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 for life is sadly lacking today. Humans have become adept at taking life, but none of them can restore life once it is gone.
2 Respect for life is a sacred obligation to the Giver of life, Jehovah God. Of him the psalmist said: “With you is the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9) We owe our lives to God, not only because he created man but also because he has allowed mankind to continue until now and has provided the means for sustaining life. (Acts 14:16, 17) More than that, he arranged for his Son to become the Repurchaser, or Redeemer, of the human family, buying it with his lifeblood. (Romans 5:6-8; Ephesians 1:7) As a result, he now extends to all who will accept it an opportunity to live forever in his righteous New Order. In view of all of this, how can we show our deep respect and appreciation for God’s gift of life?
3. How does watching violence for entertainment affect a person’s 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 diversion, feed their minds on entertainment that features violence. Accepting violence as “entertaining” has caused many to become hardened and unfeeling toward human suffering and loss of life. But if we are grateful for God’s goodness and the hope he gives, we will resist such a 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.” It also says: “A new individual is created when the elements of a potent sperm merge with those of a fertile ovum, or egg.”60 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; Ecclesiastes 11:5.
5. Why are the arguments put forth in an effort to justify abortion not sound?
5 The lives of millions of unborn children are deliberately ended each year by abortion. Is this morally right? Some argue that the unborn baby is not conscious of life and is incapable of existing 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 existing apart from constant care. The living cell formed at conception becomes such a baby if not interfered with. So if taking the life of a newborn is viewed as a crime nearly everywhere, and tremendous efforts are made to save even premature babies, why, then, is it not also a crime to take the life of the unborn? 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 show God’s view toward the deliberate taking of the life of an unborn child?
6 The important thing is not just how men view matters but what God, the Giver of life, says. To Jehovah the life of the unborn child is precious, not to be trifled with. He gave a law to ancient Israel specifically protecting that life. 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) Taking the life of an unborn child deliberately would be even more serious. According to God’s law, anyone who deliberately took human life was to be 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 making parents fully responsible for that life, Jehovah provides a curb to sexual promiscuity with all its bad effects. These include sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, illegitimate children, broken families, and the mental strain of an unclean conscience. Thus, respect for life 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 we treat our own life? Many people 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 human imperfection and hurtfulness that rob life of much of its joy. Jehovah God is not to blame for that. And he promises to correct it by his Kingdom government. So, we should live the life he gives us 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) Also, 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 that is condemned in the Bible. It is alcohol abuse. And with good reason, for that damages the body, makes drinkers act stupidly, and can even make them a danger to others. (Proverbs 23:29-35; Ephesians 5:18) In the United States alone, at least 10 million people suffer from alcoholism, one result being over 30,000 deaths annually from cirrhosis of the liver. The National Council on Alcoholism says: “The total cost to the nation is nearly 43 billion dollars a year due to absenteeism, health and welfare services, property damage and medical expenses. . . . Of all fatal accidents occurring on the roads today, 50% involve alcohol. Over 80% of the fire deaths, 65% of drownings, 22% of home accidents, 77% of falls, 36% of pedestrian accidents and 55% of arrests are linked to the use of alcohol. Up to 44% of pilots involved in accidents have been drinking. Violent behavior attributed to alcohol use accounts for approximately 65% of murders, 40% of assaults, 35% of rapes, 30% of other sex crimes, 30% of suicides, 55% of fights or assaults in the home and 60% of cases of child abuse.”61 The cost in broken homes, ruined lives, and human suffering is beyond calculation. Thus it is not surprising that God’s Word 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, poverty, and also its stress and pressures contribute to personal problems. But nothing is gained by trying to escape these through harmful excessive drinking. This only creates more problems for oneself and for others and, in the process, destroys one’s dignity, purpose in living, and standing with God.
Use of Drugs
12. Why do many persons turn to drugs?
12 In trying to escape from the problems of life, many people have turned to hallucinogenic drugs. Users of such drugs exchange reality for a dreamy feeling or trancelike state. Many use hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Some take large doses of various drugs in the form of pills. How are their lives affected?
