Using Life in Harmony with the Will of God
1. (a) Whose will must govern our use of blood, and what practices does he forbid? (b) What occurred in the days of Cain and Abel that gave indication of the proper use to which shed blood might be put?
THE only way the life-blood of any creature can properly be used is in harmony with the will of God. It is forbidden as food. It is not authorized by God for administration to another person under the guise of medical treatment to sustain life. Apart from its life-sustaining role in the body of the creature to whom it belongs, only one use of blood is sanctioned by God. This came to light in the days of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam. “Abel came to be a herder of sheep, but Cain became a cultivator of the ground. And it came about at the expiration of some time that Cain proceeded to bring some fruits of the ground as an offering to Jehovah. But as for Abel, he too brought some firstlings of his flock, even their fatty pieces. Now while Jehovah was looking with favor upon Abel and his offering, he did not look with any favor upon Cain and upon his offering.” (Gen. 4:2-5) Cain’s offering was from the soulless vegetation. Abel’s sacrifice represented a life and called for the pouring out of blood. By his accepting Abel’s sacrifice Jehovah gave the first indication that shedding of blood was required in sacrifice. But Cain did not accept God’s leading in the matter; instead, he violently murdered his brother Abel, the one man on earth who was using life, both his own and that of his flock, in harmony with the will of God.
2. What one proper use of shed blood did God permit, to whom was this made known, and how?
2 Faithful servants of God recognized that the pouring out of the lifeblood of animals in sacrifice to Jehovah was God’s will, and Noah, Abraham and others are mentioned in the Bible as having done so. (Gen. 8:20; 22:13) When their offspring, the Israelites, were gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, where they were organized as a nation, Jehovah God told them in unmistakable language that there is only one proper use to which the shed blood of any creature can be put. He said: “I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it.” (Lev. 17:11) Since the blood is so intimately involved in the life processes, and since sin leads to loss of life, God requires as a sacrifice in atonement for sin that which represents life, namely, the blood. “Unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.”—Heb. 9:22.
3. What greater sacrifice did those animal sacrifices foreshadow, and how does its blood benefit mankind?
3 These animal sacrifices all foreshadowed a much grander one, a sacrifice that could lastingly remove sin and that would open up opportunities of eternal life for servants of God. This sacrifice was not selected from the flocks or the herds of Israel; it was Jesus Christ the Son of God, the one whom John the Baptist identified when he exclaimed: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) This was Jehovah’s own provision on behalf of mankind; it was his Lamb, his Son, whose life was given in sacrifice. By means of this loving arrangement it has been possible for men and women on earth to have opened to them the privilege of service in the heavenly courts with Christ the King, because these “have been declared righteous now by his blood.” (Rom. 5:9) In addition to this “little flock” of one hundred and forty-four thousand members, a “great crowd” of others who serve God before the throne on his footstool earth have availed themselves of this ransom sacrifice, washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb, and as a result they enjoy the forgiveness of their sins and are righteous persons in the sight of God.—Rev. 7:14, 15.
4. Upon the acceptance of what do our lives depend, and why?
4 The perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ has completely filled the need for a sacrifice to God on behalf of sinful mankind. It does not have to be repeated. No longer are animal sacrifices required; in fact, they are now detestable to God because they show disregard for the sacrifice that he himself has provided. Therefore, the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ is absolutely the only arrangement that God has authorized among his Christian witnesses by which the blood of one creature may be used on behalf of another to save life. “By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.” (Eph. 1:7) Our lives depend on our acceptance of this provision, hence on acceptance of the divine arrangement as to the proper use of blood. Wisely, those who want to receive life at God’s hands refrain from using blood in any way that has not been authorized by him as the Life-giver.
LOVING GOD WITH ONE’S WHOLE SOUL
5. (a) In answer to an inquirer, what did Jesus say one must do to inherit everlasting life? (b) What is involved in loving God with one’s whole soul, and why?
5 On one occasion a certain man versed in the Law inquired of Jesus: “Teacher, by doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?” In his reply Jesus set out a guiding principle that helps us to determine what to do with our present lives in order to gain the reward of everlasting life. He said: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,’ and, ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:25-27) Now just what is included in this matter of loving God with our whole soul? It means giving our life to God in dedication, yes, devoting our life to the performance of any work that God may give us to do. Since we have given our life to God in dedication, we ought to realize what the Bible uses to represent life. It is blood, which is the seat of life or soul. So when a life has been taken, it is said that blood has been shed. So fundamentally is blood involved in the life processes that the Bible says that the soul or the life of a person is his blood. When speaking to Noah, God paralleled the expressions soul, or life, and blood, saying: “Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.” (Gen. 9:4) And to the Israelites he said simply: “The blood is the soul,” or, “The blood is the life.” (Deut. 12:23, margin, 1953 Edition) Consequently, when we dedicate our lives to God we must certainly take care to use that which represents life, our blood, in harmony with his law.
