Hello everyone. My name’s Eric Wilson. Welcome to Beroean Pickets. In this series of videos, we have been examining ways to identify true worship using the criteria laid down by the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since these criteria are used by Witnesses to dismiss other religions as false, it seems only fair to measure the Organization known as JW.org by the same yardstick, wouldn’t you agree?
Oddly enough, in my experience, I’ve found that when dealing with true-blue Witnesses, failure to meet these criteria doesn’t change anything. The rule seems to be, if other religions fail these criteria, that proves they are false, but if we do so, it only proves that there are things which Jehovah has yet to correct. Why do they feel that way? Because, we are the true religion.
There really is no reasoning with this type of thinking because it is not based on reason.
Please understand that the criteria we are using are those established by the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We’re using their measuring stick, and so far, we’ve seen they fail to measure up.
Jesus said, “Stop judging that you may not be judged; for with the judgment you are judging, you will be judged, and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you.” (Matthew 7:1, 2)
From here on out, we’ll be using the criteria that Jesus gave us to determine who are his disciples? Who are true worshipers?
Witnesses believe that truth in worship is of prime importance, but really, who has all the truth? And even if we did, would that make us acceptable to God? Paul told the Corinthians, “if I…understand all the sacred secrets and all knowledge…but do not have love, I am nothing.” So, 100% accuracy in truth is not, in and of itself, a mark of true worship. Love is.
I will grant you that truth is important, but not the having of it, but rather the desiring of it. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth, not with spirit and with truth as the New World Translation mistakenly renders John 4:23, 24.
In this simple sentence, Jesus says so much. First, that worship is of the Father. We don’t worship the universal sovereign—a term not found in Scripture, but our heavenly Father. Thus, true worshipers are children of God, not simply friends of God. Second, the spirit is “in” them. They worship “in spirit”. How could true worshipers be anything other than spirit anointed ones? God’s spirit guides and motivates them. It transforms them and produces fruitage that is pleasing to the Father. (See Galatians 5:22, 23) Third, they worship “in truth”. Not with truth as if it were a possession—something apart of them—but in truth. Truth dwells in the Christian. As it fills you, it pushes out falsehood and deceit. You will seek it out, because you love it. Real disciples of Christ love truth. Paul, speaking of opposers, said that such ones “are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept”—notice—”the love of the truth in order that they might be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10) “The love of the truth.”
So now, finally, in this series of videos, we come to the one criterion that Jesus gave as a means for all to discern who his true disciples really are.
“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35)
Love for one another identifies us as true disciples; but not just any love, but rather, the type of love Jesus showed for us.
Notice that he didn’t say that all will know you have the true religion by your love. You might have experienced a truly loving congregation in your lifetime. Does that mean the worldwide Organization is loving? That the worldwide Organization is true? Can an Organization be loving? People—individuals—can be loving, but an Organization? A Corporation? Let’s not go beyond what is written. Love identifies true disciples of Christ—individuals!
This single criterion—”love among yourselves”—is really is all we need to examine, and so we will do so in the remaining videos of this series.
Here’s the problem we face: Love can be faked, at least to some degree. Jesus recognized this and told us that false prophets and false Christs would arise and perform great signs and wonders so as to mislead even the chosen ones. (Matthew 24:24) He also said: “Be on the watch for the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15, 16)
These ravenous wolves seek to devour, but first they disguise themselves as fellow sheep. Paul warned the Corinthians about such ones when he said: “Satan himself keeps disguising himself as an angel of light. It is therefore nothing extraordinary if his ministers also keep disguising themselves as ministers of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15)
So how do we see through the “sheep’s clothing” to the wolf inside? How do we see through the disguise of righteousness cloaking the minister of Satan?
Jesus said: “By their fruits you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:16)
Paul said: “But their end will be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:15)
These ministers appear to be righteous but their master is not the Christ. They do the bidding of Satan.
In common terms, they can talk the talk, but they can’t walk the walk. Their works, what they turn out, what they produce, will inevitably give them away.
