Employment and Your Conscience
THROUGHOUT life a Christian must make decisions. Some he finds hard to make, others easy. Some decisions relate to what kind of employment he will accept in compliance with 1 Timothy 5:8, which points out that it is a Christian responsibility to provide for one’s own household. First of all, he should view his problem objectively, making sure that he knows just what is involved in the kind of employment in question. Then he should consider any Biblical law or principle that may be involved. Though at times it may be difficult to do so, he should decide in favor of Scriptural laws or principles, when applicable to his situation, because a Christian is dedicated to Jehovah and must do His will. Certainly if a Christian willfully breaks the law of God he cannot consider himself guiltless, for God does not take such a view. Solomon said: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.”—Eccl. 12:13.
Commandments of God do come into consideration by a Christian when choosing his employment. Exodus chapter 20 lists ten of God’s commandments, and the second one forbids the making of images for worship. In 1 John 5:21 Christians too are urged to guard themselves from idols. Hence, a Christian could easily decide not to accept employment in the manufacture of images or medals for false religious use. Related to this is the inspired statement of Revelation 18:4, 5, which, when considered by the Christian, would cause him to refuse regular employment in a false religious organization.
Other commandments of Jehovah are: You must not murder; you must not commit adultery; you must not steal. (Rom. 13:8-10) Therefore, a dedicated Christian can easily decide that he cannot let himself be employed by organizations whose business is murder, illicit sex relations or theft, nor would he individually engage in these practices. Regarding involvement in political affairs of the world, he will maturely consider such texts as John 17:14; John 15:19 and Daniel 2:44. Considering Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:3, a Christian can determine whether his associations or conduct would give any support to a violation of such principles of peacefulness. Also, in the light of Isaiah 65:11, 12 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, the Christian could not conscientiously work for an enterprise, the entire function of which was gambling or a lottery, or any other form of extortion. Obviously, the Christian could not properly be employed in any manner that would conflict with the righteous laws and principles of God’s Word.
KEEPING FREE FROM BLOOD
Christians are told to abstain from blood. (Acts 15:20, 28, 29) Just how far-reaching is that? What do the Scriptures require of a dedicated servant of God? If you are killing an animal or a bird, then, to comply with God’s law and to render that creature suitable for food, you must drain the blood. According to God’s law you must refrain from eating blood or taking it, as in a transfusion, to sustain life. Genesis 9:3, 4 and Deuteronomy 12:23, 24 contain Scriptural commands. Leviticus 17:10 points out that those in ancient Israel who willfully took in blood would be cut off by Jehovah. However, if an Israelite happened to eat the flesh of a clean animal that died of itself or was torn by a wild beast, he was declared unclean until the evening, provided he cleansed himself. (Lev. 17:15, 16) With Christians too, if someone partook of the meat of an animal that had not been properly drained of its blood when slaughtered, and it was not deliberate on his part and he repented when it later came to his attention, avoiding a recurrence of such wrongdoing, Jehovah would mercifully forgive him.
Various uses of blood today are objectionable from the Biblical standpoint. Blood could be used on the altar under certain circumstances in ancient Israel, and if it was not used in that manner it was to be disposed of. (Lev. 17:11-14) Not only is blood being used in connection with modern medical practices, but it is reported that blood is now being used in a variety of products, such as adhesives for making plywood, particle board, hardboard, bottle crowns, furniture and musical instruments. Blood is also being used in polymerization of rubber compounds, insecticidal binder, settling compound for industrial waste treatment, clear water purification (paper industry), uranium purification, foaming agent for lightweight cellular concrete, fire foaming agent, wine clarifying agent, paper coatings and binders, paper flocculants and sizes, replacement of casein in latex emulsions, emulsified asphalt, cork composition, photoengraving platemaking solutions, leather-finishing operations, water-resistant binder of pigments for print dyeing on cotton cloth, fertilizers, animal foods, and amino acid production, such as histidine and histamine, for example. Perhaps additional uses of blood will come to light in the future. In the world the uses of blood are numerous and none of these is in accord with the Biblical method of handling blood, which is to be spilled on the ground. However, the Christian is not responsible for the worldly misuse of blood, what other people do with it, and he cannot spend all his time undertaking detailed research regarding the various misuses of blood in the world of mankind, especially when it comes to nonedible products. If he did so, he would have less time left for preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. To some persons, it may be a hard decision to make as to where one should be employed. It resolves itself to a matter of conscience.
