Motivated by a Godly Conscience
SOME time ago one of Jehovah’s witnesses in Palm Springs, California, was visited by his brother and his brother’s fiancée. As evening approached, the Witness could see that his non-Witness brother was planning to stay overnight, and to sleep with his fiancée. What would you have done?
It was an awkward situation. But the Witness told his brother that he could not, in his house, sleep with a woman to whom he was not married. This surprised the brother. He was quite indignant, feeling the Witness was very narrow-minded. After all, both he and his fiancée were old enough to have grandchildren, and they were to be married in a few days.
Why did the Witness take such a stand, knowing as he did that it would cause strained feelings and unpleasantness? His conscience was involved.
WHAT IS CONSCIENCE?
Have you ever said: “I knew in my heart it was not right”? Or, “I cannot do what you ask, because something inside me says it is wrong”?
That was your conscience speaking. Conscience is that inward realization or sense we have of right and wrong. God created the first human pair with this faculty of conscience, and we have all inherited it from them. It is wise never to go deliberately contrary to the dictates of a properly trained conscience. Why?
Because our moral sense or conscience can, as a result, be damaged or even ruined. It can become seared “as with a branding iron.” (1 Tim. 4:2) When this occurs, our inward sense of right and wrong ceases to function properly. Then it will no longer direct us properly. But we can avoid having this happen.
SENSITIVE TO GOD’S MORAL LAWS
Jehovah God has made provision to fortify our conscience by giving us righteous laws and principles in the Bible, and for this provision we have good reason to be thankful. We can study these, and our conscience can then apply them to the various circumstances that arise. In this way we will be motivated by our conscience to do what pleases God.
As a person studies the Bible, he learns that God’s law prohibits fornication and adultery. (Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10) The Witness mentioned earlier was sensitive to that law. His conscience would not allow him to be a party in any way to fornication—to condone it, in effect, by permitting it in his home. That is the way persons feel who really come to love God’s law.
A few years ago a woman in Honduras, Central America, who owned a rooming house began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. In time, she said that her conscience was bothering her. Why? Because men would commonly use her rooming house as a place to bring prostitutes. As a result of her newly acquired love for God’s law, the woman felt bad about letting her house be used for immoral purposes.
So she began refusing to allow anyone a night’s lodging if it was to commit immorality. In each of the rooms she put small signs saying: “Sir, please cooperate with this Family Rooming House. Do not bring indecent women. Thank you.” Former patrons quit coming. However, the loss of business was only temporary; soon she had a clientele of respectable families.
What, though, if you are employed in a place that is commonly used for immoral purposes? Of course, in the world fornication and adultery are rampant, and the Scriptures show that to quit mixing entirely with fornicators is impossible. (1 Cor. 5:9, 10) But what if immorality where one works becomes obvious, even gross, and one feels that one’s conscience and spirituality are becoming endangered?
In such cases Jehovah’s witnesses have made adjustments in their employment. In April 1972, three women began working as maids at a newly opened motel in Oakford, Pennsylvania. In time, they noticed that the same men would bring different women to the motel on a regular basis. “Our consciences got to bothering us,” reports one of the Witnesses. So they all left that place of employment.
How do you personally feel about God’s moral laws? How sensitive is your conscience on such matters?
WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER LOSS
Would you be willing to suffer material loss to keep a clear conscience? A young movie and television actress was.
She eventually gave up her career after becoming one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Acting roles frequently called for her to embrace and kiss men to whom she was not married. “I could not continue to do this,” she said. “How could I teach others the high principles of God’s Word and yet be seen on screen making love to men other than my husband?”
A copywriter for an advertising agency in New York refused to work on cigarette ads. Then miniature cigars were introduced, and she was asked to write an ad designed to stimulate women to smoke these. But she would not do this either. “My conscience will not allow me to have any part in advertising products that are harmful to health,” she explains, “even if this refusal results in losing my job.”
In a somewhat different situation, a saleslady for a large department store in New York city refused to wear a Christmas corsage, decorated with holiday symbols. The floor manager said that unless she wore it he would see that she was fired. The saleslady went to the office and explained why her conscience would not permit her to wear the corsage, and thus join in the spirit of a holiday tainted with paganism. The management understood, and she was not fired.
How important to you is doing what pleases God? Are you motivated by a godly conscience?
HONEST IN ALL THINGS
True Christians feel as did the apostle Paul, who said: “We trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Heb. 13:18) Does your conscience motivate you to conduct yourself honestly?
A few years ago an art director for a large New York ad agency became one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Previously he had “padded” his expense account, putting down things that were not direct business expenses. “This is a common, even almost an expected practice,” he notes. “But after learning Bible principles my conscience would not let me do it anymore. This has meant, in effect, taking a voluntary cut in pay,” he explains. How would you view such a matter?
Sometimes pressures to be dishonest are great. A twenty-seven-year-old Witness started working early last year in the insurance office of an agent for the New York Life Insurance Company. At the end of the first month of employment she was handed a paper to sign on which were reported her month’s earnings. But the figure was 25 percent more than she actually received! She was puzzled.
She soon learned, however, that her employer received reimbursement for secretarial expenses. Thus a reported higher salary would mean more money in her employer’s pocket. What could she do? Signing the paper would be dishonest; it would violate her Bible-trained conscience. And yet if she did not sign, she might lose her job, which she needed badly to support herself in the Christian ministry. What would you have done?
The girl mustered up courage, approached her employer, and said: “Sir, I just can’t sign this paper.”
“Why not?” he demanded.
“It’s just not honest. I didn’t make that much money,” she replied.
“Oh, but it’s standard business practice. Everybody does it,” he claimed.
“I can’t help it. I just can’t sign,” she answered.
The man was outraged, berating the girl for her stand. But then he sat back in his chair for a long time, apparently in deep thought. Finally he spoke: “You’re right. You’re right. We’ll do it the right way,” he said.
Another common practice is for car dealers to turn back odometers on used cars so that they show fewer miles traveled than is actually the case. However, when one of Jehovah’s witnesses in Albany, Georgia, was asked by his employer to do this, his conscience would not allow him. He lost his job, but he kept a good conscience. Would keeping a clean conscience mean that much to you?
Dishonesty is also common in automobile repair work. When newly employed as Service Manager by a Cadillac-Oldsmobile garage in Ogden, Utah, one of Jehovah’s witnesses had to deal with such practices. As he explains: “The mechanic was doing a job on a transmission and, in order to make extra money on the job, charged additional labor. I questioned him about it, but he said that no one would know the difference and that the company would profit from it. I told him I could not tolerate such dishonesty.
“The mechanic was upset and so went to the owner and related what had happened. I was told to come to the office and was questioned about the matter in front of the mechanic. I told the owner that I would have no part in such dealings, and that, whereas such a man might steal for the company, he would also steal from it. The owner smiled and said, ‘We appreciate your honesty and high principles. That is why we wanted you for this job.’”
What kind of conscience do you have? Are you motivated by a conscience sensitive to the teachings of God’s Word? If so, you will not be nagged by feelings of guilt, but will enjoy real contentment and peace of mind. You will always be guided to do what is pleasing to God. This will eventually mean for you God’s blessing of endless life in his righteous new system of things.