In Jesus’ day, these men were the Scribes, Pharisees, and Jewish leaders. They were ministers of the Devil. Jesus called them children of Satan. (John 8:44) Like ravenous wolves, they devoured “the houses of widows”. (Mark 12:40) Their motivation was not love, but greed. Greed for power and greed for money.
These men ruled or governed Jehovah’s earthly organization—the nation of Israel. (I’m using terms that Witnesses will recognize and accept.) True worshippers had to come out of that Organization to be saved when Jehovah destroyed it using the Roman legions in 70 C.E. They couldn’t remain in it and expect to be spared the wrath of God.
When that earthly organization was gone, Satan—that crafty fake angel of light—turned his attention to the next one, the Christian congregation. He used other disguised ministers of righteousness to mislead the congregation. This has been his method down through the centuries and he is not about to change it now. Why, when it continues to work so well?
To follow Jesus’ words to their logical conclusion, in the Christian Congregation we’re going to have two types of ministers or elders. Some will be righteous and some will only pretend to be righteous. Some will be wolves dressed as sheep.
When we look at the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they appear to be righteous men. Perhaps they are, but then wouldn’t a truly righteous man and a truly wicked man disguised as a minister of righteousness appear the same at first glance. If we could distinguish them from one another just by looking, then we wouldn’t need Jesus’ rule about recognizing them by their fruits.
What fruits was Jesus referring to? He gives us one easy means to measure the true motivation of men at Luke 16:9-13. There he refers to how men manage the money entrusted to them for righteous uses. The funds themselves are not righteous. In fact, he refers to them as “the unrighteous riches”. Still, they can be used for righteousness. They can also be used in a wicked way.
It may interest you to know that some videos have just surfaced of a 2016 Webinar that gathered the various accounting departments of the branch offices of JW.org around the world. At the start of the webinar, the brother conducting the proceedings, Alex Reinmuller, also makes reference to Luke 16:9-13.
Let’s listen in.
Interesting. In quoting Luke 16:11, “if you have not proved yourselves faithful in connection with the unrighteous riches, who will entrust you with what is true?”, he references the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, he is saying that this applies to the way the Governing Body handles the unrighteous riches donated to the Organization.
One might assume they must be doing a good job, because they proclaimed to us back in 2012 that they were the faithful and discreet slave appointed by Jesus. So that would mean that Christ has “entrusted them with what is true”, because they have “proved themselves faithful in connection with the unrighteous riches.”
Jesus also said, “. . .And if you have not proved yourselves faithful in connection with what belongs to another, who will give you something for yourselves?” (Luke 16:12)
The Governing Body believes this has proven to be the case with them.
So according to Losch, the Governing Body was appointed in 1919 over the unrighteous riches, and has done such a good job being faithful in connection with them that they will be ‘given something for themselves’; they will be appointed over all Jesus’ belongings. If this turns out not to be the case, then Gerrit Losch is deceiving us.
Back when I was preaching in Colombia, South America, I always felt a sense of pride in the way I understood Witnesses to manage donated funds. Throughout South America, as you journey from one town to another, the first edifice you see in the distance as you approach a town is always the church steeple. It is invariably the biggest, most magnificent building in the place. The poor might live in humble dwellings, but the church is always grandiose. Furthermore, though built with labour and money from the locals, it was wholly-owned by the Catholic Church. That is why they prohibit priests from marrying, so that upon his death, the property would not go to his heirs, but remain with the Church.
Thus, I took a certain delight in telling those I preached to that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not like that. We had modest Kingdom halls, and our Kingdom halls were owned by the local congregation, not the Organization. The Organization was not a real estate empire, like the Catholic Church, intent on gathering more and more wealth through the acquisition of land and the construction of huge and expensive buildings.
That was true then, but what about now? Have things changed?
According to the 2016 Webinar, the only source of income for the Organization are the voluntary donations that come from the publishers.
Notice, he says, “Jehovah’s Organization is exclusively supported by voluntary donations.” If this turns out to be false, if it turns out that there is another source of revenue, one kept secret from the rank and file, then we have a lie which would be a sign of an unfaithful act in connection with the unrighteous riches.
In 2014, the Governing Body did something that seemed astonishing. They cancelled all Kingdom hall loans.
