One of our readers drew my attention to a blog article which I think reflects the reasoning of most Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The article begins by drawing a parallel between the self-declared ‘non-inspired, fallible’ Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups that are also “not inspired nor infallible”. It then draws the conclusion that “opposers claim that since the governing body is not ‘inspired or infallible’ we do not have to follow any direction coming from them. Yet, those same people willingly obey the laws created by a non “inspired or infallible” Government.” (sic)
Is this sound reasoning? No, it is flawed on two levels.
The first flaw: Jehovah requires us to obey the government. No such provision is made for a body of men to rule the Christian congregation.
“Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. 2 Therefore, whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves….for it is God’s minister to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear, for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword. It is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.” (Ro 13:1, 2, 4)
So Christians obey the government because God tells us to. However, there is no scripture which appoints a governing body to rule us, to act as our leader. These men point to Matthew 24:45-47 claiming that scripture gives them such authority, but there are two problems with that conclusion.
- These men have assumed for themselves the role of faithful and discreet slave, even though that designation is only granted by Jesus upon his return—a still future event.
- The role of faithful and discreet slave is one of feeding, not of ruling nor governing. In the parable found at Luke 12:41-48, the faithful slave is never depicted giving orders nor demanding obedience. The only slave in that parable that assumes a position of authority over others is the evil slave.
“But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and starts to beat the male and female servants and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting him and at an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones.” (Lu 12:45, 46)
The second flaw is that this reasoning is the the obedience we give to the government is relative. The Governing Body does not allow us to give relative obedience. The apostles stood before the secular authority of the nation of Israel which coincidentally was also the spiritual Governing Body of that nation—a nation chosen by God, his people. Yet, they boldly proclaimed: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”
Whom Do You Follow?
The real problem with the anonymous writer’s reasoning is that his or her premise is not Scriptural. It is revealed here:
“Should you abandon someone who is “neither inspired nor infallible” only to follow after someone else who is not inspired or infallible simply because they accuse the other of such as if it were a bad thing?”
The problem is that as Christians, the only one we should be following is Jesus Christ. Following any man or men, be they the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses or yours truly, is just wrong and disloyal to our Owner who bought us with his precious lifeblood.
Obeying Those Who Take the Lead
We have covered this topic in depth in the article “To Obey or Not to Obey”, but to sum up briefly, the Word rendered “be obedient” in Hebrews 13:17 isn’t the same word used by the Apostles before the Sanhedrin at Acts 5:29. There are two Greek words for “obey” to our one English word. At Acts 5:29, the obedience is unconditional. Only God and Jesus deserve unconditional obedience. At Hebrews 13:17, a more precise translation would be “be persuaded”. So the obedience we owe anyone taking the lead among us is conditional. On what? Obviously on whether or not they are conforming to God’s word.
Who Jesus Appointed
The writer now focuses on Matthew 24:45 as the argument clincher. The reasoning is that Jesus appointed the Governing Body so who are we to challenge them? Valid reasoning if in fact it is true. But is it?
You will notice that the writer offers no Scriptural evidence whatsoever for any of the statements made in the second paragraph under this subtitle to prove the belief that the Governing Body is appointed by Jesus. In fact, it appears that little research was done to verify the accuracy of these statements. For instance:
“When the 7 times of Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 4:13-27) ended in 1914 according to our calculations, the Great War broke out…”
The calculations from that hyperlink show that the seven times ended in October of 1914. The problem is, the war had already begun by that point, starting in July of that year.
“…the Bible Students, as we were then called, continued to preach door to door as Christ directed, (Luke 9 and 10) until the governing body of the day…”
Actually, they didn’t preach door-to-door, though some colporteurs did, but more important, Christ never directed Christians to preach door-to-door. A careful read of Luke chapters 9 and 10 reveals that they were sent to villages and likely preached in the public square or in the local synagogue as Paul is shown to have done; then when they found someone interested, they were to say in that house and not move from house to house, but to preach from that base.
In any case rather then spend more time debunking the false assertions made here, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Is the Governing Body the Faithful and Discreet Slave and if they are, what power or responsibility does that convey to them?
I would recommend we take a look at the fuller account of Jesus’ parable of the faithful slave found at Luke 12:41-48. There we find four slaves. One that turns out to be faithful, one that turns out to be evil by lording his power over the flock, a third that gets beaten many times for willfully ignoring the Lord’s commands, and a fourth that gets beaten also, but with fewer lashes because his disobedience was due to ignorance—wilful or otherwise, it does not say.
Notice that the four slaves are not identified before the Lord returns. At this present time, we cannot say who is the slave who will get beaten with many strokes or with few.
The evil slave declares himself to be the one true slave before the return of Jesus but ends up beating the Lord’s servants and indulging himself. He gets the harshest judgment.
