[Watchtower study for the week of June 16, 2014 – w14 4/15 p. 17]
Study theme text: “No one can slave for two masters…
You cannot slave for God and for Riches”—Mat. 6:24
Some months ago, when I first read this week’s Watchtower study article, it disturbed me. However, I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why. There was of course the fact that some of our brothers and sisters are going to feel publicly humiliated as they sit in the audience while these topics are being discussed. It seems unkind and therefore unchristian to put them on the spot in this way.
There was also, for me at least, the thought that this is a tremendous waste of our dedicated time. Surely we don’t have to spend eight million man-hours studying a topic that only applies to a tiny minority of our brothers? Wouldn’t yet another secondary article on the subject have done the job? Or perhaps a brochure that the elders could bring out whenever these specific issues arise? Surely a one-on-one counseling session would be the most advantageous method of helping our brothers to reason on these principles? That would allow us to then use these eight million man-hours to get into deep Bible study, something sadly lacking from our theocratic curriculum; or we could spend the time getting to know our Lord Jesus Christ better so as to imitate him all the more closely. That is instruction we could all benefit from and something which is also far too scarce in our weekly instruction program.
While all the above may or may not be true depending on your point of view, for me, none of it took away the nagging feeling that something else—something fundamental—was wrong with the article. Some of you might be thinking I’m being unnecessarily critical. After all, the article contains sound Bible principles which seem to apply quite nicely to the cited case histories. Quite true. But let me ask you this? After reading the article, do you believe it is our position as Jehovah’s Witnesses that going to another country to make more money to send home to your family is acceptable, but not preferable? Or do you get the impression that for JWs this is always a bad thing? Did you get the impression that those who do this are just trying to provide for their families in line with 1 Timothy 5:8, or are they doing this to seek riches?[i] Is it your understanding from the article that such ones are not trusting in Jehovah, and that if they just stayed home and made do, all would be well?
This is typical of our one-size-fits-all approach to applying Bible principles, and therein lies the fundamental problem we should all have with this type of article.
We are turning principles into rules.
The reason Christ gave us principles and not laws to guide us through life is two-fold. One: principles always apply despite changing times and circumstances; and two: principles put the power in the hands of the individual and free us from the control of human authority. By obeying principles, we submit directly to our head, Jesus Christ. However, manmade rules take the power away from Christ and put it in the hands of the rule makers. That is precisely what the Pharisees did. By making rules and imposing them on men, they exalted themselves above God.
If you feel I’m being harsh and judgmental, that the article does not make rules, but only helps us to see how the principles apply, then ask yourself again: What impression does the article leave me with?
If you feel the article is saying that it is always a bad thing for a wife to leave home, go to a foreign land, and send money back home for the family, then what you have is no longer a principle, but a rule. If the article is not making a rule, then we would expect to see some counter balance to the points being made; some alternate case history to show that in some circumstances, this solution may be an acceptable option?
The fact is the article calls into question the basic motive of all who would dare to journey abroad in these situations, implying that they are really just interested in seeking riches. The theme text, after all, is Mat. 6:24. From that, what conclusion are we to draw other than such ones are merely “slaving for riches”.
When I pioneered in Latin America, I had many Bible studies with people who were desperately poor. Typical was one family of four who lived in a 10-by-15-foot hut with a sheet metal roof and sides made of splayed bamboo. The floor was dirt. The parents and two kids lived, slept, cooked and ate in the same room. They shared a communal washroom with other families. There was a hotplate on a shelf which was the stove when needed and a tiny sink with a single cold water faucet for doing all the washing, though there was a communal cold water shower. The clothes closet was a string stretched between two nails on one of the walls. I sat on a rickety wooden bench made up of discarded lumber while the four of them sat on the only bed. Their lot in life was similar to millions more. I cannot count the number of homes just like this one which I have been in. If that family had been offered an opportunity to better themselves even slightly, what would you do if asked for advice? As a Christian, you would share the relevant Bible principles with them. You might share some experiences you were personally aware of. However, recognizing in all humility your place before Christ, you would refrain from exerting any pressure so as to push them toward the decision you felt was the right one.
