[From ws3/17 p. 13 May 8-14]
“Keep asking in faith, not doubting at all.” — Jas 1:6.
The one recurring accusation that Jesus made against the religious leaders of the nation of Israel was that they were hypocrites. A hypocrite pretends to be something he is not. He puts on a façade that hides his true intent, his real persona. Usually, this is done to gain some level of power or authority over another. The first hypocrite was Satan the Devil who pretended to look out for the well-being of Eve.
One cannot recognize hypocrisy simply by listening to what a hypocrite says, because hypocrites are very adept at appearing to be good, righteous, and caring. The persona they present to the world is often very appealing, charming, and engaging. Satan appears as an angel of light and his ministers appear to be righteous men. (2Co 11:14, 15) The hypocrite wants to draw people to himself; to engender trust where none is deserved. Ultimately, he is looking for followers, people to subjugate. The Jews in Jesus’ day looked up to their leaders—the priests, and scribes, Pharisees—esteeming them as good and righteous men; men to be listened to; men to be obeyed. Those leaders demanded the people’s loyalty, and by and large, got it; that is, until Jesus came along. Jesus unmasked those men and showed them up for what they truly were.
For instance, when he cured a blind man, he did so by making a paste and then requiring the man to bathe. This occurred on the Sabbath and both those actions were classified as work by the religious leaders. (John 9:1-41) Jesus could have simply cured the man, but he went out of his way to make a point that would resonate among the people observing the events that would unfold. Likewise, when he healed a cripple, he told him to pick up his cot and walk. Again, it was a Sabbath and this constituted prohibited ‘work’. (John 5:5-16) The insensitive reaction of the religious leaders in both instances and in the face of such obvious works of God made it easy for right-hearted people to see their hypocrisy. Those men pretended to care for the flock, but when their authority was threatened, they showed their true colors by persecuting Jesus and his followers.
By these and other incidents, Jesus was demonstrating the practical application of his method for distinguishing true worship from false: “Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those men.” (Mt 7:15-23)
Anyone watching the May Broadcast on JW.org, or reading last week’s Watchtower study, or preparing this week’s for that matter, is likely to be impressed. The image conveyed is one of caring shepherds providing the food needed at the proper time for the well-being of the flock. Good counsel, no matter the source, is still good counsel. Truth is truth, even if spoken by someone who is a hypocrite. That is why Jesus told his listeners, “all the things they [the scribes and Pharisees] tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but they do not practice what they say.” (Mt 23:3)
We do not want to imitate hypocrites. We may apply their counsel when appropriate, but we must be careful not to apply it as they do. We should do, but not according to their deeds.
Are the leaders of the Organization hypocrites? Are we being unfair, even disrespectful, to even suggest such a possibility?
Let us examine the lessons in this week’s study, and then put them to the test.
What will help us to make wise decisions? We certainly need faith in God, not doubting his willingness and ability to help us to be wise. We also need faith in Jehovah’s Word and in his way of doing things, trusting God’s inspired counsel. (Read James 1:5-8.) As we draw close to him and grow in love for his Word, we come to trust his judgment. Accordingly, we develop the habit of consulting God’s Word before making decisions. – par. 3
Why might it have been so difficult for those Israelites to make a wise decision?…They had not built a foundation of accurate knowledge or godly wisdom; nor did they trust in Jehovah. Acting in accord with accurate knowledge would have helped them to make wise decisions. (Ps. 25:12) Moreover, they had allowed others to influence them or even to make decisions for them. – par. 7
Galatians 6:5 reminds us: “Each one will carry his own load of responsibility.” (Ftn.) We should not give someone else the responsibility to make decisions for us. Rather, we should personally learn what is right in God’s eyes and choose to do it. – par. 8
How might we give in to the danger of letting others choose for us? Peer pressure could sway us to make a bad decision. (Prov. 1:10, 15) Still, no matter how others try to pressure us, it is our responsibility to follow our Bible-trained conscience. In many respects, if we let others make our decisions, we are essentially deciding to “follow them.” It is still a choice, but a potentially disastrous one. – par. 9
The apostle Paul clearly alerted the Galatians to the danger of letting others make personal decisions for them. (Read Galatians 4:17.) Some in the congregation wanted to make personal choices for others in order to alienate them from the apostles. Why? Those selfish ones were seeking prominence. – par. 10
Paul set a fine example of respecting his brothers’ right of free will to make decisions. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:24.) Today, when giving counsel on matters involving personal choice, the elders should follow that pattern. They are happy to share Bible-based information with others in the flock. Still, the elders are careful to allow individual brothers and sisters to make their own decisions. – par. 11
Truly this is fine counsel, is it not? Any witness reading this will feel his heart swell with pride at such a demonstration of balanced and loving direction from those considered to be the faithful and discreet slave. (Mt 24:45-47)
Now let us put this to the test.
