Negligence Can Kill You
HOW many people in the world die each year because of accidents? It is impossible to say, but the figure is enormous. A report by the American Trial Lawyers Association pointed out that, in the United States alone, highway deaths numbered more than 1,500,000 in twenty-five years, while only 605,000 Americans died in battle in all the wars from the American Revolution to Vietnam. More alarming is the fact that the home is the greatest single scene of accidents—nearly half of all the injuries suffered accidentally occur in the home.
Says the magazine The International Operating Engineer: “Accidents are considered the natural run of things . . . We live life experimentally, carelessly, accidentally. However, . . . an accident is a mistake. An accident is the end result of a wrong move, a wrong decision, a wrong thought that need not have happened had common sense, forethought, and a certain amount of right planning been used.”
If negligence and carelessness could be eliminated, there would be few damaging accidents. Imagine a world where quality control was really maintained. There would be few failures in materials. If builders and manufacturers would exercise care in erecting buildings and in manufacturing machines, cars and appliances, there would be few mechanical failures. Then if the user of these things respected the potential danger of automobiles and machines, electricity, fire, high speeds, and so forth, and used tools and other items for their intended purpose, not operating machinery when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, accidents would be drastically reduced. If everybody checked the labels on bottles in the medicine cabinet, accidental poisoning would be almost eliminated.
Of course, no one is perfect, so there are mistakes, oversights and moments of inattentiveness, pride and lack of self-control that would, even then, bring about some accidents. That is one reason why laws and rules are made. Obeying the laws, particularly traffic and safety laws, would prevent a great many of such mishaps.
It is not good, however, to excuse ourselves because of imperfection, for carelessness is a form of laziness or it springs from pride and disrespect for the law and for our fellowman, and these things are undesirable. A person can be convicted in the courts for serious negligence, but one can immediately suffer the penalty for even minor negligence with regard to the natural laws. Carelessness in going down a flight of stairs, or when standing on a box to reach a higher shelf, has brought death to many people. One writer says: “Most of [the injuries in the home] are the result of culpable negligence on the part of the victim.”
In the law given to the ancient Hebrew nation the deadly seriousness of negligence was deeply impressed upon the people. If a man accidentally killed another—for example, if his axhead flew off and struck a man working with him—the one causing the accident had to flee immediately to one of six cities set apart in the land, called “cities of refuge.” There he would receive temporary sanctuary. Then a trial was held, and if the court found the incident to be truly accidental, the unintentional manslayer was required to live within the boundaries of the city of refuge until the death of the nation’s high priest, which might be many years.—Num. 35:11-13, 22-25.
Certainly an individual having such an experience, as well as all those who knew him, would be prompted ever thereafter to exercise extraordinary carefulness.
How to Fight Negligence
Is there a “best” way to fight our imperfect traits of carelessness or negligence? Yes, there is. It is simply by having respect for life and for neighbor. If we love life we want to make our life as long and as happy as possible. We will see that any equipment that we use is properly maintained. We will realize that when we are doing a job or driving a car, where danger of an accident is greater, we will not do so in a sleepy condition, or after drinking alcoholic beverages. We will keep in mind the need to stay alert.
Additionally, we must realize that our negligence can affect our fellowmen. We will, in love of neighbor, do our work conscientiously. If, for example, a person is an automobile mechanic or a serviceman, he will not knowingly use a defective part or leave any part of the car without lubrication or not functioning properly. He will not ignore a condition that could prove to be dangerous. If there is something wrong that he has not been asked to correct, he will at least warn the owner or the driver of the car that it needs attention, for safety’s sake.
If a person has in mind the well-being of his fellowman he will not do things that will endanger his fellowman’s life. The Bible says that we actually owe love to our neighbors, for “love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore love is the law’s fulfillment.” (Rom. 13:10) No matter what a person does he should seriously consider whether he is doing anything that could result in harm to someone else.
Moreover, the careless person can become bloodguilty, just as the unintentional manslayer in ancient Israel who accidentally caused a death. Though such a person was not a murderer, he was bloodguilty. Life was sacred, and he had to remain in the refuge city. To leave it would show unconcern for life and for God’s law as to the sanctity of life. He would show that he was not sorry for the death that he had caused, and would himself be deserving of death.
The Bible stresses the importance of carefulness and of love for neighbor, and considers a person bloodguilty who causes a death, even if it be accidental. This shows that if sin, with its consequent imperfection, had not entered into the world, as it did through the first man Adam, there would have been no pride, no laziness, no lack of alertness as causes of accidents. Furthermore, with love for God and for his kind provision of life, along with love for neighbor, there would have been a world free of serious accidents. This was God’s original purpose. And he says that he will “gather all things together again” under his rulership and bring perfection again to the earth. (Eph. 1:10) He will do away with death.—1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:3, 4.
There is no carelessness or haphazardness with God, for ‘his activity [or, work] is perfect.’ (Deut. 32:4) When his will is done ‘on earth as it is done in heaven,’ men and women will be in full control of all their faculties, and in perfection of love will use them in a way that will make negligence and accidents a thing of the past.—Matt. 6:10.
A Most Serious Form of Negligence
Since the Bible speaks of a time when God’s will is to be done on earth as it is done in heaven, it is obvious that the desirable thing is to live at that time. Therefore, negligence toward an opportunity of living then would be a most serious kind of negligence. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matt. 5:3) It is essential for life for an individual to turn to the Bible to find what God has to say. By this a person can avoid doing things contrary to the physical and moral laws governing the universe. Man’s nature is such that he must constantly take in knowledge of God. It is literally true that, “not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.”—Deut. 8:3.
So, no man can with impunity neglect the spiritual side of his life. We see the results of such neglect by people of the world in general, as they follow material pursuits rather than spiritual ones. But to those professing to be Christians such negligence is even more serious. The apostle Paul wrote to Christians living in his day, warning them to give the closest attention to the things that they had heard. He pointed to the fact that, under the Law in ancient Israel, every disobedient act would receive retribution in harmony with justice. Then he asked: “How shall we escape if we have neglected a salvation of such greatness” as that brought to light by Jesus Christ?—Heb. 2:3.
Carefulness now with regard to learning God’s purposes from his Word, the Bible, will help us to live happier lives now, and will lead us to everlasting life in a negligence- and accident-free world.