Stephen Lett asks us to imagine a bank doing the same thing; then he reassures us that only in Jehovah’s Organization could such a thing happen. In saying this, he is making Jehovah responsible for this arrangement. In that case, there had better not be anything nefarious going on, otherwise, linking Jehovah to it would constitute blasphemy.
Is Lett telling us the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or is he leaving things out so as to lead us down the garden path?
Up until this change, every Kingdom hall was owned by the local congregation. To sell a hall legally required that the publishers vote on whether or not to sell. In 2010, representatives of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses tried to sell the Menlo Park Kingdom hall in California. The local body of elders and a number of publishers resisted and were threatened with disfellowshipping. This constituted undue influence. Eventually, the resistant elders were removed, the congregation dissolved, the publishers sent elsewhere, and some were even disfellowshipped. The hall was then sold and all monies, including any savings left in the congregation bank account, were seized. As a result, the Organization was sued under the RICO law that deals with charges of racketeering. This highlighted a vulnerability.
Then, four years later, the Organization did away with all mortgages. Payments that were formerly termed mortgage payments were recast as voluntary donations. This seemed to open the way for the Organization to safely assume ownership of all the tens of thousands of Kingdom halls worldwide. This they have done.
The Governing Body is playing with words. The facts reveal that the loans were not really cancelled. The payments were just reclassified. The confidential letter that was sent out to the bodies of elders introducing this arrangement had three pages which were not read from the platform. The second page directed the elder body to present a resolution for passage for a monthly donation that was, (and this was highlighted in italics) “at least” as great as the previous loan repayment had been. Additionally, congregations with no outstanding loans were directed to also make monthly monetary pledges. They continued to get the same money in—and more—but now it was classed not as a loan payment, but as a donation.
Some might argue that these were indeed voluntary donations and no congregation was required to make them, whereas under the old arrangement, they were required to make the monthly loan repayment or suffer foreclosure. Does that view fit with the facts that surfaced subsequently?
During this same time, the Circuit Overseers were given enhanced powers. They could now appoint and delete elders at their own discretion. This puts all such dealings at “arm’s length” from the Branch Office. Would the circuit overseer use his new authority to pressure congregation to make “voluntary donations”? Would troublesome elders be dealt with to smooth the way? Would the organization just up and sell any property it found desirable?
Regarding Lett’s question: “Can you imagine a bank telling homeowners that all their loans were cancelled and they should merely send in to the bank each month whatever they can afford?” We can safely answer, “Yes, we can imagine that!” What bank would not embrace such an arrangement. Money keeps coming in, but now they own the properties, and the former homeowners are merely tenants.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Organization assumed ownership of properties that were fully paid for; even properties where no loan from the branch had ever been taken—properties paid for entirely by local donations.
Does telling a partial truth that misleads us to a wrong conclusion indicate someone is being righteous in what is least with regard to the unrighteous riches?
Bear in mind that they did not ask the permission of the congregations to have ownership passed to them. No resolutions were read out explaining what was taking place and what asking for the congregations’ endorsement or permission.
Property was not the only thing that was seized either. Enormous amounts of money were taken. Any money on hand over and above monthly operating expenses was to be sent in. In some cases, these sums were huge.
Lett then tries to put a Scriptural spin on all this.
It should be noted that he keeps quoting from Corinthians, but this account is not an account of regular monthly donations. This account was a response to a crisis in Jerusalem, and the congregations that were gentiles and had funds freely and willing gave to lesson the load of those who were suffering in Jerusalem. That was it. This is hardly an endorsement for the current monthly pledge that is required of all congregations.
This idea of an equalizing sure sounded good at the time. It was the basis for justifying what many have called “a cash grab”. Here’s a typical scenario, one I’m sure was repeated thousands of times over: There is a congregation that had about $80,000 in a fund intended to be used to re-pave their parking lot and make much needed renovations to the hall interior. The Organization directed them to turn over the funds and wait on the newly formed Local Design Committee to handle the renovation.
(The LDC arrangement replaced the previous Regional Building Committee (RBC) arrangement. The RBCs were semi-autonomous entities, while the LDCs are fully under branch office control.)
