“Each One Will Carry His Own Load”

“Each of us will render an account for himself to God.”​—ROMANS 14:12.

1. What responsibility did three young Hebrews face up to?

THREE young Hebrews living in Babylon face a life-and-death decision. Should they bow down to a huge image, as required by the law of the land? Or should they refuse to worship it and be thrown into a burning fiery furnace? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do not have time to consult anyone; neither do they need to do so. Without hesitation, they declare: “Let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.” (Daniel 3:1-18) The three Hebrews carried their own load of responsibility.

2. Who, in effect, made Pilate’s decision regarding Jesus Christ, and did that free the Roman governor from accountability?

2 Some six centuries later, the governor has heard the charges against the man. Upon examining the case, he becomes convinced that the accused is innocent. The crowd, though, demands his execution. After putting forth some resistance, the governor proves reluctant to carry his load of responsibility and gives in to pressure. Washing his hands, he states: “I am innocent of the blood of this man.” Then he hands the man over to be impaled. Yes, instead of shouldering his responsibility to make a decision regarding Jesus Christ, Pontius Pilate lets others decide for him. No amount of water can absolve him of his accountability for passing that unjust sentence upon Jesus.​—Matthew 27:11-26; Luke 23:13-25.

3. Why should we not let others make decisions for us?

3 What about you? When called upon to make decisions, are you like the three Hebrews, or do you allow others to make up  your mind? Decision-making is not easy. It takes maturity to make right choices. For instance, parents need to make good decisions for their minor children. Of course, making a decision is very difficult when the situation is complex and various factors have to be weighed. However, the responsibility of making decisions is not so weighty as to be included among “the burdens,” or “troublesome things,” that those with “spiritual qualifications” may carry for us. (Galatians 6:1, 2; footnote) Rather, it is a load for which “each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Romans 14:12) “Each one will carry his own load,” states the Bible. (Galatians 6:5) How, then, can we make wise decisions in life? First, we must recognize our human limitations and learn what is needed to compensate for them.

A Key Requirement

4. What vital lesson about making decisions should we learn from the disobedience of the first human couple?

4 Early in human history, the first couple made a decision that brought disastrous consequences. They chose to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Genesis 2:16, 17) What was the basis for their decision? “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon,” says the Bible. “So she began taking of its fruit and eating it. Afterward she gave some also to her husband when with her and he began eating it.” (Genesis 3:6) Eve’s choice was based on selfish desire. Her action led Adam to join her. As a result, sin and death “spread to all men.” (Romans 5:12) Adam and Eve’s disobedience should teach us a vital lesson concerning man’s limitations: Unless he adheres to divine guidance, man is prone to make wrong decisions.

5. What guidance has Jehovah provided for us, and what must we do to benefit from it?

5 How glad we can be that Jehovah God has not left us without direction! The Scriptures tell us: “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) Jehovah speaks to us through his inspired Word, the Bible. We must study the Scriptures and acquire accurate knowledge of them. To make correct choices, we should partake of “solid food [that] belongs to mature people.” “Through use,” we also “have [our] perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) We can train our perceptive powers by applying what we learn from God’s Word.

6. What is necessary for our conscience to function properly?

6 Essential to the decision-making process is our inherited faculty of conscience. This faculty has the ability to render judgment, and we can be “accused or even excused” by it. (Romans 2:14, 15) For our conscience to function properly, however, it must be illuminated with the accurate knowledge of God’s Word and made sensitive by application  of that Word. An unenlightened conscience is easily influenced by local customs and habits. Our surroundings and the opinions of other people can also misguide us. What happens to our conscience when its proddings are repeatedly ignored and divine standards are violated? It can, in time, come to be marked “as with a branding iron,” becoming like seared flesh covered over with scar tissue​—insensitive and unresponsive. (1 Timothy 4:2) On the other hand, a conscience trained by God’s Word is a safe guide.

7. What is a key requirement in making wise decisions?

7 A key requirement for shouldering the responsibility to make wise decisions, then, is an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures and the ability to apply it. Rather than impulsively jumping to conclusions when faced with choices, we ought to take time to search for godly principles and exercise our thinking ability in applying them. Even when called upon to make an on-the-spot decision​—as were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—​we are well-equipped if we have accurate knowledge of God’s Word and our conscience has been trained by it. To see how pressing on to maturity can sharpen our decision-making ability, let us consider two areas of life.

Who Will Be Our Associates?

8, 9. (a) What principles show the necessity of avoiding bad associations? (b) Does having bad association refer only to direct fellowship with unprincipled people? Explain.

8 “Do not be misled,” wrote the apostle Paul. “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Jesus Christ told his disciples: “You are no part of the world.” (John 15:19) Upon learning these principles, we quickly see the need to avoid fellowship with fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, and the like. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) As we progress in knowledge of Bible truth, though, we realize that spending time with such individuals by watching them in movies, on television, or on computer screens or by reading about them in books is just as damaging. The same can be said of associating in Internet chat rooms “with those who hide what they are.”​—Psalm 26:4.

9 What about having close association with those who may be morally clean but who lack faith in the true God? The Scriptures tell us: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) We come to discern that bad associations are not limited to permissive or morally debased people. Hence, we are wise to cultivate close friendships only with those who love Jehovah.

