Question:

Hello,

I am currently training to become a merchant marine. I am a married man with children. The company I am working for forces me to be on-board for around three weeks straight, giving a 48 hour break about once a month -- twice if things go smoothly and the ship operations allow it so.

I spoke about this issue with some Jehovah's Witnesses I met. They directed me to a passage about a man who worked all his youth but decided to tear down his farm to make a bigger one in order to rest when he is old. But God said he was foolish for doing so because he was going to take him away that night, and all the material stuff would be left behind.

When I came back home, an acquaintance who is also a Jehovah's Witness and with whom I studied sporadically for a year, answered me with a passage on how the Law dictated that a father should tell his children about the correct path day, night and whenever possible. He told me that if I continued in my job situation, I would not be able to do so.

I guess at this point you can conclude that I am not a Christian, but I wish to become so. Just tonight I had a panic attack. Out of nowhere I started thinking about life after death, and I couldn't bear the thought that once we die that's it -- we cease to exist, to my knowledge. God has promised it to be otherwise if we are faithful, but I have very little knowledge on the subject (other than some reading I have done on the Q&A site here). I was doing a job and had to stop because the thought was so overwhelming I could not focus at all and got really scared.

I'd like to provide well for my family, my job would allow me to do so, and I am afraid I do not have any education in another field that would allow me to just drop this career completely. On the bright side, there are other companies that allow you to work a shift of 16 hours (with breaks in-between of course) and lets you be home for 12 hours, in a continuous cycle. The debate I currently have is regarding these two types of companies. Obviously the one that has me more time on board pays more, so I was considering working on the first type for some years, save some money, and then drop off to the second type.

I would appreciate your input on the situation and if further information is needed I would be happy to provide.

Also, regarding worship days, which up to date I do not do, what is the stance in situations for a Christian who is a sailor? If that is possible, are there any professions not compatible with a Christian lifestyle?

I have another unrelated question: What happens (or happened) to all the ancestors of my cultural heritage who did not met God or were not schooled in the Bible? Basically, what happens when a person dies without meeting God? Do they go to hell? Does God judges them accordingly to their deeds and would consider there was no way for them to meet Him? Also, are all humans destined to either heaven or hell or can some humans actually be "destroyed" completely and cease to exist at all? I do not even have a fundamental idea of what heaven and hell are to be honest.


Answer:

"Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred" (Proverbs 15:17).

A father's duty is described by Paul: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Yes, you are responsible for their support, but money is just a minor part of the task at hand. You are to see to their teaching and knowledge of God -- something that would be difficult to do if you are gone most of the time. Often it is better to live a little poorer so that you can live a richer, fuller life.

I'm glad you are thinking about your future and the future of your family. Though the thoughts of what may be can be scary; yet, it can provide the motivation to learn and do something about your future. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7). Fear shows you that you have a pressing need to learn, so it isn't always a bad thing.

Regarding worship, those Christians whom I know are sailors usually will have a worship service with like-minded sailors who are on the same ship.

Yes, there are professions that Christians cannot be involved in because those professions involve sinful activities. For example, Christians cannot be involved in the gambling industry or the liquor industry.

Regarding judgment and the after life, Jesus said, "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:45). There are two states for people and neither involve annihilation. Jesus has said that there is eternal punishment for the wicked. See: What is Hell Like? and The Problem of Hell. It is no different than that there is eternal life for the righteous. See: Life Beyond the Grave. These articles should also help you start to understand what heaven and hell are.

In regards to those who do not know God, the question I always ask is: "What state is a person in who does not know God? Is he righteous or in sin?" If a person can be righteous without knowing God, then there would have been no need for Jesus to die on our behalf -- people could be saved simply through ignorance. See: The Lost Who Never Heard the Gospel. One aspect of God is that He is just. He treats all people equally, holding them to the same standard. "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness -- indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:5-11).