A. Meaning of Values
Values mean standards or ideas which most people have about the worth of good qualities such as kindness, freedom, mercy, respect, and love. There are moral and social values.
B. Moral Values
Every community has rules and regulations which guide the members to behave well. Each member of the community should be able to choose between right and wrong.
As children, we are expected to know these rules and regulations so that we can behave well and become useful citizens. It is only when we do this that people can say, we have good morals and respect the values of the society. Some of these morals or values are honesty, justice, loyalty, patriotism, and generosity.
C. Some Specific Values
Christianity, Islam, and Traditional religions do emphasize values in their teachings. We shall consider some specific values in each religion.
i. Examples of Christian Values
1. Respect for Life
The life in us has been given to us by God, therefore, we must value human life greatly and do everything to keep it and not destroy it. The Bible teaches us how to value life. For example, when Cain killed his brother Abel, God was displeased. He considered it to be a terrible sin, and cursed him (Genesis 4:8-12).
Killing a human being has been, from the earliest times, considered unlawful and immoral. That is why one of the Ten Commandments given to the Israelites stated: Do not commit murder (Exodus 20:13). Jesus further explained this commandment to mean that we should not even be angry with other people (Matthew 5:21-24). Murder is, therefore, not allowed in any society.
2. Friendliness and Love
Christianity teaches us about the importance of friendliness and love. These qualities help to bring together the members of the family, the community, and the nation. The Bible teaches us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). It is love which makes a person ready to share what he has with others.
Jesus also commanded his followers to love one another (John 13:34, 35). It is further stressed in the Bible that love is the greatest human value (1 Corinthians 13:1-7,13).
3. Respect for Authority
The Bible teaches that people in authority must be respected. We should respect our parents, elders, those in official positions, and the laws of the land. It is only when authority is respected that there will be peace and progress in our communities and in the nation (Deuteronomy 5:16, 1 Peter 2:13-17).
Service to one another is one of the important qualities that individuals must have in the community. When we give service freely, we become happy that we are helping others. On the other hand, when we receive service, we are happy and grateful because somebody has helped us.
We can give service to our society in many ways. For example, we can do simple jobs to serve or help the poor and needy people. We can also join others in communal labor.
Christians are advised to serve one another. Jesus taught a lesson of humble service to His disciples by washing their feet (John 13:17). He also advised his disciples to serve their people rather than to be served. It is good for us to look for opportunities to serve others. Service to people is also a form of kindness.
Hospitality is kindness which is shown in various practical ways to people. When we receive and help travelers and visitors, we can describe the service that we give to them as hospitality.
Jesus told a story to show how hospitality should be given. In the story He advised that, when inviting people to a feast or a party, we must not only invite relatives, friends, or rich neighbors. We should rather invite persons such as the poor and sick (Luke 14:12-14). He also used this story to show us that hospitality should be shown to people without thinking of a reward.
Gratitude means thankfulness. It is one of the good qualities an individual should have. When someone serves us, does us a kindness, or shows hospitality to us, we should be grateful or thankful to him. The commonest expression people use to show gratitude is “Thank you”. In our everyday life, we should learn to say “thank you” to all who help us. We should thank God for the life He has given us and for all the good things he does for us.
7. Loyalty and Patriotism
When we show love for our country we are said to be patriotic. There are many ways in which we can do this, for example, we must love the good things about Ghana, speak well of her and defend her at all times.
As good citizens and Christians, we must be patriotic and loyal to our country.
ii. Examples of Islamic Values
There are many Islamic values which Muslims are expected to know. These values help them to be good Muslims and to please Allah.
The five pillars of Islam teach many important Islamic values. For example, Salat teaches chastity (purity of character), whilst Zakaat teaches generosity. Fasting in the month of Ramadan teaches discipline and obedience. The following are examples of some Islamic values.
1. Piety (Godliness)
Piety is the fear of God, and a Muslim who fears God is said to be pious. Such a person is always obedient to Allah and steadfast in his Salat (prayers). Both in the Quran and the Traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammed, great emphasis is placed on piety and righteousness. That is why Islam teaches that the best among Muslims is the pious person. He is also the one who remembers his God in all things he does.
Uprightness and honesty, especially in money matters, form an important part of the fundamental teachings of Islam.
The Quran and the Traditions of the Holy Prophet teach that a true Muslim is the one who is honest and upright in his business or trade. He fulfils his promise and does not tell lies. The Quran teaches that Muslims should not acquire property by unlawful means.
Islam teaches that a Muslim should try to follow closely the teachings of the Quran whatever the difficulty. He should strive hard to do the right thing at all times. The Quran teaches that those who have faith in Allah and remain steadfast, will be rewarded with everlasting life in paradise (Quran 41:31).