10. What helps us to make mature decisions with respect to our contact with the world?

10 Completely avoiding contact with those in the world is neither possible nor required. (John 17:15) Sharing in the Christian ministry, attending school, going to work all involve contact with the world. A Christian married to an unbeliever may have to rub shoulders with the world more than others do. Having our perceptive powers trained, however, we appreciate that it is one thing to have necessary limited contact with the world and quite another to cultivate close ties with it. (James 4:4) Thus, we are able to make mature decisions as to whether we will participate in extracurricular activities at school, such as sports events and dances, and attend parties and dinners arranged for fellow employees.

Choosing Employment

11. What is the first consideration in making employment decisions?

11 Applying Bible principles in a mature way helps us in making decisions about how we fulfill our obligation to ‘provide for the members of our household.’ (1 Timothy  5:8) The first consideration is the nature of the work itself​—what it requires us to do. Choosing a type of work that promotes what is directly condemned in the Bible is definitely wrong. So true Christians do not accept jobs that may involve idolatry, stealing, misuse of blood, or other unscriptural practices. We would also not lie or cheat, even if an employer demands that we do so.​—Acts 15:29; Revelation 21:8.

12, 13. What are some factors besides the work itself that are significant in making employment decisions?

12 What if the work itself does not specifically violate any divine requirement? As we grow in knowledge of the truth and our perceptive powers improve, we come to discern other criteria that must be considered. What if the work would involve us in an unscriptural practice, such as answering phones at a gambling establishment? The source of pay and the location of the employment also enter into the picture. For example, would a Christian who is a self-employed contractor bid on a job that involves painting one of the churches of Christendom and thereby share in helping to promote false religion?​—2 Corinthians 6:14-16.

13 What if on one occasion our employer accepts a contract to beautify a place of false worship? In this case, we would need to consider such factors as the extent of our having authority over what is being done and the degree of our involvement. And what about performing a legitimate service, such as delivering mail everywhere in a community, including places that promote wrong practices? Would not the principle stated at Matthew 5:45 have a bearing? Not to be overlooked is how doing the work day in and day out might affect our conscience. (Hebrews 13:18) Indeed, carrying our load of responsibility in making mature decisions regarding employment calls for us to sharpen our perceptive powers and train our God-given faculty of conscience.

“In All Your Ways Take Notice of Him”

14. In making decisions, what measures should we take?

14 What about the decisions we make regarding other matters, such as pursuing secular education and accepting or rejecting certain medical treatment? When we are faced with making any decision, we must ascertain pertinent Bible principles and then use our mental faculties in applying them. “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding,” said wise King Solomon of ancient Israel. “In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”​—Proverbs 3:5, 6.

15. What do we learn from the first-century Christians about making decisions?

15 Often, the choices we make affect others, and we need to give consideration to this. The first-century Christians, for example, were no longer under many of the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law. They could choose to eat certain foods that were  considered unclean under the Law and were not objectionable in other ways. However, the apostle Paul wrote about meat of an animal that might have some link with an idol temple: “If food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat flesh at all, that I may not make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:11-13) The early Christians were encouraged to show consideration for the consciences of others so as not to stumble them. Our decisions should not make us “causes for stumbling.”​—1 Corinthians 10:29, 32.

Seek Godly Wisdom

16. How is prayer a help to us in making decisions?

16 An invaluable aid in making decisions is prayer. “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom,” says the disciple James, “let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) With confidence, we can turn to Jehovah in prayer and ask for the needed wisdom to make proper decisions. As we talk to the true God about our concerns and seek his guidance, holy spirit may help us better understand the scriptures that we are considering and bring to mind those we may have overlooked.

17. How can others help us in the decision-making process?

17 Can others help us in making decisions? Yes, Jehovah has provided mature individuals in the congregation. (Ephesians 4:11, 12) They can be consulted, particularly if the decision is a major one. Individuals who have deep spiritual insight and are experienced in life can bring to our attention additional godly principles that may have a bearing on our decision and help us to “make sure of the more important things.” (Philippians 1:9, 10) However, a word of caution is appropriate: We must be careful not to let others make decisions for us. The load of responsibility is ours to bear.

The Outcome​—Always Good?

18. What can be said about the outcome of a good decision?

18 Will decisions that are solidly grounded on Bible principles and made conscientiously always lead to a good outcome? Yes, in the long run. At times, though, the short-term effect may bring adversity. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that death might be the outcome of their decision not to worship the huge image. (Daniel 3:16-19) Similarly, after the apostles told the Jewish Sanhedrin that they must obey God as ruler rather than men, they were flogged before being set free. (Acts 5:27-29, 40) Moreover, “time and unforeseen occurrence” may adversely affect the result of any decision. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) If we suffer in some way despite having made a right decision, we can be confident that Jehovah will help us to endure and will bless us in the end.​—2 Corinthians 4:7.

19. How can we courageously carry our own load of responsibility in making decisions?

19 When making decisions, then, we must seek out Scriptural principles and use our mental ability to apply them. How grateful we can be for the help Jehovah has provided by means of his holy spirit and the mature ones in the congregation! With such guidance and provisions, let us courageously carry our own load of responsibility in making wise decisions.

What Did You Learn?

• What is a key requirement for making good decisions?

• How does progressing to maturity affect our choice of associates?

• What are some important factors that we ought to consider when making decisions regarding employment?

• What help is available in making decisions?

[Study Questions]

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Adam and Eve’s disobedience teaches us a vital lesson

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Before making an important decision, search out godly principles