Questions From Readers
● Does Galatians 4:15 show how Christians should view the transplanting of body organs?—U.S.A.
Galatians 4:15 reads: “If it had been possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.” Here the apostle Paul was simply using a figure of speech. So great was the regard and affection the Galatians had for Paul that they would have been willing to sacrifice anything useful to themselves, yes, even something as precious and indispensable as their seeing eyes, to assist him in seeing. Similarly Jesus Christ made reference to the eye as representing something gifted with sight when he said: “If, now, that right eye of yours is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you.” (Matt. 5:29) The use of sight to look at something causing one to stumble to a spiritual fall was to be deadened. Neither Jesus nor Paul were discussing the subject of transplanting body organs.
● At the time of baptism, what is the proper attire for a woman?—U.S.A.
The Bible does not say that either a man or a woman should wear a special garment at the time of baptism. So it is up to the woman to decide what she considers to be appropriate. Many women find that a modest swimsuit serves that purpose well. In some parts of the world women wear a dress or a robe. Of course, in choosing what to wear at the time of her baptism, a woman should keep in mind the seriousness of the occasion. Manifestly it would be unbecoming for her to wear a swimsuit that would be considered extreme and shockingly revealing. Neither would she wear a dress that immodestly clung to the body when wet. In harmony with 1 Timothy 2:9, her choice should reflect “modesty and soundness of mind.”
● Why are women allowed to speak up at the meetings of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses even though 1 Corinthians 14:34 says that “it is not permitted for them to speak”?—U.S.A.
The application of the apostle Paul’s inspired command should be understood in the light of the context. When Paul wrote, the meetings of the congregation at Corinth, including those meetings where unbelievers were present, lacked order. More than one person at a time would be prophesying or speaking in a tongue. (1 Cor. 14:22-32) Evidently some women there would raise challenging questions and dispute with men appointed to teach the congregation. Thus these women were actually assuming the position of teachers and ignoring the position of headship assigned to the man.—1 Cor. 11:3.
Correcting the situation, Paul called attention to the fact that “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33) Respecting women, he wrote: “Let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak, but let them be in subjection, even as the Law says. If, then, they want to learn something, let them question their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in a congregation.” (1 Cor. 14:34, 35) This admonition is in agreement with Paul’s later words in his first letter to Timothy: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.”—1 Tim. 2:11, 12.
Accordingly, the command for women not to speak applied whenever such speaking had the unwholesome effect of undermining the authority of the men in the congregation. That it did not rule out all speaking on the part of women is evident from 1 Corinthians 11:5: “Every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames her head.” However, it would have been disgraceful for women to raise challenging questions or to lift themselves up above the men assembled and begin instructing them. For them to do such things would also have brought reproach on their husbands.
In keeping with the apostolic pattern, women in the congregations of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses do not teach the congregation at public meetings. They do not exercise authority over men. Any speaking they do is under the direction of men appointed to oversee the meeting. Thus at no time does their speaking contradict the authority men exercise in the congregation.
● Does not the Bible example in which Jehovah expressed his disapproval of Onan for wasting his semen show that the use of contraceptives is wrong?—U.S.A.
No, for an examination of the record about Onan reveals that he was not put to death for practicing birth control.
After the death of his brother Er, Onan was instructed by his father Judah to perform brother-in-law marriage with Tamar. This was with the express purpose of ‘raising up offspring’ for his dead brother. He would have no right to have relations with her otherwise. Of Onan’s response to Judah’s command, we read: “Onan knew that the offspring would not become his; and it occurred that when he did have relations with his brother’s wife he wasted his semen on the earth so as not to give offspring to his brother. Now what he did was bad in the eyes of Jehovah.” (Gen. 38:8-10) Brother-in-law marriage was later incorporated into the Law covenant at Jehovah’s command.—Deut. 25:5, 6.
By acting contrary to the purpose of brother-in-law marriage, Onan demonstrated disrespect for his father. In disobedience to his father’s command, he selfishly held back from preserving Er’s family line. This was also an expression of hatred for Er, as Onan worked, not for, but against his dead brother’s interests. Onan callously disgraced his brother’s widow. He selfishly laid bare her nakedness but withheld from her the rightful due of motherhood. He also showed that he had no appreciation for “sacred things,” as there was a possibility that the promised Messiah would have come through the offspring he might have fathered by means of Tamar. (Compare Hebrews 12:16.) All these factors reveal that Onan was a wicked man who had no regard for the interests of others when his own interests seemed to be at stake. It is because of the baseness of Onan’s reason for failing to give offspring to his dead brother that Jehovah slew him.
The case of Onan’s being one that involved selfish disregard for the purpose of brother-in-law marriage cannot be used to condemn birth control. It is noteworthy that the Bible nowhere discusses the use of contraceptives or birth control in marriage. Nor does it say that Christians are obliged to produce children. Consequently, with regard to birth control, Christian married couples must allow their Bible-trained conscience to govern.