To whom do you belong?
Which God do you obey?
For just the one to whom you bow
Your master is; you serve him now.
You cannot serve two gods;
Both masters cannot share
The love of your heart in its ev’ry part.
To neither you’d be fair.
(Ssb song 207)
To whom do we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, really belong? Which God do we serve? Whom are we protecting?
Actions speak louder than words and by our actions we show whose reputation we value the most. In light of the recent article The Mandatory Reporting Red Herring, the branch claims to have a high standard regarding the reporting of child abuse. Here is an article about how high a standard they set regarding personal conduct.
I was talking to a Bethel friend last night and he told me something I hadn’t heard of before. Apparently the Bethel family has a very strict code of conduct and dress. Now, I always knew that to visit Bethel you needed to dress in meeting clothes, and that to be in Bethel you needed to be well dressed. What I hadn’t known is that even in some very personal matters, such as hair color, sandals, and shorts, they have strict codes.
Regarding hair color, I was told that sisters have a limited range in which to color their hair. I’m not really sure of the scriptural precedent for this, but I am aware of some who have lost their Bethel service privilege for dying their hair a certain color. So I know there must be some truth to this statement.
Regarding the wearing of shorts, the normal restrictions against “short shorts” or tight and revealing clothing was always known to me. What I didn’t know was that they were not allowed to use the front entrance of Bethel if they were wearing shorts. Being a frequent visitor there, I have to admit I have never seen anyone wearing them in the lobby. The same goes with open shoes such as sandals for men. Brothers simply would not be allowed to wear sandals and walk out the front door at Bethel, apparently to make sure no one looked down on Jehovah or his people. This is where the conversation got interesting.
I was then told the story of a Bethelite who had done a heroic act and saved someone. He was written up in the local newspaper and he was given a lot of praise. What happened next was strange. Some unnamed person googled this brother’s name and dug up some dirt on him that happened years before, even before he became a witness. This consisted of a photo showing this brother in a compromising situation; not anything illegal or immoral, mind you, just a bit embarrassing. Remember, this took place before he was baptized, before he was even one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When the branch found out about it, he was summarily dismissed from Bethel. I asked my friend why that was. This brother brought praise to Jehovah’s name by his good deed, and now was being punished as a consequence? Does Jehovah not forgive us all past sins upon baptism? Is not baptism the request made to God to be granted a clean conscience? (1 Peter 3:20, 21)
My friend defended the Bethel decision by saying that the young man was not above reproach and thus not qualified for special full-time service. We have allowed baptized Witnesses who were disfellowshipped for fornication, adultery—even in some cases, based on the testimony in Australia, child abuse—to return and serve as pioneers (full-time servants) and elders.
I countered that there is nowhere in Scripture where Jehovah did something similar to this to anyone who became one of his servants. My friend then got upset and said not to argue with him. If the FDS[i] says he is not qualified then he’s not…. Full Stop.
To whom do we belong, indeed?
The Underlying Problem
I found this conversation disturbing for several reasons.
- Jehovah doesn’t do this to his servants. The simple fact that the Branch feels this way shows me they hold us to a higher standard than does the Almighty. Thus they seem to be acting as a God of their own making.
- Who were they really protecting? Jehovah’s reputation? Or their own?
- If they are afraid of a small thing like this being known to the public, what lengths will they go to in order to cover up bigger problems like the mishandling of child abuse in our ranks?
First things first.
Let’s look at some examples of how Jehovah treated those who had committed some very public sins.
Jehovah’s Dealings with King David
King David, as we all know, was a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart. Even long after he had died, he was held as a model for subsequent kings to follow. In fact, our Lord Jesus is the antitypical David. (1 Kings 14:8; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24) Yet we also know that he committed gross sins including adultery and murder and then tried to cover them up. Note that he was already a servant of Jehovah when this happened. Even with all of this history, Jehovah still allowed him to continue to rule, though he still had to endure the consequences of his actions.
Notice what the WT says about him:
“David’s life was filled with privileges, triumphs, and tragedies. Yet, what attracts us to him above all else is what the prophet Samuel stated of David—he would prove to be “a man agreeable to [Jehovah’s] heart.”—1 Samuel 13:14.” (w11 9/1 p. 26)
“All of us are imperfect, and we all sin. (Romans 3:23) Sometimes we may fall into serious sin, as did David. While discipline is beneficial, however, it is not easy to take. In fact, at times it is “grievous.” (Hebrews 12:6, 11) Yet, if we “listen to discipline,” we can become reconciled to Jehovah.” (w04 4/1 p. 18 par. 14)
Yes, we can become reconciled to Jehovah, but apparently not to the Watch Tower Bible &Tract Society, even if the sins are long in our past and were already forgiven us by God. Does this not seem strange to you?