We are taught that our preaching work is an act of mercy. Mercy is the application of love to alleviate the suffering of others, and bringing them the truth of God’s word is one of the finest ways we have to alleviate their suffering. (w12 3/15 p. 11 par. 8; w57 11/1 p. 647; yb10 p. 213 Belize)
We are also taught that going in the field service is a righteous act, one we should engage in on a weekly basis. We are taught by the publications that our public witnessing is both an act of righteousness and mercy.
If you have come to believe this, then you are faced with a decision. Should you report your field service time; the amount of time you spend doing a righteous and merciful work? Following the counsel from this week’s study, you consult God’s word before making this decision. (par. 3)
You read Matthew 6:1-4.
“Take care not to practice your righteousness in front of men to be noticed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. 2 So when you make gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your gifts of mercy may be in secret. Then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you.” (Mt 6:1-4)
You don’t go in the field service to be noticed by men. You are not seeking glory from men, and you don’t want to be paid in full by the praise men give you for your service. You want it to be secret so that your heavenly Father, who looks on in secret, will notice and repay you when you most need favorable judgment. (Jas 2:13)
Perhaps you’ve been considering applying to be an auxiliary pioneer. However, could you put in the same number of hours without anyone needing to be aware of it? You know that if you apply, your name will be read out from the platform and the congregation will applaud. Praise from men. Payment in full.
Even reporting your time as a publisher means telling just how much righteous and merciful work you have engaged in every month. Your left hand will know what your right is doing.
Therefore, in accordance with the counsel given in this article, you make your Bible-based decision not to report time anymore. This is a conscience matter. Since there is no Bible mandate requiring you to report time, you feel confident that no one will pressure you to change your decision, especially after what was said in paragraphs 7 and 11.
This is where the hypocrisy will manifest itself—the difference between what is taught and what is practiced. Time and again we get reports of brothers and sisters hauled into the back room or library of the Kingdom hall by two elders and grilled about their decision not to report. Contrary to the counsel in paragraph 8, these appointed men will want you to give them the responsibility for making decisions that affect your relationship with God and Christ. The reason such pressure will be exerted is that your decision to not report threatens their authority over you. If they were not seeking prominence (Par. 10), they would allow you to make a decision like this based on your conscience, would they not? After all, the “requirement” to report hours is nowhere to be found in Scripture. It comes only from the Governing Body, a body of men.
Granted, this is a small thing. But then, so was walking with one’s cot or bathing in the pool of Siloam on the Sabbath. The men who complained about those “little things” ended up murdering the Son of God. It really doesn’t take much to show up hypocrisy. And when it is there in a little way, it is usually there in a big way. It only takes the right circumstances, the right test, for the fruits produced by a man’s heart to be made manifest. We can preach neutrality, but what good if we practice friendship with the world? We can preach love and caring for the little ones, but what good if we practice abandonment and cover-up? We can preach that we have the truth, but if we practice persecution to silence opposers, then what are we really?