[Watchtower study for the week of May 19, 2014 – w14 3/15 p. 20]
The thrust of this article concerns identifying who should care for the elderly among us, and how the care should be administered.
Under the subtitle “The Family’s Responsibility”, we start by quoting one of the ten commandments: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:2) We then show how Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes for failing to observe this law due to their tradition. (Mark 7:5, 10-13)
Using 1 Timothy 5:4,8,16, paragraph 7 shows that it is not the congregation but the children who have the responsibility for caring for aging or ill parents.
To this point all is well and good. The scriptures show—and we fully acknowledge—that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for dishonoring their parents by putting a tradition (a law of man) above the law of God. Their excuse was that the money that should have gone to care for the parents was instead going to the temple. Since it was to be eventually used in God’s service, this breach of divine law was permissible. In other words, they felt the end justified the means. Jesus strongly disagreed and condemned this unloving attitude. Let’s just read that for ourselves to have it clear in mind.
(Mark 7:10-13) For example, Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Let the one who speaks abusively of his father or mother be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother: “Whatever I have that could benefit you is corban (that is, a gift dedicated to God),”’ 12 you no longer let him do a single thing for his father or his mother. 13 Thus you make the word of God invalid by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like this.”
So by their tradition, a gift or sacrifice dedicated to God exempted them from obedience to one of the ten commandments.
The scriptures also show, and we again acknowledge, that it is the children’s responsibility to care for the parents. Paul makes no allowance for the congregation to do this if the children are believers. He lists no acceptable exemptions to this rule.
“But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to repay their parents and grandparents what is due them, for this is acceptable in God’s sight….8 Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her assist them so that the congregation is not burdened. Then it can assist those who are truly widows.” (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16)
These are strong, unequivocal statements. Caring for parents and grandparents is considered “a practice of godly devotion.” Failure to do this makes one “worse than a person without faith.” Children and relatives are to assist the elderly so that “the congregation is not burdened.”
From paragraph 13 on we consider information under the subtitle “The Congregation’s Responsibility”. Based on the foregoing, you might well conclude at this juncture in the study that the congregation’s responsibility is confined to situations where there are no believing relatives. Alas, not so. Like the Pharisees, we too have our traditions.
What is tradition? Is it not a common set of rules to guide a community? These rules are enforced by the authority figures in the community. Thus traditions or customs become an unwritten but universally accepted pattern of behavior within any community of humans. For example, our Western tradition or custom used to require a man to wear a suit and tie, and a woman a skirt or dress, when going to church. It also required a man to be clean shaven. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we followed this tradition. Nowadays, businessmen rarely wear suit and tie, and beards are widely accepted. On the other hand, it is almost impossible for a woman to buy a skirt these days because pants are the fashion. Yet in our congregations, this tradition continues to be enforced. So what started as a custom or tradition of the world has been adopted and preserved as one for Jehovah’s Witnesses. We continue to act this way giving the reason that it is done to preserve unity. To a Jehovah’s Witness, the word “tradition” has a negative connotation due to Jesus’ frequent condemnation of it. Therefore, we re-label it as “unity”.
Many sisters would love to go in the field ministry wearing an elegant pantsuit, especially in cold winter months, but they do not do so because our tradition, enforced by our local community authority figures, will not allow it. If asked why, the answer will invariably be: “For the sake of unity.”
When it comes to caring for the elderly, we have a tradition as well. Our version of corban is the full-time ministry. If the children of an aging or ill parent are serving in Bethel, or are missionaries or pioneers serving far away, we suggest that the congregation may want to take on the task of caring for their aging parents so that they can remain in the full time service. This is considered a good and loving thing to do; a way of serving God. This full-time ministry is our sacrifice to God, or corban (a gift dedicated to God).
The article explains:
“Some volunteers divide the tasks with others in the congregation and care for older ones on a rotation basis. While realizing that their own circumstances do not allow them to engage in the full-time ministry, they are happy to assist the children to remain in their chosen careers as long as possible. What an excellent spirit such brothers show!” (par. 16)
It sounds nice, even theocratic. The children have a career. We’d love to have that career, but cannot. However, the least we can do is help the children remain in their chosen career by filling in for them in caring for the needs of their parents or grandparents.
We can be sure that the tradition of corban sounded nice and theocratic to both the religious leaders and their followers in Jesus’ day. However, the Lord took great exception to this tradition. He does not allow his subjects to disobey him just because they reason they are acting in a just cause. The end does not justify the means. Jesus doesn’t need a missionary to remain in his assignment if that individual’s parents are in need back home.
True the Society invests a lot of time and money in training and maintaining a missionary or Bethelite. All that could be wasted if the brother or sister has to leave to care for aging parents. From Jehovah’s view, however, this is of no consequence. He inspired the apostle Paul to instruct the congregation to let children and grandchildren “learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to repay their parents and grandparents what is due them, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.” (1 Tim. 5:4)
Let’s analyze that for a moment. This practice of godly devotion is seen as a repayment. What are the children paying back to the parents or grandparents? Simply caregiving? Is that all your parents did for you? Fed you, clothed you, housed you? Perhaps, if you had unloving parents, but for most of us, I daresay the giving didn’t stop with the material. Our parents were there for us in every way. They gave us emotional support; they gave us unconditional love.
