[From ws 8/18 p. 23 – October 22 – October 28]
“We are God’s fellow workers.”—1 Corinthians 3:9
Before starting to review this week’s article, let us first consider the context behind Paul’s words used as the theme text in 1 Corinthians 3:9.
It appears that there were divisions in the Corinthian congregation. Paul mentions jealousy and strife as some of the undesirable traits that existed among the Corinthian Christians (1 Corinthians 3:3). However, even more concerning was the fact that some were claiming to belong to Paul while others were claiming to belong to Apollos. It is against this background that Paul makes the statement in this week’s theme text. Emphasising the point that He and Apollos were simply God’s ministers, he then expands further in verse 9:
“For we are laborers together with God: you are God’s field, you are God’s building”. King James 2000 Bible
This verse raises the following two points:
- “laborers together with God” – Paul and Apollos do not claim to have an elevated position above the congregation but in 1 Corinthians 3:5 asks: “Who then is Paul? and who is Apollos? but servants by whom ye believed, each one according to that which the Lord gave”.
- “you are God’s field, you are God’s building” – The congregation belonged to God not to Paul nor Apollos.
Now that we have the background to the theme text, let us review this week’s article and see whether the points raised are in line with that context.
Paragraph 1 opens by highlighting what a privilege it is to be “God’s fellow workers”. It mentions the preaching of the good news and making disciples. All fine points. It then goes on to mention the following:
“Yet, preaching and making disciples are not the only ways that we work with Jehovah. This article will examine other ways we can do so—by assisting our family and fellow worshippers, by being hospitable, by volunteering for theocratic projects, and by expanding our sacred service”.
Most of the points mentioned, at first sight appear to be in line with Christian principles, but the scriptures contain no concept of “theocratic projects”. Indeed, Colossians 3:23, which is cited, makes the point that “whatever YOU are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men” (NWT).
Furthermore, while these projects in name, claim to be directed or commissioned by God, in reality there is no evidence of this. The only theocratic building projects contained in the Scriptures are the building of the Ark by Noah, and the construction of the Tabernacle. These were communicated to Noah and Moses by angels, with clear instructions. All other projects, even such as Solomon’s Temple were not God ruled and directed. (Solomon’s Temple was because of a desire of David and Solomon to build the Temple to replace the Tabernacle. It was not requested by God, though he supported the project.)
To help to understand the thrust and emphasis of the article, go through the article and highlight the “assisting of family workers and hospitality” in one colour – say blue – then highlight the theocratic projects and sacred service in another colour – say amber. At the end of the article, scan the pages and see what colour is the most prominent of the two. Regular readers will not be surprised to discern what message the Organization is trying to send the publishers.
Paragraph 4 begins with the words “Christian parents cooperate with Jehovah when they set theocratic goals before their children” At first sight, nothing appears to be noteworthy about this statement. Then the article adds:
“Many who have done so have later seen their sons and daughters take up full-time service assignments far from home. Some are missionaries; others pioneer where the need for publishers is greater; still others serve at Bethel. Distance might mean that families cannot get together as often as they would like to.”
For the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the first statement of the paragraph would logically lead them to conclude that “Theocratic goals” are indeed what the Organisation has termed “full-time service” and that sacrificing family unity is a requirement of many “Theocratic goals”. But are these valid “Theocratic goals”?
If you type “full-time service” into the JW Library search box, you will notice that out of thousands of hits, not one is from the Bible.
The Bible does not mention full-time service. Jesus encouraged his followers to love Jehovah with their whole heart and whole soul and to love their neighbours as they love themselves. These are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). Any acts of faith would be motivated by love. There was no obligation or requirement or ‘positions’ of full time service. Each did what their circumstances permitted and heart motivated them to do.
With regards to serving Jehovah, the Bible is very clear about how we measure our service to God.
“Let each one examine his own actions, and then he will have cause for rejoicing in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.” (Galatians 6:4).
The Bible does not differentiate as long as it is wholehearted service.
If one were to say to Jehovah’s Witnesses parents that they should encourage their children to serve at the Vatican or at the world headquarters of the Mormon religion, almost none of them would think that was worthy of any praise. In fact, likely they would condemn such a course.
Therefore, for the paragraph to have scriptural significance, much rests on the premise that serving the Organization is what Jehovah requires. Like the Beroeans, we need to thoroughly test whether what we are taught is really in line Jehovah’s will and purpose. If not, any such service would be futile.
Paragraph 5 offers valuable counsel and we do well to assist fellow worshipers where we can. However, true Christians would extend this assistance wherever they are able, beyond their local congregation, to non-believers, if they truly wish to follow Christ’s command.
