[From ws2/18 p. 23 — April 23 – 29]
“Keep Walking by Spirit.” Galatians 5:16
The whole problem with the concept of a spiritual person as the Organization defines it can be ascertained from the first two paragraphs.
“ROBERT got baptized as a teenager, but he did not really take the truth seriously. He says: “I never did anything wrong, but I was just going through the motions. I looked spiritually strong, being at all the meetings and serving as an auxiliary pioneer a few times a year. But something was missing.” (Par. 1)
“ Robert himself did not perceive what was wrong until later when he got married. He and his wife began passing time by quizzing each other on Bible subjects. His wife, a spiritually strong person, had no problem answering the questions, but Robert found himself constantly embarrassed, not knowing what to say.” (Par. 2)
Problems immediately identified
- Many teenage witnesses are pressured by parents, elders and peers into getting baptized at an early age to ‘prove their spiritually’ yet they are still youths and very few truly have any spiritual interest at least at that age. They have the “desires incidental to youth”. (2 Timothy 2:22)
- The Organization’s definition of spirituality includes attending all meetings and auxiliary pioneering at least once a year, yet these are things that, as Robert says, he did while going through the motions because his heart was not in it. Yet, if the scriptural definition of a spiritual person—displaying the fruits of the spirit—is followed, there is no opportunity for going through the motions. (See also last week’s Watchtower article review.) You cannot be mild, humble, hospitable, peaceable, long-suffering and kind just by going through the motions. We may present a facade, but in reality, if those qualities truly exist in us, it means that God’s holy spirit truly exists in us. (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Robert’s wife was considered a spiritual person because of her knowledge of the Scriptures. Satan and the demons know the Scriptures well. (E.g.: Satan’s attempt to tempt Jesus – Matthew 4:1-11) Head knowledge of the Scriptures can be gained without the spirit, but true understanding of God’s word and the wisdom to apply it does not come unless Jehovah imparts his spirit.
- Robert’s wife chose a marriage mate who wasn’t scripturally spiritual and compounded that by marrying Robert who wasn’t even spiritual by Organization standards. Yes, she was taken in by Robert’s false show of fake spirituality, because that was what she had been taught to look for in a husband. Often in the videos on jw.org, sisters are encouraged to look for brothers who are pioneers, appointed servants, or Bethelites.
The Organization accepts, to a point, that knowledge isn’t everything when they say “We may have some Bible knowledge and may regularly associate with the Christian congregation, but these things in themselves do not necessarily make us into a spiritual person.” (Par. 3)
Too right! We would go further and say that in no way do those things make one into a spiritual person. According to Colossians 3:5-14, what makes a spiritual person is the display of the fruits of the spirit and having the mind of Christ.
Paragraph 5 continues by asking a good question: “Do I notice changes in myself that indicate that I am moving toward becoming a spiritually-minded person? However, in a style that is typical of WT instruction, it immediately puts an Organizational slant on things by continuing:
Is my personality becoming Christlike? What do my disposition and conduct at Christian meetings reveal about the depth of my spirituality? What do my conversations show about my desires? What do my study habits, dress and grooming, or reaction to counsel reveal about me? How do I react when faced with temptations? Have I progressed beyond basics to maturity, becoming full-grown as a Christian?’ (Eph. 4:13)” (Par. 5)
Conduct at meetings, our manner of dress and grooming, and the way we respond to counsel from elders and the Governing Body are given as indicators of our level of spirituality.
Paragraph 6 then cites 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. Here the apostle Paul called the Corinthians fleshly and so fed them milk of the word. So, why did he call them fleshly? Was it because they were missing meetings and field service or because of their dress and grooming? No, it was because they were failing to display the fruits of the spirit and instead were displaying the fruits of the flesh, such as jealousy and strife.
Furthermore, it raises a question in our minds as to whether the Governing Body are treating all the brothers and sisters as fleshly rather than spiritual? Why? Because the majority of material published in recent years appears to be watered down milk. Where is the meat of the word?
After citing the example of Solomon who had a lot of knowledge but failed to remain spiritual, paragraph 7 says “We need to continue to make spiritual progress” and then suggests that the best way to “apply Paul’s counsel” in Hebrews 6:1 “to press on to maturity” is by studying the publication: Keep Yourselves in God’s Love. Again, the answer isn’t to pray for more spirit, nor to read and meditate on the Bible, but to suck from the teat of the Organization. This particular publication is hugely slanted toward producing habits that are useful to the Organization.