The Israelites were told: “You must not eat any body already dead. To the alien resident who is inside your gates you may give it, and he must eat it; or there may be a selling of it to a foreigner, because you are a holy people to Jehovah your God.” (Deut. 14:21) So whether a Christian who works in a store will dispose of blood goods, such as blood sausage, by selling such goods to persons of the world who are willing to pay for them is a matter of conscience. It is also a personal matter as to whether another Christian will sell blood items to worldly persons in a drugstore or will spread blood fertilizer on the field of a worldly employer at his request. Naturally, a Christian could not properly encourage persons to obtain blood goods rather than those free from blood and he could not advocate any misuse of blood. However, we must leave it up to the conscience of the individual Christian as to what he will do when it comes to matters of this nature in handling such products. One Christian should not criticize another Christian for the decision he makes, just as one Israelite could not reasonably criticize another Israelite for selling to a foreigner an animal that died of itself and hence had not been properly drained of its blood.
The use of blood in adhesives for manufacturing plywood and other commonly used materials has now come to the attention of Christians, and we use plywood as an example. Much plywood is made using blood glue, but some plywood is blood-free. A Christian purchaser or contractor may seek to obtain blood-free plywood if he can do so; however, if he decides to use all types of plywood, it must be left to his conscience. It is not always possible to determine just how the plywood has been made. Because blood may be used in some plywood, this does not mean that a Christian could not buy, sell or rent a home or purchase a trailer in which plywood is found. The extent to which he would check on such matters is for him to decide.
Also, if a Christian is working for a company that uses blood glue in some of its plywood or other products, he would not necessarily have to quit his job. He may work in the woods, cutting down the trees. Part of the lumber is used one way and part another. The employee is not responsible for what happens to the wood after he has done his job. Of course, if a Christian worked in a plywood plant and it was required that he prepare the blood glue or apply it to the plywood, he might feel he could not conscientiously do this. He might request that his employer give him some other kind of work not handling blood. But even this is a personal matter. By doing other work for the same company, such as working as a truck driver, salesman, and so forth, the individual may feel he is free from responsibility for any misuse of blood. Since blood is used in the manufacture of so many common products, it becomes almost impossible for the Christian to avoid all contact with them—leather goods, furniture, bottle tops, cotton cloth, and so forth. So just what the Christian will do is a matter of conscience, and others should not criticize him. Certainly it would not be fitting to disrupt the unity of a Christian congregation in a certain locality by becoming involved in detailed discussions and contentions over the personal decision in this respect on the part of some Christian associated with that congregation.—Ps. 133:1; Prov. 26:21; Jas. 3:16-18.
The Society does not endorse any of the modern medical uses of blood, such as the uses of blood in connection with inoculations. Inoculation is, however, a virtually unavoidable circumstance in some segments of society, and so we leave it up to the conscience of the individual to determine whether to submit to inoculation with a serum containing blood fractions for the purpose of building up antibodies to fight against disease. If a person did this, he may derive comfort under the circumstances from the fact that he is not directly eating blood, which is expressly forbidden in God’s Word. It is not used for food or to replace lost blood. Here the Christian must make his own decision based on conscience. Therefore, whether a Christian will submit to inoculation with a serum, or whether doctors or nurses who are Christians will administer such, is for personal decision.a Christians in the medical profession are individually responsible for employment decisions. They must bear the consequences of decisions made, in keeping with the principle at Galatians 6:5. Some doctors who are Jehovah’s witnesses have administered blood transfusions to persons of the world upon request. However, they do not do so in the case of one of Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses. In harmony with Deuteronomy 14:21, the administering of blood upon request to worldly persons is left to the Christian doctor’s own conscience. This is similar to the situation facing a Christian butcher or grocer who must decide whether he can conscientiously sell blood sausage to a worldly person.b
MAKING YOUR DECISION
These few examples of how Christians may go about deciding on their employment may be helpful when it comes to considering types of employment mentioned here. The Christian should always consider God’s laws in everything he does; and whatever he does, he does unto Jehovah. (1 Cor. 10:31) If what he does is not contrary to God’s law and “Caesar’s” just laws, he is within his rights in doing it, and no one should criticize him. When a Christian is in doubt about what he should do, he should pray to Jehovah God. (1 Pet. 5:6, 7) He should read the Bible and consider Christian publications that deal with his problem. (The Watch Tower Publications Index contains many references under “Employment.”) He can talk to the congregation overseer. However, after doing these things it is the individual who, knowing all the circumstances and consequences, must analyze matters and then decide. Others cannot make his decision, if it is a matter of conscience.
When faced with a decision, you may feel in advance that your conscience would bother you if you decided in a certain manner. The thing to do, then, is to avoid that which will cause you to have a troubled conscience. Christians desire to please Jehovah and so, whatever their employment, it should be the kind of work they can do with a clear conscience before Jehovah. “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.”—Col. 3:23; 1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 1 Pet. 3:16.
a Concerning these matters please see The Watchtower of September 15, 1958, page 575, and November 1, 1961, page 670.