[Watchtower study for the week of June 23, 2014 – w14 4/15 p. 22]
This week’s study contains some practical advice for parents who have worked away from the family for a considerable period of time and are now trying to repair the emotional damage that such a situation can cause. Within the confines of the case histories the article describes, the counsel for the most part is valid and helpful. It cannot cover all the situations that come up in life, but the article makes no acknowledgment of that fact, leaving it up to the reader to use his or her own discernment. As Christians, we do not want to engage in judging our brother since we cannot know what is in his or her heart. We would not want an article like this one to predispose us to a particular cookie cutter point of view.
It is so easy to take a valid bible principle and then apply it too broadly, thereby undoing the good that would otherwise accrue from following Bible counsel. For instance, paragraph 16 states: “Jehovah always blesses decisions based on faith in him, but how can he bless a decision that is contrary to his will, especially when it involves needlessly giving up sacred privileges?” The statement is valid in and of itself. However, placing it into the context provided by the paragraph leads the reader to the conclusion that families moving to a more affluent country are going contrary to God’s will. Who are we to determine God’s will as it pertains to individuals and families. How presumptuous of us to make such an allusion. Who are we to suggest whom Jehovah will bless, or how he accomplishes his purpose? He is the God that “makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Mt 5:45)
Paragraph 17 states: “… Are you willing to obey him when it may mean having to lower your standard of living? (Luke 14:33)” Again, valid counsel. But what particular obedience is the article referring to? Obedience to God or this Organization? Having lived in more than one third world country and seeing firsthand the extreme poverty in which many of our brothers subsist, and then having visited the Bethel home in those same countries, I’m confident in saying that these words ring hollow. For 95% of the brothers in those countries, living in Bethel is a big step up. Truly, for them it is quite simply living in the lap of luxury. One might suggest that rather than spending millions of dollars to create the resort-like environment common to Bethel homes the world over, why not take the counsel from Luke 14:33 that they are proffering to others and apply it to themselves? Why not imitate our Leader who did not even have a place to lay his head. (Mt 8:20)
By setting the example themselves, their words extolling self-denial for the good of the preaching would carry far more weight. Otherwise, they may well be imitating another group of religious leaders that Jesus spoke of at Matthew 23:4.