This skewed Org-centric view of spirituality is evident by these words directed to baptismal candidates:
“many…have a clear vision of what they want to do to serve Jehovah—perhaps by entering some form of full-time service or by serving where there is a greater need for Kingdom proclaimers.” (Par. 10)
Preaching full-time or where there is a greater need is laudable under the right circumstances. However, if done within the framework of an Organization that requires us to teach false doctrine and instill trust in and loyalty to men over God, it becomes the path not to true spirituality, but to the reproach of God.
“Outside [of the Kingdom] are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Revelation 22:15)
Belatedly, in paragraph 13, it mentions specific scriptural things we can work on:
“As we ‘put forth all earnest effort’ to develop such qualities as self-control, endurance, and brotherly affection, we will be helped to continue to move ahead as spiritually-minded individuals.” (par. 13)
You may have heard the expression: “Damned by faint praise.” Well, this is similar. We might way that these qualities are “dismissed by faint mention.” Consider the number of articles published to promote meeting attendance, pioneering, helping with Organization construction projects, proper dress and grooming, obedience to the elders, loyalty to the Governing Body. Now scan past Watchtowers for deep instructional articles on developing “love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, mildness, and self control.” Regular readers of The Watchtower won’t even have to spend the time. The answer will be on the tip of their tongue.
The next paragraph has these fine questions:
“What Bible principles will help me decide? What would Christ do in this situation? What decision will please Jehovah?” (par. 14)
There is then an attempt to draw out principles from some scriptures.
Selecting a marriage mate. (Par. 15)
The scripture cited is 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, “Do not become unevenly yoked to an unbeliever.” Of course the Organization’s definition of an unbeliever is a non-Witness. If you asked a Catholic, they would respond that an unbeliever would be a non-Catholic. However, in the context of this scripture, an unbeliever is a pagan as opposed to a Christian.
Associations. Note the Scriptural principle found at 1 Corinthians 15:33. (Read.) A godly person will not mix with those who could endanger his spirituality (Par. 16)
Paul is speaking about bad associations within the congregation. For example, people who are trying to get us to obey men instead of God. However, that doesn’t work for the Organization because it wants its followers to avoid any contact outside of the congregation. From the paragraph, witness youths will feel guilty about playing any video game with anyone who isn’t another Jehovah’s Witness. However, if we have no interaction, even wholesome interaction, with others, how can we lead them to the truth of God’s word?
- “Activities that hinder spiritual growth.” This is the third ‘principle’ the article examines. Again we have slanted questions to try to influence our answer or decision. It asks “Does this activity fall in the category of fleshly works? Should I get involved in this money-making proposal? Why should I not join worldly reform movements?” So by the inference of the wording any “money-making proposal” and any “worldly reform movement” is a fleshly work. However, there is a big difference between a get rich quick “money-making proposal” and a normal business proposition to make money. All business exists to make a profit; otherwise its employees would not get paid. We have to use soundness of mind and avoid greed in making our decisions. As to “worldly reform movement”, that is rather a vague, wide ranging scope. For example would it be wrong to work for an Environmental agency which endeavours to reduce or stops pollution? Or a wildlife and habitat protection agency? Presumably the Organization is referring to political reform. Whatever the aim we are still asking the question as yet unanswered truthfully, why did the Organization join the United Nations as an NGO, if it is fleshly to join a “worldly reform movement”?
- “Disputes.” About disputes, the article says “As followers of Christ, we work to “be peaceable with all men.” When disputes arise, how do we react? Do we find it difficult to yield, or are we known as those who are “making peace”?—James 3:18”
The question raised here is: What situations are we talking about? If within the congregation, then as with other situations, there are times when one would yield, but there are also times when we could not yield because of a scriptural requirement or principle. It is also ill advised to ever yield to bullies, as that invites continued and often worse bullying (This occurs in the congregations far more than it should, usually on the part of elders who should know better.) We would avoid making an issue out of unimportant things, just as Jesus did, but some things need to have issues made of them otherwise there is never going to be a change for the better.
The article concludes with a quote from Robert: “After I developed a real relationship with Jehovah, I was a better husband and a better father.” The better endorsement would have been one from his wife and offspring. Someone, other than ourselves, is the best judge as to whether we have truly become a more Christ-like person.
If we continue to make a real effort to practice true Christian qualities, the fruits of the spirit we display and practice will not go unnoticed by others. That will be the true mark of how spiritual a person we are.