We do not do this in the article. The way it is presented, it creates a stigma. Anyone of our poorer brethren who may be contemplating an opportunity overseas will no longer just be weighing out the Bible principles for themselves. If they choose this course, they will be stigmatized, because this is no longer a matter of principle, but a rule.
It is very easy to sit in cushy offices surrounded by the splendid countryside of Patterson NY or the soon-to-be lakeside dwellings in Warwick and dispense this kind of ah-shucks paternalism that we North Americans are known for the world over. This isn’t exclusive to us as Jehovah’s Witnesses, but is a characteristic we share with all our fundamentalist brethren.
As I said at the outset, this study article had left me with a nagging feeling since I first read it months ago; a feeling that something fundamental was wrong. Odd to get such a feeling from a seemingly well-intentioned Scripturally-based article, isn’t it? Well, that nagging feeling went away once I realized that what was causing it was a subconscious awareness that here again was another subtle example of us imposing our will, our rules, on others. Once more, under the guise of scriptural counsel, we are usurping the authority of the Christ by circumventing the conscience of our brothers and sisters and giving them what we like to call “theocratic direction”. As we now know, that is merely a code phrase for the “traditions of men.”
[i] It is noteworthy that 1 Timothy 5:8 is not cited anywhere in the article even though this is an overriding principle for all situations where parents are considering options for providing materially and in other ways for their young.
I love naw the article mentioned that those who move abroad aren’t doing it to jest provide daily food for their children. Well duh! If people who were too poor to eat could send a parent abroad they would. However people who are that poor are only worried about day to day survival. People who do go abroad are not the poorest of the poor. They have enough so that they can at least plan for the future. There is nothing wrong with planning for the future. The article should have helped people weigh the pros and cons without trying… Read more »
I think it’s also because of the GB lived in the Philippines they would have a differing opinion. But they live the best lives possible. Just like the president who doesn’t spend his own money but still has everything? Well the GB boats about not making money but has the best of everything. I bet they sleep on Egyptian and Silk sheets
The article should not miss the real point of going abroad for the family. The father or the mother is flying off not because of having the opportunity to buy nice things like toys or expensive gadgets for their children. It’s because of providing them a good if not the best education. In the Philippines, education is the best gift a parent can give his/her child. Nevertheless, I agree with the article’s point that leaving one’s minor child can have some serious psychological impact on the child and his relationship with the migrating parent (overseas worker). But I guess not… Read more »
Even my wife who’s a devout JW for more than 22 years finds the Matt. 6:24 off from the discussions. I think her eyes are slowly being opened after my more than 1 year of probing the truth as the WT has taught us. Caring for the family when one feels there’s no way out but to leave one’s country for better compensation is definitely not serving riches per se. The verse I thought was misplaced.
Many people leave the Organisation because their conscience would no longer allow them to direct people there for reasons we all know about. There are many ways to preach the good news and bring praise to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ – you don’t have to belong to an Organisation.
For this subject to merit prime time discussion, I would bet this is becoming a trend in certain disadvantaged countries. I haven’t researched prior years (and it’s not really relevant) but a review of year over year rate of growth in South American countries (2014 YB) may be revealing. It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between lower growth rate in countries where more are moving to find higher paying employment. I wouldn’t be surprised if they correlate. Argentina 1 (%) Bolivia 5 Brazil 1 Chile 2 Columbia 3 Equador 4 Paraguay 2 Peru 3 Uruguay… Read more »
I had wondered as well as to why they focused on sisters in the article. I agree that it is likely that more brothers immigrate for work than sisters. I also agree with you that giving counsel based on Scripture can be helpful, but passing judgment is quite another thing.
