Respect for the Gift of Life
1, 2. Why should we show deep respect for the gift of life?
DEEP respect for the gift of life is a foundation of true peace and security. But such respect is sadly lacking among many people. As is well known, men can take away life by killing; but no man can restore life once it is gone.
2 We should show respect for life as a sacred obligation. To whom? To the Giver of life, the one to whom the psalmist said: “For with you,” namely, Jehovah God, “is the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9 [35:10, Dy]) We owe our lives to him, not only because he created man, but also because he has allowed mankind to continue reproducing till now and has provided the means for sustaining life. (Acts 14:16, 17) More than that, he caused his Son to become the Repurchaser or Redeemer of the human family, buying it with his own precious lifeblood. (Romans 5:6-8; Ephesians 1:7) As a result, he now extends to all who will accept it the grand hope of life in his righteous new order. That is something that we really want, is it not? In view of all this, should we not deeply respect and appreciate God’s gift of life? How can we do so?
3. How does one’s watching violence for entertainment affect his attitude toward life?
3 For one thing, if we are serious about showing respect for life, we will not join with those who, simply for entertainment, feed their minds on programs that feature violence. Accepting violence as “entertaining” has caused many to become hardened and unfeeling toward human suffering and loss of life. They learn to live just for the present and show little concern for their own or anyone else’s future welfare. But if we are grateful for God’s goodness and the hope he gives, we will resist such spirit. We will cultivate appreciation for life as a gift from God. This will affect how we use our own lives, how we treat other people, even how we view those who have not yet been born.
RESPECTING THE LIFE OF THE UNBORN
4. (a) When is life passed on to one’s offspring? (b) What shows whether God is interested in a human life before birth?
4 The power to pass on life is a grand privilege, divinely given. That life is passed on, not at birth, but at the time of conception. As the Encyclopædia Britannica states, it is then that “the life-history of the individual, as a distinct and biological entity begins.”37 Similarly, God’s interest in a human life begins before birth. The psalmist David wrote, saying to God: “You kept me screened off in the belly of my mother. . . . Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing.”—Psalm 139:13-16 [138:13-16, Dy]; Ecclesiastes 11:5.
5. Why are the arguments put forth in an effort to justify abortion not sound?
5 In modern times the lives of millions of unborn children are deliberately being ended by abortion. Is this right? Some argue that the unborn baby has no conscious appreciation of what life is and is incapable of a separate existence outside the womb. But that is also basically true of a newborn baby. At birth it has no grasp of life’s meaning, nor could it continue existence apart from constant care of parents or others. The living cell formed in the womb at the time of conception has every possibility of becoming a baby if not interfered with. Taking the life of a newborn baby is viewed as a crime nearly everywhere. Even where babies are born prematurely, great effort is made to save them. Why, then, should it not also be viewed as a crime for anyone to take the life of the unborn to prevent its further development and birth? Why should life be viewed as sacred only after it leaves the womb and not also while inside the womb?
6. How does the Bible indicate God’s view toward the deliberate taking of the life of an unborn child?
6 The important thing is not just how men may view matters but what God, the Giver of life, says. To Jehovah God the life of the unborn child is precious, not to be trifled with. He gave a law to ancient Israel specifically protecting the life of the unborn child. If, in a struggle between two men, a pregnant woman was injured or a miscarriage resulted, this law set forth strict penalties. (Exodus 21:22, 23) Manifestly the deliberate taking of the life of an unborn child would be even more serious. According to God’s law, whenever human life was taken deliberately, the guilty one was sentenced to death as a murderer. (Numbers 35:30, 31) God maintains the same high regard for life now.
7. Against what are we protected when we respect God’s will regarding the life of an unborn child?
7 Deep respect for God’s will regarding the life of the unborn child works to real benefit. By his making parents fully responsible for the life of the unborn, he provides a curb to sexual promiscuity with all its bad effects—venereal disease, unwanted pregnancies, illegitimate children, broken families and the mental strain of an unclean conscience. This can contribute to family peace now and is an important factor in our gaining future blessings.
RESPECT FOR YOUR OWN LIFE
8. Why should we show respect for God’s will in the way we treat our own body?
8 What about the way you treat your own body, what you do with your own life? Some persons say, ‘I didn’t choose to be born. So what I do with my life is up to me. I’ll do whatever I want.’ But must a gift be requested for the receiver to appreciate it? Life itself is undeniably good; it is only the badness of men and human imperfection that rob life of much of its joy. Jehovah God is not to blame for this; he promises to correct it by his Kingdom government. So, while we live we should do so in a way that shows respect for his will and purpose.—Romans 12:1.
9. What does the Bible say about gluttony and drunkenness?
9 One way that we Can show such appreciation is by moderation in food and drink. Gluttony and drunkenness are condemned by God. (Proverbs 23:20, 21) On the other hand, just as eating in moderation is proper so is the use of alcoholic beverages in moderation. This is shown by many scriptures.—Deuteronomy 14:26; Isaiah 25:6; Luke 7:33, 34; 1 Timothy 5:23.
