[From ws17/9 p. 3 – October 23-29]
“The fruitage of the spirit is . . . self-control.”—Gal 5:22, 23
(Occurrences: Jehovah=23; Jesus=0)
Let us begin by examining one key element of Galatians 5:22, 23: The Spirit. Yes, people can be joyful and loving and peaceful and self-controlled, but not in the manner referred to here. These qualities, as listed in Galatians, are the product of the Holy Spirit and no limit is placed upon them.
Even wicked people exercise self-control, otherwise the world would descend into utter chaos. Likewise, those who are far from God can demonstrate love, experience joy and know peace. However, Paul is speaking about qualities that are taken to a superlative degree. “Against such things there is no law”, he says. (Gal 5:23) Love “bears all things” and “endures all things.” (1 Co 13:8) This helps us to see that Christian self-control is a product of love.
Why is there no limit, no law, with regard to these nine fruits? Simply put, because they are from God. They are divine qualities. Take, by way of example, the second fruit of Joy. One would not consider being imprisoned to be an occasion for joy. Yet, the letter many scholars term “the Letter of Joy” is Philippians, where Paul writes from prison. (Php 1:3, 4, 7, 18, 25; 2:2, 17, 28, 29; 3:1; 4:1,4, 10)
John Phillips makes an interesting observation about this in his commentary.[i]
In introducing this fruitage, Paul contrasts the spirit with the flesh at Galatians 5:16 -18. He also does this in his letter to the Romans at chapter 8 verses 1 thru 13. Romans 8:14 then concludes that “all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons.” So those who exhibit the nine fruits of the spirit do so because they are God’s children.
The Governing Body teaches that the Other Sheep are not God’s children, but only his friends.
“As a loving Friend, he warmly encourages sincere individuals who want to serve him but who have a hard time exercising self-control in some area of life.” – par. 4
Jesus opened the door for the adoption for all humans. So those who refuse to go through it, who refuse to accept the offer of adoption, have no real basis for expecting that God will pour out his spirit upon them. While we cannot judge who gets God’s spirit and who does not on a person-by-person basis, we should not be fooled by outward appearances so as to conclude that a particular group of people is filled with the Holy Spirit from Jehovah. There are ways to present a facade. (2 Co 11:15) How can we know the difference? We will try to explore this as our review continues.
Jehovah Sets the Example
Three paragraphs of this article are devoted to illustrating how Jehovah has exercised self-control in his dealings with humans. We can learn much from examining God’s dealings with humans, but when it comes to imitating God, we might feel overwhelmed. After all, he is God Almighty, master of the universe, and you and I are just the dust of the ground—sinful dust at that. Recognizing this, Jehovah did something wonderful for us. He gave us the greatest example of self-control (and all his other qualities) that we could possibly imagine. He gave us his Son, as a human being. Now, a human being, even a perfect one, you and I can relate to.
Jesus experienced the weaknesses of the flesh: fatigue, pain, reproach, sadness, suffering—all of it, save for sin. He can sympathize with us, and we with him.
“. . .For we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” (Heb 4:15)
So here we have Jehovah’s great gift to us, the prime example for all the Christian qualities that spring from the Spirit for us to follow and what do we do? Nothing! Not a single mention of Jesus in this article. Why ignore such a perfect opportunity to help us develop self-control by using the chief “perfecter of our faith”? (He 12:2) Something is seriously wrong here.
Examples Among God’s Servants—Good And Bad
What is the article’s focus?
- What does Joseph’s example teach us? One thing is that we may need to flee from the temptation to break one of God’s laws. In the past, some who are now Witnesses struggled with overeating, heavy drinking, smoking, drug abuse, sexual immorality, and the like. – par. 9
- If you have disfellowshipped relatives, you may need to control your feelings in order to avoid unnecessary contact with them. Self-restraint in such situations is not automatic, yet it is easier if we realize that our actions are in line with God’s example and in harmony with his counsel. – par. 12
- [David] wielded great power but refrained from using it out of anger when provoked by Saul and Shimei. – par. 13
Let’s sum this up. A Jehovah’s Witness is expected to exercise self-control so that he doesn’t bring reproach on the Organization by immoral conduct. He is expected to exercise self-control and support the unscriptural disciplinary system that the Governing Body uses to keep the rank-and-file in line.[ii] Finally, when suffering any abuse of authority, a Witness is expected to control himself, not get angry, and just put up with it in silence.
Would the spirit work in us in such a way as to support unfair disciplinary action? Would the spirit work to keep us silent when we see injustices in the congregation carried out by those who abuse their power? Is the self-control we see among Jehovah’s Witnesses the product of Holy Spirit, or is it achieved by some other means, like fear, or peer pressure? If the latter, then it may appear valid, but will not hold up under test and thus will prove to be counterfeit.