This sounded plausible, but the renovation never took place. Instead, the LDC is considering selling the hall and forcing the publishers to travel a significant distance to another town to attend meetings.
In the case in question—hardly unique—the elders resisted turning over the money, but after several visits from the Circuit Overseer—the man who can delete any elder at will—they were “persuaded” to hand over the congregation’s money.
“By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35)
When you use undue influence and coercion to take what belongs to another, do you have any claim to being loving, to be acting in good faith or righteousness?
They say, but they do not do.
We will never beg, petition or solicit funds. He says this in a video where he does just that.
We will never use coercion. He says this, but why did they direct, not ask, but direct all elder bodies to send any additional monies they had saved up? If they had simply asked the brothers to do these things, then they would be guilty of soliciting funds—something he claims they don’t do either? But they didn’t ask, they directed, which goes beyond solicitation into the area of coercion. It might be hard for an outsider to understand this, but the elders are continually reminded that the Governing Body is God’s channel of communication, so not following direction means that one is resisting the leading of the spirit of God. One cannot continue to serve as an elder if one goes against the direction of God as expressed by the Governing Body.
Similarly, the rental for the use of JW assembly halls used for circuit assemblies has gone up dramatically, doubling and sometimes tripling. A local circuit could not pay for the exorbitant rent hike demanded of them, and the assembly ended with a shortfall of $3,000. After the assembly, letters went out to the ten congregations in the circuit reminding them that it was their “privilege” to make up the shortfall and directing them to send in $300 each. This hardly fits the description of uncoerced voluntary donations. By the way, this was an assembly hall formerly owned by the circuit but now owned by the Organization.
Is a minister claims to be righteous and faithful, but says one thing while doing another, is he not showing by his works that he is disguised as something he is not?
- 14,000 Kingdom halls needed worldwide.
- 3,000 Kingdom halls to be build over the next 12 months, and every year after that.
- Financial needs have accelerated like never before.
This tallies with what was said at the accounting webinar just over 12 months later.
- Jehovah is speeding up the work.
- We’re just trying to hold on to the chariot.
- We are experiencing “rapid expansion”.
Remarkable statements, but let’s look at the facts available to them at the time.
In these two charts from the 2014 and 2015 Yearbooks, you’ll notice that the number of memorial partakers fell by almost 100,000 and the growth rate fell by 30% from 2.2% (hardly a speeding chariot in the first place) to an even slower 1.5% which is barely over the world population growth rate. How can they speak of rapid expansion and of Jehovah speeding up the work when faced with a 30% reduction in growth and a miniscule growth rate?
If the disconnect from reality is not apparent yet, let’s consider this:
Yet, just a little earlier in the webinar he stated this:
This was all said at the same webinar to the same audience. Did no one see the contradiction?
Again, these are the men entrusted to manage millions in donated funds! To be faithful and righteous, one must start with being honest about the facts? Oh, but it gets even better…or worse, as the case may be.
They tell us that Jehovah is speeding up the work. That Jehovah is blessing the work. That we are facing rapid expansion and the highest rate of donations ever. Then they tell us this:
A year before, Lett was talking about the acceleration of financial needs for the building of 3,000 Kingdom halls a year to make up the shortfall of the 14,000 hall needed then—not accounting for future growth. What happened to that need? It seems to have evaporated almost overnight? Within six months of that talk, the organization announced worldwide staff reductions of 25%. They said this was not about a shortage of funds, but because these brothers and sisters were needed in the field. However, this webinar reveals that to have been a lie. Why lie about that?
On top of that, construction has been virtually halted. Instead of building 3,000 kingdom halls in the first year, they had flagged that same number of properties for sale. What happened?
There was a time, not that long ago, that the combined circulation of the Watchtower and Awake! added up to over a quarter of a billion—that’s right, billion—copies every month with four 32-page issues coming out every month. Now we have six 16-page issues a year!
Cutbacks in worldwide staff; the decimation of the ranks of special pioneers; the slashing of printing from a firehose to a trickle; and the halting or cancelling of almost all construction. Yet they claim they can barely hold on to the chariot as Jehovah speeds up the work.
