Conscientious in Doing Good Toward All
IF YOU worked in a meat market, would you sell a tainted piece of meat? Or would you direct a pedestrian at night down a street you knew led through a very dangerous, high-crime area?
It is unlikely that you would do these things. Why? For one reason, because your conscience—your inward sense of right and wrong—tells you that these actions are wrong.
However, a person, because of his training and environment, may do things that are wrong according to God’s law without its bothering his conscience. But a Christian should properly make adjustments upon learning how God views matters. His inward sense of what is right and what is wrong should motivate him to do what pleases God. Does your conscience do this? Are you conscientious in doing good toward all?—Gal. 6:10.
In recent years much has been published regarding tobacco showing it to be harmful to health. In fact, the Royal College of Physicians in Great Britain said regarding this: “Cigarette smoking is now as important a cause of death as were the great epidemic diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and tuberculosis that affected previous generations in this country.” Furthermore, one who continues to smoke is not living in harmony with the Scriptural admonition to ‘cleanse himself of every defilement of flesh and spirit perfecting holiness in God’s fear.’—2 Cor. 7:1.
In view of this, is God pleased if one raises the tobacco that is used, and which, in effect, slowly poisons people and damages their health?
Many Christians in recent months and years have concluded that they cannot conscientiously raise tobacco. Writes a ministerial servant in the Harrodsburg, Kentucky, congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses:
“For twenty-one years tobacco had been our main source of income. After coming to a knowledge of the Bible truth in recent years, we felt that raising tobacco was not right, since smoking is against Bible principles. However, it wasn’t until April 1971 that we made up our minds not to raise tobacco any longer. The following year, 1972, we rented out our tobacco base, which is an allotment or right from the government to raise a certain amount of tobacco.
“But now our consciences will not let us do that, since we would be still making money from tobacco. So we decided to give up our right to this tobacco base altogether.”
If you were a tobacco raiser, would you make a similar decision? Jehovah’s witnesses have not attempted to set up rules and regulations as to what a person can or cannot do in these matters of employment. But in a number of cases individuals’ consciences have moved them to suffer material loss rather than be implicated in any way in the raising of tobacco. An elder in the Stanford, Kentucky, congregation explains how he came to feel about having any part in tobacco growing:
“For the past thirteen years I have rented out my tobacco base, and received one-half of the receipts. However, I no longer feel it is right to receive an income from a product that is proven to be detrimental to health. I cannot even conscientiously lease my tobacco base to another farmer—not even if I agreed to receive nothing in return. I am going to have absolutely nothing to do with tobacco in any way.”
Also, one of Jehovah’s witnesses in Brooks, Kentucky, writes: “As soon as I saw the illustration in The Watchtower of the man and the tobacco pile with the question, ‘Is it consistent to talk of neighbor love and yet to produce tobacco that may ruin your neighbor’s health?’ that was it for me. I sowed the tobacco spot of ground in alfalfa. No more tobacco in any form for me.”
A TEST OF FAITH
It is not easy, however, for some persons to make such an adjustment. Their whole livelihood has depended on tobacco. So for them to maintain a clear conscience has required real faith. This is evidenced by the example of the Christian elder in Wilmore, Kentucky, who writes:
“I am leaving the farm after many years. We have been raising cattle, grain and tobacco. Since our work was on a tenant basis, the landlord would still want tobacco raised. After considering carefully The Watchtower on conscience, we can no longer raise tobacco as we can see that this would not be in harmony with our showing love to our fellowman.
“I am not physically able to hold a public job. We intend to leave the farm soon, knowing that with Jehovah’s help my wife and I will be able to care for ourselves in the short time left for this old system of things.”
If your conscience responded this way under similar circumstances, would you have the faith to make such an adjustment in your employment? What if you had a large family to support? One of Jehovah’s witnesses in the Williamstown, Kentucky, congregation explains why he made this personal decision:
“My wife and I and six children for years lived on a farm in Owen County, Kentucky. My job involved the planting and growing of three acres of tobacco in addition to working on the farm as a carpenter, with much of the work being to remodel tobacco barns. I was provided a home for my wife and children as part of the pay of my employer, and this enabled us to feel secure and unencumbered.
