[From ws5/17 p. 3 – July 3-9]
“Jehovah is protecting the foreign residents.” – Ps 146:9
I like the 146th Psalm. It is the one that warns us not to trust in nobles or men in general because they cannot save us. (Ps 146:3) Showing that salvation lies with Jehovah, it states:
“ Jehovah is protecting the foreign residents; He sustains the fatherless child and the widow, But he thwarts the plans of the wicked.” (Ps 146:9)
Of course, if we are to imitate God—which should be the wish of every true Christian—we will want to do what we can to protect foreigners and support orphans and widows. (James 1:27) This week’s study article is all about the former, “helping the foreign resident”. However, there are limits imposed on this charitable work. As the title suggests, the help is to be extended to those foreigners who are “one of us”; or as paragraph 2 puts it: How can we help these brothers and sisters to “serve Jehovah with rejoicing” despite their trials?
This is not to say that Witnesses are turning their backs on foreigners who are not of their ranks. No, the next sentence says: And how can we effectively share the good news with refugees who do not yet know Jehovah? – par. 2
So if you’re a non-Witness refugee, the mercy Jehovah’s Witnesses are directed to extend to you is pretty much limited to preaching the good news. Beyond that, Witnesses depend on the State or charitable institutions and other religions to render material, medical and emotional support. JWs have to preach and that work is all-consuming.
As is usually the case, there is some good counsel in this article. For example:
The transition can be overwhelming. Imagine trying to learn a new language and to adapt to new laws and expectations regarding manners, punctuality, taxes, bill paying, school attendance, and child discipline—all at once! Can you patiently and respectfully help brothers and sisters who face such challenges?—Phil. 2:3, 4. – par. 9
However, refugees are directed to put the Organization and its interests first.
Further, authorities have at times made it difficult for our brothers who are refugees to contact the congregation. Some agencies have threatened to cut off assistance or deny our brothers asylum if they refuse to accept employment that requires them to miss meetings. Frightened and vulnerable, a few brothers have given in to such pressures. Therefore, it is urgent to meet our refugee brothers as soon as possible after their arrival. They need to see that we care about them. Our compassion and practical help can strengthen their faith.—Prov. 12:25;17:17. – par. 10
People in desperate financial straights who depend on the state to help them are still expected to attend every meeting. They are expected to turn down gainful employment rather than miss some meetings. There used to be three meetings a week and that was supposedly by Jehovah’s direction, so missing one was to be disobedient to God. Then Jehovah—because the Governing Body claims this direction comes from God—dropped one of the meetings because (according to the letter at the time) of rising gas prices and travel distances in some countries. So a vital meeting wasn’t so vital after all. Did Jehovah realize his mistake? Or was the change from men? Does he really want a man to not provide for his own and become a person ‘worse than one without faith’ just so that he can attend all congregation meetings? (1Ti 5:8) This requirement gets even more stringent when we realized that it is not just any meeting that he must attend regularly, but it must be those of his own congregation. Getting to meetings in other congregations because their meeting times do not conflict with work is simply not acceptable if we are to go by the message from a JW.org video from just last year titled, Jehovah Will Care for Our Needs.
As that video title suggests, the onus is on God to provide, not men. For instance, if a brother refuses government-offered work so as not to miss meetings and as a consequence finds that the government agency no longer supplies him with job offers, the belief is that Jehovah will provide. Therefore, there is no expectation that the local congregation will step up and provide for the necessities of life for the refugee family out of their own pocket.
Preaching to Non-Witness Refugees
As we observed earlier, our acts of mercy toward non-Witness foreigners is limited to preaching the good news. Paragraph 19 actually cites the “neighborly Samaritan” to support this conclusion:
Like the neighborly Samaritan in Jesus’ illustration, we want to help suffering people, including those who are not Witnesses. (Luke 10:33-37) The best way to do so is by sharing the good news with them. “It is important to make clear right away that we are Jehovah’s Witnesses and that our primary mission is to help them spiritually, not materially,” notes an elder who has helped many refugees. “Otherwise, some may associate with us only for personal advantage.” – par. 19
As you will recall, the Good Samaritan didn’t try to preach to the man who lay battered and near death after being attacked by thieves. What he did was tend to his wounds, and then carry him to an inn so he could be cared for, fed and nursed back to health. He also gave the inn keeper funds to handle all expenses and promised to return to make sure all was well, assuring the inn keeper that he would be responsible for any additional expenses that might arise.
