[From ws1/17 p. 12 March 6-12]
“Where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.”—2Co 3:17
The study this week opens with this thought:
WHEN faced with making a personal choice, one woman told a friend: “Do not make me think; just tell me what to do. That is easier.” The woman preferred being told what to do instead of using a precious gift from her Creator, the gift of free will. What about you? Do you like making your own decisions, or do you prefer that others decide for you? How do you view the matter of free will? – par. 1 [boldface added]
Do we even have to comment on the irony of this paragraph? There are few Christian religions on earth at the present time that require greater submission to the will of men than that of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
While it might seem easier to have someone else make decisions for us, doing so would rob us of one of the great blessings of free will. That blessing is revealed at Deuteronomy 30:19, 20. (Read.) Verse 19 describes the choice that God gave to the Israelites. In verse 20 we learn that Jehovah gave them the precious opportunity to show him what was in their hearts. We too can choose to worship Jehovah. We could have no greater motive than to use God’s gift of free will to express our love for him and to bring him honor and glory! – par. 11
Let’s apply this paragraph’s counsel within the framework of the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Say you feel that putting in 80 hours a month in the field ministry is the best way to serve God. This is your free will at work. However, you do not wish to be a pioneer because you do not want to answer to men and you don’t want to go to pioneer school, or receive the praise of men. Would you be allowed to exercise your free will without any pressure from the elders?
Now let’s say you’re a good publisher, putting in 15 to 20 hours a month, but you decide that reporting your time means that men will become aware of your gift of mercy. Remembering the admonition of our Lord Jesus found at Matthew 6:1-4, you decide to keep your gifts of mercy a secret. Will the elders respect your decision arrived at because of your god given gift of free will, or will they harass you for a report?
May we never fall into the trap of choosing to rely on our own understanding, as did Adam and the rebellious Israelites. Instead, may we “trust in Jehovah with all [our] heart.”—Prov. 3:5. – par. 14
This is excellent counsel. However, it will be misapplied. It will enter the ear of all Jehovah’s Witnesses and be processed by a subroutine in the brain implanted long ago by repeated doctrinal programming through meeting parts and the publications. This subroutine will replace “Jehovah” with “Organization” in the collective JW consciousness.
It is easy to put this to the test. I’ve done it many times. For example, provide a Witness with proof that the Governing Body compromised their neutral standing with Jesus Christ as their husbandly owner by—to use their own reasoning—committing adultery with the wild beast through membership in its image, the United Nations. (For detailed proof, click here.) Invariably, the response will be to ignore the dire implication of this scandal, and instead embark on a kill-the-messenger course of action that starts with the affirmation, “I love Jehovah…”
Jehovah, of course, has nothing to do with this egregious sin, but in saying this, the Witness demonstrates that he equates the Organization with Jehovah. The two are synonymous. Jesus said, “I and the father are one.” (John 10:30) But to Witnesses, a truer phrase is, “The Organization and Jehovah are one.”
One of the limitations on our freedom is that we must respect the right that others have to make their own decisions in life. Why? Since we all have the gift of free will, no two Christians will always make exactly the same decision. This is true even in matters that involve our conduct and worship. Remember the principle found at Galatians 6:5. (Read.) When we recognize that each Christian must “carry his own load,” we will respect the right that others have to use their own gift of free will. – par. 15
This particular ‘limitation on our freedom’ is not one which Witnesses accept readily. This paragraph pays lip service to it, but in practice, the Organization will impose its will on the individual. Ask yourself, is a brother truly able to exercise his free will in the minor decision of whether or not to grow a beard? Is a young person able to exercise his or her free will in their choice of higher education? Both of these decisions, and countless more, are matters of conscience as the next paragraph goes on to say, yet a JW making the ‘wrong’ choice is sure to be pressured and even ostracized.
