[From ws17/7 p. 7 – August 28-September 3]
“Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches.”— Lu 16:9
(Occurrences: Jehovah=15; Jesus=21)
This week’s Watchtower study opens by demonstrating that there are many poor on earth, “even in affluent lands”,[i] but that by the use of what Jesus called “the unrighteous riches” we can make friends with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. (Luke 16:9)
We’ll begin with paragraph 7 of the study article:
“The verses that follow the illustration connect the use of “unrighteous riches” with faithfulness to God. Jesus’ point was that we can ‘prove ourselves faithful’ with, or control,[ii] those riches once we obtain them. How so?” – par. 7
“How so”, indeed? The Bible say:
“The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Jas 1:27)
So support for the needy is an approve part of our worship. Even in the matter of preaching the good news, this aspect of support for the poor is not to be overlooked:
“. . ., James and Ceʹphas and John, the ones who seemed to be pillars, gave me and Barʹna·bas the right hand of sharing together, that we should go to the nations, but they to those who are circumcised. 10 Only we should keep the poor in mind. This very thing I have also earnestly endeavored to do.” (Ga 2:9, 10)
Paul’s earnest endeavor was not just to preach to the nations, but to “keep the poor in mind.”
Notice that the pillars in the Jerusalem congregation—the alleged governing body[iii] of the first century—didn’t ask Paul to make sure some funds were sent back to them. They only asked that he keep the poor in mind.
Did the first century Christians live up to this standard? It seems so. For instance, they organized lists of needy ones so that none would be overlooked and go wanting.
“A widow is to be put on the list if she is not less than 60 years old, was the wife of one husband,” (1Ti 5:9)
Things didn’t always work out right the first time, but adjustments were made because love was the motivating force behind such charitable works as demonstrated by this account from the very start of the Christian congregation:
“Now in those days when the disciples were increasing, the Greek-speaking Jews began complaining against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. 2 So the Twelve called the multitude of the disciples together and said: “It is not right for us to leave the word of God to distribute food to tables. 3 So, brothers, select for yourselves seven reputable men from among you, full of spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them over this necessary matter; 4 but we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 What they said was pleasing to the whole multitude, and they selected Stephen, a man full of faith and holy spirit, as well as Philip, Prochʹo·rus, Ni·caʹnor, Tiʹmon, Parʹme·nas, and Nic·o·laʹus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 They brought them to the apostles, and after praying, they laid their hands on them. 7 Consequently, the word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying very much in Jerusalem; and a large crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” (Ac 6:1-7)
Can there be any doubt that these early Christians were making friends of Jehovah and Jesus with the unrighteous riches? In fact, acts of mercy are recorded in God’s great ledger and when our own judgment is due, the accounts in our favor are read out. (Mt 6:1-4) That is why the Bible says that “mercy exults triumphantly over judgment.” (James 2:13)
So with all this Bible evidence to fall back on, what is the only way the article promotes by which we can use our funds to make friends of God and Christ?
“An obvious way to prove ourselves faithful with our material things is by contributing financially to the worldwide preaching work that Jesus foretold would take place.” – par. 8
In other words, as the box at the end of this article demonstrates, we make friends with God and Christ by sending money into JW.org. We can even do this online for our convenience, or by using one of the credit card kiosks now found at Assembly Halls.
This is touted as financial support of the “worldwide preaching work”. Now, spreading the good news is a noble task, but only if we are spreading the Good News of the Christ, not some human distortion of that message. Doing the latter would be very bad for us. (Gal 1:6-9) Providing some monetary assistance to those who are preaching the actual good news as defined in Scripture is laudable. Paul said that the worker is worthy of his wages. (1Ti 5:18) So there is a Bible basis for such support at the local level. He even accepted funds from some congregations so that he could continue ministering to others; yet he also worked for a living so as not to be a burden to the local brothers. (2Co 11:7-9) Therefore, an argument can be made for contributing funds to support the preaching of the good news, but is that what Jesus had in mind when speaking of using our money to make friends in heavenly places? If so, then we should be able to find evidence that funds were sent to Jerusalem on a regular basis since the Organization teaches that there was a first century governing body directing the work from there.