As a parent nears death, what they want and need is to be with their children. Children likewise need to repay the love and support that their parents and grandparents lavished on them in their most vulnerable years. No congregation, however loving its members, can substitute for that.
Yet our Organization expects aging, ill, or dying parents to sacrifice this most human of needs for the sake of the full-time ministry. Essentially, we are saying that the work a missionary does is so valuable to Jehovah that he views it as trumping the need to show godly devotion by repaying one’s parents or grandparents what they are due. That in this instance, one is not disowning the faith. We are basically reversing Jesus’ words and saying that ‘God wants sacrifice, and not mercy.’ (Mat. 9:13)
I was discussing this topic with Apollos, and he made the observation that Jesus never focused on the group but always the individual. It was never what was good for the group that mattered, but always the individual. Jesus spoke of leaving the 99 to rescue the 1 lost sheep. (Mat. 18:12-14) Even his own sacrifice was made not for the collective, but for the individual.
There are no scriptures that support the viewpoint expressed that it is loving and acceptable in the sight of God to abandon one’s parents or grandparents to the care of the congregation while one continues in full-time service in a faraway land. True, they may need care beyond what children can provide. It may be that professional care is needed. Still, leaving whatever care can be provided to be handled by “congregation volunteers” while one continues to uphold the tradition that the ministry is of overriding importance flies in the face of what Jehovah clearly states in his word is the obligation of the child.
How lamentable that like the scribes and Pharisees, we have invalidated the word of God by our tradition.
Hi I got wondering if the study was sort of giving a blank cheque to those who are following ‘careers’ within the organisation. ( I put inverted commas around the word careers because when I was attending Meetings (with a view to becoming baptised) and the Bible Studies around that time focused on the idea that higher education, degrees and high flying careers are a bit of a far cry from what members (and myself) should be concentrating on.- after all, a degree in eg Accountancy (which is what I was thinking about at the time (part of the reasoning… Read more »
Did anyone notice the scripture from Psalm 71:18 highlighted in para 3
“And even until old age and grey headedness, O God, do not leave me. Until I may tell about your arm to the GENERATION, to all those who care to come, about your mightiness.
So how would the GB interpret the generation here? overlapping
The mid-week meeting concluded with song 44, “Sharing Joyfully in the Harvest.” The song is based on the parable of the wheat & weeds. In part the song says:
We live in the time of the harvest, . . . God’s glorious angels are reapers; In this work we too have a share. . . Both harvest and preaching are urgent, For shortly the end we will face.
But see here and here for an analysis of the phrase “conclusion of the system of things.”
Reblogged this on Make Sure of All Things.
And I still can’t spell my own name 🙂
Christian not Christin
What an absolute racket!!
Surely it can’t be long now before the WT Corporation is exposed for all to see.
They have spent so long pointing out the scriptural failings of others it’s about time they had their comeuppance.
The sad thing is that when it does happen it will be twisted into an attack on God’s people by Satan the Devil and his apostate hordes.
So tiresome 🙁
I’m no accountant, but it is my understanding that when one takes the vow of poverty, one conscientiously objects to accepting benefits of any private or public insurance that makes payments for death, disability, old age, retirement, or medical care. The person taking the vow waives all rights to receive any social security payment or benefit, and agrees that no benefits or payments will be made to anyone else based upon his wages and self-employment income (verbatim from IRS website). All special full-time servants are required to take the vow of poverty. This releases the organization from obligation to pay… Read more »
Looks like logical reasoning. I am not sure if it was only wishful thinking. Such a decision does not show humbleness at all. Looks a little bit like the rich person wo decided to build more storage so he would no have to work again but did not include Gods view at all. WTBS did more or less the same. They should have decided to just what was right and if in the end the money was gone, who cares….paradise would be there 🙂
Its right again what you said it sounds like corban to me as well .How on earth can they ignore 1timothy 5 in this matter it plainly states how god feels about these matters .all that seems to matter in the religion now is that one serves the organisation at any expense .we know we would have to be balanced in these matters but no christian can really palm the responsibility of their parents on others. Havent they got their own responsibilities to take care of .This again just confirms my thinking that the religion is just not people orientated… Read more »
Thank you Meleti…. Stachys you’re thoughts are spot on. At the annual RBC inspection of KH’s, legal records are reviewed and if the KH is not already a 501c3, the host congregation is directed to create a 501c3 Non-Profit Corporation ASAP. Of course, Branch legal has crafted the articles and by-laws to give the Branch complete control of the property in every situation….. into perpetuity. The “organization” has basically evolved into worldwide commercial contractor. Instead of building strip centers or fast food restaurants, we build cooker cutter KH’s, using volunteer labor. Before the first meeting is held the property has… Read more »
Yet another reason why I stopped contributing some time back. I’ve taken the money budgeted for that and used it to help out those I know of who are truly in need. Far more satisfying.
