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.
Nice article Eric. Just for the purposes of Hebrews 13:17, I did a search at bible gateway and found a few slightly different variances to be obedient or to obey. They are:
Be responsive to your pastoral leaders (The message)
Rely on your leaders and defer to them (Common English bible)
Obey(or have confidence in) (Expanded bible)
Listen to your pastors-(Jubilee bible)
Trust in your leaders. Put yourselves under their authority (NIRV)
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority (NIV)
Listen to your leaders and submit to their authority over the community (The Voice)
Thank you Grant. Yes it is nice to see that some of the more modern versions are returning to the true meaning that the writer of Hebrews wanted to communicate. Now if we can get some of the standard versions to do the same, we might really make some progress. But I think that would fly in the face of the agenda of most organized religion today. It certainly does in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A recent video on murmuring by Stephen Lett indicates they are just as entrenched as always in that mindset.
I’m not sure if the FDS have been chosen or are still to be, according to Matthew & Luke different wording – has set, and will set. Not that it matters, cos we have been told by Lord Jesus the important things to believe and do, but I read everything with great care. (Picky I’m told) 1. 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. BibleHub interlinear references Matt 24: 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom… Read more »
Some time ago I read an old commentary (cannot recall the source just now), in which it was suggested that Jesus may not have been drawing a parallel to a future “faithful slave,” but was helping his disciples at the time understand that THEY were (in effect) to be faithful slaves. The commentary suggested that his disciples (being well acquainted with scripture) would have readily understood that Jesus was referring (very possibly) to Joseph as the faithful slave of Potiphar’s house. If (for example) I were to say to someone, “just as two planes flew into two buildings,” one would… Read more »
Alas, in fact, the GB has never said how to ‘read’ the Bible. Paul probably wrote more than one letter to the Bereans, who does not appear in the Bible canon. As in harmony with Colossians 4:16 there is no letter to the Laodiceans. The point is that in the first century writing a letter and deliver it needed long time. Let’s say hypothetically in his ministry Paul had written three letters to the Bereans (I add one more than the average) that correspond to the written size of a Watchtower magazine today The text of Acts reads: ‘carefully examining… Read more »
Welcome, Grafvonhabenichts. Interesting alias, by the way. What’s the etymology?
Good comment. I once lost a 20-year friendship with a witness couple because I dared to suggest that we have the right, even the obligation, to examine all the Watchtower teachings in the light of Scripture.
I briefly looked at the blog site you mention at the beginning. I found it offensive, manipulative and depressing. They seem only make the assertion that oppose = apostate = liar. Anyone that opposes them must be lying, and any JW that opposes them must be an apostate. The notion that WT could be wrong or (worse) lying themselves, gets no consideration. One thing I have noticed on how WT handles this is that statements by “opposers” and “apostates” are always couched in very generic, nebulous terms. WT talks “about” what opposers say, but they never quote them. You NEVER… Read more »
Fantastic point, Robert. I never considered that before, but you’re absolutely correct!
Thanks for your enthusiastic reply. Honestly, I had no idea people would find this so interesting. My comments had 19 likes as of 08-26. I am humbled and very, very surprised by this. I truly thought everyone knew this already. There was a quote from a book I read once, and I can’t for the life of me remember the name of it or find it again. But it went something like this: “The first obligation of responsible people is to point out the obvious.” The reason it is our obligation is that what is ‘obvious’ to one person might… Read more »
Your article asks the question, “Should We Obey the Governing Body?” The question presupposes that anyone should belong to the religion headed by these men in the first place. History shows us that Russell, Rutherford and the GB of today have created a world empire of false religion (admittedly, one of many others). They control the lives of millions of people and have vast real estate and financial holdings around the world. Their doctrines and policies have produced a mostly artificial division between themselves and other Christian groups, in order to support the illusion that they are better than others.… Read more »
Again , Robert I must agree with those sentiments that is what I think , but have never managed to put it quite so well as that .
Robert, you wrote: “In Acts, the apostles courageously said, “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” Does the GB believe that? No. If an elder were to make such a statement or use that as a defense for not believing or following anything from the GB, they would be removed or DF’d for daring to defy the organization.” This is precisely the reason I was removed. When the C.O. before the body of elders asked me if I would obey the Governing Body, I told him I would but that I would always obey God as ruler rather… Read more »
That’s a real shocker meleti, but it exposes the religion for what it is , its a wonder they didnt flog you afterwards acts 5v 40 , I’ve said before , my problem and I qoute ” your not dedicated to the organisation” so your history man , Going the way of the dodo,
Wow. Robert, marry me. ?
Seriously? Well, start with basics. What continent are you on?
North America, but I’m a guy, so….. Was just my clever way of telling you I enjoyed your comment immensely. Made my day.
Deo mate , you don’t spell it ” guy”. Haha haha ,
LOL, @Ifionlyhadabrain! Very funny! 🙂
Great article Meleti. Robert in just few paragraphs you have expressed my sentiments exactly. My dilemma is that my wife, children and many good friends are still in. My wife is the only one I can discuss these issues with. Thank our Father and Jesus for this site.
I was quite impressed with the simple logic included in this dissertation. It never ceases to amaze me that, when you take the Bible as it was written, read the simple and clear truths found within, the truth shines out like a diamond. All of the other rules and burdens heaped up by humans seeking power and influence just muddy the clear waters of truth. Matt. 20:25 identifies who does this and Jesus’ opinion of this. I had never seen the blog you linked to at the outset of your article so I went and browsed through the opinions presented.… Read more »
My thoughts exactly Justin, especially in reference to your second paragraph.