10. (a) How does a drunkard show disrespect for life? (b) As shown at 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, why is it important to avoid drunkenness?
10 So, it is not drinking but drunkenness that is condemned in the Bible. And with good reason. Drunkenness damages the body, makes persons act stupidly and can even make them a danger to others. (Proverbs 23:29-35; Ephesians 5:18) It can shorten life, often leading to cirrhosis of the liver. In the United States alone, where perhaps nine million persons show some form of alcoholism, the total loss each year in potential wages, accidents, medical care and crime is estimated at upwards of 750 million dollars. The cost in broken homes, ruined lives and human suffering is “beyond calculation.” (The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 1970, p. 291) It is not surprising, therefore, that the apostle Paul says: “Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, . . . nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
11. Is it sensible to try to escape from personal problems by excessive drinking?
11 True, some feel keenly the depressing effect of the world situation. Its wars, crime, inflation and poverty, its stress and pressures contribute to nagging personal problems. But nothing is gained by trying to escape this through harmful excesses. These only create more problems for oneself and for others and, in the process, destroy one’s dignity and purpose in living.
USE OF DRUGS
12. Why do many persons turn to the use of drugs?
12 In their endeavor to escape from the problems of life, increasing numbers of people are turning to drugs. Of course, many drugs have a medical use. Persons who are sick may need to use them to aid in recovery from illness. But what of the use of drugs where no treatment for illness is involved, where the user simply desires to get a dreamy feeling or even to go into a sort of trance? How is the life of the user affected?
13. What effects do some of these drugs have on the user, and so what do Bible principles indicate as to using them?
13 Today many persons who seek these pleasures use such “hard” drugs as heroin and cocaine, or they use so-called “psychedelic” drugs such as LSD. Some take large doses of amphetamine and barbiturate pills. What is the result? Their use of these drugs easily leads to loss of self-control, producing effects similar to those seen in a drunk person. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Proverbs 23:33) It is generally recognized, even by most users, that these drugs can be dangerous. In New York city, for example, heroin addiction is the leading cause of death among persons between the ages of 18 and 35. What gross disregard for the gift of life!
14, 15. Although marijuana is generally viewed as nonaddictive, why are those who smoke it not showing real respect for the gift of life?
14 But what of the use of marijuana (marihuana), generally viewed as a nonaddictive drug? It, too, can be dangerous in several ways. One way is noted in a folder published by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. It explains that “users of one illicit drug may be exposed to a variety of them through contacts with drug sellers and other users.” Likewise a report published in the U.S. News & World Report of February 1, 1971, under the heading, “Latest Findings on Marijuana,” says that “there is evidence that people who have come to lean on the drug for psychological reasons—in the belief it will relieve tension and depression—are likely to go on to stronger drugs.”
15 But even if this does not happen, the smoking of marijuana itself can be dangerous. While views differ somewhat, it is noteworthy that one investigation revealed this: “Sufficiently high doses . . . can cause unpredictable, acute—although temporary—psychotic episodes manifesting themselves in the form of illusions, hallucinations, paranoia, depression and panic.”38 This same report also says that continued regular use of marijuana can cause adverse physical effects such as “liver damage, genetic defects, brain damage and upper respiratory ailment.” In view of such possible risks, is one who uses marijuana showing respect for the gift of life?
16. To what other serious danger can the use of drugs expose a person, and how should this affect our view on the matter?
16 There is another powerful reason for avoiding the use of drugs to get a false sense of well-being. They can open the way for a person to come under the control of the demons. Many drug users themselves acknowledge that the use of drugs often is accompanied with involvement in occult practices. This linking of drugs with occultism is by no means new. Sorcerers in the past employed drugs. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words observes: “In sorcery, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers . . . to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.” These comments are made in connection with the Greek word rendered “practice of spiritism” (phar·ma·kiʹa, literally “druggery”) at Galatians 5:20. (See also Revelation 9:21; 18:23.) So today, as in times past, drugs can expose one to demon influence. How could anyone who wants to be a loyal servant of Jehovah expose himself to such danger simply for a momentary feeling of exhilaration?
17, 18. (a) What other bad fruitage has become associated with drug use? (b) So, how do Jehovah’s Christian witnesses view the use of drugs?
17 As is well known, drug use is inseparably linked with crime and the moral breakdown in society. Illicit drug sales are a major source of income for organized crime. A large percentage of drug addicts commit thefts and burglaries to support their habit. Others turn to prostitution. Families by the thousands are torn apart when a member becomes an addict. Pregnant mothers pass on addiction to their babies, who sometimes die while undergoing the agonies of withdrawal. And in most lands the possession and use of such dangerous drugs for nonmedical reasons is illegal.—Matthew 22:17-21.
18 Do you want to have anything to do with a practice that is associated with all of that bad fruitage? Jehovah’s Christian witnesses do not! They want no part of the use of drugs for thrills or to flee from reality. They have a high regard for life and want to use their lives in a way that is consistent with God’s will.