Christopher Johns, You asked: “My question is why do we stay Jehovah’s Witnesses? I mean when we preach, it is to convert someone who may already be Christians. Has anyone ever thought that if we were wrong about certain doctrines and we just converted someone that God would look down on us? I’ve always thought that if we were wrong then I just converted someone to the wrong religion 🙁 . Jehovah reads the heart not church membership. This article pairs working over seas for basics with slaving for riches. She didn’t slave for riches. She took care of her… Read more »
I’ve got to be honest, when I read the article I do not feel the same reaction to it that many seem to have. When I look at the social engineering that is taking place, I do not think that there is any harm in speaking against it. Some of these countries have a cultural pressure on individuals, not just to go away to work, but to provide support also to EXTENDED family. It is quite frankly absurd and also unscriptural. I don’t believe counsel on taking care of your family properly is misplaced or a waste of time. I’m… Read more »
The problems due to changing cultural pressures you describe are real and very much need to be addressed. You are quite correct in saying that “it is in these situations that 1 Tim. 5:8 also applies”. Unfortunately, his article makes no reference to 1 Tim. 5:8 nor does it address all the valid issues you’ve raised. Instead, it paints all individual who travel abroad for work with the same brush, thus stigmatizing them.
I totally agree. I think people neglected to read that at the beginning of the article it set the tone for a mother working abroad so get son could have the nicer things other kids did. That to me says ipad or something nice. It didn’t mention poor. So I think many readers applied this to those who are poor and need work which is not what the article was speaking of.
Good comment Akismet. I have spent more than $30,000.00 on my brother-in-law alone [10 years] and that doesn’t include my wife’s trips to see her family who are not witnesses. They bleed us constantly with their excuses why they need more. Next month my wife is going to see her family and demand to see their bank details. They have lied to us 2 years ago and used “medical funds” to buy a laptop and a second fridge. They have used our money to smoke and drink too. And they come from a ‘poor country’ but have wasted some of… Read more »
JB, I think I understand what you mean by your quoting the scripture “The following verse made me think about many practices : “By their fruit you will recognize them.”, but the most important part for me is this : “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16)” I believe it applies to all of us, even to Jehovah’s Witnesses. We may think we are producing good fruit by our actions; but if we are a thornbush inside….we will never product a good fruit like grapes. JW’s may think they are pleasing Jehovah when they practice… Read more »
I so much agree with you IMACOUNTRYGIRL2, and it’s indeed interesting you mentioned Jesus, who actually showed mercy and there was nothing but good about him. People felt good in his company. His message just rhymed with what was visible of him. I often think about some brothers or sisters I had the pleasure of knowing in my childhood. They were such comforting, gentle people ! They were comparable to a magnet, whenever I came across them I felt like talking to them, spending time with them. For the field service, I always tried to arrange to go with them.… Read more »
JB, we know…. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17. If we look for those providing the fine fruit, which takes work, there is only relief, with no feeling of remorse, in knowing it is truth at last. Christ leads us to it as he is that truth. “Don’t link up with unbelievers and try to work with them. What common interest can there be between goodness and evil? How can light and darkness share life together? How can there be… Read more »
I agree peely, that the sense of relief should be the result of finding, or engaging in the path of, the truth.
But reading 2.Cor excerpt, and thinking about today, I still wonder about the definition of an “unbeliever”. Where would be the line. Would it be believing in another religion, having different opinion on various matters ? As Paul mentions about the idols, I guess it’s about that. It’s still quite difficult for me to associate someone to evil, or darkness, just because they have different convictions, even after coming across to Christian teachings.
The following verse made me think about many practices : “By their fruit you will recognize them.”, but the most important part for me is this : “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16)
I cannot help but thinking these latter words, when I think about shunning family members or, like described on this article, being target for some life choices … Anything that makes you feel bad, directly or indirectly – can it be part of the True Worship ?
Katrina, I love the scripture your quoted, John 14:6,7 “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (NIV) What reassuring words as Jesus holds out his hand to us as we find our way out of the Organisation maze and we are no longer trapped, but free to follow our Lord and find peace and love in his care and direction.