Justin, I appreciate your remarks above. You wrote, “The one thing that really struck me was that, if the GB and the approved writings of JW.org are to be adhered to without question, why would this blog even exist?” Proverbs 14:15 tells us, “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.” In so many words, the Bible quite clearly argues against blind belief in WT and the GB, and implies that anyone who would do so is stupid. Given WT’s dismal track record, unquestioned adherence to them really would be stupid. You also noted,… Read more »
Meleti , I’ve read the bible for nearly 40 years since being a young man , and I have to say I totally agree , with your reasoning on these points , and have come to exactly the same conclusions . Thanks , just to add , I wouldn’t have minded being in subjection to the GB , as long as thier direction is solidly based on the NT , but I honestly believe that it isn’t , I believe it’s in conflict with the NT,
The cited blog post contains the following: “So why are we obedient to the governing body’s direction? Quite simply, people gather to ones they see as worthy of being followed. They do it all the time. They did it with Jesus, they did it with the apostles and older men in Jerusalem and they did it with all the sects that broke away from the apostatized congregation and they did it with C. T. Russell and later Judge Rutherford.” They also did it with Hitler, Genghis Khan, and Attila the Hun. All humans. All fallible, and in the cited examples,… Read more »
obey the GB if you believe in their interpretation of a parable from (Mt 24:34) but ignore the parable of the evil slave. oh well I’m not stumped
That is WT’s amazing invention, the “hybrid parable”, or “prophetic parable” as they like to call it. A “hybrid parable” combines a parable (a story including fictional, hypothetical characters used to make a point or have listeners draw a conclusion, a.k.a. ‘the moral of the story’) and a prophesy (a story, usually in symbolic terms, intended to describe a real future event involving real people). So, the people in this story are real, except when they are not real. How many actual examples can be found in the Bible of a true “hybrid parable”? None. They made the whole thing… Read more »
The WT interpretation of the parable of the faithful and discreet slave is wrong on multiple levels. However, I’m personally reluctant to describe their construal as fictitious on the basis that it uniquely represents a “prophetic parable”. It seems to me that there are other parables of Jesus – namely, the wheat and the weeds or the sheep and the goats – that also use figurative storytelling to communicate far-reaching events that would not become obvious until a future time. Of course, the significance of their pericopes may differ, but that these are indeed parables is obvious by their symbolism.… Read more »
I think my main point was that WT treats the FDS parable as if it’s split into two parts, one figurative and one prophetic, almost in mid sentence. It is a technique that, to me, seems very weird and unjustified. I don’t know of any other passage treated that way. If you could cite a specific example of another passage where you think it’s done like that, maybe we could find those nuances …
Thanks for the clarification. I agree that reimagining a parable’s genre mid-stride is highly unusual and likely a “step” into eisegesis (unfortunately, the NET Bible’s translation notes have done the same).
Part prophetic, part figurative… Dare we say, prophigurative(?)
Yes , jesus is appealing to each individual and all he’s saying is , if you want to inherit gods Kingdom , you need to be like a faithful house steward. We can tell it’s a parable because he says , the master will appoint him the steward over (ALL) his belongings and such would hold true if we worked hard for an employer , yet as far as the kingdom of the heavens in concerned that office in reality can only be held by Christ alone . It’s not too difficult to understand ,and yet the witnesses fail to… Read more »
It’s interesting how this plays out in day to day JW life as well. I haven’t attended a meeting since January 2017. No formal “service” since then either. In all that time, I have received a grand total of one text from an elder about coming back to the KH to attend a meeting. What’s interesting about it is that this happened the week of the Memorial. I did not attend (I partook privately at my residence instead). My spouse tells me my absence was noted. Coincidentally, the same week the Memorial took place, the CO was visiting our congregation.… Read more »
Most comments here about WT don’t usually include the word “diatribe”, meaning a verbal attack. Since nearly all JW meetings omit any meaningful mention of Christ, perhaps that is a “diatribe by omission” so to speak.
Otherwise, I’d have to get out a thesaurus and find a different word that means “abusive”, “burdensome” and “boring” at the same time. I assume that is still how these meeting go, since I have detached myself from them for a number of years now. I only have dreary memories to remind me.
It wasn’t really a criticism, the word just puzzled me how it was used, that’s all.
No worries. I think you are right, I should have chosen my word more carefully. I suppose “sermon” would have been more accurate. Though in all fairness, I have seen some diatribes given by members of the GB, regarding apostates… ?
This is so typical Deo_ac_veritati that it’s not even funny. The number of examples of this total disinterest in those who–from their point of view–have fallen away is overwhelming. My sister would get stopped attending meetings but got no calls nor visits, save for the monthly call for her time. She’d report a hour or so because she always talked about the kingdom with coworkers and any of the many visitors to their home business. Eventually she saw the futility of this and just said she had no hours to report. The calls stopped. All she was was a statistic,… Read more »
That’s interesting Meleti. I experienced the same thing as your sister. The moment I told the elders I wouldn’t be reporting time any more, they lost all interest in me. For them, it really is all about the numbers.
In hindsight to my previous comment above, I probably should offer a slight correction. The writer’s logic is not completely faulty. He is correct, people do follow other people who they feel are “worthy” all the time. I find that the JW personality is particularly susceptible to this desire – to want to have certainty about all things, they follow men who give them that assurance. So, it is logical that such people will naturally look to leaders to give them that assurance. Where the logic breaks down is whether it’s right to do that. To assert that it’s good… Read more »