USE OF TOBACCO AND SIMILAR PRODUCTS
19. Why does respect for the gift of life enter into one’s view toward use of tobacco, betel nut and the leaves of the coca plant?
19 Even more common today is the use of tobacco and, in some lands, betel nut and the leaves of the coca plant. Though used by millions around the world, each of these is known to be damaging to the body and, in some cases, the mind. Tobacco has been the object of government warnings of its connection with such diseases as lung cancer, heart ailments, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Does it show respect for the gift of life to use such addictive and harmful products?
20, 21. (a) Does the fact that the Bible does not condemn such habits by name mean that they are all right? (b) What Bible principles show that such habits have no place in the life of a person who is serious about wanting to do the will of God?
20 One might say that these things are all God’s creation. True, but so are mushrooms, yet some varieties are fatal to man if eaten. Another might say that the Bible does not specifically mention or condemn such habits. No, but, as we have seen, there are many things not specifically condemned in the Bible that are obviously wrong. The Bible nowhere specifically forbids using the backyard of one’s neighbor as a place for dumping garbage. Yet the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” should be enough for any of us to recognize how wrong that would be.—Matthew 22:39.
21 At 2 Corinthians 7:1 God’s Word tells us to “cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” For something to be “holy” means for it to be “bright, clean, untarnished, uncorrupted.” Jehovah God keeps himself clean and free from corruption, never lowering himself to act in an unholy manner. Rightly God expects us to continue “perfecting holiness” to the extent possible for us humans. (Romans 12:1) Also, he expects us to ‘love him with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength,’ but how can anyone do this if he indulges in practices that defile his body, damage his health and shorten his life?—Mark 12:29, 30.
22. What can enable a person to break the held that such a bad habit may have on him?
22 Though one or another of such habits may seem to have a ‘stranglehold’ on a person, he can overcome it and gain freedom. Knowledge of God and of his grand purposes provides a powerful motivation for doing so. A person can ‘be made new in the force actuating his mind.’ (Ephesians 4:23) This will open up a new way of life, one that results in personal contentment and is an honor to God.
RESPECT FOR LIFE AS REPRESENTED BY BLOOD
23. (a) What is the only use of blood that God approved in his law to Israel? (b) Why should the meaning of those sacrifices cause us to consider carefully God’s will in this matter?
23 Our blood, too, deserves consideration when we speak of life. God has made blood, both of man and of animals, the symbol of life. This is shown in the law he gave to Noah and his sons, from whom we all descend, and in his later law to the nation of Israel. The only use of blood there approved by God was in the sacrifices offered up on the altar in accord with his instructions. (Genesis 9:3, 4; Leviticus 17:10-14). Those sacrifices all pictured the one sacrifice of God’s own Son, by which he poured out his lifeblood on behalf of mankind. (Hebrews 9:11-14) This in itself should cause us to give careful attention to God’s will in this matter.
24. What does Acts 15:28, 29 say as to the view that Christians should have toward use of blood?
24 Is God’s restriction regarding the use of blood still in force for true Christians? Yes, as is shown by the official statement made by the apostles and other elders of the Christian congregation in the first century. Under guidance of God’s spirit, they wrote: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled [hence, unbled] and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper.”—Acts 15:28, 29.
25. By what practices does the world show disregard for God’s will regarding blood?
25 But today many persons show complete disregard for God’s will regarding this vital element of life. They use blood indiscriminately in food, for medical purposes, even as an ingredient in commercial products, including fertilizer. Yet, is this not characteristic of a world where there is so much disregard for the gift of life itself? If we, however, sincerely appreciate life and our accountability to God, we will not ignore his will or insult him by violation of his express commands.
26, 27. Why would efforts to preserve one’s present life by disobeying God not show genuine respect for God’s gift of life?
26 Thus, though we should be concerned over our health and seek to protect our lives as a gift from God, even here there are certain limits to observe. God’s Son made this clear when he said: “He that is fond of his soul [or, life] destroys it, but he that hates his soul in this world will safeguard it for everlasting life.”—John 12:25.
27 What does that mean? It means that, if it is a question of facing death because of obeying God or of disobeying him to preserve one’s present life, the true servant of God would prefer death to disobedience. By disobeying God, Jesus Christ himself could have escaped death by impalement, but he did not. And men before him had shown the same unbreakable devotion to God’s will. (Matthew 26:38, 39, 51-54; Hebrews 11:32-38) They did not let their present life stand in the way of their qualifying for life everlasting.
28. By cultivating appreciation for the Bible’s view toward life, for what are we preparing?
28 Is that the way that you, too, view life? Do you appreciate that, for life to have real meaning, you must live it in harmony with the will of God? Cultivating that viewpoint now is part of preparation for life in God’s new order. How secure and safe one will then feel, anywhere and at any time, knowing that all those living on earth have genuine respect for God’s gift of life.