Alas, no such evidence exists. The only reference to monies sent to Jerusalem pertains to famine relief on one occasion. (Ac 11:27-30)
Clearly, this falls into the category of helping the needy and the poor, not in supporting the work of an organization.
Given the preponderance of Bible evidence that friends in heavenly places are made when we use our unrighteous riches to help the needy, we would expect the Organization publishing this article to at least draw our attention to that optional use of our resource. They may feel that an obvious way to prove ourselves faithful is to contribute money to the organization, but surely an even more obvious way would be to do good to those poor and needy in our vicinity and “especially toward those related to us in the faith”. (Gal 6:10)
Yet, no mention is made in this article of any other way of using the unrighteous riches other than to donate funds to JW.org.
Sometimes we speak volumes by what we do not say, and our true heart motivation is shown by what we do not endorse.
Robbing the Children
When Paul accepted donations from some congregations, he viewed it as robbing them. Apparently, he did it out of necessity because the Corinthians needed his help and that overrode his own reluctance to take money from others.
“. . .Other congregations I robbed by accepting provisions in order to minister to YOU; 9 and yet when I was present with YOU and I fell in need, I did not become a burden to a single one, for the brothers that came from Mac·e·doʹni·a abundantly supplied my deficiency. . . .” (2Co 11:8, 9)
From this we can see that he preferred to pay his own way, even though he was slaving for others. We can also see that brothers from Macedonia willingly helped out to keep him in the ministry. But there is no evidence that he guilted anyone into giving him money, nor that he took from the needy nor from little children.
What a contrast we paint today. You may remember the infamous video where little Sophia considers using her meager allowance to treat herself to an ice cream cone, but instead donates all she has to support JW.org. Paragraph 8 treats us to another young girl—this time a real one—who denied herself toys so that she could donate money to the organization. Would Paul have approved? He had the mind of Christ, so let’s look at how Christ viewed taking funds from those who had none.
“And he sat down with the treasury chests in view and began observing how the crowd was dropping money into the treasury chests, and many rich people were dropping in many coins. 42 Now a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins of very little value. 43 So he called his disciples to him and said to them: “Truly I say to you that this poor widow put in more than all the others who put money into the treasury chests. 44 For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her want, put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”” (Mr 12:41-44)
Aha! Some would say. See! Jesus approved of and praised those giving their last cent to the temple. These verses are often quoted in the publications not only of JW.org, but of other churches, whenever there is an appeal for donations. However, we always overlook the context. Let’s go back to the verses leading up to this account.
“. . .And in his teaching he went on to say: “Beware of the scribes who want to walk around in robes and want greetings in the marketplaces 39 and front seats in the synagogues and the most prominent places at evening meals. 40 They devour the houses of the widows, and for show they make long prayers. These will receive a more severe judgment.”” (Mr 12:38-40)
He is using what he has observed as a real-life example of the very thing for which he has just condemned the religious leaders. This women, likely believing that by giving money she will be blessed, has given all she had to live on. Is that not a prime example of ‘devouring the houses of the widows’?
The organization’s shameless, guilt-driven appeal for money, even from little children, does not reflect the view the Apostle Paul had, but is more akin with the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees Jesus condemned.
Give, but Willingly and without Compulsion
Of course, we are not criticising the spirit of generosity which moves sincere Christians to lovingly support those more active in the preaching of the real good news. Nevertheless, it is so easy for hypocritical individuals to exploit the generosity of others. For example:
“Those who have this world’s means but cannot share in the full-time ministry or move abroad have the satisfaction of knowing that their donated funds support the ministry of others.” – par. 11
Sounds good, does it not? But the reality appears to be very different. While completing their multimillion-dollar lakeside home in the countryside near Warwick, New York, the Governing Body slashed the ranks of Special Pioneers around the world. So were ‘donated funds supporting the ministry of others’? Really, which is more important: A resort-like headquarters, or funding pioneers who can go to untouched territories were few can afford to live and find work?