“However, when I read the article in the October 1, 1972, Watchtower on conscience I knew that I would not be able to continue to grow a crop of tobacco or to work on tobacco barns and still hold to a good conscience before Jehovah. So at the first opportunity I explained to the farm manager that I would not be able to grow another crop of tobacco or work in tobacco barns because of reasons of conscience, and he accepted this.
“I fully realize this means moving out of the home on the farm provided by my employer and that I will have to find a new type of secular work in order to provide for my family. I do not have any doubts or fears about making this adjustment because I know that Jehovah truly takes care of those who are willing to obey him.”
In other cases, personal feelings of conscience have moved a number of Jehovah’s witnesses to quit jobs with cigarette and cigar companies. One of them, employed for sixteen years at the General Cigar Company in Kingston, Pennsylvania, explained her personal feelings in this way: “Making cigars was not living up to Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
GAMBLING AND CONSCIENCE
What about gambling? Could promoting it also be compared, in effect, to directing a person into an area where his life would be in serious danger?
A long-time Las Vegas card dealer, who worked himself up to floorman in charge of several dealers, notes: “Gambling kindles greed. I have watched dealers steal from one another and the casino. Men lose homes, families, and all self-respect, over a crap game.”
This Las Vegas floorman was making $25,000 a year. But he then began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses and learned God’s view on matters. He realized that he could never become a true follower of Jesus Christ while doing work that was directly connected with gambling. As a step toward getting a clear conscience, he quit his position and found other employment. There are many similar experiences. A Reno, Nevada, resident writes:
“My wife and I were card dealers at Harold’s Club, well established in the ways of the world. It was not unusual for a friendly dealer to take home several hundred dollars after a shift of dealing. A conservative estimate of our joint income was $40,000 a year.
“Then, in 1968, we were privileged to learn the truths of God’s Word. After several Bible studies we realized we had to make a change in our occupation. As I had no training or skill, I at first found it difficult to find satisfactory employment, but after persevering in my efforts and in prayers to Jehovah, I became a truck driver and am now able to support my family adequately.”
How conscientious are you about doing good toward all? Would you be willing to give up a high-paying position to avoid doing work that contributes directly to encouraging greediness and immorality?
SHOWING RESPECT FOR LIFE
Is making weapons for destruction consistent with doing good toward all? Would your conscience permit you to share in producing weaponry?
A man employed by a firm in the United States devoted to producing war components was troubled by this question when he began studying the Bible. “As I continued to study,” he explained, “I kept thinking that if someone were to ask me where I worked, how could I tell him I loved my neighbor when I have a part in producing things to hurt others?” So he quit his good-paying job, and found other employment.
Many others have done similarly. A maintenance supervisor on a military installation in Albany, Georgia, found other work because he realized that if he wanted to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, he could no longer be associated with war preparations. (Isa. 2:2-4; 9:6, 7) And a man at Robbins Air Force Base also quit for like reasons. “I now do maintenance work elsewhere and receive about half what I used to make,” he notes.
A person is faced with many decisions involving his conduct and choice of employment. There are things that are specifically condemned in the Bible, such as stealing and lying. (Eph. 4:28; Col. 3:9) And there are Bible principles that show that it is improper to defile our bodies, which clearly indicate that defiling our bodies with harmful products such as tobacco is wrong.—2 Cor. 7:1.
However, in some areas, matters are not so clear and we must individually be directed by our consciences as to what we will do. When our conscience is troubled by things that we are doing, how will we respond? How much will our love for neighbor affect the decisions we make? Are we willing to make sacrifices in order to do what is pleasing to God and to maintain a clear conscience? Jehovah God will bless eternally in his righteous new system those who act so as to have a clean conscience before him.—1 John 2:17; 2 Pet. 3:13.