Yes, the organization is run by modern day Pharisees, as Katrina says. Would any true worshiper of God expect obedience of others for themselves? The brothers and sisters that are blinded have deceived themselves into thinking that pleasing men and pleasing God are the same thing. Gal 1:10 – Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Interesting how well put the Phillip’s translation for Matt 6:24 reads: “No one can… Read more »
In the article the interpretation seemed about right but the application Is probably off .its a DIY .application .if the next article was about the importance of allowing others to express their own faith and make their own choices in life and not judging others decisions it would be ok . From what ive seen its those type of articles the brothers need . Kev
For some reason I was thinking about 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 when I read your comment Katrina, especially verse 19 and Hebrews 12:1-3 especially verse 3 ” But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have… Read more »
All this is because the org is run by Pharisees, they have the mind set of Pharisees passed down to the flock. If one has the mind of Christ and recognises he is the only one to listen to then none of this would be going on and those b/s would be much healthier spiritually and there would be less depression less anxiety less judgment and condemnation of others. We are dealing with a controlling mind set passed down to the elders, inflicting the flock. John 14:The Way, the Truth, and the Life 5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do… Read more »
My question is why do we stay Jehovah’s Witnesses? I mean when we preach, it is to convert someone who may already be Christians. Has anyone ever thought that if we were wrong about certain doctrines and we just converted someone that God would look down on us? I’ve always thought that if we were wrong then I just converted someone to the wrong religion 🙁 . Jehovah reads the heart not church membership. This article pairs working over seas for basics with slaving for riches. She didn’t slave for riches. She took care of her family.
I served in a foreign language for several years. We couldn’t use hardly any of the native speakers. Why? Because they were too busy working just to put food on the table. They did not have extra time to prepare talks and go to extra meetings. Me as a college grad had all the time in the world to do RBC travel to foreign countries and attend extra meetings. Even then I never agreed with the organization on education. I felt that it needlessly made people be trapped working lower paying jobs. Learning engineering, nursing, accounting etc does not make… Read more »
Being immigrant myself I know first hand how does it feel being criticised for decision to move to different country and get better life for my family. My family member was an elder and decided to move with us and he was openly criticised during elders meeting for being materialistic and accused of leaving Jehova . He and his family after they moved joined local congregation and continued in the normal Jw routine attending meetings etc, but body of elders back in his country did’t recommended him as an elder and he is not an elder since them. Some brothers… Read more »
So sorry to hear you had to go through that, search4truth. Being misjudged means that we are saying in the reproach of the Christ, which despite the difficulty of the tribulation works out for us an approved state which is of lasting value. (Heb. 11:26; 2 Cor. 4:17; Romans 5:3-5)
As JW’s we used to proudly say that if Jesus came back to day as a man he would be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Kingdom Hall – where on earth did we get that idea from!! Talk about mind control! It’s good to keep a sense of humour.
No JW would be allowed to speak to him, as he would probably be disfellowshipped as an apostate 🙂
And with his beard he wouldnt even be allowed hold a microphone in our local congregation kev
JB. Anyone can see that there is poverty in the world, they don’t have to get on a plane and see it. Maybe I shouldn’t of used the phrase “living in a bubble”.But, rather just described it as it is. That they (GB) live in a self contained building complex.No bills to worry about, They have their food prepared and served for them.Their clothes washed and pressed for them.Their apartments regularly cleaned and maintained.They travel all over the world being treated rather well and a little revered by many. They’re not exactly experiencing, the everyday futility and grind that most… Read more »
Hi Mark, actually my comment lacked clarity apologies for this. You’re very right about the fact that poverty is not an unknown topic but I must admit it never hit me that much until I had a chance to see it. I also had possibilities to travel a little for my work and indeed, it’s quite a different thing to see how people live and talk with the locals about their daily lives in more details. Actually “living in a bubble” is quite the right word in my opinion and I think it is the situation about the GB. My… Read more »
Proverbs 30 :8 …..give me neither riches nor poverty,,,
I knew someone would be able to recall it for me. Thank you, yobec.
