Carry Your Own Load of Responsibility
IN ANCIENT Babylon when three Hebrews were ordered to fall down and worship an image or be thrown into a burning furnace, they had to make a decision. They had no time to ask the prophet Daniel what to do. Theirs was the responsibility to determine the course to follow. Despite the danger of death, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to break God’s law against idolatry. Their decision was right and Jehovah delivered them. (Daniel 3) Would you have been able to carry their load of responsibility?
Not every Christian is mature enough to choose right from wrong on the basis of Bible principles. Some lack sufficient knowledge, others fail to employ their thinking ability. One might ask others to make important decisions for him because of laziness or the desire to have someone else share the responsibility. Perhaps he really would like to take a certain course of action and hopes the other person’s conscience will approve it, even if his own does not. Whatever the reason, failure to carry your own load of responsibility is to your disadvantage.
For one thing, the habit of getting others to do your thinking leaves your own perceptive powers untrained and weak. Answers obtained simply by asking someone else are not likely to make a deep impression, certainly not as deep as when you do the research yourself. There is also the possibility that a friend’s impromptu answer may be somewhat incorrect. Then, too, if true worship is ever banned in your land, as it is behind the Iron Curtain, occasions might arise when you would need to know how to determine right and wrong when you could not consult someone else. To do so requires accurate knowledge of Bible principles and the ability to apply them.
Here it is well to distinguish between a principle and a law. A law asks that you simply obey. A principle asks that you do your own thinking and apply or extend the principle to your own case. This calls to mind Paul’s words at Hebrews 5:14: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” To carry our load of responsibility more capably, let us examine some areas where mature application of Bible principles is involved.
When one first comes to a knowledge of the truth he may take a bold stand for Bible principles, such as separateness from the world and seeking right associations. (John 15:19; Jas. 4:4; 1 John 2:15; 1 Cor. 15:33) He sees the obvious need to have no fellowship with fornicators, thieves and the like. Later on he appreciates more fully the ramifications of those principles. He sees that the whole world is under Satan’s influence, not just its baser elements. (1 John 5:19) He comes to appreciate that, even though an acquaintance may not be immoral, if that one does not worship Jehovah he is not really a good associate. Likewise his discernment in applying Bible principles helps him to realize that it can be just as harmful to spend three hours with an adulterer on a movie screen or an evening with killers on television as to fellowship with them elsewhere. Soon he begins to apply the same discernment toward books and magazines. It is not a matter of someone telling him a certain thing is wrong. It is a matter of getting God’s mind on things, growing to maturity and applying Bible principles to the full extent, which is our individual responsibility.
Of course, we cannot get out of the world altogether. We have daily contacts with unbelievers when engaged in such necessary activities as preaching, shopping or secular work. In addition, a Christian wife whose husband is an unbeliever may be required to make more worldly contacts than others do. But all mature Christians are living for the new world, not cultivating ties with the old world. A mature Christian recognizes the difference between going to school for an education, for example, and participation in school sports, dances or other activities that are not compulsory. The Christian appreciates that he must be employed to make a living, but this does not require him to attend dinners and parties with worldly employers or fellow employees. He realizes that even though such worldly persons may not have lost all moral sense, they are not the associates for a worshiper of Jehovah to seek. As he gets God’s mind on things he sees how Bible principles extend into many areas that he did not think about at first. When he becomes mature he would not want such worldly associations even if someone else did tell him that he thought it was all right. As a mature Christian he knows how to apply Christian principles, carrying his own load of responsibility.
This mature application of Bible principles also affects his employment. While he knows that God expects him to provide for his family, he realizes that Bible principles must be applied to the work he does. (1 Tim. 5:8) So when he becomes a Christian he readily sees that, even if his employer demands it, he cannot lie or cheat others. (Rev. 21:8; Eph. 4:28; Deut. 25:13-16) He may even find that he is engaged in a business that is in direct conflict with the Word of God; so to be able to serve God acceptably he may have to leave that occupation and seek employment of another kind, even though it may not be as rewarding from a financial standpoint.