The faithful slave does not bear witness about himself, but waits for the Lord Jesus to return to find him “doing just so”. (John 5:31)
As for the third and fourth slave, would Jesus blame them for disobeying if he had laid a command on them to obey without question some group of men he’d set up to govern them? Hardly.
Is there any evidence Jesus commissioned a group of men to govern or rule his flock? The parable speaks of feeding not governing. David Splane of the Governing Body compared the faithful slave to waiters who bring you food. A waiter doesn’t tell you what to eat and when to eat it. If you don’t like the food, a waiter doesn’t force you to eat it. And a waiter doesn’t prepare the food. The food in this case comes from God’s word. It does not come from men.
How could the two final slaves be given strokes for disobedience if they were not given the means to determine what was the Lord’s will for them. Obviously, they have the means, for we all have the same word of God at our fingertips. We only have to read it.
So in summary:
- The identity of the faithful slave cannot be known before the Lord returns.
- The slave is given the task of feeding his fellow slaves.
- The slave is not directed to govern or rule his fellow slaves.
- The slave that does end up ruling over this fellow slaves is the evil slave.
The writer of the article misreads a vital Bible passage when he states in the third paragraph under this subtitle: “Not once is infallibility or inspiration mentioned as a condition of being that slave. Jesus equated mistreating that slave with disobeying him, under penalty of severe punishment. (Matthew 24:48-51)”
Not so. Let’s read the cited Scripture:
“But if ever that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ 49 and he starts to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards,” (Mt 24:48, 49)
The writer has it backwards. It is the evil slave who is the one lording it over his fellows, beating them and indulging himself in food and drink. He is not beating his fellow salves by disobeying them. He is beating them to get them to obey him.
The naiveté of this writer is evident in this passage:
“This does not mean we cannot voice legitimate concerns. We can contact headquarters directly, or speak to local elders with sincere questions about things that may concern us. Exercising either option carries no congregational sanctions whatsoever, and is not “frowned upon”. However, it is worth keeping in mind the need to be patient. If your concern is not immediately addressed, it does not mean no one cares or that some divine message is being conveyed to you. Just wait on Jehovah (Micah 7:7) and ask yourself who would you go away to? (John 6:68)”
I wonder if he has ever “voiced legitimate concerns” himself. I have—and I know others who have—and I find that it is very much “frowned upon”, especially if done more than once. As for carrying “no congregational sanctions”…when the arrangement for appointing elders and ministerial servants was changed recently, giving all the power to the circuit overseer to appoint and delete, I learned from one of their number that the reason the local elders have to submit their recommendations in writing weeks before the C.O. visit is to give the Branch office time to check their files to see if the brother in question has a history of writing in his—as this writer puts it—“legitimate concerns”. If they see a file indicating a questioning attitude, the brother will not be appointed.
This paragraph ends with an ironic question. Ironic, because the cited scripture contains the answer. “Who would you go away to?” Why, Jesus Christ, of course, just as John 6:68 states. With him as our leader, we need no other, unless we want to repeat the sin of Adam or the Israelites who longed for a king, and have men rule over us. (1 Sam 8:19)
The Human Condition
Under this subtitle, the writer reasons: “…history has shown just how corrupt and unloving religious leaders have been, and can be. The governing body has had its share of errors as well. However, it would be a mistake to lump the governing body in with those bad leaders. Why? Here are a few reasons:”
He or she then provides the answer in point form.
- They have no political affiliation(s) collectively or individually.
Not true. They joined the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in 1992 and would likely still be members if they hadn’t been exposed in 2001 in a newspaper article.
- They are open about adjustments, and give reasons for them.
They rarely take responsibility for adjustments. Phrases like “some thought” or “it was once thought”, or “the publications taught” are the norm. Worse, they virtually never apologize for false teachings, even when such have caused great harm and even loss of life.
To call the flip-flopping that they’ve often engaged in “an adjustment” is to really abuse the meaning of the word.
Perhaps the most egregious statement his writer makes is that “they do not want blind obedience”. He or she even italicizes it! Just try rejecting one of their “adjustments” and see where it leads.
- They obey God as Ruler rather than men.
If that were true, there would be no burgeoning child sexual abuse scandal in country after country as we are starting to witness in the media. God requires us to obey the superior authorities which means that we do not hide criminals nor cover up crimes. Yet in not one of the 1,006 documented cases of pedophilia in Australia did the Governing Body and its representatives report the crime.
The article ends with this summary:
“Clearly, we have reasons to trust and obey the direction given through the governing body. There is no Biblical basis for failing to obey their direction. Why not acceed (sic) to their authority and reap the benefits of being associated with such humble, god-fearing men?”
Actually, the opposite is the case: There is also no biblical basis for obeying their direction, because there is no biblical basis for their authority.