[From ws3/18 p. 28 – May 27 – June 3]

“My sons, … listen to discipline and become wise.” Proverbs 8:32-33

This week the WT study article continues the theme of discipline from last week. It starts off well. We are gently reminded that “Jehovah has our best interests at heart” (par. 2) and then we are asked to read Hebrews 12:5-11, the passage of scripture missing from last week’s article. But notice how no opportunity is taken to show why Jehovah would bother to discipline us.  The entire passage of Hebrews 12:5-11 as well as the theme text of Proverbs 8:32-33 addresses us as “sons” or “children of God”.  This element which conflicts with the “friends of God” theology of Witnesses is glossed over.[i] Rather the focus is on how being disciplined is good for us.

The four areas to be discussed in the article are then highlighted which are “(1) self-discipline, (2) parental discipline, (3) discipline within the Christian congregation, and (4) something that is worse than the temporary pain of discipline.” (par. 2)

Self-Discipline

This is covered in paragraphs 3-7 and all is fine until paragraph 7 where it starts by saying “Self-discipline helps us to reach spiritual goals. Consider the example of a family man who felt that his zeal was waning somewhat.”

Nothing wrong here you may say. The previous paragraph was discussing using self discipline to study God’s word more, so the reader might think in context the brother’s zeal had waned for studying God’s word. But no. His zeal had waned for the organization’s view of “spiritual goals”. The suggested cure; Was it to make a more determined effort to study God’s word and find hid treasures? (Proverbs 2:1-6). No, “he set the goal of becoming a regular pioneer and read articles on that topic in our magazines”. (par. 7) So the cure for his lack of zeal is an artificial goal set by the Organization, and using artificial spiritual food (the magazines) to strengthen himself to do it. Prayer comes in as an afterthought. Romans 10:2-4 comes to mind, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge;  for, because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness.”

Parental Discipline

This is covered in paragraphs 8-13. This section also starts off well until we get to paragraphs 12 and 13. This is where it discusses disfellowshipped family members. It says “Consider the example of a mother whose disfellowshipped daughter left home. The mother admits: “I looked for loopholes in our publications so that I could spend time with my daughter and my granddaughter.” There are a number of issues to discuss here, setting aside the important issue of whether the disfellowshipping arrangement as practiced by the Organization is scripturally accurate.

  • Who was disfellowshipped? The daughter, so why were any loopholes required to spend time with the granddaughter? The granddaughter was not the one disfellowshipped, so why should she suffer? To treat the granddaughter as disfellowshipped would be going against the principle in Deuteronomy 24:16 where it states that fathers should not be punished because of the sins of their children and children should not be put to death because of the sins of their father.
  • If she wanted a loophole, the mother should have checked the Official JW.org website under “About us/Frequently Asked Questions/Do Jehovah’s Witnesses shun former members of their religion?” There it says “What of a man who is disfellowshipped but whose wife and children are still Jehovah’s Witnesses? The religious ties he had with his family change, but blood ties remain. The marriage relationship and normal family affections and dealings continue.”
  • However, this clashes with what the God’s Love book (lv p 207-208 para 3) says regarding a disfellowshipped family member living at home: “Since his being disfellowshipped does not sever the family ties, normal day to day family activities and dealings may continue….So loyal family members can no longer have spiritual fellowship with him.” But with regard to those family members living away it is much harsher: “Although there might be a need for limited contact on some rare occasion to care for a necessary family matter, any contact should be kept to a minimum.” Yet no scriptural backup for this harsher treatment is provided. It also shows how selective the Organization is in how much ‘truth’ it puts directly in front of the public. Hardly an honest approach.
  • The very fact that the mother looked for loopholes in the publications raises red flags.
    1. Why did she not check for herself what the Scriptures say as to how to treat her daughter and granddaughter?
    2. The fact that she viewed the publications as the ultimate authority rather than God’s word is very worrying, but this view is very common among Witnesses. ‘Check the publications’ is the ever-present mantra; ‘Check the Bible’, not so much.
    3. The fact that potentially any ‘loophole’ in the publications could go contrary to God’s word also doesn’t seem to have been considered. Are we serving God and following his word or following a man-made Organization and its publications?
    4. Finally the sad fact is that what the publications teach in both books and videos is contrary to what God’s word teaches on this matter. (See discussions of this policy in CLAM review Dec 25 2017, and Sep 18 2017 and Theocratic Warfare or just plain lying.)

From the article: ”But my husband kindly helped me to see that our child was now out of our hands and that we must not interfere.[ii]

We should never give up on our children if they have taken a scripturally wrong course and persist in it. This conclusion is unloving and contrary to human nature, and we should remember in whose image we were created. Jehovah has never given up on us sinful mankind. The source of the teaching the husband followed had to be the organization, which means Jehovah is not their father as He does not act that way. So when the article says next to “Remember, Jehovah’s discipline reflects his matchless wisdom and love. Never forget that he gave his Son for all, including your child. God wants no one to be destroyed. (Read 2 Peter 3:9.)” (par. 13) it is again giving contradictory messages. How will your child come to realise they are disobeying God and desire to change if you as parents refuse to have anything to do with them as well as your innocent grandchildren?

In the Congregation

“He has placed the congregation under the care of his Son, who appointed a “faithful steward” to provide timely spiritual food. (Luke 12:42)” (par. 14)

The Scriptures clearly show that Jesus is the head of the Christian congregation, but there is no evidence that he appointed the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses as his slave, faithful or otherwise.  All we have is a self-appointment.  Evidence of this comes from examining the so-called “food at the proper time” which the Governing Body dispenses.  Can you remember the last time a Watchtower article dealt purely with manifesting a fruit of the spirit without any attempt to use it for their own purposes?  There are only a very few verses in the Bible that deal with dress and grooming, yet this is a constant theme. There are no Scriptures that condemn post-secondary education, yet this drum is beaten seemingly on a monthly basis.  There are no Scriptures that speak of being loyal to a governing body of men nor to an organization, yet one can hardly pick up a Watchtower without being reminded of the need for such loyalty.

“One way is to imitate the faith of the elders as well as their fine example. Another way is to heed their Scriptural counsel. (Read Hebrews 13:7,17)” (par. 15)

It is always good to benefit from fine examples and put these fine qualities into practice. However, Hebrews 13:7 says “Remember those who are taking the lead among you”…why?  Because “as you contemplate how their conduct turns out, imitate their faith”. If the leader(s) of an expedition were leading you and your group across a crocodile infested river, would you blindly follow them, because they are the leaders and should know best? Or would you watch and then seeing which ones have acted wisely, follow the course those wise ones took? That is just common sense, but now we have it reinforced from Scripture.

What about Hebrews 13:17? The NWT says “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive”. However the word translated “Be obedient” carries the meaning of “to be persuaded of what is trustworthy”.  Also, the word translated “submissive” carries the meaning of “yielding” which is ‘to give way’. So this verse is re-emphasizing verse 7 and could be read as “be persuaded of what is trustworthy by those taking the lead among you and be yielding rather than resisting”. Do you see the authority to give discipline and chastisement in these verses? Of course not. The Hebrew Christians were being treated as adults with a reasoning mind of their own, and being implored to benefit from the fine example of those leading (from the front). They were not being told to submit to the will and whim nor the discipline and chastisement from fellow imperfect Christians.

“For instance, if they notice that we are missing meetings or that our zeal is cooling off, they will no doubt quickly come to our aid. They will listen to us and then try to build us up with warm encouragement and appropriate Scriptural counsel.” (par. 15)

What planet is this writer on? (Sorry for the quip, but sometimes it is just called for.)  How many visiting this site have experienced this as stated? Likely very few. From experiences we’ve received and read, most are ignored, even shunned, by elders and publishers alike, often while still attending meetings with some frequency.  As to elders listening to us and trying to build us up with warm encouragement, it is more likely two or three elders want to see you in the backroom for some strong counsel and if you raise any objections, then the threat of disfellowshipping looms large.

What Is Worse than any Pain of Discipline?

Two examples are given, both from the Hebrew scriptures. Cain, who rejected God’s counsel, and wicked King Zedekiah who rejected the warnings by Jehovah’s prophet, Jeremiah. Yes, both suffered as a result of rejecting God’s counsel, but today we do not have prophets among us, nor do we get counselled directly by Jehovah, nor through one of his angels. The final verse (and sentence) given is Proverbs 4:13 where the NWT says “hold on to discipline, do not let it go.”  Here a Hebrew Interlinear says “Take fast hold, of instruction, do not let her [the instruction]  go, keep [following] her [the instruction] for she [the instruction] is your life.”  (It would appear that our translation is suffering a bit of biased rendering here.)

Yes, indeed, we should safeguard God’s instruction contained in his word, but we have no obligation to listen to those who have wrongly presumed that they have the authority to hand out chastisement and discipline unsupported by Scripture. As Galatians 6:4-5 says “But let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone and not in comparison with the other person. For each one will carry his own load.”

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[i] See WT review for May 21-26 for more on Hebrews 12:5-11

[ii] Based on w91 4/15 p21 para 8 Imitate God’s Mercy Today : says Former friends and relatives might hope that a disfellowshipped one would return; yet out of respect for the command at 1 Corinthians 5:11, they do not associate with an expelled person. They leave it to the appointed shepherds to take the initiative to see if such a one is interested in returning.” Again this requirement to leave it to the shepherds/elders is not supported by scripture.