How is it possible for the GB to “live in a bubble” while they regularly travel the world to various destinations among which places where life is really hard ? Are they blind to see many people listening to them wear old clothes they keep on repairing because they can’t afford new ones ? Let’s assume they are in a bubble, then how about the elders and others in the “hierarchy” who often live close to the same conditions ? But one thing is sure : Being detached from the material concerns is the easiest for the poor 🙂 and… Read more »
Hi JB, There is a scripture I recall where the writer is praying to God not to make him rich so that he forgets God, nor poor so that he curses God. I think it was Asaph who wrote it, though I can’t remember for sure. It was decades ago. I tried to find it in the WTLib, but couldn’t. Perhaps one of our readers could help us out with that. In any case, the text resonated with me back then because in preaching to chose communities, we found that people who were desperately poor didn’t accept our message anymore… Read more »
Hi Meleti, thank you for your point of view. I didn’t know about the general reaction of very poor people against spiritual matters.
Just to add to my previous comment.The setup at bethel’s are cost effective and efficient in producing WT literature. It would appear that the GB are not materialistic.And its not their purpose or goal to live a luxurious lifestyle. I just feel they seem isolated from the real world.I wonder if the content or character of whats written in the publication would change if GB had real jobs and had to pay bills like the rest of us.
The apostle Paul had a day job, did’t he?
This is amazing! I can so totally relate to all the comments here. The GB is saying something on the one hand and saying something entirely different on the other hand. Don’t get an education that will enable you to do better in life, YET, send us your hard-earned money as we know better than you how to spend it, “WE ARE THE VOICE OF GOD” Amazing! My sister called me a month ago, in tears, she didn’t have enough to eat, she was really struggling. At the time I simply couldn’t as I have several bills of my own… Read more »
OMG. I’m the same way. I feel embarrassed to say I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“By obeying principles, we submit directly to our head, Jesus Christ.” So it’s necessary to be able to understand those principles and how they apply and in order to do that one needs to read the Bible – there is precious little of that done at the Kingdom Hall, sadly. So you don’t need to think, just do as you are told – not healthy!
I remember years ago, not sure what year, but it was announced that Bethel does not want to receive second hand cloths, only new cloths for the b/s, I remember thinking well, many b/s shop at second hand stores many of those are charities run by Christendom, a lot of b/s cannot afford new clothes. The western world is also very expensive, the cost of utilities is constantly rising, I know quite a few JW that cannot afford heating because they are such a strict budget, since the WT relies mostly on the western world for donations, and as the… Read more »
Back in the 70s at an international convention in Latin America, I was working in the kitchen. Back then the food department was expected to make a profit, because that was how the assemblies were funded for the most part, between food profits and voluntary donations. Any excess was divided between a start-up fund for the next assembly and a donation to the branch. We had a brother working for us in the kitchen. Quiet brother who just did his job. A hard worker. At one point, I told him to take some time off and go get himself some… Read more »
I remember going to those international assemblies in the 70’s and being a young boy I never realized how much my mother sacrificed to get us there. My father was an “unbeliever” and wouldnt support her with family finances so she would scrape and save every dime she could to make it there. At the time I thought it was fun to go there but now as a grown man with a family of my own I understand why she was so stressed at the assemblies that she didnt enjoy the program. I no longer attend the meetings and I… Read more »
I visited the Philippines a few years ago and attended a convention their.The main speaker, a bethel elder related a story of a recently baptised brother who got a job on a commercial ocean liner.The speaker, the gist of his talk was something like”How can this brother serve Jehovah spending months at sea, away from the meetings and ministry” It didn’t sink in straight away, but realised what a narrow minded way to think.Much of the Philippines economy relies on migrant workers sending money home to feed their families.Married to a Filipino, I have seen the poverty first hand.And know… Read more »