6, 7. Is a Christian free to donate his lifeblood for another person, and is it safe from a medical point of view?
6 This greatest of commandments therefore indicates that a dedicated Christian is not at liberty to donate his lifeblood for use by someone else. Life belongs to God, and we are free to give it only to him in his service. Nor would it be proper to argue that love of neighbor calls for one to give blood. It is not love of neighbor to collaborate with him in violation of the law of God. And since God’s Word indicates that it is wrong to take a blood transfusion, it is also wrong to give one’s blood for transfusion.
7 Obedience to God is required of his servants; it is also a blessing to them, because it protects them from harm. It is interesting to note that, while the general impression given by organizations that are anxious to have blood donated is that the procedure is perfectly safe, the opinion is not unanimous. For in the book Physiology and Clinic of Blood Transfusion,* among others, the statement is made: “As the latest research shows, considerable health disorders can arise on the part of the blood donor.” Faithful Christians are spared such hazards that might impair their service to God.
DANGERS AVOIDED BY OBEDIENCE
8. Upon what do Jehovah’s witnesses base their attitude toward blood transfusion, so why consider medical evidence on the matter?
8 The position of Jehovah’s witnesses in regard to blood transfusion is not one based on the approval or disapproval with which the practice meets in medical circles. It is not the safety or danger of the procedure that governs their decision, but the Word of God. However, knowledge of some of the effects from which one is protected by obedience to God’s law on blood does enhance one’s appreciation for the rightness of Jehovah’s ways.
9. What is the general viewpoint in the world as to blood transfusion, but is this medically sound?
9 The general practice among medical doctors in recent years has been to give blood in the belief that it may do some good. Sometimes it is given because of the insistence of patients or to satisfy relatives who want to be sure that “everything possible has been done.” Concerning this the Director of the Blood Bank at New York University-Bellevue Medical Center said: “Blood transfusions have been administered on the theory that they can never do any harm and might possibly benefit the patient. This idea is wrong because there are dangers inherent in blood transfusion.” Says the journal of the American Academy of General Practice: “It is unfortunate that many have lost the fear of transfusion and now order a transfusion as blithely as ordering a bottle of saline.” Over four thousand years ago Jehovah God told man that he should not take the blood of other creatures into his body; and modern medical practice confirms the fact that violation of that law is fraught with grave dangers.
10, 11. (a) What are some of the dangers that face one who receives a blood transfusion, and are doctors able to eliminate these dangers? (b) In view of these facts, would you say that blood transfusions are truly lifesaving?
10 One of the immediate dangers that faces anyone who is given a blood transfusion is the possibility of a hemolytic reaction, that is, the rapid destruction of the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This may result in bursting headaches, pains in the chest and back, and the backing up of poisons into the system due to kidney failure. Death may come within a few hours or a few days. Medical knowledge has not removed this danger. “Try as we may we can only reduce the incidence of the reactions. We cannot eliminate them, and patients will continue to be damaged as a result of blood transfusions.” So says W. H. Crosby, chief of the Department of Hematology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Even when such a hemolytic reaction does not occur as the result of naturally occurring antibodies in the blood stream of the patient, antigens in the blood transfused into the body can stimulate the production of antibodies so that a severe reaction will occur if ever blood containing those factors is given again. With reported possible combinations of known blood factors now numbering 15,000,000, the likelihood of being given blood that matches one’s own and that will not have some adverse effect is remote almost to the point of impossibility.
11 There are other perils. Since it is difficult for a doctor to know exactly how much blood has been lost, he may try to transfuse more blood than there is room for, which, as reported by the journal Medical Science (July 25, 1959), is a frequent and disastrous occurrence. Also, air can get into the blood stream during transfusion, again with deadly effects. Then, too, blood removed from the body readily becomes contaminated, and certain bacteria found right in the air are of such a nature that they reproduce in stored blood even at refrigerator temperatures, making even small amounts of such blood deadly to the recipient. How can such treatment be viewed as truly lifesaving?
12. Name the disease dangers that might arise from a transfusion of blood, and show what these might result in to the patient.
