Jehovah`s Witness/what would a JW do
Good day! I have a question to ask about your religion's teachings related to following the law and I will be asking it of different Witnesses. In light of all of the media coverage of Kim Davis in Kentucky and her refusal to violate her religion by issuing licenses for gay marriages, I got to wondering about how Jehovah Witnesses would handle similar circumstances, if their religion’s teachings violated what their job description is.
Suppose a JW works in a hospital as a nurse. If that person were asked to help administer a blood transfusion to a patient, or even if they were asked to get the blood bag, would they comply? If another JW works say in a grocery store deli and were asked to write Happy Birthday on a cake, would they comply, or refuse? If a JW were a cashier at a store and must check out a person buying tobacco products, do they decline to do so, or do they simply feel that they are not responsible for what the person buys?
Would the response be the same for all Jws in all of the above situations, or would it vary by the person, or by the situation? Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply.
Thank you for your question. The answer to your particular question is not always black and white.
I do not know how marriage licences are issued in the USA. We do not have to apply for a marriage silence here. The person performing the wedding, no matter if it is a civil or religious service, is authorised by law to sign and issue a marriage certificate and have that marriage registered with the Government. A Witness who has been given the authority to perform marriages would not marry a same sex couple thereby would not be involved in registering such a marriage, and there is no legal recourse for not wanting to do so.
Employment is a little different. A self employed JW would have a lot more discretion in the type of work that he did that one that worked for an employer. There is nothing wrong with being a building contractor of some sort. A self employed contractor would not seek to do work on say a military installation of some sort, or a gambling house, or an abortion clinic etc.
However when we work for a boss, there are many things that we need to keep in mind. The first thing is that it is a scriptural requirement that we provide for our household (1 Timothy 5:8
“Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”) [all texts from the NWT]
So in fulfilling that obligation we see the need to be selective in the work we choose. Some areas of employment we would not undertake is at a blood-bank, gambling establishment, tobacco manufacturing, armaments manufacturing, or other types of work that is directly condemned in the Bible.
When we accept any form of employment, we are obligated to recognise our accountability to our employer. We are to be in subjection to the employer as long as we are not asked to do something that goes against his conscience. For example, a secretary may be asked by her boss to lie and say to a caller “He is not in
at the moment, can I take a message..” when in fact, he is in
his office, but does not want to be disturbed, The secretary would need to reword what she says so that it is not a lie. (Acts 5:29
“We must obey God as ruler rather than men
In being in subjection to our employer we need to be giving then the respect due their position and giving them an honest day’s work.
A major consideration is the nature of the work itself, what it is required of us to do. The source of pay and the location of the employment also enter into the picture.
Even considering that there are other considerations and that is our conscience. There are very few actual “do nots” that we live by. The vast majority of our decisions are made by where our conscience is at a particular time. Every JW has a different conscience depending on, to some extent, how long they have been a JW, and, more importantly, how much we have let the Bibles council mould our lives. Here ate a few texts that highlight that
For example when Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome at one point he was discussing the old law code and the effects it had on the Jews, but he points out that many aspects of the law had been followed by other people because of their inbuilt conscience he said
“14 For whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. 15 They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused
. 16 This will be in the day when God through Christ Jesus judges the secret things of mankind, according to the good news I declare. . .(Romans 2:14-16
The important point there is that our conscience a accuse or excuse us. That tells us that we need to train our conscience according to Bible standards so that it becomes a warning sign for us that things may be going wrong.
Now because every JW is at a different stage in their training, what one might allow another might not. In the example you asked about the decoration of a birthday cake or selling tobacco by a cashier
One JW may well feel that those things go against their very sensitive conscience, and will ask their employer to not have to handle such matters or if they new that may be the case when they applied for the job decided not to take the job. While another may feel that it is not the everyday thing that they are ask to do but is just one thing in a variety of employment duties. For example a post man delivering mail. No problems with that. However on his round he must deliver mail to an abortion clinic, an arnaments factory, and a blood bank. There is nothing wrong with him delivering mail to such places as he is doing a public service and those are just a minor part of his overall responsibility.
Now even though our conscience may allow us to do a particular task we are not to look down on a JW whose conscience is more sensitive and will not allow them to do the same task. This is the principle behind what we find at Romans 14:1-4
“ 1 Welcome the man having weaknesses in his faith, but do not pass judgment on differing opinions. 2 One man has faith to eat everything, but the man who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let the one eating not look down on the one not eating, and let the one not eating not judge the one eating, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for Jehovah can make him stand.”
At the same time just because our conscience allows us to do something we also have be aware that what we do may upset someone else. So we keep this texts in mind
“But whoever stumbles one of these little ones who have faith in me, it would be better for him to have hung around his neck a millstone that is turned by a donkey and to be sunk in the open sea.”
