[From ws 8/18 p. 8 – October 8 – October 14]
“Stop judging by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”—John 7:24
The opening two paragraphs highlight Jesus as the role model to follow in not judging by the outward appearance. Quoting the theme scripture the article encourages us to try to be like Jesus. It then mentions the areas to be discussed “race or ethnicity, wealth, and age.” We are then told that “In each area, we will consider practical ways to obey Jesus’ command.” All good so far.
Judging by Race or Ethnicity (Par.3-7)
Sadly the fine start is not continued. Paragraph 5 says “By means of Peter, Jehovah was helping all Christians to understand that He is not partial. He places no significance on racial, ethnic, national, tribal, or linguistic differences. Any man or woman who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Gal. 3:26-28; Rev. 7:9, 10)”
Although this is just one instance, the absence of any mention of Jesus in paragraphs 3-5 highlights the way the Organization usually continually minimises the role of Jesus Christ in the literature. It should say “By means of Peter and Jesus, Jehovah was helping…”.
Why do we say this? The opening paragraphs highlighted how we should imitate Jesus. However when Jesus gives us an example to imitate, in Acts 10:9-29, his part is ignored. Paragraph 4 quoted Acts 10:34-35. But the context, such as Acts 10:14-15, highlights who was conveying the message of impartiality to the Apostle Peter. It was the Lord Jesus Christ. The account reads “But Peter said: “Not at all, Lord, because never have I eaten anything defiled and unclean.” 15 And the voice [spoke] again to him, the second time: “You stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.”” Therefore the voice from heaven mentioned three times in this paragraph is Jesus as per the passage of scripture.
Keeping up the double standard of mentioning Jesus, but minimising his role, paragraph 5 continues “Even Peter, who had the privilege of revealing Jehovah’s impartiality, later manifested prejudice. (Gal. 2:11-14) How can we listen to Jesus and stop judging by the outward appearance?” Once again, Jehovah is the subject yet somehow they suggest we listen to Jesus. Yet in the article, Jesus has not said or done anything for us to listen to. But as a contrast to what the Organization is saying, the scriptures clearly show that Jesus was behind this event.
Did Peter have “the privilege of revealing Jehovah’s impartiality”? When the Priest and scribes and Pharisees tried to trap Jesus over whether the Jews should pay taxes, they acknowledged about Jesus that “Teacher, we know you speak and teach correctly and show no partiality, but you teach the way of God in line with truth”. (Luke 20:21-22)
Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed impartiality. He spoke to and healed children, men, women and both Jews and non-Jews. Even as John 14:10-11 shows, he did the will of his Father and seeing Jesus was like seeing God, in that they acted in the same way. So, to say Peter had the privilege of revealing Jehovah’s impartiality is disingenuous. Jesus revealed God’s impartiality as he was impartial, and he was the one that revealed to Peter the inclusion of the Gentiles into the one flock.
Paragraph 6, at least, is frank in its admittance that even many responsible ones within the Organization can or have allowed themselves to show partiality to those of a certain race or ethnic background. However, if more space in the literature was devoted to learning, practicing and displaying Christ-like qualities instead of preaching, then maybe this would not be the case.
Sadly, even this article only skims the surface without really getting into detail or depth on how to change one’s thinking regarding the race, nationality, ethnicity, tribe or language group of others. The best suggestion it can offer is to invite those from different backgrounds to work with us in the field ministry, or to invite them for a meal or gathering. While that is a good start, we would need to go further. Prejudice is learnt from those around us, it is not bred into us.
Youngsters, without outside influence, treat all other children as the same, without prejudice of colour, language, etc. They learn prejudice from adults. We need to become as children. As Jesus said in Matthew 19:14-15, “Let the young children alone, and stop hindering them from coming to me, for the kingdom of the heavens belongs to suchlike ones.” Yes, youngsters are usually humble and teachable until corrupted by adult influences. The main way to change our views and be less prejudiced is to learn more about other cultures. The more we learn about them, the more understanding we can be.
Judging by Riches or Poverty (Par.8-12)
We are rightly reminded of Leviticus 19:15 which says “You must not show partiality to the poor or show preference to the rich. With justice you should judge your fellow man.” At Proverbs 14:20 it says “The poor man is hated even by his neighbors, but many are the friends of the rich person.” That this attitude can affect the Christian congregation today is highlighted in James 2:1-4 which discusses how the problem affected the first century Christian congregation.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 is cited which highlights how “the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things”. It is vital that we follow this counsel as individuals, but also how much more so for the Organization. Yet, while Congregation accounts have to be audited and reported on to the congregation on a monthly basis, the Assembly Halls and the Bethels and the Headquarters do not report audited accounts of income and expenses to the brothers and sisters whose contributions are supporting them. Why not? It raises strong suspicions that information about the use and level of donations is being hidden or buried; information that the brothers and sisters have a right to know about.
The Organization also now owns all the Kingdom Halls, but provides no public accounting to the brotherhood of how they spend the money generated from real estate sales, and donations. This is a clear indication of a love of money. If they did not care about money, they would have no problem in being transparent with their sources of income and the areas of expenditure. They should be setting the example of placing “their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
Judging by Age (Par.13-17)
In Paragraph 13, we are reminded of Leviticus 19:32 where it speaks of showing “honor to an older man”. However, it is rightfully caveated with the principle of Isaiah 65:20 that anyone sinning, however old they are, should not be ignored. This, therefore, applies especially to older elders. Sometimes, because of being long serving, they can begin to think more of themselves than it is necessary to think. (Romans 12:3) This can lead to them showing partiality, either to certain friends, or fleshly relatives when they should not, and to abusing their privileges.
Likewise, judgements may be made wrongly about the maturity of a younger person, perhaps just because they look younger than they really are. As paragraph 17 correctly points out, “How important it is that we rely on the Scriptures rather than on our own cultural or personal viewpoints!”
Judge with Righteous Judgement (Par.18-19)
Sadly after the mention of listening “to Jesus and stop judging by the outward appearance” in paragraph 5, Jesus barely gets mentioned even though we are meant to follow his example and command.
There is a passing mention of Jesus in paragraph 11 with reference to our attitude to rich and poor by quoting Matthew 19:23 and Luke 6:20. Paragraph 15, regarding age, mentions in passing that Jesus was in his early 30’s for his entire earthy ministry.
The only other mention is at the end of paragraph 18 and 19 when discussing how Jesus will judge in righteousness. Hardly conducive to assisting those attending the WT Study to follow Christ’s example of not judging by the outward appearance.
Yes, it will take “continual effort on our part and constant reminders from God’s Word” (Par.18)to try to be impartial. We should then be able to stop judging by the outward appearance. But, we also need to try to avoid judging at all. We need to remember that “soon our King, Jesus Christ, will judge all mankind”, which includes ourselves, in righteousness.
Romans 2:3 contains a very relevant warning when it says: “But do you have this idea, O man, while you judge those who practice such things and yet you do them, that you will escape the judgement of God?”
Romans 2:6 goes on to say “And he [God] will render to each one according to his works.”
Finally the Apostle Paul stated in Romans 2:11 “For there is no partiality with God.”
Yes, indeed, do not judge by the outward appearance, but also avoid judging at all.
In Luke 20:46-47, Jesus warned about those who went for outward appearance when he said, “Look out for the scribes who desire to walk around in robes, and like greetings in the marketplaces and front seats in the synagogues and the most prominent places at evening meals, and who devour the houses of the widows and for a pretext make long prayers. These will receive a heavier judgment.”