That is exactly what I have decided to do now as well.
For the record, in the US one can pay into social security, which is non-optional with private section employment, for a minimum of 40 quarters up to age 70.
This qualifies one for lifetime retirement and medicare benefits, which can be passed to a spouse after death.
Imagine a mature elder on the Branch management team, a CO, or retired DO, imagine they did deep research on a teaching (607, blood, second death at Armageddon) and after intensive study, arrived at a conclusion contrary to current light interpretation. Given their total dependence on the “organization” (corporation), what are the odds they submit the results of their research to the GB? Zero. I’m certain some of these mature elders have personal views that are not aligned with our official teachings, but they are bound to keep his lips sealed. Even a suggestion that GB interpretation could be scripturally… Read more »
There is always a trade-off between the short-term and the long-term to be had. The consistent advice in the KM and assembly programs has been to take advantage of short-term opportunities to “put the Kingdom first.” Unfortunately, the long-term realities of life catch up with us sooner-or-later, and sustainability becomes an issue. Watchtower, for its own business decisions, exercises wisdom in making long-term investments free of short-term thinking, for the most part. From the 1930’s to nearly the 1990’s, child-bearing was discouraged, along with self-investment in education and training. Higher income was denounced as materialism and a “lack of faith… Read more »
For those who’ve made their career special full-time service, facing the issue of caring for aging parents (whether JW or not) is a very difficult dilemma. I don’t think many of our long time heavyweights projected having to face this situation in this system. Armageddon was going to save the day. Perhaps in their late 50’s – 60’s now, they are depending upon the retirement “benefit” package. For Bethelites, this means a lifestyle among long time friends, in a classy, gated senior housing project, all bills paid, park-like, comfortable, great healthcare, with few cares or concerns, great vacations, the green… Read more »
Sound, logical reasoning. Thanks for sharing the perspective, MaxwellSmartjw.
PS: Love the username.
As much as we don’t want to see it we have a “clergy” class — it is so sad that we have become so much like the religions we have always condemned.
Thank you all for your kinds words. I have always felt true Christian love coming from those who post on this site. Menrov, your words have helped more than you know. The odd thing about my mother’s situation is that the “old family friends and neighbors” as I like to refer to those friends we held dear before we became Witnesses, have stayed in touch with my mom through me. Some who live in my town DO come by to visit….but no brothers and sisters. Yet, we (JWs) boast about the love we show. I am no longer in the… Read more »
Ecellent article, very true. What saddens me most is the fact that we are constantly encouraged to shun even own parants in case they leave the “truth” , we supposed to empoverich them of love, relationship and care for the sake of organizitional policy to bribe them back to the org. We even mask this as a will of god, but of curse when old parents really need help maybe because of the health problem we are told – its our christian responsibily to care for them. (discuss spiritual matters is forbidden). Anyway this is my experience. By the way… Read more »
Dorcas, I offer you my love and support, my sister. Your mother is the one who is blessed to have such a loving and devoted daughter. I hope your children are helping you and are watching your example.
I suppose I appreciate your comments so much because I find myself in this position, of caring for my elderly mother. Funny how, even though she has been a faithful Witness for over 40 years and many proclaim to “love” her, she gets absolutely NO visits from anyone in the congregation except for a few who are struggling with age and infirmities themselves and sympathize with our situation. Elder visits? Nope. Pioneer visits? Nope. Offers of help? Nope. My guess is the reason for that is because I am not a pioneer but I could be wrong. There is a… Read more »
Hi Dorcas, I very much appreciate your efforts to take care of your mother. I know how tough this can be. It is a period you did not plan for but out of respect and love to your mother (or parents in general), one just adapts and does what is feasible. I see more or less the same on our congregation. There is so much focus on field service that most publishers in the congregation spend only very little time to look after the weak or old ones, although there are fortunately always a very few that do try hard… Read more »
I feel for you, Dorcas. My wife and I have had the privilege of caring for her mother for considerable period of time without any help from her relatives. It was hard and it meant giving up many things, but neither of us have any regrets, nor would we have done otherwise in retrospect. It is through obedience like this in showing Godly devotion by caring for those who once cared for us that we find favor in God’s eyes. And we need all the favor we can get. 🙂
Dorcas,I can emphathize with you.My grandmother brought me up when my mom left.Near her dying days I was frequently exhausted from work & couldn’t look after her much.I believe that not only parents who are ill & aged want & need their children to be with them – the children themselves would want to be with their parents/grandparents as much as possible under those circumstances.The obedience to Watchtower recommendations/instructions,etc – & believing these to be from Jehovah – this would likely override the children’s desire to be with their old folks.
I love you. I just wanted to say this and to say thank you to you.
If there is anything I can do, I will do. You are in my prayers poppet.