We learn, we grow – moral sustainability and our motivation The author had the “fine privilege” to attend the 2012 district convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A demonstration presented there inspired him to look into our motivation for doing the right thing, into our motivation for serving God. The demonstration showed a very common situation, a challenge that is typical in today’s world. In scene 1 a brother was sitting in front of his computer surfing the Net to find a new printer. Somehow there was a pop-up window with a link to a website called “girls gone wild”. In the demonstration the audience heard the inner monologue of his thoughts. His reasoning was that while he was curious, he wouldn’t click the link because his wife surely wouldn’t approve of him secretly watching porn. He further reasoned that she might be upset if she find out and might tell the elders. He certainly wouldn’t want to get into trouble with the congregation, being afraid of losing his status. So he closed the window. The comment of the brother giving the talk was that the man in the scene made the right decision, but for the wrong motives. He explained to the audience that they would see the scene once more, now with the reasoning that shows the right motivation and that is pleasing Jehovah God. The scene started again, the pop-up window came up and the brother started his monologue. This time he reasoned that this site would show pornography, something that true Christians avoid because Jehovah hates uncleanliness and God and the angels can always see what we are doing. He closed the window because he didn’t want to upset God. So being seen by God and not wanting to upset him was the reasoning presented as the right motive. The author wasn’t happy at all with this explanation and later that night discussed the scene with his LW brothers. The point is that not doing something just to avoid upsetting God is a childlike motivation, it shows a lack of real insight in how true morality works. It even shows a lack of understanding the personality of God! When dealing with challenges and temptations over the course of our lives, we hopefully mature and growing up morally. We all move through different stages of development that determine which motivation works for us and what reasoning we can understand. The author is father of two boys. He knows that sometimes it is good enough to tell a (young) child not to do something because mummy or daddy don’t want it done. The young child between 2 and 5 years of age usually won’t do it because he doesn’t want the parents to be upset or sad, being anxious for the love of the parents.
He will also be afraid of a potential punishment. The child grows up, gains moral reasoning capability and no longer accepts a prohibition without understanding it. Starting around the age of 6 he or she will ask why something is forbidden. Wise parents provide loving guidance by taking the time to explain themselves and presenting the reasons. Now the child won’t probably understand all the dimensions of the reasoning behind the parents’ decision but will usually accept it. The child will still be afraid of a prospective punishment or the consequences in case he breaks the rules. At this age the idea of hurting or upsetting God can also be a factor, since the child is now able to grasp concepts that go beyond his initial family and has developed some spirituality. As we grow to maturity we have to realize that the world isn’t about “I, me, and mine”. We have to learn and understand that we live in a society, a community of people. We have to realize that we have to cooperate to be successful. We are all children of God, we are all sons and daughters of Adam and we all are together in this. So the point is, that being afraid of consequences or punishment or even the desire of not hurting God, can and must be transcended to become fully mature. These ideas are okay for children but they are ultimately self-centred and egotistical because we care about how we would suffer the consequences, how we would be affected by punishment, how we would be put into Gehenna for breaking Jehovah’s laws. Instead a really morally mature person would consider whether what he or she does is morally sustainable, he would weigh his decisions in the light of the effect that his actions have on his brother, by which we mean society, yes all of mankind. Moral sustainability is the engine that powers the mature person. This person has realized that egotistical behaviour is ultimately self-defeating because we can only survive together, only if we cooperate.
In an egotistical selfish society you have one friend and 7 billion enemies. But in a non egotistical selfless altruistic society you have 7 billion friends and no enemies. Which society would you prefer to live in? It is that simple.
We understand that our own security and success results from the security and success of our brothers. It’s all about thinking about the consequences my actions have on others. It is consciously applying the first and second commandment: “Love God more than your neighbour and love your neighbour as yourself.”
One corollary of the two laws is that you should love God more than yourself.
36 Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
37 He said to him: 'You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.'
38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
39 The second, like it, is this, 'You must love your neighbour as yourself.'
40 On these 2 commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets (Matthew 22).
26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14).
Luke 14:26 does not contradict Matthew 22 (although it looks like it does), because it is comparative speech. You must hate your wife compared to Jesus, when you are forced into making a choice.
No person alone can build a computer, erect a skyscraper or fly into space. But through cooperation we have built the Internet, erected the Burj Dubai and even landed on the moon! Now the LWs have realised that moral sustainability is in fact achieved by following a minimum set of requirements, laws and regulations given by God. The big realization of the LWs is that Jehovah’s laws today are not arbitrary or burdensome. They just are this minimum set of rules that guarantee that mankind does not annihilate itself. Acting selfishly, - acting without consideration for my brother -, is cancer for the society. Every action that is not in harmony with the divine set of rules is a single cancer cell that could easily grow and spread if left untackled. But the peak of moral development takes this one step further - the final step. At this level we actually understand why God gives a law or a rule. After having worked out or studied this minimum set of requirements we actually sit down and analyze them to see why our Heavenly Father had to include a certain law or prohibition. We know that it is for the good of ourselves and the good of society but we want to understand with our mind and our heart why this is so. In this way we can develop “the mind of Christ”, being fully convinced of the beauty, simplicity and necessity and functionality of these glorious laws. Behaving in a morally sustainable way will one day become second nature to all of us. May that day come soon dear reader. Going back to the demonstration, our reasoning might go like this: “I won’t open this link because I know how pornography puts me in an undesirable mindset. I know how clicking the link would support those selfish people that produce such material, often at the cost of a few exploited women and a huge number (over 50% of internet traffic) of exploited men. I know that sexual corruption is the most ancient and most successful weapon in the arsenal of our Adversary. I understand that selfishly practiced sexuality has lead to broken-up families, children growing up without their parents, dispossessed fathers and state-sponsored single moms.”
It is the author’s heartfelt prayer that the reader and all of his brothers and sisters will come to a full understanding of the loving laws or moral sustainability.
So here are the steps we must make from a spiritual babe to a spiritual adult...
1. I will not sin because the priest says so.
2. I will not sin because God says so.
3. I will not sin because God says so and I know he has my best interest at heart.
4. I will not sin because I understand that sin is morally unsustainable and is a dead end street with no future other than pain and destruction.
5. I will not sin in this particular respect (homosexuality for example) because I understand that the love rights of children to have unconditional permanent true love from both a man and a woman are more important than the lust rights of two adult men to commit buggery.