Paragraph 6 opens by explaining that the Greek term translated “hospitality” means “kindness to strangers”. As cited Hebrews 13:2 reminds us:
“Do not forget hospitality, for through it some, unknown to themselves, entertained angels“.
The paragraph continues, “We can and should seize opportunities to help others regularly, whether they are “related to us in the faith” or not.” (Bold ours). A rare acknowledgement that true hospitality is to strangers, including outside the Organization.
Paragraph 7 suggests showing hospitality to visiting full-time servants. However, it is questionable whether they qualify as strangers. Certainly after the first visit to a congregation they are no longer strangers. Also they deliberately visit the congregation and expect hospitality, which is quite different from a complete stranger passing through a place where they knew no one, nor could afford an inn, and just needed shelter for the night.
Volunteer for Theocratic projects
Paragraphs 9 to 13 are encouraging all to seek opportunities to volunteer for Witness projects and assignments. Witness projects include helping with literature, territories, maintenance, kingdom hall construction and disaster relief work.
The scripture which comes to mind is the following:
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he gives to all life, and breath, and all things” – King James 2000 Bible.
If Jehovah says that he does not dwell in houses or temples built by men, why is there such a huge emphasis on having large construction projects, buildings and continually expanding? We do not have any indication that the first century Christians had any large branch facilities, neither do we find Paul or any of the apostles issuing instructions for Christians to build permanent structures for worship? As Christians we want to follow the model set for us by Christ and His first century disciples. Jesus did not require any of his apostles to oversee large projects for places of worship. In fact, he discussed a change in emphasis from buildings to the heart. He wanted them to focus on one goal only: worshiping him in Truth and Spirit. (John 4:21, 24)
Expand your service
Paragraph 14 opens with the words: “Would you like to work with Jehovah more fully?” How does the Organisation propose we do this? By relocating to where the Organization sends us.
The Organization seems to hold scant regard for those fully committed in their own locality, or those whose circumstances do not allow them to serve in isolated territories. Rather than clearly acknowledging that all can be whole-souled wherever they are, it implies that we cannot work with Jehovah fully, if we do not move to a foreign field. This is in contrast to the message they should be conveying, which is that we work with Jehovah and his anointed King more fully when we endeavour to cultivate the fruitage of the Holy Spirit. We would then be able to reflect Jehovah’s qualities in different aspects of our lives irrespective of where we serve him. (Acts 10:34-35)
Paragraph 16 encourages publishers to desire to serve at Bethel, assist in the construction work or volunteer as temporary workers or commuters. This is despite the large reductions on Bethel members in recent years.
Those with perhaps a more cynical view would perhaps suggest it is so they can continue with their clear-out of those older ones who could become a health liability, replacing them with younger ones.
They also do not make it clear here they only want those with particular skills, almost all of which can only be obtained by higher education. Hence, to be useful to the Organization one would have to go against their unscriptural policy of avoiding such education, or have become a Witness after finishing higher education.
Paragraph 17 puts forward the suggestion that regular pioneers should consider trying to qualify to attend the School for Kingdom Evangelizers.
We would do well to prayerfully consider whether all these different avenues of service are in line with Christ’s direction or whether we are being taught to serve men.
If you highlighted the various paragraphs in the Watchtower article as suggested in the introduction, what would you say the main message or theme of the article is?
Does the article focus more on generosity and hospitality or on Organizational tasks, responsibilities and services?
Does the article really expand on the context in which Paul uttered the words “We are God’s fellow workers” and how we could apply those words? Or does it expand on how we can be the Organization’s fellow workers.
As the tactics of bait and switch used in this article is a frequently used method, in future articles why not look out for the following:
Introductory paragraphs: Introducing thoughts and scriptures which are known to be true and indisputable to the publishers (This week’s article in Paragraphs 1-3, paragraph 5-6)
Introductory sentences: Starting a paragraph with a quoted scripture, reference to a quoted scripture, Bible principle or general fact which the publisher will accept to be true or scriptural.
Linking the thoughts in the introductory paragraphs and sentences to Witness doctrine or acts of service, but which if examined without the introductory thoughts would give a totally different meaning in their own contexts.
In conclusion, if you really wish to “Work with Jehovah each Day” as we hope you do, then you will find little assistance in this Watchtower article.
We hope you will find more encouragement from reading and meditating on Acts 9:36-40 which contains the account of Dorcas/Tabitha and how she practised the principles of Matthew 22:36-40 which we mentioned above, and how that led to Jehovah and Jesus Christ considering her worthy of a resurrection even there in the first century.
[With grateful thanks to Nobleman for his assistance for the majority of the article this week]