“Deaden, therefore, your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion, hurtful desire, and greediness, which is idolatry.”—COLOSSIANS 3:5.
1, 2. How did Balaam try to harm Jehovah’s people?
A FISHERMAN goes to a spot where he can find the type of fish he wants to catch. He selects the bait and casts his line into the water. He waits patiently, and when the fish bites, he snaps the hook into the fish’s jaw and reels in his catch.
2 In a similar way, people can be caught. For example, the Israelites had almost reached the Promised Land when they camped on the Plains of Moab. The king of Moab promised to give a man named Balaam a lot of money if he would bring a curse on Israel. Eventually, Balaam found a way to make the Israelites bring a curse on themselves. He carefully chose the bait. He sent young Moabite women into the Israelite camp to seduce the men.—Numbers 22:1-7; 31:15, 16; Revelation 2:14.
3. How did the Israelites fall for Balaam’s bait?
3 Did Balaam’s bait work? Yes. Thousands of Israelite men committed “sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab.” They also began to worship false gods, including a disgusting sex god, the Baal of Peor. As a result, 24,000 Israelites died right at the border of the Promised Land.—Numbers 25:1-9.
4. Why did thousands of Israelites commit immorality?
4 Why did so many Israelites fall for Balaam’s plan? They were thinking only of their own selfish pleasure, and they forgot all that Jehovah had done for them. The Israelites had many reasons to be loyal to God. He had freed them from slavery in Egypt, fed them in the wilderness, and brought them safely to the border of the Promised Land. (Hebrews 3:12) Still, they were seduced by sexual immorality. The apostle Paul wrote: “Neither let us practice sexual immorality, as some of them committed sexual immorality, only to fall.”—1 Corinthians 10:8.
5, 6. What can we learn from what happened on the Plains of Moab?
5 The new world is very close. So in a way, we are like the Israelites at the border of the Promised Land. (1 Corinthians 10:11) The world we live in today is even more obsessed with sex than the Moabites were. This obsession can easily affect Jehovah’s people. In fact, the bait that the Devil uses most effectively is sexual immorality.—Numbers 25:6, 14; 2 Corinthians 2:11; Jude 4.
6 Ask yourself, ‘Would I prefer to enjoy some selfish pleasure that will last only a short time, or would I rather live forever in happiness in the new world?’ Isn’t it worth any effort to obey Jehovah’s command: “Flee from sexual immorality”?—1 Corinthians 6:18.
WHAT IS SEXUAL IMMORALITY?
7, 8. What is sexual immorality? Why is it a serious matter?
7 Many people today have a brazen attitude and openly disrespect God’s laws on sex. In the Bible, sexual immorality refers to sexual activity between people who are not Scripturally married to each other. It includes sexual activity between people of the same gender and sex between humans and animals. Sexual activity can be sexual relations, oral sex, anal sex, or touching another person’s genitals in a sexual way.—See Endnote 23.
8 The Bible makes it clear that if someone continues to practice sexual immorality, he cannot remain in the congregation. (1 Corinthians 6:9; Revelation 22:15) Additionally, an immoral person loses respect for himself and the trust of others. Immorality always results in problems. It usually leads to a guilty conscience and often brings unwanted pregnancy, marriage problems, disease, or even death. (Read Galatians 6:7, 8.) If a person really stopped and thought about what immorality leads to, he probably would not want to be immoral. But often a person is thinking only about satisfying his own desires when he takes the first step toward immorality. That first step often involves pornography.
PORNOGRAPHY—A FIRST STEP
9. Why is pornography dangerous?
9 Pornography is designed to excite our sexual desires. Today, pornography is present everywhere—in magazines, books, music, and television shows, as well as on the Internet. Many feel that pornography is harmless, but it is actually very dangerous. It can cause a person to become addicted to sex and to develop perverted desires. Once a person becomes involved with pornography, he starts on a path that can lead to such things as a habit of masturbation, marriage problems, and even divorce.—Romans 1:24-27; Ephesians 4:19; see Endnote 24.
