“The objective of this instruction is love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience.”—1 TIMOTHY 1:5.
1, 2. Who gave us our conscience, and why can we be thankful that we have it?
JEHOVAH GOD created humans with free will, that is, the freedom to make choices. To help us make the right choices, Jehovah gave us a guide. This guide is called the conscience, and it is the sense of right and wrong that we have inside us. When we use our conscience in the right way, it can help us to do what is good and to avoid what is bad. Our conscience is proof that Jehovah loves us and wants us to succeed.
2 Some people today do what is good and hate what is bad even though they do not know Bible standards. (Read Romans 2:14, 15.) Why is that? It is because of their conscience. It prevents many people from doing evil things. Imagine how bad the world would be if no one had a conscience! We would likely hear about even more evil things than we already do. We can be thankful that Jehovah gave humans a conscience!
How can a well-trained conscience help us when we need to make decisions?
3. How can our conscience help us in the congregation?
3 Most people do not think about training their conscience. However, Jehovah’s people want their conscience to work properly because it can be a powerful help to promote unity in the congregation. We want our conscience to remind us of the Bible’s standards of right and wrong, good and bad. However, to train and use our conscience, we must do more than simply learn what the Bible says. We must love God’s standards and have faith that they are good for us. Paul wrote: “The objective of this instruction is love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.” (1 Timothy 1:5) When we train our conscience and follow it, our love for Jehovah and our faith in him will grow. How we use our conscience proves how close our relationship with Jehovah is and shows how much we want to please him. Our conscience also reveals what kind of person we really are.
4. How can we train our conscience?
4 But how can we train our conscience? We need to study the Bible regularly, meditate on what we read, and ask Jehovah to help us apply what we have learned. That means we must do more than simply learn facts and rules. When we study the Bible, our goal is to know Jehovah better. We come to know what kind of Person he is and what he likes and dislikes. As we learn more about Jehovah, our conscience will eventually be quick to recognize what he views as right and wrong. The more we train our conscience, the more we can begin to think like Jehovah.
5. What will we discuss in this article?
5 However, we might ask: How can a well-trained conscience help us when we need to make decisions? How can we respect the conscience of a fellow Christian? And how can our conscience move us to do what is good? Let us consider three areas in which we need a well-trained conscience: (1) health care, (2) recreation, and (3) our preaching work.
6. What decisions do we make regarding our health care?
6 The Bible tells us to avoid things that will hurt us and to be reasonable in habits, such as in eating and drinking. (Proverbs 23:20; 2 Corinthians 7:1) When we obey the Bible’s counsel, it can help us to protect our health. But we still get sick and grow old. What decisions may we have to make? In some countries, both conventional and alternative medicine are available. Branch offices regularly receive letters from brothers and sisters asking about different treatments. Many ask, “Can a servant of Jehovah accept this or that treatment?”
7. How can we make decisions about blood?
7 A branch office or the local congregation elders do not have the authority to make medical decisions for a Christian, even if he asks what to do. (Galatians 6:5) However, the elders can share what Jehovah says in order to help a Christian make a wise decision. For example, God has commanded us to keep abstaining from blood. (Acts 15:29) This command clearly helps a Christian to understand that he cannot accept medical treatments that involve taking in whole blood or any of its four major components. This information could even affect a Christian’s conscience when he decides whether he will accept minor fractions, the smaller parts that come from the four major components of blood.* (See footnote.) What other Bible advice can help us make wise decisions about medical treatment?
8. How can Philippians 4:5 help us make wise choices regarding health care?
8 Proverbs 14:15 says: “The naive person believes every word, but the shrewd one ponders each step.” Today, there may be no known cure for some illnesses. So we need to be careful about treatments that claim to cure an illness but that have no proof of success. Paul wrote: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” (Philippians 4:5) Reasonableness will help us to stay focused on worshipping Jehovah rather than focusing our lives on health matters. If health care became the most important thing in our life, we could become self-centered. (Philippians 2:4) We know that we cannot have perfect health in this system. Therefore, make sure that serving Jehovah is the most important thing in your life.—Read Philippians 1:10.
