Safeguard Your Conscience

THE idea of flying in a plane with a wrongly programmed computer is frightening. Imagine, instead, that someone had tampered with the aircraft’s guidance system or had deliberately falsified its data! Well, in a figurative sense, that is exactly what someone is trying to do to your conscience. He is out to sabotage your moral-guidance system. His objective is to put you on a collision course with God!​—Job 2:2-5; John 8:44.

Who is this vicious saboteur? In the Bible, he is called “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) He was seen in action in the garden of Eden when, by using specious reasoning, he persuaded Eve to ignore what she knew was right and to rebel against God. (Genesis 3:1-6, 16-19) Since then, Satan has masterminded the development of entire institutions of deception to lead people en masse into enmity with God. The most reprehensible of these institutions is false religion.​—2 Corinthians 11:14, 15.

False Religion Corrupts the Conscience

In the Bible book of Revelation, false religion is seen as a symbolic harlot called Babylon the Great. Her teachings have distorted the moral sensibilities of many people and have caused them to hate and even act violently against those who have different beliefs. In fact, according to Revelation, God holds false religion primarily responsible for the blood “of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth,” including God’s own worshipers.​—Revelation 17:1-6; 18:3, 24.

Jesus warned his disciples of the extent to which false religion would distort the moral compass of some when he said: “The hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.” How morally blinded such violent individuals are! Jesus said: “They have not come to know either the Father or me.” (John 16:2, 3) Not long after Jesus spoke those words, he himself was murdered at the behest of some religious leaders, who were able to reconcile their crime with their conscience. (John 11:47-50) In contrast, Jesus said that his true followers are identified by the love they have among themselves. But their love is still more expansive, for it reaches out even to their enemies.​—Matthew 5:44-48; John 13:35.

Another way false religion has sabotaged the conscience of many is by pandering to  whatever morality, or lack thereof, that happens to be in vogue. Foretelling this, the apostle Paul said: “There will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled.”​—2 Timothy 4:3.

Nowadays, religious leaders tickle people’s ears by saying that sex outside of marriage may be acceptable to God. Others condone homosexual acts. In fact, some clerics are themselves actively homosexual. An article in the British newspaper The Times stated that “thirteen openly gay clergy” have been elected to the General Synod of the Church of England. When church leaders abandon Bible morality and their churches do little about it, what standards should their parishioners adopt? It is little wonder that millions are thoroughly confused.

How much better it is to be guided by the beaconlike moral and spiritual truths taught in the Bible! (Psalm 43:3; John 17:17) For example, the Bible teaches that neither fornicators nor adulterers “will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) It tells us that males and females who change “the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature” are “working what is obscene” in God’s eyes. (Romans 1:26, 27, 32) These moral truths are not the fabrications of imperfect men; they are the inspired standards of God, which he has never repealed. (Galatians 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:16) But Satan has other ways to sabotage the conscience.

Be Selective in Entertainment

It is one thing to force someone to commit a bad act, but it is another thing to get him to want to commit such an act. This is the goal of “the ruler of the world,” Satan. To imprint his debased thinking on the minds and hearts of the foolish or unsuspecting​—especially the most vulnerable, the young—​he uses such avenues as questionable literature, movies, music, computer games, and pornography sites on the Internet.​—John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2.

“Young people [in the United States] view an estimated 10000 acts of violence each year,” said a report in the journal Pediatrics, “with children’s programming being the most violent.” The report also revealed that “each year, teenagers view nearly 15000 sexual references, innuendoes, and jokes.” Even prime-time television, it stated, “contains more than 8 sexual incidents per hour, more than four times as much as in 1976.” Not surprisingly, the study also found that “vulgar language is increasing dramatically as well.” Yet, both the Bible and voluminous scientific studies warn that a diet of such material  changes people for the worse. So if you truly want to please God and benefit yourself, heed Proverbs 4:23, which says: “Safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”​—Isaiah 48:17.

Much popular music also corrupts the conscience. A singer whose songs have shot to the top of the charts in a number of Western lands makes “a special effort to shock,” warns a report in the Australian newspaper The Sunday Mail. The article states that “his songs glorify drugs, incest and rape” and that he “sings about killing his wife and throwing her body in a lake.” Other lyrics mentioned are too vile to be repeated here. Yet, his music earned him a prestigious award. Would you like to sow in your mind and heart such noxious thoughts as those mentioned above, even if they are sugarcoated with music? Hopefully not, for those who act in such a way defile their conscience and ultimately create within themselves “a wicked heart,” turning them into enemies of God.​—Hebrews 3:12; Matthew 12:33-35.

So be wise in your choice of entertainment. The Bible urges us: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”​—Philippians 4:8.

Associations Affect Your Conscience

As children, Neil and Franz enjoyed wholesome association with sincere Christians. * But, in time, said Neil, “I began hanging out with the wrong crowd.” The end result, much to his regret, was crime and prison. Franz’ story is similar. “I thought that I could handle being around young people of the world without being affected by them,” he lamented. “But as Galatians 6:7 says, ‘God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.’ I found out the hard way that I was wrong and Jehovah was right. I am faced with a life sentence for the wrong I have done.”

People like Neil and Franz do not normally turn to crime overnight; at first, they would recoil at the thought. The slide tends to occur in stages, the first often being bad associations. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Drug or alcohol abuse may follow. The conscience, in fact, has aptly been described as that “part of the personality which is soluble in alcohol.” From there, it is just a small step to crime or immorality.

Why, then, take that first step? Instead, associate  with wise people who truly love God. They will help you to fortify your conscience so that it will guide you properly, sparing you many pains. (Proverbs 13:20) Though still incarcerated, Neil and Franz now see their conscience as a divine gift to be properly trained and, yes, cherished. Furthermore, they are working hard to build a good relationship with their God, Jehovah. Be wise, and learn from their mistakes.​—Proverbs 22:3.

Take Care of Your Conscience

We show that we want to take care of our conscience when we build up love for and faith in God, together with a wholesome fear of him. (Proverbs 8:13; 1 John 5:3) The Bible reveals that a conscience devoid of these influences often lacks moral stability. For instance, Psalm 14:1 speaks of those who say in their heart: “There is no Jehovah.” How does this lack of faith affect their conduct? The verse continues: “They have acted ruinously, they have acted detestably in their dealing.”

People without real faith in God also have no firm hope for a better future. Hence, they tend to live for the present, indulging their fleshly desires. Their philosophy is: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32) On the other hand, those whose eyes are on the prize of eternal life are not lured off course by the fleeting pleasures of the world. Like a precise navigational computer, their trained conscience keeps them right on the track of loyal obedience to God.​—Philippians 3:8.

For your conscience to maintain its power and precision, it needs regular guidance from God’s Word. The Bible tells us that such guidance is available when, in pictorial language, it says: “Your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) So set aside time for daily Bible reading. This will strengthen and encourage you when you are struggling to do what is right or when the clouds of worry and anxiety hang over you. Be assured that Jehovah will guide you morally and spiritually if you place your full trust in him. Yes, imitate the psalmist who wrote: “I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be made to totter.”​—Psalm 16:8; 55:22.


^ par. 16 The names have been changed.

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False religion, described in the Bible as “Babylon the Great,” is responsible for dulling the conscience of many

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Priest blessing troops: U.S. Army photo

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Viewing violence and immorality will damage your conscience

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Regular guidance from God’s Word will safeguard your conscience