“Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”—Psalm 144:15.
[From ws 9/18 p. 17, November 12 – 18]
The article opens with the claim that “JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES certainly are a happy people. Their meetings, assemblies, and social gatherings are characterized by the pleasant sound of joyful conversations and laughter.” Is that your experience?
My congregation used to be relatively happy, especially compared with some of the more ‘super-righteous’ local congregations. However, now it also seems to have been struck with a malaise. Many leave as soon as the meetings finish. The chatting is much more subdued. Most seem to just be treading water, hoping against hope that Armageddon comes very soon and washes their troubles and doubts away.
The whole situation reminds me of the truth of Proverbs 13:12a which says “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick”. As for social events, they seem to have all but dried up.
We are then asked in the article:
“What about you personally? Are you happy? Can you increase your happiness? Happiness may be defined as “a state of well-being that is characterized by relative permanence, by emotion ranging from mere contentment to deep and intense joy in living, and by a natural desire for it to continue.”
Personally, my answer to “Are you happy?” is Yes, never been happier. Why?
You might ask yourself how you feel, now that you’re free of the artificial barrier Witnesses put between themselves and everyone else. Is it not easier to talk to people and be helpful, or just plain friendly? Maybe you now have time to be able to help a charity that improves the lives of those disadvantaged through no fault of their own. Have you noticed that most actually appreciate the help, without expecting it as their due? Have you also learnt far more about Jehovah and Jesus Christ recently, including much you had not fully appreciated before? Additionally, because you learnt it for yourself through personal study instead of being taught by others, it means much more to you. Like others who have awakened, maybe you also now feel free of the constant, depressing guilt tripping that causes Witnesses to feel we are not doing enough to fulfill all the extra, unnecessary burdens put upon us by the modern-day equivalent of the Pharisees.
Paragraph 3 unnecessarily reminds us of the myriads of reasons that can cause unhappiness, none of which by any means is unique to Witnesses.
Strong Spirituality, fundamental to happiness (Par.4-6)
According to paragraph 4, we show we are conscious of our spiritual need “by taking in spiritual food, cherishing spiritual values, and giving priority to worshipping the happy God. If we take those steps, our happiness will grow. We will strengthen our faith in the coming fulfillment of God’s promises.”
The more important question is, are we conscious enough to take in spiritual food directly from the True Source, God’s Word the Bible? Or do we feed only on regurgitated milk that the Organization provides?
Paragraph 5 says the following:
“The apostle Paul was inspired to write: “Always rejoice in the Lord [Jehovah]. Again I will say, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)”
It seems the Organization is not content to just replace “Lord” with “Jehovah” some 230 times, with dubious support and in many cases against the context. In addition, now they seem to feel the need to add new examples on a whim to make a point in the Watchtower article. A read through Philippians chapters 3 and 4 makes it obvious that Paul was referring to Jesus when he put ‘Lord’ here. So why this insertion?
A few examples are:
- Philippians 4:1-2 “Consequently, my brothers beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, stand firm in this way in [the] Lord, beloved ones. Eu·oʹdi·a I exhort and Synʹty·che I exhort to be of the same mind in [the] Lord”.
- Philippians 4:5 “Let YOUR reasonableness become known to all men. The Lord is near”.
As encouraged in paragraph 6, “he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in [it], this [man], because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing [it]. (James 1:25)” The only perfect Law is found in God’s Word. It is not to be found in publications of men, whatever they claim, or however well-intentioned they are.
Qualities that enhance happiness (Par.7-12)
Paragraph 8 invites us to consider Matthew 5:5, “Happy are the mild-tempered, since they will inherit the earth.” It then claims:
“After coming to an accurate knowledge of the truth, individuals change. At one time, they may have been harsh, quarrelsome, and aggressive. But now they have clothed themselves with “the new personality” and display “the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience.” (Col. 3:9-12)”.
Has this been your experience in the Organization? Having learnt the Organization’s version of “truth”, do most Witnesses change for the better? Or are they so busy spending time in the pursuits mandated by the Organization, that they have little time or energy to really apply Bible principles and become true Christians? Are they relying instead on kudos for participating in Organizational pursuits to get them through Armageddon?
Paragraph 9 further claims:
“Jesus’ spirit-anointed disciples inherit the earth when they rule over it as kings and priests. (Revelation 20:6) Millions of others who do not have the heavenly calling, however, will inherit the earth in the sense that they will be allowed to live here forever in perfection, peace, and happiness”.
Many would conclude that Revelation 20:6 supports the Organization’s teaching of a heavenly calling. Yet “over” is ‘over’ as in authority over, not from a higher heavenly position which is how it is commonly interpreted. Revelation 5:10 which reads as follows in the NWT “and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth” gives the same impression. The ESV, as with many other translations, however says “and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth”. The Kingdom Interlinear reads “upon” rather than “over” which is the correct translation of the Greek word “epi”. If they are upon the earth they cannot be in heaven.
The next 3 paragraphs discuss Matthew 5:7, which says, “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.” They contain good points and encouragement. However, applying the Parable of the Good Samaritan involves more than helping fellow Christians as suggested. The good Samaritan selflessly helped a Jew. This is someone who earlier could have, and probably would have, shown disdain or even shunned the Samaritan as they passed one another, which they surely would have done if the Jew had not been attacked by robbers.
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “Continue to love YOUR enemies”. He expanded on this in Luke 6:32-33 saying “And if YOU love those loving YOU, of what credit is it to YOU? For even the sinners love those loving them. 33 And if YOU do good to those doing good to YOU, really of what credit is it to YOU? Even the sinners do the same”.
If sinners do good to those who love them, then surely true Christians would go further in showing love as Christ said, not just doing good to fellow believers as the paragraph suggests. How are we any different from sinners if we only show love to fellow Witnesses?
Why the pure in heart are happy (Par.13-16)
In this section the theme is based on Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:8, which reads, “Happy are the pure in heart, since they will see God.”
We have already highlighted:
- The subtle change to Philippians 4:4 altering its meaning.
- The misunderstanding about where the chosen ones will rule.
- The deliberate misapplication of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Given the above, the audacity of the “Read” scripture, 2 Corinthians 4:2, is manifest:
“But we have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning, neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Co 4:2)
Cherry picking “proof texts”, avoiding the context for clarification of the real meaning, altering the Bible translation to support organizational interpretation…do these things demonstrate compliance with Paul’s words to the Corinthians?
Does JW teaching recommend us to “every human conscience in the sight of God”?
The other cited scripture is 1 Timothy 1:5 which says, “Really the objective of this mandate is love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.”
Have the many teachings and practices unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses—overuse of extreme shunning, prohibition against the medical use of blood, failing to report child sexual abuse, a 10-year affiliation with the U.N.—demonstrated ‘love out of a clean heart, a good conscience and a lack of hypocrisy’?
Happy despite difficulties (Par.17-20)
Paragraph 18 states:
“Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake.” What did Jesus mean? He went on to say: “Rejoice and be overjoyed, since your reward is great in the heavens, for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.” (Matthew 5:11, 12)”
It is vital that we understand that any persecution is because of being a good Christian, rather than because of slavishly following Organizational rules and suggestions that bring us unnecessarily into conflict with so-called “opposers”. An unnecessarily confrontational attitude with authorities will often result in a show of that authority and perhaps persecution.
In summary, a typical article, containing good, useful information but with some glaring issues concerning accuracy.
Yes, we can be happy serving the Happy God, but we need to ensure that we serve God in the way he requires, rather than what any Organization says he requires. Organizations always add rules. Christ’s way is that of principled love. As he said in Luke 11:28, “Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”