13. What effects do some of these drugs have on the user, and how does the Bible warn of these?
13 Their use of these drugs easily leads to loss of self-control, producing effects similar to those seen in a drunk person. (Proverbs 23:29-34) And it is generally recognized 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. Why are those who smoke marijuana not showing respect for the gift of life?
14 But what of the soft drug marijuana? It too can be dangerous in several ways. Marijuana users are often exposed to stronger drugs through contacts with drug sellers and other users. Also, many who have come to depend on the drug, believing that it will relieve tension and depression, are likely to go on to stronger drugs.
15 But even if this does not happen, smoking marijuana is dangerous. It contains more cancer-causing agents than do cigarettes, and it is more damaging to the lungs. Continued use can cause liver damage, genetic defects, and brain damage. Canada’s Addiction Research Foundation says that marijuana “is a powerful drug with a broad range of risks to health.”62 A drug expert said: “Marijuana is a very harmful drug. Over the past 10 years something like 10,000 papers have been published in the scientific community pointing out the health risk.” He noted “an acute risk which is very serious in adolescents trying to memorise,” in that it weakens memory storage and the ability to concentrate. Of the marijuana user, he said: “He cannot drive a car properly or use a typewriter. Prolonged use causes more serious damage to the immunity system which defends the body against disease.”63 Women who smoke marijuana during pregnancy have a much greater risk of having children with brain damage. In view of all of this, can it be said that using marijuana shows 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. They can open the way for a person to come under the control of the demons. 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.” 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 drugs can expose one to demon influence. How could a person who has respect for his Life-giver expose himself to that danger for just a momentary feeling?
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 It is well known that 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. Many drug addicts steal to support their habit. Others turn to prostitution. Families are torn apart when a member becomes an addict. Pregnant mothers pass on addiction to their babies, who sometimes die undergoing the agonies of withdrawal. And in most lands the possession and use of such 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 that bad fruitage? Jehovah’s 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 it 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 More common today is the use of tobacco and, in some lands, betel nut and coca leaves. Each damages the body and, in some cases, the mind. Governments have warned of tobacco’s connection with diseases such 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 servant of God?
20 One might say that these things are all God’s creation. True, but so are mushrooms. Yet some varieties prove fatal if eaten. Another might say that the Bible does not specifically 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 a neighbor’s backyard to dump garbage. Yet its command to “love your neighbor as yourself” should be enough for any of us to recognize how wrong that would be. Similarly, smoking displays lack of love, since the fumes may irritate others and can even damage their health.—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 “clean, untarnished, uncorrupted.” Jehovah keeps himself clean from corruption, never lowering himself to act in an unholy manner. Rightly he expects us to continue “perfecting holiness” to the extent possible for 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 hold 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 his 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 that results in personal contentment and honors 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 chosen both human and animal blood as the symbol of life. This is evident from the law he gave to Noah and later to the nation of Israel. The only approved use of blood was sacrificial. (Genesis 9:3, 4; Leviticus 17:10-14) The sacrifices all pictured the one sacrifice of Jesus, 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 first-century Christian congregation. 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 the use of blood?
25 Many people disregard God’s will regarding blood. They use it in food, for medical purposes, even in commercial products. But this should not surprise us, since the world shows so little regard for the gift of life itself. However, if we appreciate life and our accountability to God, we will not ignore his will or insult him by violating his commands.
26, 27. Why would efforts to preserve one’s present life by disobeying God not show respect for him?
26 Thus, though we should be concerned over our health and seek to protect our lives, there are certain limits to observe. Jesus 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 If it is a question of facing death for obeying God or of disobeying him to avoid death, the servant of God will prefer death to disobedience. By disobeying God, Jesus could have escaped death. But he did not. And men before him had shown the same unbreakable devotion to God. (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 everlasting life.
28. By cultivating appreciation for the Bible’s view toward life, for what are we preparing?
28 Is that how 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 we will then feel, anywhere and at any time, knowing that all those living on earth have genuine respect for God’s gift of life!