Perhaps the members of the Governing Body and the other members of headquarters staff should prayerfully ponder what they have written in paragraph 12:
“Another way to gain friendship with Jehovah is by minimizing our involvement with the commercial world and using our circumstances to seek “true” riches. Abraham, a man of faith in ancient times, obediently left prosperous Ur in order to live in tents and pursue his friendship with Jehovah. (Heb. 11:8-10) He always looked to God as the Source of true wealth, never seeking material advantages that would indicate a lack of trust. (Gen. 14:22, 23) Jesus encouraged this sort of faith, telling a rich young man: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come be my follower.” (Matt. 19:21) That man lacked faith like that of Abraham, but others have shown implicit trust in God.” – par. 12
Jesus said this about the scribes and Pharisees:
“They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” (Mt 23:4)
Ponder those words as you consider this statement:
“Jesus’ followers today, including an army of over one million full-time ministers, apply Paul’s counsel to the extent that their circumstances allow.” – par. 13
From the convention platform, in the weekly meetings, and in the publications, Witnesses are constantly pressured to do more and more. This article is no different. Paragraph 14 encourages witnesses to sell their businesses by citing the example of one couple who sold all they owned to help in the construction of the Warwick construction project. While the organization is no longer willing to fund special pioneers, it is more than willing to encourage others to sell their belongings and self-fund their volunteer work in constructing the JW.org real estate empire and in pioneering to grow the ranks of the Organization. Do the leaders of the Organization share in carrying this burden?
A good friend was the congregation secretary for the Bethel congregation in my country. He was shocked to find that members of the branch committee routinely put in field service reports showing hours in the single digits. These men with their wives had regular return visits but rarely, if ever, worked from house to house.
Again, let us emphasize that we are not encouraging people to pursue materialistic goals. Were that the case, we would not be spending time writing articles and supporting these web sites. We’d be out making money. What we are saying is that if you are going to use your funds to make friends with God and Jesus, you need to make sure you’re supporting work that God and Jesus approve of. If your money goes to supporting a system that does not bring honor to our Lord Jesus Christ, will he be your friend?
For instance, in paragraph 15 we learn of a sister who sacrificed greatly to preach in Albania. According to the article, Jehovah blessed her fine works and she “has helped over 60 individuals to the point of dedication.” What is “the point of dedication”? Did Jesus say, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, helping them to the point of dedication in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit,” (Mt 28:19) The vow of dedication is not a Bible teaching.[iv] In fact, Jesus condemns the making of vows. (Mt 5:33-37)
Imagine sacrificing your livelihood to proselytize only to learn one day that you were just helping people to convert from one false religion to another.
The article finishes by misapplying one last Scripture.
“This is just part of the priceless inheritance for those who make friends in heaven. The rejoicing of Jehovah’s earthly worshippers will know no bounds when they hear Jesus’ words: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.”—Matt. 25:34.” – par. 18
Friends don’t inherit. Children inherit. Matthew 25:34 applies to the children of God, so if you are of the “Other Sheep” as defined by the Governing Body and thus accept that you not one of God’s children, but only his friend, you have to accept that this verse does not apply to you. Friends don’t inherit from a Father they don’t have. However, if you’re willing to accept the kindly offer Jehovah has made to adopt you as a child, then rejoice. Come and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.
[i] See par. 1
[ii] This sentence seems poorly constructed, such that it is unclear what is meant by “or control” in this context. Are we to use funds not our own, but which we control (such as estate funds) to make friends with God and Christ?
[iii] There is no evidence to support this understanding of a first century governing body. For more information, see A First Century Governing Body – Examining the Scriptural Basis.
[iv] See “What You Vow, Pay”.