Therefore, should we not also respect our brother’s right to make personal decisions in matters of lesser importance?—1 Cor. 10:32, 33. – par. 17
What a strange little sentence. What is the implication here? Are we free to disrespect a “brother’s right to make personal decisions” when the matters are not of “lesser importance”? Is the exercise of free will limited to minor matters? If so, then who gets to decide on the major ones? The Organization?
The theme text is, “Where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.” (2Co 3:17) However, one of the expressions we hear from everyone who has awakened to a greater knowledge of the Christ is that they feel free for the first time. Perhaps if the Witnesses realized that what Paul wrote to the Corinthians refers to the Lord Jesus, they would begin to understand the freedom they are missing.
But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2Co 3:14-18
Sadly, the veil continues to lie over the hearts of my JW brethren when they read from God’s word. It is removed only when one turns to the Lord; but even in their translation, they turn away from the Lord and mistakenly attribute these verses to Jehovah.
Some of my thoughts on this subject (your mileage may vary): Jehovah does not have “absolute free will.” The reason I say this is that, generally speaking, the more intelligent creatures there are, the less “free will” each one has. For example, When a man marries, he agrees to limit his free will so as to accommodate his wife. Similarly, when the couple have children, the couple’s free will is further limited so as to accommodate the needs of the children. In the case of God, as soon as He started creating intelligent persons, He limited His own free will… Read more »
Thank you, Bobcat. And thank you also for your thoughtful comment.
Looks like another Watchtower Study I won’t be attending…. Seriously, the title of the Study alone, in the context of the JW organization, was enough to make me literally feel nauseous. “Free Will?” In this organization? Sure, we have free will, as long as that “free will” leads us to the exact same conclusion as the organization, on every single doctrinal manner, no matter how small, and no matter what scriptures we may read that contradict said conclusion. One thing Paragraph 14 noted: “Another way to guard our gift of free will is to put our trust in Jehovah and… Read more »
I get how you are feeling. I went along yesterday and yes the comments were very sterile and in line with the paragraphs.
You might want to change your view of the word Christian after reading Acts 11:26
Meleti, how heart warming to see you have also seen that 2 Cor 3 is about our Lord Jesus. They wrongly inserted Jehovah half a dozen times in such a small space. It’s almost like their “paste” key got stuck when they were inserting Jehovah. 🙂 I suppose for that reason it has always been one of my favorite mistakes in the NWT. Jesus is the Spirit, his spirit gives us freedom when we turn to him. He is the Spirit even as so mentioned in Rev 22:17.
I have read 2 Cor. 3 using the RNWT, Kingdom Interlinear with Greek, as well as the KJV. My personal conclusion: the context would point to “Lord” as Jesus Christ and not Jehovah. Thanks Meleti for seeing through the translation again.
Dear Meleti Your comments on paragraph 15 are very true. Sadly this principle of freedom doe not extend to being able to disagree on a matter of interpretation, as opposed to a clear Bible teaching. What about the freedom of others to make the decision to leave the organisation without being subjected to shunning as a ‘disassociated one’ or even being disfellowshipped, because they may happen to disagree with the organisations current official teachings. Even more so in the sad cases where a witness has been stumbled by the wicked actions of a so-called ‘brother’ or wishes to escape having… Read more »
JWs are meant to be united (1 Cor 1:10), which, as Meliti has pointed out before means conformity, all wearing the same garb. We are meant to serve “shoulder to shoulder” (Zeph 3:9), but this has become a shoulder to shoulder so tightly packed that the individual Christian has to step out of line in order to move (I realise this might be a slight exaggeration.. but it is how I feel when we read a study article like this). Free will ? If we ask a sincere question we get a reply (from the Society) which encourages you to… Read more »
” they turn away from the Lord and mistakenly attribute these verses to Jehovah.” They have also mistakenly attributed Paul’s words at Romans 10;13. I do have difficulty believing that it was not done intentionally in view of the clear context.
Very good Yobec. Glad to see you saw that one too. There are many. Nice to be on the same page with so many. True knowledge is becoming more abundant!