9 A reasonable Christian will not try to force others to do what he thinks is best. In one country, a married couple were encouraging others to take certain food supplements and follow a specific diet. They persuaded some brothers to do so, but others chose not to. When the supplements and diet did not have good results, many brothers and sisters were upset. The couple had the right to choose for themselves whether to try the supplements and the diet. However, was it reasonable to risk the unity of the congregation because of health care? In ancient Rome, some Christians had different opinions about certain foods and celebrations. What advice did Paul give them? He said: “One man judges one day as above another; another judges one day the same as all others; let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.” Let us be careful to avoid stumbling others.—Read Romans 14:5, 13, 15, 19, 20.
Make sure that serving Jehovah is the most important thing in your life
10. Why should we respect the personal decisions of others? (See opening picture.)
10 At times, we may not understand why someone in the congregation makes a certain decision on a personal matter. What should we do? We should not be quick to judge him or force him to change his mind. Perhaps he needs to train his conscience more, or maybe it is too sensitive. (1 Corinthians 8:11, 12) Or perhaps our own conscience is not fully trained. When it comes to health care and other matters, each of us needs to make a personal decision and accept responsibility for it.
11, 12. How does the Bible help us choose our recreation?
11 Jehovah created us in a way that we can enjoy recreation and benefit from it. Solomon wrote that there is “a time to laugh” and “a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) However, not all recreation is beneficial, relaxing, or refreshing. We also need to avoid spending too much time in recreation. How can our conscience help us to enjoy and benefit from recreation that Jehovah approves?
‘Does my conscience warn me when I am being tempted?’
12 The Bible warns against “the works of the flesh.” These works include “sexual immorality, uncleanness, brazen conduct, idolatry, spiritism, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, sects, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and things like these.” Paul wrote that “those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.” (Galatians 5:19-21) So we can ask ourselves: ‘Does my conscience help me to avoid sports that are aggressive, competitive, nationalistic, or violent? Does my conscience warn me when I am tempted to view a film that features pornographic scenes or one that encourages immorality, drunkenness, or spiritism?’
13 Bible principles can help us to train our conscience regarding recreation. For example, the Bible says that “physical training is beneficial for a little.” (1 Timothy 4:8) Many feel that regular exercise is refreshing and good for their health. Yet, what if we want to exercise with a group? Does it matter whom we exercise with? Proverbs 13:20 tells us: “The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.” Clearly, it is important that we use our Bible-trained conscience when choosing recreation.
14. How did one family apply Romans 14:2-4?
14 Christian and Daniela have two teenage daughters. Christian says: “During our Family Worship evening, we discussed recreation. We agreed that some ways of having fun are acceptable whereas others are not. Who can be considered good association? One of our daughters complained that during recess at her school, some Witness youths behave in a way that she thought was not proper. And she felt under pressure to behave in the same way. We reasoned that each of us has a conscience, and we ought to be guided by it in choosing what we do and with whom.”—Read Romans 14:2-4.
15. How can Matthew 6:33 help us when planning recreation?
15 How much time do you spend in recreation? Do you put activities such as meetings, service, and Bible study first in your life, or does recreation come first? What is most important to you? Jesus said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) When deciding how to spend your time, does your conscience remind you of Jesus’ advice?
WE ARE MOTIVATED TO PREACH
16. How does our conscience encourage us to preach?
16 A trained conscience not only warns us against doing wrong things, but it also motivates us to do good things. One of these is to preach from house to house and to those we meet informally. That is what Paul did. He wrote: “Necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not declare the good news!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) As we imitate Paul, we will have a good conscience, knowing that we are doing the right thing. And when we preach the good news to others, we appeal to their conscience. Paul said: “By making the truth manifest, we recommend ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.”—2 Corinthians 4:2.
17. How did one young sister follow her Bible-trained conscience?
17 When Jacqueline was 16 years old, she studied biology in school. However, the students were learning about the theory of evolution. “My conscience would not let me share as fully in class discussions as I normally did. I could not support the theory of evolution. I approached the teacher and explained my position. To my surprise, he was very friendly and offered me the chance to speak to the whole class on the subject of creation.” Jacqueline felt satisfied knowing that she listened to and followed her Bible-trained conscience. Does your conscience move you to do what is right?
18. Why should we want to have a good, reliable conscience?
18 Our goal is to live according to Jehovah’s principles and standards. And our conscience can help us to reach that goal. When we regularly study God’s Word, meditate on it, and apply what we learn, we will train our conscience. Then this wonderful gift will be a reliable guide in our Christian life!
See “Questions From Readers” in The Watchtower of June 15, 2004, pages 29-31.