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Well summarized as always, Meliti. How about a published up to date set of accounts to show where the money really goes. How much of our giving is supporting the paedophile claims ? How much money do brothers spend driving long distances to well furbished but under utilized assembly halls, to which some older ones cannot even make the journey. And then those halls require more funds to maintain them (partly because they are under used). If they then made the sensible decision to sell some of those halls, if they could get a buyer, would everybody have to travel… Read more »
Meleti hats off to you. You can pull points out of anything!!!! 1. Jas 1:27 To look after orphans and widows. I really have not seen them do this. Most widows are overlooked, unless you are a pioneer and the same for orphans unless, you study with a pioneer or know somebody of importance nobody pays attention to them either. 2. In paragraph 8 Contributing financially to the worldwide work. Why aren’t pioneers given something monetary for gas that is contributing to the worldwide work? Contributions are made to the worldwide work for literature and buildings not to those really… Read more »
Hi eve What you say about the Catholic Church is so true,they actually do a lot of work in communities,and they don’t blow a trumpet about it,same for the Baptist World Mission,another “false” religion doing outstanding charity work. Where I am in Australia the ones who lead the charge are the Salvation Army, there is even a saying ” thank god for the salvos”, no one ever says thank god for the JWs. My brother in law is a “special servant” in the org,his job is overseeing the installation , upgrading and working of air con systems in Kingdom Halls,he… Read more »
Oh yeah, one other thing I just remembered. When I was an MS handling money, whenever someone contributed by check, their name and the dollar amount was written down in a log. Supposedly, this was used to reconcile the congregation checking account. Only thing is, those records were never purged once the reconciliation was done; they were just filed with all the other accounts paperwork. So, even though we were told that all contributions are anonymous and no one knows what anyone contributes, that is not true if you contribute by any means other than cash. It also means that… Read more »
Robert you are so correct. I remember when my mother sold her house several years ago unbeknownst to me, she made a contribution. The Elder in the car group says “that was a very nice contribution your mother made”. I was so embarrassed and mad at him for saying it.
Robert, I think you are being a little too suspicious on this occasion. Those records have to be kept for Gift Aid tax reclaim purposes. Anyone who looks at the accounting records can see who pays what by standing order, but in the UK their are special exemptions for small donations paid by cash, so no records now have to be kept for those. Sorry to disappoint you.
Records over a certain number of years should be destroyed, but it usually takes much longer before this happens.
Hi Leonardo, I can only speak for how it worked in my old (US) congregation. People who contribute by check can use their canceled checks as proof of donations. They can also simply “claim” to have contributed cash, but only up to certain (relatively small) amounts. That is relatively similar to the UK as you describe. My point was that the records are not destroyed. JW members do not need the congregation’s records to claim a tax deduction (since they just use their own canceled checks), and the congregation itself does not need this information once their bank accounts are… Read more »
I served as the COBE for years in my country and one of the annual tasks I had was to sign all the year’s donation receipts for each individual so that they could claim the money back on taxes. This was only done for those who donated by check, of course, as we had no way of tracking cash donations left in the contribution boxes. That was the only reason we tracked the source of donations. If one wanted true anonymity, he would have to donate cash, but then he was losing out on the tax exemption he would get… Read more »
This is clearly something that varies from one country to another, as each has different tax laws. I am not disputing that. My only point is that these legitimate reasons for retaining records can be abused, since there are evidently no protocols in place to ensure privacy. When I was an MS, I was NEVER told that the contribute-by-check information was private. It was “assumed” but never explicitly said nor put in writing. That information could be misused, and because the congregation accounts could financially benefit from such abuse, it is a matter of concern that this information is not… Read more »
