God’s laws are based on his principles. These principles are basic truths that we find in the Bible. They help us to understand how God thinks and feels about matters. Principles help us to make good decisions in life and to do what is right. They are especially helpful in situations that are not specifically covered by God’s laws.
Obedience to Jehovah means that we willingly do what he tells us to do. Jehovah wants us to obey him because we love him. (1 John 5:3) If we love and trust God, we will follow his advice in all situations. We will obey him even when it is difficult for us. It is good for us to obey Jehovah, because he teaches us how to have a good life now and promises us that we will enjoy many blessings in the future.—Isaiah 48:17.
3 FREE WILL
Jehovah has given each person free will, or the ability to make choices. He did not create us to be like robots. (Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15) We can use our freedom to make good choices. But if we are not careful, we could make unwise decisions. Having free will means that we must personally decide whether we want to be loyal to Jehovah and prove that we really love him.
4 MORAL STANDARDS
Jehovah sets moral standards, or guidelines for our conduct and actions. In the Bible, we can learn what these standards are and how they can help us to live a good life. (Proverbs 6:16-19; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) These guidelines help us to know what God views as right or wrong. They also help us to know how to be loving, how to make good decisions, and how to be kind to others. Although the world’s standards continue to get lower, Jehovah’s standards do not change. (Deuteronomy 32:4-6; Malachi 3:6) Following them protects us from much physical and emotional harm.
Our conscience is our inner sense of right and wrong. Jehovah has given each of us a conscience. (Romans 2:14, 15) For our conscience to work correctly, we must train it according to Jehovah’s moral standards. Then our conscience can help us make decisions that please God. (1 Peter 3:16) Our conscience can warn us when we are about to make a foolish choice, or it can make us feel deep pain after we have done something wrong. Our conscience can become weak, but with Jehovah’s help, we can make it strong again. A good conscience gives us peace of mind and self-respect.
6 FEAR OF GOD
To fear God means that we love and respect him so much that we do not want to do anything that will displease him. Fear of God helps us to do what is good and to avoid doing what is bad. (Psalm 111:10) It moves us to listen carefully to everything Jehovah says. It also helps us to keep our promises to him because we deeply respect him. Fear of God affects the way we think, the way we treat others, and the choices we make every day.
Repentance includes the deep sorrow someone feels because he has done something wrong. Those who love God feel very sorry when they realize they have done something that goes against his standards. If we do something wrong, we should beg Jehovah to forgive us on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (Matthew 26:28; 1 John 2:1, 2) When we sincerely repent and stop doing what is bad, we can have confidence that Jehovah will forgive us. We no longer need to feel guilty about what we have done in the past. (Psalm 103:10-14; 1 John 1:9; 3:19-22) We must work hard to learn from our mistakes, change any wrong thinking, and live according to Jehovah’s standards.
When someone who has seriously sinned does not repent and refuses to follow Jehovah’s standards, he can no longer be a member of the congregation. He needs to be disfellowshipped. When someone is disfellowshipped, we have no more dealings with that person and we stop talking to him. (1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 John 9-11) The disfellowshipping arrangement protects Jehovah’s name and the congregation. (1 Corinthians 5:6) Disfellowshipping is also discipline that can help someone to repent so that he can return to Jehovah.—Luke 15:17.
9 GUIDANCE, DIRECTION, AND COUNSEL
Jehovah loves us and wants to help us. That is why he gives us guidance, direction, and counsel by means of the Bible and through people who love God. As imperfect humans, we desperately need this help. (Jeremiah 17:9) When we respectfully listen to those Jehovah uses to guide us, we show that we respect him and want to obey him.—Hebrews 13:7.
10 PRIDE AND HUMILITY
Since we are imperfect, it is easy for us to be selfish and proud. But Jehovah expects us to be humble. Often, we begin to learn humility when we compare ourselves to Jehovah and realize how small we are. (Job 38:1-4) Another important part of humility is learning to think more about others and what will be good for them rather than ourselves. Pride often makes a person believe that he is better than others. A humble person looks at himself honestly and sees both his strengths and his weaknesses. He is not afraid to admit his mistakes, to apologize, and to accept suggestions and counsel. A humble person relies on Jehovah and follows his direction.—1 Peter 5:5.