. . .Therefore, let us not judge one another any longer but, rather, be determined not to put a stumbling block or an obstacle before a brother. . .
In the examples you mentioned about the nurse in the hospital, below is a cut and past from a 1975 article about a similar situation. You will notice that the conscience of person involved changed and developed. The article points out that the work in itself was not condemned but the persons conscience is what troubled him.
*** w75 4/1 pp. 215-216 pars. 8-13 Are You Guided by a Sensitive Christian Conscience? ***
For example, there are employment problems involving blood. The Bible states plainly that God’s servants should not feed on blood. (Gen. 9:3, 4; Acts 15:19, 20) Hence, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses do not eat food containing blood, such as blood sausage, or accept blood transfusions. But what if, on your job you were asked to handle blood or blood products occasionally? Would your conscience permit that? A Witness in Colorado worked in a hospital as the chief medical technician running tests of various types on body tissue and fluid. Among the many things he was expected to test were blood samples. Sometimes it was simply to check a patient’s blood for the level of sugar or cholesterol. But at other times it was to cross match for transfusion purposes. Could he do that?
9 This Christian gave careful thought to the matter. It could be seen that it would not be right for a Christian to work exclusively for a blood bank, where everything was devoted to an end that was in violation of God’s law. But that was not his situation; he ran tests of many kinds. Also, if one were a doctor responsible for the decision, one could not order a blood transfusion for a patient, any more than a Christian store owner could order and stock idols or cigarettes. However, this technician realised that in connection with blood he was merely running a test, even as a nurse might have taken the sample, a messenger might have delivered it to the laboratory and someone else might administer a transfusion or other medication on a doctor’s orders. He reflected on the principle at Deuteronomy 14:21. According to that text a Jew finding a carcass of an animal that died of itself could clear it away by selling it to a foreigner who was not under the Law’s restrictions about animal flesh not drained of its blood. So the technician’s conscience at that time allowed him to run blood tests, including those of blood for transfusions to patients who did not care about God’s law on blood.
10 Is that how your conscience would have reacted? If not, for the sake of discussion, ask yourself whether your conscience would permit you as an employee to bring the blood sample to the laboratory for testing. Or, taking yet another step farther away from the actual transfusion, could you as a truck driver deliver the testing equipment to the hospital? Or would your conscience let you make glass from which such equipment might be produced? It is clear that not all these things reasonably can be viewed as direct contributions to violating God’s law on blood. But where does one “draw the line”?
Here is where conscience comes into play. While the Christian must avoid things that are unmistakably in conflict with God’s law, he is called upon to use his conscience in settling many matters. Would your conscience serve you well in such situations? Is it sensitive?
11 In this particular case, after many years of running tests, the technician began to be troubled by his conscience. It was not as if someone else should or could tell him that he was doing wrong. Nor was he looking for someone else to make his decisions for him. But he began to think: “Is it consistent to talk of neighbor love, and yet contribute, in part, to my neighbor’s breaking of God’s law?” (Matt. 22:39; Acts 21:25) Appreciating his Christian duty to support his family, he discussed the matter with his wife. (1 Tim. 5:8) Together they agreed that, if his conscience was troubled, it would be better to make a change. He left his $15,000-a-year job and began doing cleaning work, though he started off earning just $3,600 a year.
12 Let us not miss the point of this example. It is not related here to suggest that a Christian cannot be a medical technician; there are Christians who continue to work as medical technicians, nurses, truck drivers, and so forth. This example is given to illustrate that conscience can come into play on matters of employment. In your case the type of job and what you are asked to do may be quite different. But all Christians should give thought to whether they are living as closely as possible in accord with God’s ways and principles. If your conscience trained by God’s Word is pained because of what is asked of you, will you ignore it? Just how important is it to you to have a clear conscience before God and men?—1 Tim. 1:5, 19.
13 Of course, we cannot altogether avoid employment problems, for we are still in this system of things. (1 Cor. 5:9, 10) Thus you likely realize that you may not be able to move your boss to cultivate a Christian conscience. He may choose to disregard certain laws, he may exaggerate the merits of his products or he may stock some items that you would not if you owned the business. Or your fellow workers may lie on their production reports or loaf when the boss is not nearby. Still, you
can and should respond to your
conscience. So if it does not allow you to do certain things or if you are ridiculed for your hard work, accept that. The apostle Peter wrote: “If someone, because of conscience toward God, bears up under grievous things and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing.”—1 Pet. 2:18, 19.
So the answer to your question then is that there are some areas that are black and white, we just would not do. However there are many areas that are not specifically covered by the Bible and each one must stand before God according to their own conscience (Philippians 2:12
”keep working out YOUR own salvation with fear and trembling;” )
I hope that has been able to answer your question