Just been to Manila.for business. I noticed.all.the poverty. It.looks very much like I have seen in Latin America. Real poverty, real.struggle, real despair.in particular when a chils is sick, no prosperous outlook….this article is really misplaced. Narrow minded and offensive to those struggling. How can one even consider to label these a serving richdom as a slave……yes, there are people that are already financially ‘save ‘ and still pursue more richness. But among the some 7 million JWs you will hardly find these. I was in Manila, paid by my employing company and stayed in very nice area in very… Read more »
The 11th paragraph puts the final point : The family study is vital for us to survive the Great Day … OK I’m convinced, I’ll pack my suitcases … I’m sorry to sound sarcastic but this article made me rather angry. First of all, the organization could give a first example for stopping to worry about material possibilities and put their faith in Jehovah by stopping the congregations for a “committed amount” of contributions. They are one of those who put a financial strain on their fellow brothers and sisters. Secondly, what does having two masters really mean, from the… Read more »
I concur, JB. Jesus, who literally had only the “shirt on his back” made arrangement to provide monies for the poor out of the funds that were given him. We prize organization above all things and yet with all our organizational arrangements, we make no organizational provision for the poor among us. We dismiss accusations that we don’t provide for the poor by stating that Christianity is not a social religion. Our funds go so supporting the preaching work. Yet we spend millions of dollars in time and funds to provide gifts for visiting delegates at international conventions. We spend… Read more »
As a JW it always used to worry me when brothers/sisters would use John 12:8 as a reason for not giving money to charity; we were to wait for the Kingdom to help these ones. This gave the completely wrong impression of Jesus Christ of course. Now I give to charity whenever I am moved to do so and I find this helps to bring me closer to Jesus.
I agree Meleti, Jannai40. Of course, when such help to “our own” comes into play, it might create other “issues” like people joining for that interest. But actually, to me it doesn’t matter.
I can hardly think of a stronger witnessing than actions.
One shoe size fits all attitude again! I haven’t read the article as yet, so I may be jumping the gun here, did they use the bible principle from 1Tim… 1 Timothy 5:8 (KJ21) 8 But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. I am sure many b/s in a situation where traveling or moving to another country for work would be the only option to support their families, and given the experience of many from poorer countries as Meleti mentioned… Read more »
No Katrina, they didn’t refer to 1 Tim. 5:8. That omission is very telling, IMHO.
Chris, Good for you for getting that college degree!!
Study theme text: “No one can slave for two masters…You cannot slave for God and for Riches”—Mat. 6:24
I think the Watchtower completely misses the whole point of Matthew 6:24 which is that “No one can slave for two masters”, with riches being only one example of one master.
As an example, suppose we interchanged “Riches” with, say, “The Governing Body”.
Speaking about no one can serve two masters: can one serve God and an organization? What happens when the interests of an organization comes into conflict with bible truth? Will bible truth be adhered to above the interests of the organization; or will the interests of the organization be made to triumph by disguising it as “Jehovah’s direction” at this time and/or through the twisting of the meaning of the conflicting bible verses? The principle that no one can serve two masters is not limited to money, although Jesus made that specific application. It can also apply when one gives… Read more »
I know. Look at the offices the GB sits in. They have Apple Computers and nice offices. They have the best of everything. They have no idea what it’s like to struggle. They show that those who go to college work excess hours. Are you kidding me. I worked 3 jobs before I finished college. Now I have weekends and holidays off because of my degree. I get off at 2:20 everyday. Whereas when I had no degree I worked all of the time with no time for service. So how is college bad ?
College is bad, and university worse, because it promotes critical thinking.
Yup. So if bills cost $1400 a month and you make $7.77 an hour how many hours a month do you have work work? And if they don’t give you but 20 hours a week. Uh oh. Second job is coming. Here is more time away from family and worship. For gods sake go to college and more more in less. They don’t understand that.