Authority is the right to give orders and make decisions. Jehovah is the one with the highest authority in heaven and on earth. Because he created all things, he is the most powerful Person in the universe. He always uses his authority to benefit others. Jehovah has given some humans the responsibility to look after us. For example, parents, congregation elders, and governments have some authority, and Jehovah wants us to cooperate with them. (Romans 13:1-5; 1 Timothy 5:17) But when man’s laws conflict with God’s laws, we obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29) When we accept the authority of those Jehovah is using, we show Jehovah that we respect his decisions.
Jehovah uses elders, who are experienced brothers, to care for the congregation. (Deuteronomy 1:13; Acts 20:28) These men help us to keep our relationship with Jehovah strong and to worship him in a peaceful and organized way. (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40) For elders to be appointed by holy spirit, they must meet specific qualifications found in the Bible. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:2, 3) We trust and support God’s organization, so we happily cooperate with the elders.—Psalm 138:6; Hebrews 13:17.
13 FAMILY HEAD
Jehovah has given parents the responsibility of looking after their children and household. However, the Bible explains that the husband is the head of the family. If there is no father in the household, the mother becomes the family head. The responsibilities of the family head include providing the family with food, clothing, and a place to live. It is very important for the family head to take the lead in helping the family to worship Jehovah. For example, he makes sure that they regularly attend congregation meetings, share in the field ministry, and study the Bible together. The family head also takes the lead in making decisions. He always tries to imitate Jesus by being kind and reasonable, never cruel or harsh. This helps to create a loving atmosphere, so that all in the family can feel safe and grow in their relationship with Jehovah.
14 GOVERNING BODY
The Governing Body is the group of men with the heavenly hope who are used by God to direct the work of his people. In the first century, Jehovah used a governing body to guide the early Christian congregation in their worship and their preaching work. (Acts 15:2) Today, the group of brothers who serve as the Governing Body take the lead in directing, guiding, and protecting God’s people. When these brothers make decisions, they rely on guidance from God’s Word and his holy spirit. Jesus spoke of this group of anointed men as “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45-47.
15 HEAD COVERING
There may be times when a sister is asked to do something in the congregation that is normally done by a brother. When she does this work, she shows her respect for Jehovah’s arrangement by wearing a head covering. But the need to cover her head applies only in certain situations. For example, a sister would wear something to cover her head if she conducts a Bible study when her husband or a baptized brother is present.—1 Corinthians 11:11-15.
When we are neutral, we refuse to take sides in political matters. (John 17:16) Jehovah’s people support his Kingdom. We are neutral in the affairs of the world, just as Jesus was.
Jehovah commands us “to be obedient to governments and authorities.” (Titus 3:1, 2; Romans 13:1-7) But God’s law also says that we should not murder. So a Christian’s conscience would not allow him to go to war. If a Christian has the option of doing civilian work as an alternative to military service, he must consider whether his conscience allows him to do so.
We worship only Jehovah, because he is our Creator. Although we show respect for national symbols, we would not salute a flag or sing a national anthem. (Isaiah 43:11; Daniel 3:1-30; 1 Corinthians 10:14) Also, Jehovah’s people make a personal decision not to vote for any political party or candidate. This is because we have already taken the side of God’s government.—Matthew 22:21; John 15:19; 18:36.
17 SPIRIT OF THE WORLD
The world promotes Satan’s way of thinking. This way of thinking is common among people who do not love and imitate Jehovah and who ignore his standards. (1 John 5:19) Such thinking and the actions that it leads to is described as the spirit of the world. (Ephesians 2:2) Jehovah’s people make sure that they are not overcome by this spirit. (Ephesians 6:10-18) Instead, we love Jehovah’s ways and work hard to hold on to his way of thinking.
Apostasy is taking a stand against the truth of the Bible. Apostates rebel against Jehovah and against Jesus, the appointed King of God’s Kingdom, and try to influence others to join them. (Romans 1:25) They want to create doubts in the minds of those who worship Jehovah. Some people in the early Christian congregation became apostates, and so have some in our day. (2 Thessalonians 2:3) Those who are loyal to Jehovah have nothing to do with apostates. We would never allow curiosity or pressure from others to cause us to read or listen to apostate ideas. We are loyal to Jehovah and worship only him.
Under the Law of Moses, the nation of Israel asked Jehovah to forgive their sins. They brought atonement sacrifices of grain, oil, and animals to the temple. In this way, the Israelites were reminded that Jehovah was willing to forgive their sins, both as a nation and as individuals. Later, after Jesus gave his life to cover our sins, these atonement sacrifices were no longer necessary. Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice “once for all time.”—Hebrews 10:1, 4, 10.