I discovered the entire context of the widow’s mite a few years ago. It was an eye opener for me. I think most Witnesses would rather their donations go to feeding and housing the poor – and not to attorney fees and ridiculous music videos and convention sitcoms. I don’t know if anyone would accuse the GB as being smart with their money. It’s why they have such a simplistic view of our jobs, and our finances. I’m not saying they don’t work. I am simply saying they have it really, really good. They don’t need to worry about where… Read more »
Paragraph 17 when gods Kingdom does come , rent and mortgages will cease , does that include the ones on the kingdom hall, hahaha, paragraph 8 is good as well ,one way to prove ourselves faithful with our material things is by contributing to the world wide preaching work , perhaps they want our old clothes ! Hahaha, sorry but I just can’t take this serious anymore , ps thanks meleti for a really good review of the real meaning of luke 16 ,
A number of years ago in another life, I was an MS, and for a time I helped collect funds, count and verify them, and audit the books. I genuinely thought that we did a good job of handling money. One reason for that is that each category of funds (world wide work, local congregation needs, and any extra ones like a construction fund) were separate. There was no concept of a “slush fund” arrangement. So, if you gave money for the local congregation it couldn’t be used for anything else. That is why the accounts report was important, so… Read more »
Luke 16 the parable of the shrewd manager , there was a certain rich man “(the watchtower society )”had a manager “(the elders ” )handling his affairs , what’s this I hear about you , wasting my money , your going to be fired ,(disfellowshipped ) what shall I do then , I know I’ll summon those who owe him , (the brothers ) and tell them to keep the money and give it to the poor instead ,so make friends for ourselves by means of the unrighteous riches ,
Meleti, thanks for superb insights. Thing is if you stop giving donations, the burden on the brothers is increased as with respect to KH rentals. KH still have to give every month to org. WT will get its money any which way it will.
Actually, now that the Organization has “forgiven” all hall loans, not donating only means that the congregation will not be able to meet its pledge. That won’t affect the congregation as they will continue to occupy the hall, either way. In the longer term, the decreasing funds will require the Org to sell more and more of its hall properties and consolidate congregations. More staff will have to be dropped from branch facilities, and likely some branches will be closed.
Hi Meleti, What an amazing article! You have showed by reading the context of Mark 12:38-44 we can all now see the truth in the scriptures and the WT deception. Could not wait to show the family! What they have done, and continue to do to the Brothers, Sisters and Children is wicked. Thanks to our heavenly Father and Christ for gifts in men!
Meleti, Even if WT were assumed to be the “true” religion (a dubious assumption), the verses you cite do not ask Christians to give money to any group such as a purported “governing body”, who would then indirectly assist the poor. People were encouraged to help others directly. In contrast, WT strongly encourages its followers to pay THEM, and they give unmistakable discouragement about giving money to anyone else, and (as far as I know) have NEVER suggested giving money to non-witnesses might be a good thing. In many countries, WT labels itself as a “charity”, but they are probably… Read more »
Interestingly if a person makes a donation by cheque,and you send a letter requesting it be used to assist those who are poor,then by law that is what has to be done,which is why it’s always requested to be for the “world wide work” in that way bypassing the responsibility to use the donation just for the poor. Also there was an article that I can’t find that discussed what could be donated,it even included fuel coupons,I didn’t know that Jesus and Jehovah drove a car? Is it a mustang? ?
I am surprised you didn’t know the answer to that last question. It’s found in Genesis: ‘God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden in a Fury.’
Ha Ha …
I was going to say that!!!1 HAHAHAAHA
Robert and eve
Ime afraid you are both wrong,you have both succumbed to Fred Franz syndrome and are miss applying types and anti types, ” clearly ” it a mustang because Jesus is seated on a white horse( modern type mustang ) and therefore the donation of fuel coupons is a ” kingdom interest” don’t you understand? ?
Since there are 4 horsemen, the Mustang has only 4 horsepower. It is a high efficiency vehicle (maybe a hybrid) so you don’t really need fuel coupons :-))
I think we should all be on the writing staff, Ime blinded by all this ” new light” from revelation, Ime sure we could put together a half decent article that could even be half provable,better than what’s served up now.??