[From ws4/18 p. 15 — June 18-24]
“Praised be the God … who encourages us in all our trials.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 ftn
“JEHOVAH ENCOURAGED HIS SERVANTS OF OLD”
For the first nine paragraphs, this article actually does try to imitate Jehovah by highlighting scriptural examples of where Jehovah encouraged his servants. This includes Noah, Joshua, Job and Jesus and where Jesus encouraged his disciples.
However, there are still subtle statements that are designed to reinforce the Organization’s teachings.
- 2 – “Jehovah told Noah that He was going to put an end to that wicked world and instructed him about what he must do to ensure his family’s safety. (Genesis 6:13-18).” This looks innocent at first but readers will immediately think of the Organization’s erroneous teaching that today God gives instructions for survival through the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ or Governing Body.
“JESUS GAVE ENCOURAGEMENT”
- 6 – “The master honored each of the faithful slaves with the words: “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21, 23)”.
Again they hope most readers will not bother to read the scripture’s context, and will take it to be a reference to the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ or Governing Body. (Here in Jesus parable there were 2 faithful slave and one wicked one).
- 7 – “Rather than reject Peter, Jesus encouraged him and even commissioned him to strengthen his brothers.—John 21:16”.
This is to try and set the precedent that Jesus could appoint some over his modern day flock, and readers’ minds would then be disinclined to question the claim by the Governing Body that they are the ones that have been appointed.
“ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN IN ANCIENT TIMES”
The example of Jesus both receiving and giving encouragement gets the sum total of two short paragraphs! Yet paragraphs 10 & 11 are both longer and are all about Jephthah’s daughter. So why the difference? It seems that Jesus’ fine example cannot easily be twisted to another use by the Organization unlike the treatment of Jepthath’s daughter. This sad incident is where an Israelite rashly swore an oath without considering the consequences, which later caused his daughter to pay the consequences for the rest of her life, giving up the opportunity to have children and be potentially be an ancestress of the Messiah. She was encouraged every year by the daughters of Israel going to worship at the Tabernacle. The Organization uses this passage to highlight that “unmarried Christians who use their singleness to give greater attention to “the things of the Lord” also deserve commendation and encouragement? 1 Corinthians 7:32-35”. (Par. 11)
The main problem with this is that long time readers of Watchtower literature know that when the Organization is quoting “the things of the Lord” what they really mean is ‘the things of the Organization’ which they view as synonymous, but are in fact for the most part as different as chalk and cheese. If these unmarried Christians spend their time helping others and working on their Christian qualities so much the better. Then they would deserve commendation and encouragement. As it is, however, those that heed the Organization’s call spend so much of their time in the Organization’s pursuits that they have little or no time or energy to display the real “works of the Lord”. (James 1:27)
Additionally, there is a big difference between the enforced singleness that was the case of Jepthath’s daughter or that of those who remain unmarried due to the scarcity of eligible spouses within the Organization, and the situation of voluntary singleness as per 1 Corinthians.
“THE APOSTLES ENCOURAGED THEIR BROTHERS”
The next six paragraphs are split between the fine examples of the apostles Peter, John and Paul.
Paragraph 14 reminds us: “His Gospel alone preserves Jesus’ statement that love is the identifying mark of his true disciples.—Read John 13:34, 35.”
However, it misses the opportunity to discuss how showing love (and thereby encouragement) can be practiced.
“AN ENCOURAGING GOVERNING BODY”
The only other real point of note in these paragraphs is the attempt to reinforce the existence of a first century governing body when the article states “most of the apostles remained in Jerusalem, which continued to be the location of the governing body. (Acts 8:14; 15:2)” (Par. 16). As highlighted many times on this site, there is no direct support for the existence of a first century governing body. Even if such did exist, it does not justify the existence of a modern day Governing Body.
It is also interesting to note that paragraph 17 correctly states “the apostle Paul was sent by the holy spirit to preach to the people of the nations of the Greco-Roman world, who worshipped many gods.—Gal. 2:7-9; 1 Tim. 2:7”.
So how does this fact reconcile with the current day stance of the Governing Body. If today someone in the Organization claimed he had been sent by Holy Spirit on a new mission, such as say mass emailing people lists with digital Watchtower literature or setting up an online chatline for witnessing, unless the Governing Body thought it was a good idea and adopted it, he would be strongly discouraged and even reproved for his actions, which would be deemed as “running ahead” and “displaying pride”.
However, this statement is required to provide the basis for highlighting how the so-called first century Governing Body was encouraging to the early Christians. (This text could still have been used, but rather to highlight the fine example of the apostles as models to copy when encouraging our brothers and sisters.)
This erroneous statement is then used as the basis for plugging the Governing Body in New York State when the paragraph (20) says “Today, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses gives encouragement to Bethel family members, to special full-time field workers, and indeed, to the entire international brotherhood of true Christians. And the result is the same as in the first century—rejoicing over the encouragement.”. The Oxford Living Dictionary defines ‘encouragement’ as “The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” Therefore the claim made by the article raises a lot of questions such as:
Do they mean they give encouragement by :
- initiating an unprecedented closure of Branch facilities?
- the layoff of large numbers of Bethel personnel without compensation or at least assistance to get jobs in the real world to support themselves and any family?
- the almost complete shutdown of all the special pioneer assignments?
- selling Kingdom Halls and forcing brothers and sisters to travel much further for a meeting?
- declaring only the Governing Body to be the faithful and discreet slave class in a blatant power grab?
- reducing the Watchtower and Awake production and printing, and the publications of literature, so that the quantity of so-called spiritual food has been decimated?
- keeping the flock on constant tenterhooks by forever keeping Armageddon imminent, but moving the goal posts?
- continuing to enforce the unscriptural and inhuman practice of completely shunning disfellowshipped ones, specifically close family members.
- continuing the past failed policies and doctrines on things such as handling of child sexual abuse victims.
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes”, then clearly the Organization’s definition of ‘encouragement’ is opposite to what people would commonly understand the meaning of the word to be.
Let us go back to the theme of this article. It was “Imitating Jehovah – A God who gives encouragement”.
In summary, there have been a number of biblical examples where Jehovah’s servants of old have been encouraged by Jehovah. Also a number where they encouraged others, and of course the self praising reference to the Governing Body. Sadly, however it was all very superficial—the skim milk of the word. So to claim that “the entire international brotherhood of true Christians” are “rejoicing over the encouragement” (par. 20) is stretching incredulity. It seems the “banquet of well oiled dishes” has gone missing and has been replaced by fare better suited to a Victorian orphanage or workhouse, where we are expected to work hard and subsist on gruel.
The final irony is the claim that “in 2015 the Governing Body published the brochure Return to Jehovah, which has proved to be a rich source of encouragement to many throughout the world” (Par.20). It would be just as true, if not more accurate to say it upset many and discouraged them from attempting to ‘return to Jehovah’. This is because so many were pushed away by the Organization for having questions about certain teachings rather than actually or intentionally leaving Jehovah. This brochure should really be entitled ‘Return to the Organization’ and without answers to those questions and a change in teachings, that will not happen.
In conclusion, the warning given by Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20-21 seems apt. Dear readers “guard what is laid up in trust with you, turning away from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called “knowledge.” 21 For making a show of such [knowledge] some have deviated from the faith. May the undeserved kindness be with YOU people.”