20 RESPECT FOR ANIMALS
Under the Law of Moses, people were allowed to use animals for food. They were also commanded to present animal sacrifices. (Leviticus 1:5, 6) But Jehovah never permitted his people to be cruel to animals. (Proverbs 12:10) In fact, the Law contained rules that protected animals from cruelty. The Israelites were commanded to look after their animals properly.—Deuteronomy 22:6, 7.
21 BLOOD FRACTIONS AND MEDICAL PROCEDURES
Blood fractions. Blood is made up of four main parts—red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma. These four main parts of blood may be broken down into smaller parts, called blood fractions.*
Christians refuse transfusions of whole blood or of any of its four main parts. But should they accept blood fractions? The Bible does not provide specific details. So each Christian must make his own decision based on his Bible-trained conscience.
Some Christians choose to refuse all blood fractions. They may reason that God’s Law to Israel required that any blood removed from an animal be poured “out on the ground.”—Deuteronomy 12:22-24.
Others make a different choice. Their conscience allows them to accept some blood fractions. They may reason that small fractions no longer represent the life of the creature from which the blood was taken.
When making decisions about blood fractions, consider the following questions:
Am I aware that refusing all blood fractions means that I will not accept some medicines that fight diseases or that might help stop bleeding?
How would I explain to a doctor why I reject or accept the use of one or more blood fractions?
Medical procedures. As Christians, we do not donate blood, nor do we store our own blood weeks in advance of surgery. However, there are other procedures that make use of a patient’s own blood. Each Christian must decide for himself how his own blood will be handled in the course of a surgical procedure, medical test, or current therapy. During the course of such procedures, the patient’s own blood may be completely separated for a time from the patient.—For more information, see The Watchtower, October 15, 2000, pages 30-31.
For example, there is a procedure called hemodilution, in which immediately before surgery a portion of a patient’s own blood is removed and replaced with a volume expander. Later, during or shortly after the surgery, the blood is returned to the patient.
Another procedure is called cell salvage. In this procedure, a patient’s own blood that is lost during surgery is collected, cleaned, and then returned to the patient during or shortly after the surgery.
Each doctor may perform these procedures slightly differently. So before accepting any surgical procedure, medical test, or current therapy, a Christian needs to find out exactly how his own blood will be handled.
When making decisions about medical procedures that make use of your own blood, consider the following questions:
If some of my blood will be diverted outside my body and the flow might even be interrupted for a time, will my conscience allow me to view this blood as still part of me, thus not requiring that it be poured “out on the ground”?—Deuteronomy 12:23, 24.
Will my Bible-trained conscience be troubled if during a medical procedure, some of my own blood is withdrawn, modified, and directed back into (or onto) my body?
Am I aware that refusing all medical procedures involving the use of my own blood means that I would not accept a blood test, hemodialysis, or the use of a heart-lung bypass machine?
Before making decisions about blood fractions and medical treatments that make use of our own blood, we need to pray for Jehovah’s guidance and then do research. (James 1:5, 6) After that, we must use our Bible-trained conscience to make our decision. We should not ask others what they would do if they were in our situation, nor should others try to influence our decision.—Romans 14:12; Galatians 6:5.
22 MORAL CLEANNESS
To be morally clean means that our conduct and actions are clean in God’s view. Moral cleanness involves what we think, say, and do. Jehovah commands us to avoid any kind of sexual uncleanness or immorality. (Proverbs 1:10; 3:1) We must decide that we will follow Jehovah’s clean standards even before we are in a situation that could tempt us to do something wrong. We need to pray constantly for God’s help to keep our minds pure, and we must be determined to reject immoral temptations.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, 18; Ephesians 5:5.
23 BRAZEN CONDUCT AND UNCLEANNESS
Brazen conduct involves speaking or acting in a way that is a serious violation of God’s standards and reflects a shameless attitude. A person who does this shows that he does not respect God’s laws. When a person is guilty of brazen conduct, a judicial committee will handle the matter. Uncleanness includes various types of wrongdoing. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, some matters involving uncleanness might need to be handled by a judicial committee in the congregation.—Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:19; for more information, see “Questions From Readers” in The Watchtower of July 15, 2006.