Truthfulness in word and in deed is one of the main qualities of a true believer. Truthfulness makes us practice virtue and helps us to avoid evil. When we are truthful, we are at peace with Allah and our fellow human beings.
In Islam the word of Allah is the source of truth. The Quran guides the Muslim to know the truth and enlightens him.
It pays to tell the truth always even when one is at fault or commits an offense. When we commit an offense and we tell the truth, the punishment may be reduced or we may be forgiven.
Allah has assured all truthful persons of His protection whenever they are in difficulties. It is, therefore, necessary for us to avoid lying and form the habit of telling the truth.
Tolerance means patience. We must have patience when we are in difficulty. This will help us think wisely and solve our problems. For example, when we have provoked by others, we must try to be patient. We have to tolerate other people’s views, however different they may be from ours. If we are calm and tolerant we will succeed in life.
Justice is one of the important moral values on which other moral behaviors depend.
Islam expects Muslims to practice justice daily in every aspect of their lives. For instance, we must try to be fair and just to others. The trader should not tamper with either his weighing scale or goods or sell his commodities above fixed prices. The civil servant too should be honest and hardworking to justify the salary he or she receives monthly. And most important of all, judges should administer justice without fear or favor. They should always treat all men equally before the law.
D. Traditional Values
i. God and Morality
Every community has rules and regulations, laws, standards of behavior, customs, taboos, and so on. These help the people to behave well. When we break any of these rules, we disturb the order and peace in the community.
Traditional believers believe that God is concerned with the good moral life of man, therefore, He is the final guardian of the moral law. They regard God as Lord, King, and Judge. Since He is the Judge, it is believed that He has the final say in all matters concerning man. He, therefore, expects good behavior from man and also expects that all His laws will be obeyed. The people believe that every evil is punished by God.
Most people believe that God will make a final judgment after death. The traditional man believes it is the souls of those who do good that go back to God. But those who do evil must be reborn and do good before they can be accepted by God. Others too believe that God punishes evil-doers here on earth.
People also believe that God is everywhere and sees everything. When a person commits a crime and thinks people do not know about it, he is reminded that nothing can be hidden from God. Our local languages are full of expressions which show that God knows the secret deeds of all and punishes those who do evil things.
Since God is regarded as the final Judge, He is also believed to be just. Thus, we have expressions such as: ‘Give everything to God’, and ‘God judges the case of the poor’.
ii. The Gods, Ancestors, and Morality
The gods and ancestors are also believed to help to control the behavior of people in our communities. It is believed that, it is their duty to see to it that God’s laws are obeyed. Our ancestors, for instance, are believed to be more concerned with the customs and traditions of the living. They therefore make sure that nothing evil happens to their living relatives and the community.
Both the gods and the ancestors are believed to have power to punish or reward the living. Those they punish are those who break the laws of the community. The ancestors, for example, punish those who break the custom or fail to fulfill their obligations towards their kinsmen. Also a man who fails to make good us of the property he inherits from a dead relative or fails to look after the children he left behind is usually punished with a misfortune, illness, or sometimes death. When he is punished with death, the people usually say that the ancestors have called him to the spirit world to go and explain the reasons for his bad deeds. Sometimes, when believers are sick and they consult their gods, the priest or priestess tries to find out if they have offended the ancestors. If they have, they are asked to pacify them in order to get well again.
As already explained, those who obey the laws and the customs are helped and blessed by the ancestors. The businesses of such people may prosper, those without children may be blessed with children, farmers may be blessed with good harvests, and so on.
It is believed that, the anger of the gods is very serious. They do not forgive man easily for his wrong doings. As a result, believers try to live good and exemplary lives to escape the anger of the gods.
iii. How the Community reacts to Wrong Doing.
We have learnt that God, the gods, and the ancestors reward people who do good an punish those who do evil. In the communities, the people too have a way of rewarding and punishing those who deserve them.
The reward for doing good takes the form of praise and honor. For example, women will sing his praises in their folk songs. Sometimes too, the chief and his elders may honor him by making him a sub-chief or a leader of a group like an ‘Asafo’ Company. Sometimes a stool or skin is created for his family. This reward shows their appreciation for his good deeds and encourages others to do the same.
On the other hand, offenders are punished. Such offenders bring disgrace to themselves and their families. They are also ridiculed in folk songs. The people, especially women and children, may sing special songs to ridicule the offenders. This may force them to leave the community and settle elsewhere.
Parents often do not want their children to marry from families in which there are criminals. This is one of the reasons why most parents conduct investigations into the family record of a would-be in-law. They want to have good relations with other people in their community. They believe that if their relationship with other people is good, then they are sure of a good relationship with God, the gods, and their ancestors.