Rahab’s Past Is Overlooked
Rahab lived in the city of Jericho and she knew her city well. She also knew the people well. She could see they were terrified of the Israelites who were marching around the city. Yet Rahab did not feel the same sense of dread as her fellow citizens. Why was that? She had dropped a scarlet cord outside one of her windows in an act of faith. Thus when the city was destroyed, her family was spared. Now Rahab, up until this point, had led a very interesting life. Here is what the WT had to say about her:
“Rahab was a prostitute. That stark fact so alarmed some Bible commentators in the past that they claimed that she was merely an innkeeper. The Bible, though, is quite clear and does not whitewash the facts. (Joshua 2:1; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25) Rahab may have keenly sensed that her way of life was degrading. Perhaps, like many today in such walks of life, she felt that she was trapped, with no other choice if she wanted to care for her family.” (w13 11/1 p. 12)
Rahab was different from her countrymen. Over the years, she had contemplated the reports she heard about Israel and its God, Jehovah. How completely unlike the Canaanite gods he was! Here was a God who fought for his people instead of victimizing them; who elevated the morals of his worshippers instead of debasing them. This God treated women as precious, not as mere sexual objects to be bought, sold, and degraded in vile worship. When Rahab learned that Israel was camped across the Jordan, poised to invade, she must have been dismayed over what that could mean for her people. Did Jehovah notice Rahab and value the good in her?
“Today, there are many people like Rahab. They feel trapped, stuck in a way of life that robs them of dignity and joy; they feel invisible and worthless. Rahab’s case is a comforting reminder that none of us are invisible to God. No matter how low we feel, “he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) He is close by, ready and eager to offer hope to all those who put faith in him.” (w13 11/1 p. 13)
We see that Jehovah spared this woman. She joined with his people and he even allowed her to become an ancestress to Boaz, King David and finally, Jesus Christ himself. Yet if she were alive today, because of her past, she likely would never have been allowed to serve in Bethel. Does this make sense to you?
An ancestress of our Lord Jesus, not allowed to serve in Bethel. Would Jesus perhaps have something to say about that?
An Insolent Man
We first hear of Saul of Tarsus in the Bible at Acts 7:58 during the stoning of Stephen. The people who were there laid down their outer garments at his feet so he could watch over them. For a Jew, he had all the right connections. Here is what the WT had to say about him:
According to his own writings, Saul was “circumcised the eighth day, out of the family stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born from Hebrews; as respects law, a Pharisee.” That was viewed as an impeccable Jewish pedigree! (w03 6/1 p. 8)
He also had the best of education as well as Roman citizenship which put him amongst society’s elite back then. However, Saul also had a dark side. Notice again what the WT says:
“Saul was well-known for his disrespectful speech, even for his violent behavior. The Bible says that he was “breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” (Acts 9:1, 2) He later acknowledged that he had been “a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man.” (1 Timothy 1:13) Although some of his relatives may already have become Christians, he said of his own attitude toward Christ’s followers: “Since I was extremely mad against them, I went so far as to persecuting them even in outside cities.” (Acts 23:16; 26:11; Romans 16:7, 11)” (w05 5/15 pp. 26-27 par. 5)
Was Saul’s behavior well known? Yes! So well know that when Ananias was dispatched to witness to Saul, he was more than a little apprehensive about going. Why? As Acts 9:10-22 brings out, Saul’s outrageous behavior had became known to many. Yet again with all this, Saul accepted correction and became the apostle Paul. If he were alive today, he would be considered a full-time servant by Jehovah’s Witnesses, yet as such, his past would require us to remove him from any “privileges of full-time service.”
What Conclusion Should We Draw?
The point of this exercise is to show how much Jehovah’s viewpoint differs from the policies and procedures of the Organization that presumes to bear his name.
While Jehovah sees the heart of each individual, and uses them to their fullest potential, the Watchtower or as we now call it, JW.ORG, seems to feel that Jehovah’s standards are too low. Any embarrassing incident from a person’s life, even if committed before they began associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, is enough for us to want to keep our distance.
It would seem that Bethel has higher standards that Jehovah God himself. Should this not concern us all?
We have often heard the refrain “Do you think you know better than the Governing Body?” Or, “Are you questioning the direction of the Faithful Slave?” What we should be asking is, “Does the Governing Body think they know more than Jehovah God?”
It would appear from their actions and the iron-fisted way they control people that in fact they do. This has been demonstrated repeatedly. On multiple occasions, I have heard while at the branch that the Bible is not enough for JWs, we need the publications as well. We have just placed the organization on the same level as the word of Almighty God.
As song 207 states, we cannot serve two Gods. So the question is, “To whom do you belong? Which God will you obey?”
We’ll see in part two of this article where our misplaced loyalties have often led us.
[i] “Faithful and Discreet Slave” from Matthew 25:45-47