Jehovah designed sex to be a clean expression of love between a husband and a wife. But when someone masturbates, or misuses his or her genitals for sexual pleasure, he or she is using sex in an unclean way. This habit can harm a person’s relationship with Jehovah. It can create perverted desires and can cause the person to view sex in a distorted way. (Colossians 3:5) Someone who has this unclean habit and finds it difficult to stop should not give up. (Psalm 86:5; 1 John 3:20) If this is your situation, sincerely pray to Jehovah and ask him to help you. Avoid things such as pornography, which will lead you into unclean thinking. Speak with one of your Christian parents or with a mature friend who respects Jehovah’s laws. (Proverbs 1:8, 9; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Titus 2:3-5) You can be sure that Jehovah sees and values your efforts to keep morally clean.—Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 1:18.
The custom of having more than one marriage mate is called polygamy. Jehovah designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. In ancient Israel, God allowed men to have more than one wife, but this was not his original purpose. Today, Jehovah does not allow polygamy among his people. A husband can have only one wife, and a wife can have only one husband.—Matthew 19:9; 1 Timothy 3:2.
26 DIVORCE AND SEPARATION
Jehovah intended for a husband and a wife to stay together for as long as they live. (Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:15, 16; Matthew 19:3-6; 1 Corinthians 7:39) He allows divorce only when a mate is guilty of adultery. In such a case, Jehovah gives the innocent mate the right to decide whether he or she will get a divorce.—Matthew 19:9.
At times, some Christians have decided to separate from their mate even though no immorality has taken place. (1 Corinthians 7:11) In the following situations, a Christian may consider separation.
Willful nonsupport: A husband refuses to provide for the family materially, to the point that the family is left without money or food.—1 Timothy 5:8.
Severe physical abuse: Physical abuse to the point that a mate feels that his or her health or life is in danger.—Galatians 5:19-21.
Absolute endangerment of a person’s relationship with Jehovah: A husband or a wife makes it impossible for the mate to serve Jehovah.—Acts 5:29.
27 COMMENDATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT
All of us need commendation and encouragement. (Proverbs 12:25; 16:24) We can strengthen and comfort one another with loving and kind words. Such expressions can help our brothers and sisters to endure and keep serving Jehovah despite great difficulties. (Proverbs 12:18; Philippians 2:1-4) If someone feels very discouraged, we should listen to him respectfully and try to understand how he feels. That can help us to know what we can say or do to help him. (James 1:19) Make it your goal to know your brothers and sisters well so that you genuinely understand what they need. Then you can help them to turn to the Source of all comfort and encouragement, where they can find true refreshment.—2 Corinthians 1:3, 4; 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
The Bible does not make specific rules about weddings. Local customs and legal requirements are different from place to place. (Genesis 24:67; Matthew 1:24; 25:10; Luke 14:8) The most important part of a wedding is the vow a couple make before Jehovah. Many couples choose to have their family and close friends present when they say their vows and to have an elder give a Bible-based talk. It is up to the couple to decide what sort of reception, if any, they will have after their wedding. (Luke 14:28; John 2:1-11) Whatever a couple decide about how they will arrange their wedding, they should make sure that it brings honor to Jehovah. (Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:5, 6) Bible principles can help them to make good decisions. (1 John 2:16, 17) If the couple choose to serve alcohol at their reception, they should make sure that the gathering will be properly supervised. (Proverbs 20:1; Ephesians 5:18) If they choose to have any music or entertainment, they should make sure that these things will bring honor to Jehovah. A Christian couple should focus on their relationship with God and with each other rather than on just the wedding day.—Proverbs 18:22; for more suggestions, see The Watchtower of October 15, 2006, pages 18-31.
29 MAKING WISE DECISIONS
We want to make good decisions that are based on the principles of God’s Word. For example, a Christian may be invited by his or her marriage mate who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to have a meal with relatives during a worldly holiday. If this is your situation, what will you do? If your conscience allows you to go, you could explain to your mate that if pagan customs are part of the meal, you will not participate in them. You should also consider whether others will be stumbled if you go to the meal.—1 Corinthians 8:9; 10:23, 24.
Or your employer might offer you a bonus during the holiday season. Should you reject the bonus? Not necessarily. Your decision whether to accept it or not may depend to some extent on how your employer views it. Does he view the bonus as part of the celebration? Or is it simply a way to show appreciation? Reasoning on these and other factors, you would need to decide whether to accept the bonus.