12 Ominous as the picture is, it is not the full extent of the hazards to which a patient is subjected when he is given blood. The doctor who gives the transfusion may never know how much harm is caused, because diseases transmitted by transfusion may not strike at once. But medical authorities all recognize that syphilis, malaria and hepatitis can be transmitted by blood transfusion. Not only can they be transmitted; cases are regularly reported in which they are transmitted. With the world-wide upsurge of immorality and the resultant venereal disease, the danger of syphilis is increasing—a disease that can result in premature childbirth, blindness, deafness, paralysis, heart disease, insanity and death. The test used to detect syphilitic blood does not reveal the danger in its early stages, and the patient pays the price. In February of this year the Japan Times reported the case of a woman who had won a suit against the Government-managed Tokyo University Hospital, on the grounds that she had been transfused with syphilitic blood that resulted in loss of eyesight and divorce by her husband. The financial compensation ordered by the court was small comfort for the damage done. And what about the risk of contracting malaria? Carriers of malaria do not always know they have it in their system; blood tests seldom reveal it; but anyone who receives blood can be the victim. The danger is not decreasing; to the contrary, anyone who has ever lived or visited in a malarial area is a possible carrier, and international travel assures that the number is increasing every day. By no means last among the disease dangers, but demanding attention because of its frequency, is serum hepatitis. So real is the danger of crippling and death from hepatitis that Dr. Alvarez, Emeritus Consultant in Medicine, Mayo Clinic, has said that he would never permit anyone to give him a transfusion unless he felt it was absolutely necessary.
13. What further price might a woman who is given blood have to pay as regards childbearing?
13 As if the harm to the patient himself were not enough, it does not stop there. In the case of a woman, the damage may involve even her unborn children. Due to factors some of which are known and others of which are not yet understood, a woman given an incompatible blood transfusion may find that her opportunity to give birth to normal, healthy children has been taken from her.
14. How does God protect his people from such calamities?
14 How much better it is to listen to the Word of God when it tells us to keep ourselves from blood! How much happier we are if, as children listen to their father, we heed the counsel of God and live in harmony with it! “My son, to my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. May they not get away from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh.”—Prov. 4:20-22.
15. How do some worldly-wise men reason on these transfusion dangers, but what facts as to the sources from which blood is obtained raise serious questions?
15 Those who are more inclined to rest their confidence in the learning of men than in the wisdom of God may feel that the care exercised in the selection of blood donors makes it possible to avoid all these dangers. But consider the facts. It will probably shock you to learn that the blood of dead people is being transfused into the bodies of hospital patients, but reports from Russia and Spain show that it is exactly what is done there; and even in the United States of America experiments have been conducted with transfusion of cadaver blood!* Of course, that probably is not the practice in your community. But the magazine Time as of May 26, 1961, reports the case of a 49-year-old woman in the Pontiac General Hospital who was given two pints of blood from the cadaver of a 12-year-old boy who had drowned in a nearby lake and who had been dead from two and a half to three hours. Also, that as long ago as 1935 a doctor in a Chicago suburb had used a technique like that of the Russians, and that this American doctor accounted for about thirty-five cadaver-blood transfusions in two years. Perhaps the donor is one’s own living relative, a reputable, clean-living individual. Does that assure safety? No; it will not remove the danger of a reaction due to incompatibility; nor does it guarantee that the individual may not be the carrier of some disease, perhaps even unknown to himself. In most cases, however, one who receives blood has no idea who the donor is. Some of it may come from healthy persons; some from alcoholics and degenerates. Criminals in jail are given the opportunity to donate their blood. For example, the New York Times of April 6, 1961, reported: “Inmates of Sing Sing Prison at Ossining will give blood to the Red Cross today.” A commendable act? Perhaps not as beneficial to their fellow men as the community is led to believe.
16. (a) What interesting observation on blood is made in a Bible footnote on Deuteronomy 12:25? (b) What do modern-day doctors have to say on this same matter, and why is this of interest to Christians?
16 When the Israelites were preparing to enter the Promised Land, Jehovah moved Moses to repeat to them his law forbidding the consumption of blood. As recorded at Deuteronomy 12:25, he said: “You must not eat it, in order that it may go well with you and your sons after you, because you will do what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.” An edition of the Pentateuch edited by J. H. Hertz has a footnote on that expression “that it may go well with you,” which says: “Ibn Ezra suggests that the use of blood would have a demoralising effect upon the moral and physical nature, and pass on a hereditary taint to future generations.” The point is an interesting one, and that it may apply in the matter of blood transfusions is testified to by medical doctors. For example, in his book Who Is Your Doctor and Why? Doctor Alonzo Jay Shadman says: “The blood in any person is in reality the person himself. It contains all the peculiarities of the individual from whence it comes. This includes hereditary taints, disease susceptibilities, poisons due to personal living, eating and drinking habits. . . . The poisons that produce the impulse to commit suicide, murder, or steal are in the blood.” And Dr. Américo Valério, Brazilian doctor and surgeon for over forty years, agrees. “Moral insanity, sexual perversions, repression, inferiority complexes, petty crimes—these often follow in the wake of blood transfusion,”* he says. Yet it is acknowledged in the public press that organizations whose blood supply is considered reliable obtain blood for transfusion from criminals who are known to have such characteristics. Certainly no one who is trying to depart from the works of the flesh and use his life in the way that God directs through his Word is going to lay himself open to such a ruinous future.—Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24.
