss of liberty, loss of intellectual, economic and political liberty- all three things being connected.
Therefore, it is one of the things we must most guard against. But of course, liberty can be seen in different ways. It can also be seen as freedom to do what you like in a way which is destructive.
And I think we have to keep all those things in balance.
You cannot preserve true freedom if you create a society in which freedom is not balanced by responsibilities and duties.
I think that is a very tough thing to have to learn, and people don't like it, particularly young people.
But I think that is what history teaches, that any society which expands freedom must also make sure that that expansion is not conducted at the expense of duties and responsibilities.
To Your Children!
There has not been a period in history when young people, especially in the Western world, have had so many pulls, temptations and struggles as in our time today. The influence of hard drugs, alcohol and liberal sexual values perpetrated through music, movies, television and magazines is almost beyond description.
Most parents are not even aware of the messages broadcast in the words of rock music and video. Most parents know little more than that they don't like it- and most teenagers do. Many parents don't watch the television programs or see the movies, that young people do. They may be totally unaware of the messages to approve of or accept homosexuality, lesbianism, transvestites, pre- and extramarital sexual affairs, rebellion against authority and drug usage.
But, again, how can parents prevent these influences from creeping into the lives of children?
Drop Out of Society?
When one comes to realize the power of the impact of these influences in school and out of school, there is a great temptation to disappear into seclusion.
But that is neither possible, practical nor frankly the answer to the problem. Even if you took your family to a remote mountain or desert hideaway you probably would not totally escape the influences of this world. You might forbid magazines, television, even a radio. But what kind of child would be produced in that reclusive environment?
Would children be better off if they never watched television? If they never saw a movie? If they never heard a popular record? Or viewed one of the new video sensations? Some people think so.
However, in that environment children would become introverted, reclusive and probably unable to function in society as adults. That is not the answer.
But if parents simply let their children go, they well may be influenced by the immoral and godless messages overtly and subliminally being broadcast. The chances are, through movies and television, your children have already seen enough blood, gore, violence, sex, perversion and drug usage to last a lifetime.
What can a parent do? Children are surrounded by profanity and bad language. Of course, that doesn't make it right to hear it in movies, television or in music, but they do hear it all the time.
So again what do parents do? Forbid all movies? Throw out the television set? Read every magazine article before the children are permitted to even look at the magazine? Believe it or not, there are a few parents who come close to this. They almost never permit the children to see a movie and they don't own a television set. That is not necessarily the answer.
Then What Is the Answer?
If parents are going to succeed in rearing successful and moral children in today's society, it is absolutely essential parents SELL THEIR VALUES to their children. Not just teach them. SELL them!
Children have to be convinced there is a better way than that which is depicted in the song or on the screen. They must be shown there is a better way than the examples of so-called success that surround them-the movie and television stars, the sports personalities and the business magnates, some who openly live in and advocate an immoral life-style.
They have to have the ability to think things through to a conclusion. What is the true result of drugs? What is the result of abuse? Of excessive alcohol? Of promiscuous sexual activity?
The words of songs, and the life shown in the movie may extol such life-styles. If parents simply answer with ridicule and forbid, they are not convincing the children. There has to be much greater depth than that.
In the earlier days of drug usage many alarmed parents attacked and ridiculed drugs, but were not properly informed-in fact they often were misinformed. The teenagers and young people of that time knew their parents did not have the facts. The teenagers consequently failed to heed warnings. Families were often torn apart. The youths could not accept what appeared to be prejudiced and certainly often improper information. So they smoked marijuana and popped pills. Many parents simply gave up. They could not persuade their children not to get involved.
The first order of business is to teach and repeat over and over again the values you hold.
God tells parents what to do:
"Impress them [God's law and values] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deuteronomy 6:7, New International Version throughout).
If parents fail to positively teach values and laws, children will grow up following the whims of a society that more and more has turned from the basic values.
There is no more effective way to convince your children that they ought to adopt your values than by allowing them to see your example.
A few years ago there was a popular philosophy that began to permeate Western culture and education. Many have been brought up with it.
That philosophy advocated not instilling or enforcing a system of religious values on children. "Let them grow up and make decisions on church, religion and God when they are mature adults," they (whoever they are) proclaimed.
Meanwhile evolution, promiscuity, permissiveness, nonjudgmental instruction and a host of evils too numerous to mention are being foisted off on the young.
Don't listen to that diabolical reasoning. Teach your children from infancy the values and morals you should yourself learn from the Holy Bible, the Word of God - the ultimate written source of all true values.
Then SELL those Values
But teaching alone is not enough. What you teach your children will be only one of many things they will be taught in their developing years. They will be taught by other children, by their teachers at school, by the movies they see, by the television programs they watch, by the books and magazines they read, by the music they hear. They will be literally surrounded by pulls and influences that will tempt them from the way you hope they will walk.
But how can you sell them? First and foremost by your example. How you live is even more important than what you say.
This method was used by Jesus of Nazareth who, Peter said, "suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (I Peter 2:21). And John further said of those who would be Christians, "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (I John 2:6).
Jesus' disciples were inspired by the personal example he set for them during those three years he spent training them. He "sold" them on God's values. They came to live by them. They taught them throughout the Roman world in the century that followed. If your children observe abusive language, yelling, hitting, sulking, complaining from you parents, there is little value in your telling them to be respectful, polite and patient.
If they see alcohol abuse and live with the smoke of hundreds of packs of cigarettes, it is to follow they will not respond to parental teaching not to drink, smoke or use drugs. If parents brag about cheating on their taxes to the government, they should not be shocked when teachers catch the child cheating on a test at school.
If a child sees a working parent pretend to be sick and stay home from work, it should come as no surprise when school officials call about excessive absence and truancy from school. In other words the first person to sell on a true value system is you. If you believe in and live by the best possible standards, your children will see the result.
If there is warmth, happiness, forgiveness, love and encouragement in your day-to-day family life, your children will not forget it the hours they are away at school. That doesn't mean they won't be tempted or that they won't make a few mistakes. But the basic way of life they have been taught and have absorbed will not be wasted.
In this world your children are going to be exposed to many evils and wrongs in spite of all your efforts to keep them from them. In the long run, your success as a parent and teacher will be manifested by how you have sold those right and true values to your children.
Part of your teaching will include what you permit your children to view and read. With how they spend their time. Whom they choose as friends. As parents we may not always agree on just which books, television programs or movies should be avoided or forbidden. That is the responsibility of each family.
But maybe we can all agree that teaching, living by and selling your values to your children is your best assurance they will fight the good fight and walk the straight and narrow way that will lead them to happy and successful adult lives.
"Teach Them Diligently"
God takes parenting seriously. It is primarily through parents that his way of life is transmitted from one generation to the next. He told the ancient Israelites, just after giving them the Ten Commandments: "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:7). Elsewhere in the Bible, God shows parents additional values they should teach their children.
Here are examples, mostly from the book of Proverbs, of the standards the Bible says parents should be teaching their children:
These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19).
He who is quick-tempered acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated (Proverbs 14:17). Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips (Proverbs 27:2).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7).
Jesus said ..., "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).
My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you (Proverbs 3:1-2).
My son, keep your father's command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck (Proverbs 6:20-21).
Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in deep darkness (Proverbs 20:20).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life (Proverbs 4:13).
He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20).As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates the best of friends (Proverbs 17:9).He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears (Proverbs 26:17).
MONEY AND WORK
Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase (Proverbs 3:9). He who deals with a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes one rich (Proverbs 10:4).
Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven (Proverbs 23:5).
No! That simple two-letter word spoken at appropriate times with diplomacy, yet resolution and conviction, could save millions of heartaches, serious problems and fears.
How many times have you allowed something to happen, something you knew you shouldn't do, only to find yourself saying, "Why didn't I have the strength to say no?" The failure to say "No!" to wrong pressures is a common but serious human failing. It often carries painful and lasting repercussions.
Millions of young, and not so young, unmarried fathers, pregnant teenage girls and unmarried mothers today wish they had had the foresight, wisdom and courage to say "No!", but now it's too late. They can never recall and reverse their decisions that allowed, for example, the premarital sexual activity that has hurt their lives, their children's lives, their families and future.
By the thousands, drug addicts and smokers, too, wish they had had wisdom and courage and never accepted even one dose or puff of the drug, drugs or weed they're hooked on. Now they've destroyed their dreams and replaced them with a nightmare of serious problems.
How many drinkers wish they had never allowed themselves those few extra drinks that caused a serious accident, injury or death? They foolishly gave in to pressure to prove they could hold their liquor.
Perhaps your weakness isn't an immediately obvious dangerous social activity. Maybe it's only a refusal to say no when overeating, when overtired, or when becoming over committed to activities to the detriment of health, work or family. It is all too easy to fail to use the enormously powerful word no when confronted by heavy social pressures or harmful desires. But it could save you many problems.
Of course, it takes wisdom to know when and how to say no to activities that will undermine health, mind or future. That's where the value of right education comes in.
Establish Right Values
If you're going to say "No!" to something you know or even suspect is wrong and say it with conviction, you had better first prove to yourself that there are critical and important absolute values in life.
We live in an age where there are all kinds of fuzzy ideas of right and wrong. Perhaps you have said, "Come on, everybody's doing it!" "It" may be illicit drugs, extramarital sex, heavy drinking, cheating on income tax, dishonesty, lying, theft or other mischief.
"Just once won't hurt you!" "Don't be a chicken!" "Show me you love me!" "Prove you're a real man (or woman)!"
You've heard these lines. Maybe they have been used on you. Or by you. They and other similar come-ons are common lead-ins used to pressure others to experiment with drinking, drugs, sex or otherwise compromise their personal integrity.
Face it. By nature we want to be respected and accepted by others, especially by our circle of friends or peers. We don't like to appear out of place. And anyway, why should anyone resolutely say "No!" to wrong thoughts or deeds when it seems so many others think and do them and seem to "get away with it"?
The answer is, surprising though it may be to some, no one really gets away with anything!
Why? Because the Creator has set inexorable and immutable natural and spiritual laws in motion. If we break these laws in thought or in action, knowingly or in ignorance, the thoughts or actions will adversely affect our lives and character and sooner or later break us-unless we quit doing them.
Source of Absolutes
God didn't create human beings and then leave them ignorant of the laws and principles by which they should live. In the beginning, the Creator gave mankind the knowledge and principles humans needed to produce happiness, prosperity and peace. He gave knowledge to discern and avoid evil.
God revealed his laws and way of life to the first humans, Adam and Eve. But they were influenced by Satan's deceptive reasonings. They rejected God's instructions and chose instead to experiment for themselves. From that time, humanity has jumped the track into human experimentation to determine good and evil for themselves.
But God has not left mankind without a witness of his laws. From time to time, God revealed himself and his laws to chosen individuals. He even called a nation, ancient Israel, for a special purpose. God inspired writers of that nation to record, in Scripture, important revealed knowledge about human experience and all that is essential for proper human living.
How many realize that human problems are caused, for the most part, by broken spiritual laws? These immutable spiritual laws deal with mental attitudes, values and relations between man and God, between humans and other humans and between man and physical things.
The fundamental spiritual laws of proper relationships toward God and toward other humans have never changed. They are summarized in that great summary of law-the Ten Commandments.
The laws codified in the Ten Commandments are spiritual absolutes that reach into every aspect of our modern lives today. Just think about it! If all humanity said "No!" to violating any one of the Ten Commandments, think how many human problems would disappear!
If everyone said, with conviction, "No!" to thoughts and acts that break the spirit and letter of the Sixth Commandment ("You shall do no murder"), wars and domestic violence would cease from the earth. If everyone obeyed the Seventh Commandment ("You shall not commit adultery") and similar scriptural prohibitions against premarital sex, incest, rape and homosexuality, a major cause of divorce, unhappiness and social breakdown would cease. AIDS, venereal herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and a host of other sexually transmissible disease epidemics would be stopped cold.
Scripture also lays down vital principles to help humans determine if something is evil or damaging, even if it is not directly proscribed in revealed law.
Smoking, for instance, is not mentioned in Scripture.
It didn't become a wide-scale practice until after the Middle Ages. Modern hard or illicit drugs are not mentioned specifically in Scripture either. But God commands humans to obey his health laws, and to "glorify God in your body, and in your spirit [mind]" (I Corinthians 6:20). Smoking and illicit or carelessly used drugs damage human health and minds. They do not glorify God.
Become Well Educated
Educate yourself about moral right and wrongs. Understand the dangers of certain drugs, or the kick-backs of premarital or extramarital sex, dishonesty, theft or disrespect of authority.
You're not for long going to convince yourself, or anyone else, to avoid dishonesty, extramarital sex, dangerous drugs or other such activities unless you have factual knowledge and understanding of the real damages and dangers inherent in them.
You don't have to experiment for yourself to learn. You can leam from the mistakes and careless reasoning, feelings and thinking of others.
The Scriptures admonish over and over to seek wisdom and understanding. Scripture gives instructions and examples of many fundamental human mistakes and evils to avoid. In addition to learning from God's revealed Word, you can add the personal experiences of scores of thousands, even millions of persons collectively, in the world around you. Human experience, both positive and negative, can be drawn from books, magazine articles and journals written by reputable agencies or individuals.
Learn from the tragic and unfortunate mistakes of others and you will have strong motivation to say "No!"
Keep Right Circle of Friends
Here's another important key to reducing the frequency of even having to say no to wrong ideas or pressures. Are you constantly being tempted to experiment by friends or close associates? If so, you need to seriously consider that you may be with a wrong circle of friends. You may need to change your friends if they are regularly bad influences.
If you want to avoid the constant temptation of being drawn into drug experimentation or wrong sexual or other improper activities, don't "hang around" with people who want to indulge in these things.
Also, be aware that it usually doesn't take others long to size up your basic values and character. A lot can be told about you by the nonverbal messages you give. Many persons invite attention from others to experiment with drugs, sex or illicit behavior simply because of unwitting messages of loose behavior in their dress, talk, movements and life-style.
Whether or not we need to make changes in friends or life-style, we all need to be realistic. None of us are going to be totally immune from temptations to think and do wrong. We're bound to meet up with situations to loosen our values and to experiment with things we shouldn't.
Let's look at some real situations. Say a friend comes up and invites you to join in some questionable or wrong activity. It may involve drugs, sex or other improper behavior. What do you do? Say an unsure, nervous little "no"? There's a good chance that will happen if you're mentally unprepared or caught off guard.
Instead, stand up straight. Look the other person in the eye. In a normal voice clearly and firmly, but with tact and wisdom, say, "No!" or "No, thanks!" Sometimes that will be enough. Circumstances, however, may indicate you should give some reason or explanation. You can say, "I'm sorry, but I don't want to get involved in that!" Or, "That wouldn't be good for me. I know I'll get into trouble if I do!" Or, "That's really a risky or dangerous thing you're asking of me!"
Some won't accept a single negative response. If they sense you're somewhat hesitant, unsure of yourself, or they don't know you well enough yet, they may put on a little more persistence and pressure in hopes of getting a "yes." You may need to say it several times with increasing emphasis. Some people who want you to do something you shouldn't are very persistent. You may have no resort but to just walk away. Just walk away.
Sometimes even a close friend or associate gets a wrong idea and wants to justify himself or herself by involving others. If you're a real friend you will point out the foolishness of the proposal and change the subject to something constructive. Yes, it is OK to be "square," to resist those things that are harmful and damaging!
Notice in these responses, you don't have to get hostile, vindictive, retaliatory or self-righteous in your response. State your response with positive but simple tact. You can only act personally, for yourself. You can't force change in others. Don't make a big scene or cause an argument. Show respect, as much as possible, even to someone who may not be all that deserving. Be tactful but firm. When you refuse, don't be surprised if others who want you to join them in a questionable or wrong activity are upset and say unpleasant things about you. The Scriptures warn they will "think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation" (I Peter 4:4).
Have Faith in God
So often the message one hears is, "Everyone's doing it!"
Fortunately, when it comes to hard drugs, tobacco, alcohol, extramarital sex and dishonesty it's not true. Not everyone is doing it by a long shot! No, you're not alone if you resolutely decide you're not going to be swept along in these things just because others are.
Many women feel pressured to give in sexually to men who throw the line, "If you love me you will." Many young women fear if they don't give in they may lose the man and a chance to develop a relationship that could culminate in marriage. Or they may lose a job. Why not wait for God to provide a proper and faithful mate, or a job?
The real truth is, if a man really loves a woman he won't pressure her to have sex before marriage. Instead, he will prove his manhood by self-control. A positive trend in recent years has been the increase in the numbers of young people who have gotten so fed up with the abuse of alcohol and drugs among peers that they have decided to stand up against the trend and be counted. They have organized "Just Say No" clubs that motivate young people to have drug - and alcohol - free good times.
In international drug conferences, the leaders of many nations and their wives have also shown similar support of young people.
Most of all, everyone needs to realize there is a God of heaven who knows everything going on. If you are perplexed because God allows so much harm and wrongdoing to go on here on earth, take comfort in this. God has decreed that, for now, he keep hands off civilization to allow humans and nations to do what they will and reap the natural consequences and penalties of their own doings. That's the only way many will ever be convinced of the evil caused by breaking God's physical and spiritual laws.
The good news is, the time for that decree to end is almost here! God is soon going to intervene forcefully in world affairs and force humanity to get back on the right track.
Until then, the fact still remains no one ultimately escapes the consequences of wrongdoing. You do need to say no to wrong activities because you - personally - are going to give an account of your life to your Maker (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10)!
If Necessary, Seek Counsel
This article is not sufficient to cover the precise response you should give to every situation.
If you are a young person and feel you need help in handling an awkward situation, be sure to seek counsel from your parents, from schoolteachers and officials, from police or special agencies set up to help the public, or from sound religious advisers.
Remember, you're not alone in the struggle to stand up against drug abuse, illicit sexual behavior and other harmful practices.
There are times when it is right to say "yes"-to wholesome and right activities. But there are also times when with firmness and tact you, in your personal life, should and must say "No!"