In another situation, someone may give you a gift during the holiday season and say: “I know that you do not celebrate the holiday, but I want you to have this.” Perhaps the person is just being kind. On the other hand, is there reason to think that he is trying to test your faith or involve you in celebrating the holiday? After considering this, it is up to you to decide whether or not to accept the gift. In all our decisions, we want to have a good conscience and be faithful to Jehovah.—Acts 23:1.
30 BUSINESS AND LEGAL MATTERS
In most cases, when disagreements are handled promptly and peaceably, they do not need to become major issues. (Matthew 5:23-26) For all Christians, their first priority should be to bring glory to Jehovah and keep the congregation united.—John 13:34, 35; 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5.
If Christians have a disagreement over a business matter, they should try to settle it without taking each other to court. First Corinthians 6:1-8 records the apostle Paul’s counsel concerning lawsuits between Christians. Taking our brother to court could reflect badly on Jehovah and on the congregation. At Matthew 18:15-17, three steps are listed that Christians should follow to settle such serious accusations as slander or fraud. (1) They should first try to settle the matter between themselves. (2) If that doesn’t work, they can ask one or two mature members of the congregation for help. (3) Then, if necessary, they can turn the matter over to the body of elders to handle. If the situation reaches that point, the elders will use Bible principles to try to help all involved to reach a peaceful agreement. If certain individuals involved are not willing to follow Bible standards, it may be necessary for the congregation elders to take judicial action.
There are some situations in which a lawsuit may be legally necessary, perhaps situations involving divorce, child custody, alimony, insurance compensation, bankruptcy, or wills. If a Christian uses such legal means to settle the matter as peaceably as he can, he is not violating Paul’s counsel.
If a serious crime is involved, such as rape, child abuse, assault, major theft, or murder, then a Christian who reports such a crime to the secular authorities does not violate Paul’s counsel.
31 SATAN’S DECEPTIONS
From the time of the garden of Eden, Satan has been trying to deceive humans. (Genesis 3:1-6; Revelation 12:9) He knows that if he can distort our thinking, he can influence us to do what is bad. (2 Corinthians 4:4; James 1:14, 15) He uses politics, religion, commerce, entertainment, education, and many other things to promote his way of thinking and make it seem acceptable.—John 14:30; 1 John 5:19.
Satan knows that he does not have much time left to deceive people. So he is doing all he can to mislead as many people as possible. He especially wants to mislead those who serve Jehovah. (Revelation 12:12) If we are not careful, the Devil could gradually corrupt our thinking. (1 Corinthians 10:12) For example, Jehovah wants marriages to last. (Matthew 19:5, 6, 9) But many people today view marriage as a casual agreement that can be easily broken. Many movies and television programs promote this idea too. We must make sure that we do not allow the world’s view of marriage to affect us.
Another way Satan tries to deceive us is by promoting an independent attitude. (2 Timothy 3:4) If we are not careful, we could lose our respect for the authority of those appointed by Jehovah. For example, a brother might begin to resist the guidance of the congregation elders. (Hebrews 12:5) Or a sister might start to question Jehovah’s arrangement of headship in the family.—1 Corinthians 11:3.
We must be determined not to allow the Devil to influence our thinking. Rather, we want to imitate Jehovah’s thinking and keep our “minds fixed on the things above.”—Colossians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 2:11.
32 MEDICAL TREATMENT
We all want to be healthy and to get the best care we can when we are not well. (Isaiah 38:21; Mark 5:25, 26; Luke 10:34) Today, there are many medical techniques and treatments available from doctors and others. When we are deciding what treatment we will accept, it is important that we follow Bible principles. We remember that only God’s Kingdom will heal us permanently. We do not want to become so focused on our health that we neglect our worship of Jehovah.—Isaiah 33:24; 1 Timothy 4:16.
We must carefully avoid any treatment that appears to use power from the demons. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Isaiah 1:13) So before we accept any treatment or medicine, we need to find out all we can about what is behind it and what thinking it promotes. (Proverbs 14:15) We must not forget that Satan would like to trick us into getting involved with demonism. If we even suspect that a treatment is connected with demonism, it is best to avoid it.—1 Peter 5:8.
Some doctors may view the four main parts of blood as fractions. Therefore, you may need to explain your personal decision not to accept transfusions of whole blood or its four main parts, namely, red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma.