One of the reasons we believe that the Bible is the Word of God is the candor of its writers. They do not try to hide their faults, but freely confess them. David is a prime example of this, as he sinned greatly and shamefully, but he did not hide his sin from God, nor from the generations of God’s servants who would read of and benefit from knowing his mistakes.
This is still the way true Christians should behave. Yet when it comes to addressing the shortcomings of those taking the lead among us, we have proven to be circumspect to a fault.
I wanted to share with the readership this email sent in by one of our members.
Almost every WT makes me cringe these days.
In looking at our Watchtower today, [Mar. 15, 2013, first study article] I found a part that at first seems strange, but upon further review is troubling.
Par 5,6 says the following:
Perhaps you have used the words “stumble” and “fall” interchangeably to describe a spiritual condition. These Bible expressions can, but do not always, have the same sense. For instance, notice the wording of Proverbs 24:16: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up; but the wicked ones will be made to stumble by calamity.”
6 Jehovah will not allow those trusting in him to stumble or to experience a fall—an adversity or a setback in their worship—from which they cannot recover. We are assured that Jehovah will help us “get up” so that we can continue giving him our utmost devotion. How comforting that is for all who love Jehovah deeply from the heart! The wicked do not have the same desire to get up. They do not seek the help of God’s holy spirit and his people, or they refuse such help when offered to them. In contrast, for those ‘loving Jehovah’s law,’ no stumbling block exists that can permanently knock them out of the race for life.—Read Psalm 119:165.
This paragraph gives the impression that those who fall or stumble and are not immediately returning are somehow wicked. If a person stays away from the meeting because he feels wounded, is that person wicked?
We use Proverbs 24:16 to prove that, so lets look at this closer.
Proverbs 24:16: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up; but the wicked ones will be made to stumble by calamity.
How is it the wicked are made to stumble? Is it by the imperfections of themselves or others? Let’s have a look at the cross references. On that scripture, there are 3 cross references to 1 Sam 26:10, 1 Sam 31:4 and Es 7:10.
(1 Samuel 26:10) And David went on to say: “As Jehovah is living, Jehovah himself will deal him a blow; or his day will come and he will have to die, or down into battle he will go, and he will certainly be swept away.
(1 Samuel 31:4) Then Saul said to his armor-bearer: “Draw your sword and run me through with it, that these uncircumcised men may not come and certainly run me through and deal abusively with me.” And his armor-bearer was unwilling, because he was very much afraid. So Saul took the sword and fell upon it.
(Esther 7:10) And they proceeded to hang Ha?man on the stake that he had prepared for Mor?de·cai; and the king’s rage itself subsided.
As David said at 1 Sam 26:10, it was Jehovah who dealt a blow to Saul. And we see with the case of Haman, again it was Jehovah who dealt a blow to him in order to save his people. So this Scripture in Prov 24:16 seems to say that those who are wicked are made to stumble by none other than Jehovah himself. This raises some questions. Is the WT now saying that Jehovah makes some who are in the congregation to stumble? I don’t think so. However by the same token, can we call those who stumble and who might not seek help wicked? Again, I don’t think so. So why say such a thing?
I cannot say with any certainty, however I find this misapplication of the scripture to paint those who do not seek help from the organization as wicked ones somewhat misleading.
There are of course other things that can cause us to stumble. Notice what was stated in Par 16,17
16 Injustices on the part of fellow believers can be stumbling blocks. In France, a former elder believed that he had been the victim of an injustice, and he became bitter. As a result, he stopped associating with the congregation and became inactive. Two elders visited him and listened sympathetically, without interrupting while he related his story, as he perceived it. They encouraged him to throw his burden on Jehovah and stressed that the most important thing was to please God. He responded well and soon was back in the race, active in congregation matters again.
17 All Christians need to keep focused on the appointed Head of the congregation, Jesus Christ, not on imperfect humans. Jesus, whose eyes are “as a fiery flame,” views everything in proper perspective and thus sees much more than we ever could. (Rev. 1:13-16) For example, he recognizes that what seems to be an injustice to us may be a misinterpretation or a misunderstanding on our part. Jesus will handle congregation needs perfectly and at the right time. Thus, we should not allow the actions or decisions of any fellow Christian to become stumbling blocks to us.
What I find incredible about these paragraphs, is that I thought we would admit that these types of injustices do happen. I am sure of it because I have seen it happen in every congregation I have been in. I do agree that the most important thing is to please God as those elders pointed out. However, instead of just admitting those kinds of injustices can happen, we turn it around to blame the victim of the injustice. We say that Jesus recognizes that what seems to be an injustice may be just a misinterpretation or misunderstanding on our part? Really? Perhaps in some cases, but surely not in all cases. Why can’t we just admit that? Poor performance today!!
I have to concur with this writer. There have been many cases which I have personally witnessed in my life as a JW where the one’s doing the stumbling are appointed men. Who gets punished for the stumbling?
(Matthew 18:6) .?.?.But whoever stumbles one of these little ones who put faith in me, it is more beneficial for him to have hung around his neck a millstone such as is turned by an ass and to be sunk in the wide, open sea.
This makes it clear that the one causing the stumbling gets the severe punishment. Think of other sins like, spiritism, murder, fornication. Is a millstone around the neck associated with any of these? This highlights the weighty judgment awaiting overseers who abuse their power and cause “little ones who up faith in” Jesus to stumble.
However, Jesus also caused stumbling you might counter. True.
(Romans 9:32, 33) 32?For what reason? Because he pursued it, not by faith, but as by works. They stumbled on the “stone of stumbling”; 33?as it is written: “Look! I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense, but he that rests his faith on it will not come to disappointment.”
The difference is that they stumbled themselves by not putting faith in Jesus, while the aforementioned “little ones” had already put faith in Jesus and were stumbled by others. Jesus does not take kindly to that. When the end comes–to paraphrase a popular commercial–‘It’s millstone time.”
So when we have caused the stumbling, as Rutherford did by his failed prediction of a resurrection in 1925 and as we did by our failed predictions surrounding 1975, let us not minimize it or cover it up, but let us follow the example of the Bible writers and own up to our sin honestly and forthrightly. It is easy to forgive someone who humbly asks for your forgiveness, but an evasive or buck-passing attitude, or an attitude that blames the victim, just causes resentment to build.
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I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.
An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been conducting a little research on this. And he actually bought me dinner simply because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this issue here on your blog.
I also felt reading the victim is the one who should feel bad for being hurt or having feelings and not the one who did the wrong. Yes I agree if someone wronged us/ gossip/ etc and then after either we talked to them about it or they came to us proactively and they sincerely asked for forgiveness then it would be evil on my part to still carry some form of hate/etc however even in that situation I reserve the right not to associate or develop a personal relationship again with that person without sinning until they show me… Read more »
The truth is, when we don’t know the truth we can’t seem to confess it. Not that I haven’t. I just wish I could point my finger to our “self-corrective” governance and say they do. Why they keep covering their backsides with their “increased light” theory, I can only speculate that they know it’s a house of cards and just a little adverse wind will topple the whole structure. Can’t they stop perpetuating this lie, apologize and get on with it?
I appreciate and agree with all the comments. The WT studies of late make me cringe, too. I disagree with so much that is printed that I’m finding it difficult to even participate. This article touched a sore spot with me. Too often the innocent party is blamed for his feelings and is told “you shouldn’t feel that way.” We have every right to our feelings when we’ve been treated harshly or thoughtlessly. I do think it unfair to blame the elders all the time, though. They are easy targets. Great comment, smoderingwick1 about Luke 17:1,2. I didn’t have the… Read more »
Agreed, on all points, Dorcas. I mentioned elders because of the reference to local-level injustice in the article, as well as personal experience. As an elder myself, I also know that the elder’s job can be a thankless one. My greatest test at the moment, like yours, is the increasingly cringe-worthy nature of what we get in the publications and the alarming direction the organization seems to be headed.
Having sat through the same WT study, my comment was focused on those who would cause stumbling but blame the one being stumbled. Strangely there was not one reference to Jesus words at Luke 17:1, 2: “It is unavoidable that causes for stumbling should come. Nevertheless, woe to the one through whom they come! It would be of more advantage to him if a millstone were suspended from his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to stumble one of these little ones.” Who were the “little ones” of Jesus reference? Those who were denigrated and kept… Read more »
My greatest test came from within the congregation over 20 years ago. Over the years I’ve found that almost every long-time, faithful JW has a horror story to tell, usually about elder-perpetrated (or abetted) injustice. Yet, from our publications, you’d get the impression that it never happens. So, to the discouragement that comes from the injustice, you can add the lack of acknowledgement that your test even exists and the insinuation that the problem is you.