Many religious cults impose a strict moral code on members. The environment is carefully regulated and compliance is enforced by getting members to monitor each other. Additionally, a rigid routine is imposed, with constant reminders to reinforce compliance with the rules of the leadership. A strong sense of identity is also imposed, the idea of being special, better than those outside. Members come to believe that their leaders care for them and that only by following their rules and instructions can real success and happiness be attained. They come to believe they have the best life ever. Leaving the group becomes unacceptable as it not only means abandoning all family and friends, but of leaving the security of the group and being viewed by all as a loser.
With such an environment to support you, it becomes much easier to exercise the type of self-control this article speaks of.
The Greek word for “self-control” is egkrateia which can also mean “self-mastery” or “true mastery from within”. This is about more than refraining from bad. The Holy Spirit produces in the Christian the power to dominate himself, to control himself in every situation. When fatigued or mentally exhausted, we might seek some “me-time”. However, a Christian will dominate himself, should the need arise to exert himself to help others, as Jesus did. (Mt 14:13) When we are suffering at the hands of tormentors, be they verbal abuses or violent acts, the Christian’s self-control does not stop at refraining from retaliation, but goes beyond and seeks to do good. Again, our Lord is the model. While hanging on the stake and suffering verbal insults and abuses, he had the power to call down violence on all his opposers, but he didn’t just refrain from doing so. He prayed for them, even giving hope to some. (Lu 23:34, 42, 43) When we feel exasperated by the insensitivity and dullness of mind of those we may attempt to instruct in the ways of the Lord, we do well to exercise self-control as Jesus did when his disciples continued to bicker about who was greater. Even at the end, when he had more on his mind, they again got into an argument, but instead of holding back from an angry retort, he exercised dominion over himself, and humbled himself to the point of washing their feet as an object lesson.
It is easy to do things that you want to do. It is hard when you are exhausted, tired, irritated, or depressed to get up and do things you don’t want to do. That takes real self-control—real mastery from within. That is the fruitage which God’s spirit produces in his children.
Missing the Mark
This study is ostensibly about the Christian quality of self-control, but as evinced by its three main points, it is really part of the ongoing exercise for maintaining control over the flock. To review—
- Don’t engage in sin, as that makes the Organization look bad.
- Don’t talk to disfellowshipped ones, as that undermines the authority of the Organization.
- Don’t get angry or criticize when suffering under authority, but just knuckle under.
Jehovah God endows his Children with his divine qualities. This is wondrous beyond words. Articles like this one do not feed the flock in such a way as to increase its understanding of these qualities. Rather, we feel pressure to conform, and anxiety and frustration can set it. Consider now, how this could have been handled as we examine Paul’s masterful explanation.
“ Always rejoice in the Lord. Again I will say, Rejoice! (Php 4:4)
Our Lord Jesus is the source of true joy in our trials.
“Let your reasonableness become known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Php 4:5)
It is reasonable that when there is a wrong in the congregation, especially if the source of the wrong is an abuse of power by the elders, that we have the right to speak up without free of retribution. “The Lord is near”, and all should fear as we will answer to him.
“Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God;” (Php 4:6)
Let us cast off the artificial anxieties imposed upon us by men—hour requirements, striving for status, unscriptural rules of conduct—and submit instead to our Father by prayer and supplication.
“and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Php 4:7)
Whatever trials we may face in the congregation because of the preponderance of Pharisaical mentalities, like Paul in prison, we can have inner joy and peace from God, the Father.
“Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well-spoken-of, whatever things are virtuous, and whatever things are praiseworthy, continue considering these things. 9 The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Php 4:8, 9)
Let us break free of the cycle of resentment over past wrongs and move forward. If our minds are consumed by the pain of the past and if our hearts continue to seek a justice which cannot be attained by human means within the Organization, we will be kept back from progressing, from achieving the peace of God which will free us up for the work ahead. What a shame if after being freed from the bonds of false doctrine, we still give the victory to Satan by allowing bitterness to fill our thoughts and hearts, crowding out the spirit and holding us back. It will take self-control to change the direction of our thought processes, but by prayer and supplication, Jehovah can impart to us the spirit we need to find peace.
[i] (John Phillips Commentary Series (27 Vols.)) Grace!” “Peace!” Thus, the early believers wedded the Greek form of greeting (Hail!”) with the Jewish form of greeting (“Peace!”) to make the Christian form of greeting – a reminder that the “middle wall of partition” between Gentile and Jew had been abolished in Christ (Eph. 2:14). Grace is the root from which salvation springs; peace is the fruit that salvation brings.
[ii] For a scriptural analysis of the Bible’s counsel regarding disfellowshipping, see the article Exercising Justice.