Others may find that, while their work is generally not out of harmony with Bible principles, there are certain things that they are expected to do that give rise to a conflict of conscience. They may at first reason that they are not advocating these things, that they are only supplying goods or services that others request. But as one grows to maturity and applies Bible principles to their full measure one may find greater happiness by arranging to shift one’s work to some other branch of his profession or by seeking work elsewhere. (1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 1 Pet. 3:21) Who is to decide? Neither the Watch Tower Society nor others of his Christian brothers can decide for him. It is his load of responsibility, and he should be allowed to carry that load free from criticism.
Other responsibilities must be faced at home. In many parts of the world people are inclined to be very independent. Wives have worldly attitudes about women’s rights, children are disrespectful of their parents and bossy husbands are not too inclined to do what the Bible says. Things change when the family gets a knowledge of Jehovah God. The husband sees that he must submit to the headship of Christ and do a preaching work. (1 Cor. 11:3) But at first other Bible counsel on headship may seem to escape his notice or he may regard home affairs as his personal business. He may listen when Jesus says, ‘Go preach,’ but not when the Scriptures say, ‘Love your wife as your own self.’ He needs to accept the responsibility of applying Bible principles in every aspect of his life.—Eph. 5:28-30; Col. 3:12-14, 19; 1 Pet. 3:7.
A similar thing may take place with his wife. On becoming a Christian she realizes that she must be in subjection to her husband and she submits in many matters. (Eph. 5:22-24) But one day the husband may make a major decision without asking her opinion. He simply announces that the family is going to move. Now a test develops. She does not agree with him; her relatives live nearby. Will she still apply the Bible principle of subjection, carrying her load of responsibility, or will she try to take over her husband’s load? If she lacks maturity she may stage an emotional demonstration to win her way or simply refuse to submit to her husband’s decision. But one who is mature in the application of Bible principles does not discard them even when others fail to do what may seem right.
Sometimes youngsters come to know Jehovah ahead of their parents, who strongly object to the children’s new religion. The parents order them to stop preaching from house to house and attending meetings. Shall the youngsters become rebellious? Not if they apply the Bible principle of honoring their father and mother. Although they will not quit worshiping Jehovah God, they will continue subject to their parents, doing what they can do to advance true worship. As they grow in love of God they will realize that what Jehovah says is best. They will rely patiently on him until they come of age or until their parents gain an understanding of Jehovah’s will. In fact, by continuing in subjection they may bring about that happy result sooner than they would by taking things into their own hands.—Eph. 6:1-3.
MISUSE OF BLOOD
Another field in which decisions must be made involves the misuse of blood. Today the world misuses blood in so many ways that it is not always easy to discern what products contain it. The Christian may feel that it would be fine if the Watch Tower Society would make up a list of all the food products and medical preparations that contain blood. But the Society has not done so for good reasons. There are many substances found in blood that are also found elsewhere. This is to be expected, since human and animal bodies are not the only creations produced from the earth. For example, while lecithin is found in blood, it is also derived from soybeans, which happen to be the common commercial source of most lecithin. If there is doubt about a product, it is up to the individual to investigate by inquiring of the manufacturer. He cannot expect a brother in the congregation to rule on the matter for him; the brother did not make the product and neither did the Society. The substance may have been derived from blood or it may not. He must bear his own load of responsibility.
As to blood transfusions, he knows from his study of the Bible and the publications of the Watch Tower Society that this is an unscriptural practice. (Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:28, 29) Now it is up to him to carry his own load of responsibility in applying what the Scriptures have to say on this matter. One day he may go to the hospital for surgery. There he explains his position to the doctor. “All right,” the doctor says, “then we will use plasma.” Or the doctor may tell him, “What you need is red cells to carry oxygen. We have red cells that we can use. How about that?” The Christian may not be well versed in medical matters. Shall he call his congregation servant or the Society? That should not be necessary if he is prepared to carry his own load of responsibility. He need only ask the doctor: “From what was the plasma taken?” “How are the red cells obtained?” “Where did you get this substance?” If the answer is “Blood,” he knows what course to take, for it is not just whole blood but anything that is derived from blood and used to sustain life or strengthen one that comes under this principle.
