[A Review of the September 15, 2014 Watchtower article on page 17]
“You should know well the appearance of your flock.”-Prov. 27:23
I twice read through this article and each time it left me feeling unsettled; something about it bothered me, but I couldn’t seem to put my finger on it. After all, it presents fine counsel on how parents can relate to their children better; on how they can provide needed guidance and instruction; on how they can safeguard them and prepare them for adulthood. It is not a deep article and much of the advice is practical, albeit pretty much what you can find in any of a dozen self-help guides for parents available at the local bookstore. I had even entertained the thought of taking a pass on the review this week so as to concentrate on the next post about the nature of the Christ, but something kept nagging at the back of my mind.
Then it hit me.
The parental goal is never stated. It is implied; and a careful reading of the article reveals it is not what it ought to be.
The title paints parents as shepherds over their flock, their own children. A shepherd cares for and protects his sheep; but from what? He feed and nurtures them; but from whence comes the food? He leads them and they follow; but to which destination does he guide them?
In short, where does the article instruct us to take our children?
Also, what standard does the article provide by which parents can measure their success or failure in this vital task?
According to paragraph 17: “They [your children] must make the truth their own…Show yourself to be a good shepherd by patiently guiding your child or children in proving that Jehovah’s way is the best way of life.” Paragraph 12 states: “Clearly, feeding by means of family worship is a primary way that you can be a good shepherd.” Paragraph 11 asks if we are taking advantage of the Organization’s “loving provision” of the Family Worship arrangement “to shepherd your children”? Paragraph 13 encourages us that “young ones who develop such appreciation will dedicate their life to Jehovah and get baptized.”
What do these words reveal?
- “Make the truth their own” is a phrase that means accept the Organization’s doctrines and dedicate yourself to it and get baptized. (The Bible speaks nothing of dedicating oneself prior to taking the step of baptism.)
- “This is the best way of life.” Young ones are encouraged to join our way of life. (Variations of the phrase are popping up more and more, and Apollos points out that we are well on the way to making this our JW.ORG catch phrase.)
- “Family Worship Arrangement.” The Bible instructs parents to teach their children, but says nothing about a formal arrangement that involves studying the teachings of an earthly Organization.
Given this and the whole tone of the article, it is clear that what we are looking to do is to get parents to shepherd their children into the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Is this the Bible’s message? When Jesus came to the earth, did he preach “the best way of life”? Is that the message of the Good News? Did he call us to be dedicated to an Organization? Did he ask us to put faith in the Christian Congregation?
A Faulty Premise
If the premise upon which one bases an argument is flawed, then the conclusion will be flawed. Our premise is that parents must be shepherds by imitating Jehovah. We even coin a new term in the final paragraph: “All true Christians want to be imitators of the Supreme Shepherd.” (par. 18) In doing so, we quote 1 Peter 2:25 which is the only verse in the whole of the Christian Greek Scriptures which might possibly refer to Jehovah as our Shepherd. An argument can be made that it applies to Jesus, but rather than dwell on one ambiguous text, let’s see whom God is endorsing as our shepherd?
“for out of you will come forth a governing one, who will shepherd my people, Israel.’”” (Mt 2:6)
“And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Mt 25:32)
“‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered about.’” (Mt 26:31)
“But he that enters through the door is shepherd of the sheep.” (Joh 10:2)
“I am the fine shepherd; the fine shepherd surrenders his soul in behalf of the sheep.” (Joh 10:11)
“ I am the fine shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” (Joh 10:14)
“And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (Joh 10:16)
“He said to him: “Shepherd my little sheep.”” (Joh 21:16)
“Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep” (Heb 13:20)
“And when the chief shepherd has been made manifest, YOU will receive the unfadable crown of glory.” (1Pe 5:4)
“because the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life .” (Re 7:17)
“And she gave birth to a son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod .” (Re 12:5)
“And out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with it, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron .” (Re 19:15)
While the title for God of “Supreme Shepherd” is our invention, the Bible gives Jesus the titles of “Fine Shepherd”, “Great Shepherd”, and “Chief Shepherd”.
Why do we make no mention—not a single one—of the Great Shepherd whom God has placed for all of us to follow and imitate? Jesus’ name is nowhere to be found in the entire article. This must be seen as an egregious omission.
Should we be training our children to become subjects of an organization, or subjects of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ?
We speak of getting our children to “dedicate their life to Jehovah and get baptised.” (par. 13) But Jehovah tells us: “For all of YOU who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Ga 3:27) How can parents shepherd their sheep—their children—by leading them to baptism if they overlook the truth that they must be baptised into Christ?
“. . .as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. . . .” (Heb 12:2)
Turning Away From Jesus
Jesus is the “Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith.” Or is there another, perchance? Is it the Organization?
Apollos made the point in his article “Our Christian Foundation” that of the 163 videos on jw.org that target children, there are none that focus on the role, position, nor person of Jesus. Children need a role model. Who better than Jesus?
Since this Watchtower study article seems to focus more on teenagers, let’s scan jw.org under the Videos -> Teenagers link. There are over 50 videos, but not a single one is designed to help the adolescent contemplating baptism to understand, put faith in, and love Jesus. They are all designed to build appreciation for the Organization. I have heard Witnesses say that they love Jehovah and the Organization. However, in fifty years, I can’t recall ever hearing a Witness say that he loves Jesus Christ.
“If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1Jo 4:20)
The principle expressed by John shows that it is a challenge to love God since we cannot see him nor interact with him as we would a human. Thus a truly loving provision—in contrast to the Family Worship arrangement—was when Jehovah sent a man to us who is His perfect reflection. He did this in part so that we could better understand our Father and learn to love him. Jesus was in so many ways, the most wonderful gift God has ever given to sinful mankind. Why do we treat Jehovah’s gift as of little value? Here is an article designed to help parents to shepherd their own flock—their children—yet it makes no use whatsoever of the very best means God has given us to accomplish that difficult and serious task.
That, I realize now, is what troubles me about this article.