When someone is suffering due to having experienced bitter persecution, or hunger, or privation, one is hardly in the receptive frame of mind needed to consider the good news. Yet, the Governing Body seems to feel that the best way we can imitate the ‘good Samaritan’ is to ignore the material needs of the destitute and instead preach to them. The magazine goes so far as to warn us that desperate people might actually ask for financial assistance, and we have to be prepared so that should that happen we can tell them that material help is not an option.
If the Samaritan had followed the counsel from paragraph 19, he would have roused the wounded man, and told him about the good news of the Christ, but cautioned him that his “primary mission was to help him spiritually, not materially”, so that the injured man wouldn’t get the idea of associating with the Samaritan “for personal advantage.”
This brings us to the stunning public admission made in paragraph 20?
“The brothers there treated them like close relatives, providing food, clothes, shelter, and transportation. Who else would welcome strangers into their home just because they worship the same God? Only Jehovah’s Witnesses!” – par. 20
Is this true? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses the only ones who “will welcome strangers into their home just because they worship the same God”? Actually, if we were to exchange “just because” with “only if” we might find the statement to be a closer match with reality. To demonstrate: “Who else would welcome strangers into their home only if they worship the same God? Only Jehovah’s Witnesses!”
Is there evidence that this is an accurate assessment of JW policy and practice?
I will share an experience that happened to a family member. He and a fellow Witness were stranded in another country with car problems. They had limited funds so they called the local Kingdom hall and talked with the brother who lived in the hall apartment, asking for help. He showed up with two other brothers, but before they were able to lend any assistance, they wanted proof of membership by asking to see their Medical Directive (No Blood) cards. It would seem that had they been non-Witnesses, there would have been no act of mercy forthcoming.
Granted, this is anecdotal evidence, but is it indicative of a widespread mindset? Consider this report off the JW.org Newroom page: “Witnesses Respond After Inferno Consumes Apartment Building in London“:
Four Witnesses were evacuated from the apartment building, two of which were residents of Grenfell Tower. Fortunately, none of them were injured, although the Witnesses’ apartments were among those completely destroyed in the blaze. Witnesses that live near the now fire-gutted apartment building provided food, clothing, and monetary aid to their fellow members and their families that were affected. The Witnesses are also offering spiritual comfort to the grieving members of the North Kensington community.
Notice that the only effort made to help those outside of the JW faith was to preach to them. A family that has not food, clothing, or a place to sleep has overwhelming and immediate concerns that are hardly conducive to thoughtful contemplation of a spiritual nature. We have only to think about Jesus to see this. When he encountered suffering, his first instinct was not to preach, but to use the power invested in him to relieve that suffering. We do not have that power, but what power we do have, we should use as he did to first address the physical needs of others so that the mind is more receptive to the more important spiritual needs.
“YOU heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 However, I say to YOU: Continue to love YOUR enemies and to pray for those persecuting YOU; 45 that YOU may prove yourselves sons of YOUR Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. 46 For if YOU love those loving YOU, what reward do YOU have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? 47 And if YOU greet YOUR brothers only, what extraordinary thing are YOU doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? 48 YOU must accordingly be perfect, as YOUR heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:43-48)
While Witnesses, as an organization, seem to have a policy of only ‘loving those who love them in return’, non-Witnesses seem to be going well beyond that, acting in line with Jesus’ words. Consider this Guardian report on the community response to the Grenfell fire.
Volunteers from across London and as far away as Birmingham poured into north Kensington on Saturday to help the bereaved and support communities displaced by the Grenfell Tower fire.
Carrying flowers and supplies, they joined residents and local groups organising aid operation amid complaints that the local authority is failing to coordinate operations.
“We are no longer taking donations of goods,” said Ian Pilcher from nearby Ladbroke Grove, who is working with the local Methodist church. “The volume of items has been sensational. Everything has been sorted and our understanding is that there might be a central warehouse set up. The community effort has been spellbinding. We are used to coming together once a year for the [Notting Hill] carnival. No one wanted to do so under these circumstances.”
Jesus told us to love our enemies not just those who love us, so that our love could be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) Jehovah loves those we would consider as unlovable. He offers redemption to even the worst of humanity. Jesus’ word will safeguard his true disciples from entering into a cult-like mentality of Us vs. Them—of viewing others as unworthy of our mercy because they are not “one of us”.