Someone may argue with you that the Scriptures are referring to the “eating” of blood but that blood is not taken into the digestive system during a transfusion. True, but the fact is that by a direct route the blood serves the same purpose as food when taken into the stomach, namely, strengthening the body or sustaining life. It is not the same as a vaccine given to a healthy person to ward off a disease. Blood is given to a weak or sick person to build him up, just as food is given to nourish him.
To carry this load of responsibility that goes with respect for the sanctity of life, it is important for one to think out the matter in all its aspects before a crisis arises. When one has been in an accident and is weak from loss of blood, this is no time to be making decisions that should have been made when one could think clearly and had time to ascertain the Bible principles involved. A mature person makes it a practice to meditate when he studies, considering the application of the information at hand to his own life even though he may not at the moment be faced with the circumstance under discussion. In this way he knows what course to take when confronted with an urgent situation and he has clearly in mind the governing principles from the Scriptures.
SEEKING GODLY WISDOM
Being a Christian involves everything one does in life. It is not just a matter of believing and preaching certain doctrines and cherishing certain hopes. At first one who is learning the truths from God’s Word may be particularly concerned with doctrinal matters, because he finds that what the Bible says exposes false religious teachings that he had been taught from childhood. But as he grows in knowledge and appreciation, he sees that what the Bible outlines is more than a set of doctrines; it is a way of life. Now he begins to grasp what the scripture means when it says: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”—Prov. 3:5, 6.
As a result, no matter what the problem with which he is faced, he first endeavors to ascertain the Bible principles involved and lets them guide his course. Even when deep emotional problems arise, he does not turn for counsel to men who may be highly educated in worldly psychology but who lack true faith in Jehovah God. He does as counseled at James 5:13: “Is there anyone suffering evil among you? Let him carry on prayer.” Yes, he turns to God, regularly communing with him in prayer and taking time to meditate on the portions of his Word that help him to get his problem in proper perspective. If necessary, he may also talk to the overseer of his congregation or some other mature Christian to make sure that he is taking into consideration all the scriptures that bear on his situation. But then, bearing his own load of responsibility, he does not ask someone else to make his decisions for him. He faces up to the situation, determining which course he as a dedicated Christian ought to pursue. Then, trusting in Jehovah to uphold him, he courageously walks in the way that will keep him close to God.
DISCERNMENT, NOT FANATICISM
All such fine application of Bible principles is a matter of discernment, not fanaticism. At Proverbs chapter 2 Jehovah promises to give us discernment and wisdom if we hunt for it as we would for hid treasure. Through his “faithful and discreet slave” organization God has provided rich spiritual food, and we should regularly use the publications that contain that food. (Matt. 24:45-47) It is recommended that every Christian household have its own reference library containing Bibles, each year’s copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines, the Watch Tower Society’s current bound books, and other such information as is provided for those who are regularly engaging in the ministry. It might also be helpful to have a good dictionary, a Bible concordance and perhaps a Bible dictionary. Also on hand should be the Watch Tower Publications Index and its annual supplements. These are basic tools for seeking wisdom and discernment from God’s Word.
When a question or problem arises, get in the habit of carrying your own load of responsibility. Turn to your Index or the index contained in the back of others of the Society’s publications and locate the subject or text involved. If you do not have a certain publication to which you are referred, put forth the effort to locate it in the local Kingdom Hall library or at the home of a friend.
Do your research and come to the best conclusion that you are able to reach. Youths should check their conclusions with their parents. Wives may verify their findings by asking their dedicated husbands. Anyone can check an important matter with his congregation overseer. While offering the needed help, the overseer will also do well to inquire if the individual has done any research and thinking of his own on the question. At times it may be necessary to write to the Society about a matter if it is important in one’s ministry. But all are urged to learn to discern the Bible principles involved in a matter just as the Society would.—Ps. 119:105.
By carrying your own load of responsibility you will enjoy greater use of your perceptive powers as you grow to maturity and in usefulness to Jehovah God and his organization. In time of crisis you will be able to determine what God’s will for you is, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did in their own case. And, like them, you will find Jehovah’s protection and favor in faithfully carrying your own load of responsibility.—Gal. 6:5.