These are the men entrusted with your money.
Ironically, it is possible that the acceleration of the financial needs is the one truthful thing that Lett spoke about, though not for the reasons he stated.
A simple internet search will reveal that the organization has had to pay out millions of dollars in court costs, million-dollar fines for contempt of court, as well as huge punitive damages, and out-of-court settlements to deal with the fallout from decades of failure to obey the command of Romans 13:1-7 to report crimes to the superior authorities and Jesus’ command to deal lovingly with the little ones. (John 13:34, 35; Luke 17:1, 2)
I am speaking specifically of the growing public scandal arising from the Organization’s decades-long mishandling of cases of child sexual abuse. The day of reckoning seems to have arrived with pending lawsuits and the associated public relations nightmare airing on the news in countries like Australia, Canada, Britain, Holland, Denmark, and the United States.
One thing we can be sure of, the Organization has already paid out millions of dollars in fines and damages leveed by the courts. This is a matter of public record. Is this a righteous use of funds donated to further the worldwide preaching of the good news? We’re told that the money donated is used to support the Kingdom work.
Paying fines for civil disobedience and criminal activity cannot be considered as support of the Kingdom work. Where has the Organization gone to get additional funds, since its only source of funding are the voluntary donations?
Alex Reinmuller seems to be searching for an alternate word before he finally settles on “income” for the revenue that the sale of 3,000 properties will generate. Now, if the Organization wants to sell its Brooklyn offices, that is its concern. However, the work of the LDCs over the past couple of years hasn’t been so much the construction of the 14,000 Kingdom halls that Lett said were urgently needed back in 2015. Instead, they have been scanning the landscape for suitable properties that can be sold to generate revenue.
Remember that prior to the grandiose 2014 loan cancellation initiative, each congregation owned its own Kingdom hall and was responsible for its sale. Since then, control has been yanked from the congregations. Reports continue to come in of congregations who, without begin consulted or even forewarned, have been told that their cherished Kingdom hall has been sold and that they will now be required to go to halls in neighbouring towns or other areas of the city. This results in significant hardship for many, both in travel times and fuel costs. Often brothers and sisters who could barely make the meeting in time after leaving work, now find themselves in a situation where they are constantly late.
The situation with one European Hall is typical. A brother donated the land with the express purpose that the congregation would benefit from the construction of the Kingdom Hall. Other brothers and sisters donated their time, skills, and hard-earned money to make the project a reality. The hall was built exclusively with private funding. No loan was taken out from the branch. Then one day these brothers and sisters are effectively thrown out on the street because the LDC has seen that the hall can generate a huge profit on the real estate market.
How does this further the kingdom work? Where is this money going? The current President of the United States refuses to reveal his income tax returns. It seems a similar lack of transparency exists within the headquarters of the Organization. If the funds are being used righteously and faithfully, why the need to hide how they are dispersed?
In fact, why does the News section of JW.org say nothing of the millions being paid out in compensation to child abuse victims?
If the organization needs funds to pay for past sins, why not be honest and faithful with the brothers? Instead of selling a Kingdom hall without permission, why don’t they make a humble confession and ask for forgiveness, and then beg the publishers’ help in paying for these costly court cases and fines? Alas, contrition and repentance has not been their hallmark. Instead, they have misled the brothers with false stories, hiding the real reasons for the changes and absconding with funds they had not right to. Funds which were not donated to them, but were taken.
Back when The Watchtower was first printed, the second issue of the magazine stated:
“‘Zion’s Watch Tower’ has, we believe, JEHOVAH for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: ‘All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,’ fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication.”
Well, that time has come. If Jehovah were truly blessing the work, there would be no need to sell off properties for income. If Jehovah isn’t blessing the work, should we be donating to it? Are we not just enabling these men?
Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know these men.” Paul said that men would come disguised as ministers of righteousness, but we would know them by their works. Jesus told us that if a man could not be faithful and righteous with the unrighteous riches entrusted to him—the least—he could not be trusted with greater things.
It’s something each of us should think about prayerfully.