DEMONSTRATING FAITH IN THE GIVER OF LIFE
17. (a) Do Jehovah’s witnesses object on religious grounds to all medical treatment? (b) Is there anything that can be done on behalf of a Christian if he suffers severe blood loss?
17 What do these facts mean in the case of a Christian who has suffered severe blood loss and is in need of treatment? Is there nothing that can be done? Must he simply wait to die? Not at all! Jehovah’s witnesses have no religious objections to any treatment that does not conflict with the law of God, and the fact is that other treatments are available. Doctors who recognize man as a creation of God, instead of a product of evolution, are usually more inclined to realize that the human body has been endowed by God with marvelous recuperative powers, and they co-operate with these instead of feeling that the prohibition on the use of blood is a barrier to recovery. Our own bodies are marvelously equipped to meet emergencies, even those occasioned by blood loss. (Ps. 139:14) According to The Encyclopædia Britannica: “Besides the blood which actually circulates in the arteries, veins and capillaries, the body possesses reserves which can be mobilized. One such is known to be located in the spleen. On the onset of haemorrhage the spleen shrinks, squeezing blood as from a sponge into the circulation.”* In view of this, many doctors recognize that it is much safer to co-operate with the body’s own blood-manufacturing system than to try to take the place of it by transfusing foreign blood. Even the highly respected medical publication The Surgical Clinics of North America (February, 1959) has said: It is not to be forgotten that, not blood transfusion, but “iron therapy is the treatment of choice for blood loss anemia.” In emergency cases, where the body’s fluid loss has been excessive, there are “plasma volume expanders” that can be used without violating God’s prohibition on blood, and, according to the testimony of many doctors, these have proved to be much safer than blood transfusions. While it is true that they cannot do for the body what one’s own blood does, yet they help to keep the remaining red cells in circulation so that oxygen will reach the various organs during the time needed by the body to replace the blood loss. So Christian patients, instead of being pressured into accepting blood on the plea that it is the only hope, seek out a doctor who has sufficient skill, patience and respect for their religious conscience to be willing to treat them without blood.
18. Why is it foolish to attempt to save life by violating God’s law?
18 Lifesaving efforts by unscriptural means can never produce results of lasting good. How foolish it is to think that one can save life by violating the laws of the Life-giver! While it may produce seemingly beneficial results at the moment, it may ultimately take its toll in disease and stillborn children as a direct result of such an ill-advised course. Even if no physical harm results to the patient or to one’s offspring, violation of the law of God seriously jeopardizes one’s opportunity to gain eternal life in God’s new world.
19. (a) Who was it that argued that man would do anything, even forsake God, to save his present life? (b) How can we benefit from reproof that Jesus gave Peter on this matter? (c) What reward will God give to those who obey him even in times of stress?
19 In the case of Job, Satan contended that man would do anything, even turn on his God, to save his present life. “Everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his life,” he argued. (Job 2:4, margin, 1957 Edition) But he was wrong. Job proved him a liar, and Jesus Christ outstandingly did so. On one occasion Jesus had been speaking about pursuing a course that would mean his death in the service of God. “At this Peter took him aside and commenced raising strong objections to him.” But Jesus rebuked him. “‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.’ Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me. For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.’” (Matt. 16:21-25; Mark 8:31-35) May none of us ever become like Satan to our Christian brothers, urging them to sell out their confidence in God in favor of the wisdom of the world! There is only one way to gain life and that is by living in harmony with the will of God. Confidence in God is never misplaced. As the Divine Physician he can do what no human doctor ever could: he can extend the life of his servants, not merely for a few troubled years, but for all eternity—if necessary, by a resurrection from the dead—in his glorious new world now so near at hand.—Ps. 23:4; Acts 24:15.
20. What should we do now so that we will be using our lives in harmony with the will of God?
20 With such marvelous prospects before us, let us be careful to live our lives in harmony with the will of God. Let us not grow careless, like the world, in our attitude toward the blood of our fellow men. Now is the time to show the greatest concern for their lifeblood by urging them to exercise faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, the only blood that has any real value in the eyes of God toward the saving of life. Point them to his kingdom; help them to learn its laws; encourage them patiently as they move along on the way to life. Make it your determination to be able to say, as did Paul: “I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:26.
Published in Jena, Germany, 1960.
Bulletin of the American Association of Blood Banks, June, 1960.
Ciência Médica, Vol. xx, “Moral Deficiencies and Blood Transfusion.”
1946 Edition, Vol. 3, page 743.