10. How can the principle found at James 1:14, 15 help us to avoid immorality?
10 It is important that we understand how sexual immorality could attract us. Note this warning found at James 1:14, 15: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn sin, when it has been carried out, brings forth death.” So when wrong thoughts enter your mind, get rid of them immediately. If you accidentally see erotic images, look away! Turn off the computer, or change the channel. Do not allow wrong desires into your life. Otherwise, your wrong desires can become so powerful that they will be very difficult to control.—Read Matthew 5:29, 30.
11. How can Jehovah help us when we have wrong thoughts?
11 Jehovah knows us better than we know ourselves. So he knows how imperfect we are. But he also knows that we can overcome wrong desires. Jehovah tells us: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion, hurtful desire, and greediness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5) Even though that is not easy to do, Jehovah is patient with us and he will help us. (Psalm 68:19) One young brother became trapped in the habit of viewing pornography and masturbating. His friends at school felt that these things were a normal part of growing up, but he said: “It damaged my conscience, and I was drawn into a life of immorality.” He realized he needed to control his desires, and with Jehovah’s help, he was able to break his habit. If you have immoral thoughts, ask Jehovah for “power beyond what is normal” to keep your thoughts clean.—2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:27.
12. Why do we need to ‘guard our heart’?
12 Solomon wrote: “Above all the things that you guard, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Our “heart” is the person we are on the inside, the person Jehovah sees. What we look at can affect us in a powerful way. Faithful Job said: “I have made a covenant with my eyes. So how could I show improper attention to a virgin?” (Job 31:1) Like Job, we need to control what we look at and think about. And like the psalmist, we pray: “Turn my eyes away from looking at what is worthless.”—Psalm 119:37.
DINAH’S UNWISE CHOICE
13. What kind of friends did Dinah choose?
13 Our friends can have a strong influence on us, either in a good way or in a bad way. If you choose friends who follow God’s standards, they can help you to do the same. (Proverbs 13:20; read 1 Corinthians 15:33.) We can see how important our choice of friends is from what happened to Dinah. She was one of Jacob’s daughters, so she was raised in a family who worshipped Jehovah. Dinah was not an immoral person, but she became close friends with Canaanite girls who did not worship Jehovah. The Canaanites had a very different view of sex from that of God’s people and were known for being immoral. (Leviticus 18:6-25) While Dinah was with her friends, she met a young Canaanite man named Shechem, who found her attractive. Shechem was considered “the most honorable” young man in his family. But he did not love Jehovah.—Genesis 34:18, 19.
14. What happened to Dinah?
14 Shechem did what seemed natural and acceptable to him. Because he was attracted to Dinah, he “took her” and “violated her.” (Read Genesis 34:1-4.) This crime started a series of events that resulted in tragedy for Dinah and her whole family.—Genesis 34:7, 25-31; Galatians 6:7, 8.
15, 16. How can we become wise?
15 We do not have to make the same mistakes that Dinah made to learn that Jehovah’s moral standards are good for us. “The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) Make it your goal to understand “the entire course of what is good,” and you will avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.—Proverbs 2:6-9; Psalm 1:1-3.
16 We can become wise by studying God’s Word, praying to him before we make decisions, and following the good advice from the faithful and discreet slave. (Matthew 24:45; James 1:5) Of course, you know that all of us are weak and imperfect. (Jeremiah 17:9) But how would you react if someone warned you that you were in danger of committing immorality? Would you be offended, or would you humbly accept the help?—2 Kings 22:18, 19.
17. Give an example of how counsel from a fellow Christian could help us.
17 For example, imagine this situation. At a sister’s place of work, a man begins to give her special attention and invites her to go out on a date. He doesn’t serve Jehovah, but he seems very nice and kind. Another sister sees them together and later tries to warn her about it. How will the first sister react? Will she defend herself, or will she see the wisdom in the warning? The sister may love Jehovah and want to do what is right. But if she keeps going out with this man, is she ‘fleeing from sexual immorality’ or is she ‘trusting in her own heart’?—Proverbs 22:3; 28:26; Matthew 6:13; 26:41.
LEARN FROM JOSEPH’S EXAMPLE
18, 19. Explain how Joseph fled from immorality.
18 As a young man, Joseph was a slave in Egypt. Day after day, his master’s wife asked him to have sex with her, but Joseph knew that doing so would be wrong. Joseph loved Jehovah and wanted to please him. So each time the woman tried to seduce Joseph, he refused. Since he was a slave, he could not just leave his master. One day after the master’s wife tried to force him to have sex with her, he “fled outside.”—Read Genesis 39:7-12.
19 The situation could have ended very differently if Joseph had allowed himself to think immoral thoughts or if he had daydreamed about her. But Joseph’s relationship with Jehovah was more important to him than anything else. He told the woman: “My master . . . has not withheld from me anything at all except you, because you are his wife. So how could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?”—Genesis 39:8, 9.
20. How do we know that Jehovah was pleased with Joseph?
20 Although Joseph was far from his family and home, he was always loyal to God, and Jehovah blessed him. (Genesis 41:39-49) Jehovah was delighted with Joseph’s loyalty. (Proverbs 27:11) It can be difficult to resist immorality. But remember these words: “O you who love Jehovah, hate what is bad. He is guarding the lives of his loyal ones; he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.”—Psalm 97:10.
21. How did one young brother imitate Joseph?
21 Every day, Jehovah’s people courageously show that they “hate what is bad” and that they “love what is good.” (Amos 5:15) Whatever your age, you can be faithful to Jehovah. One young brother’s faith was tested in school. A girl told him that she would have sex with him if he helped her on a math test. What did this brother do? He acted like Joseph. He says: “I immediately rejected her offer. By maintaining integrity, I have kept my dignity and self-respect.” Any “temporary enjoyment” that comes from immorality will often lead to pain and heartache. (Hebrews 11:25) Obedience to Jehovah will always bring lasting happiness.—Proverbs 10:22.
LET JEHOVAH HELP YOU
22, 23. How can Jehovah help us even if we sin seriously?
22 Satan will try to use sexual immorality to catch us, and this can be a real challenge. All of us probably have wrong thoughts from time to time. (Romans 7:21-25) Jehovah understands this and remembers that “we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14) So, what if a Christian does commit the serious sin of immorality? Is the situation hopeless? No. If a person is truly repentant, Jehovah will help him. God is “ready to forgive.”—Psalm 86:5; James 5:16; read Proverbs 28:13.
23 Jehovah also gives us “gifts in men”—loving elders who care for us. (Ephesians 4:8, 12; James 5:14, 15) He has provided the elders to help us repair our relationship with him.—Proverbs 15:32.
USE “GOOD SENSE”
24, 25. How can “good sense” help us avoid immorality?
24 In order to make good decisions, we need to understand how Jehovah’s laws benefit us. We do not want to be like the young man described at Proverbs 7:6-23. He lacked “good sense,” so he was caught by the bait of sexual immorality. Good sense is more than intelligence. When we have good sense, we try to understand God’s thinking and apply it in our own life. Remember these wise words: “Whoever acquires good sense loves himself. Whoever treasures discernment will find success.”—Proverbs 19:8.
25 Are you fully convinced that God’s standards are right? Do you really believe that following them will make you happy? (Psalm 19:7-10; Isaiah 48:17, 18) If you are not sure yet, remember all the good things Jehovah has done for you. “Taste and see that Jehovah is good.” (Psalm 34:8) You will find that the more you do so, the more you will love God. Love what he loves, and hate what he hates. Fill your mind with good thoughts—things that are true, righteous, chaste, lovable, and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8, 9) We can be like Joseph, who benefited from Jehovah’s wisdom.—Isaiah 64:8.
26. What will we discuss next?
26 Whether you are single or married, Jehovah wants you to enjoy your life and be happy. The next two chapters contain information that can help us to make a success of marriage.