“Happy is anyone who shows consideration to the lowly one.” – Psalm 41:1
[From ws 9/18 p. 28 – November 26 – December 2]
In full, Psalm 41:1 reads: “Happy is anyone who shows consideration to the lowly one; Jehovah will rescue him in the day of calamity.”
The Hebrew word rendered “lowly” in the themthe text is dal. Regarding this word, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states:
“The word used in the Hebrew ‘dal’ – properly means something hanging or swinging, as of pendulous boughs or branches; and then, that which is weak, feeble, powerless. Thus, it comes to denote those who are feeble and helpless either by poverty or by disease, and is used with a general reference to those who are in low or humble condition, and who need the aid of others.”-
Paragraph 1 opens with the words “GOD’S people are a spiritual family—one marked by love. (1 John 4:16, 21).” By the statement “GOD’S people are a spiritual family” ,the Organisation really means Jehovah’s Witnesses. While it is arguable that Witnesses are a spiritual family, what spirit dominates them? Is it, as alleged, the spirit of love?
Whilst many may consider the greater Witness community as family, it is easy to love those who love you. (See Matthew 5:46, 47) But even that type of love is restrained among Witnesses. For they do not love, even those who love them, unless they also agree with them. The love Witnesses feel for one another is conditional on submission to the men ruling the Organization. Disagree with them and their expressions of love melt faster than a snowflake in the Sahara. Jesus said at John 13:34, 35 that love would identify his disciples to the world. When asked, do outsiders feel Witnesses are noteworthy for the love they exhibit or for their door-to-door preaching?
It is also noteworthy that the primary focus of David’s words in Psalm 41:1 was not on one’s own spiritual or physical family, but rather, they focused on all who are poor, helpless, or downtrodden. Jesus encouraged all those toiling and loaded down to come to him and be refreshed, for he was mild-tempered and lowly in heart. (Matthew 11:28-29). Cephas, James, John and Paul agreed to “keep the poor in mind”. (Gal 2:10) Is this what we see among those taking the lead in the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Paragraphs 4 – 6 have good advice on how husbands and wives can show consideration for each other. Although one would not necessarily view their husband or wife as poor, feeble or helpless, the points raised are practical and would be beneficial if applied in a family setting.
“Consider One Another” in the Congregation
Paragraph 7 cites the example of Jesus healing a deaf man with a speech impediment in the Decapolis region. (Mark 7:31-37) This is an excellent example of how Jesus showed consideration to a lowly one. Jesus went beyond just considering the deaf man’s feelings. He physically healed the man to alleviate his suffering. There is no indication that Jesus knew the deaf man. It is strange that the Organisation would use this example to encourage the publishers to be kind to others in the congregation. There are numerous scriptural examples better suited to demonstrate how Christians should show consideration for one another within the congregation, as opposed to this one showing kindness to a stranger.
Paragraph 8 begins with the words, “The Christian congregation is marked, not by mere efficiency, but by love. (John 13:34, 35)
To say it “is marked, not by mere efficiency, but by love” is to imply that it is marked by efficiency—though that efficiency is secondary to love. The truth is that the true Christian congregation is not marked by efficiency at all. The Organization is, but not the Christian congregation. Jesus said nothing about efficiency.
Paragraph 8 and then 9 continue:
“That love moves us to go out of our way to help older ones and those with disabilities to attend Christian meetings and to preach the good news. That is so even if what they can do is limited.”
“Many Bethel homes have elderly and infirm members. Caring overseers show these faithful servants consideration by arranging for them to share in letter writing and phone witnessing.”
Notice the odd focus. Love is demonstrated to the elderly and infirm by “helping them preach the good news.” Where is this principle expressed in Scripture? This appears to be the only way the Organization expresses love. In 2016—and subsequent years—when staff levels worldwide were cut by 25% to save costs, the “reason” given was to promote the preaching. However, those sent out to do more “preaching” were often the older ones, while the younger, healthier ones remained. Some of these brothers and sisters had been in Bethel for decades and have never worked secularly nor acquired a formal education. This was definitely an efficient move as it cut costs and reduced the organizations overhead by not being required to care for these ones in their old age. Efficiency is certainly a mark of the Organization, but love???
Thankfully, the scriptures contain many examples of how Jesus showed love for those who were weak or helpless. A few scriptures below clearly demonstrate what showing consideration for the weak and disabled means:
- Luke 14:1-2: Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath
- Luke 5:18-26: Jesus heals a paralysed man
- Luke 6:6-10: Jesus heals a man with a deformed hand on the Sabbath
- Luke 8:43-48: Jesus heals a woman with an infirmity for 12 years
Notice that Jesus had not requested any of those he healed to go preaching, nor was he assisting them or curing them so they could join the preaching work. That was not a pre-requisite for showing consideration to the lame, sick and the disabled. On two occasions above, Jesus chose to show love and mercy rather than keep the perceived letter of the Law.
Today, we should seek practical ways to assist those who are elderly and disabled. However, the thrust of paragraph 9 implies that the assistance should be aimed at helping the elderly and disabled to continue preaching more than they would otherwise be able to do. This is not what the Psalmist David had in mind. Many of these elderly and disabled may find simple tasks we take for granted, difficult to perform. Some are in need of company as loneliness is a big problem among widows, widowers and the disabled. Others may need financial assistance, having fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. Many of those dismissed from Bethel have no pensions to fall back on since Bethel required all staff to take a vow of poverty so that the Organization would not be required to pay into government pension funds. Now some of these ones are on welfare.
Hebrews 13:16 says: “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” – (New Living Translation)
Another translation renders the verse as follows: “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” – (King James Version)
Here are some scriptural examples that show how others were assisted in a practical manner:
- 2 Corinthians 8:1-5: Macedonian Christians give generously to other Christians in need
- Matthew 14:15-21: Jesus fed at least five thousand people
- Matthew 15:32-39: Jesus fed at least four thousand people
Box: Show Consideration to Those Taking the Lead
“At times, a brother who is somewhat prominent or well-known might visit our congregation or the convention we attend. He may be a circuit overseer, a Bethelite, a member of the Branch Committee, a member of the Governing Body, or a helper to the Governing Body.
We rightly want to give such faithful servants “extraordinary consideration in love because of their work.” (1 Thessalonians. 5:12, 13) We can show that consideration by treating such ones as our brothers and not as celebrities. Jehovah wants his servants to be humble and modest—especially those who carry weighty responsibilities! (Matthew 23:11, 12) So let us treat responsible brothers as humble ministers, not demanding to take photographs.”
The word “prominent” means “important; well-known or famous”. (Cambridge English Dictionary) Discerning readers would ask themselves why these brothers are “prominent” or well known in the first place. Is it not because the Organisation has attached importance to certain positions or privileges of service among Jehovah’s Witnesses? The Organisation itself claims that the Governing Body is God’s channel through which He achieves his Purpose for his servants today. Most Witnesses would openly acknowledge that likewise the Circuit overseer has an elevated position above the elders and ordinary publishers. “Full-time servants” are usually acknowledged as such before giving talks at Conventions and Assemblies, thereby drawing attention to their privileges.
In recent years, Governing Body members have been given more prominence through JW Broadcasting. In becoming effectively ‘JW TV’ celebrities, it is hardly surprising some Witnesses treat them as such, trying to get autographs and pictures to show off to their Witness friends.
However, Jesus cautioned all of his followers: “Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called leaders, for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”- (Matthew 23:9-12). Notice how the Watchtower excludes verses 9 -10 when citing this scripture “(Matthew 23:11-12)”.
The Organization, having created the problem, is following a time-honored path of blaming the publishers for the consequences of their actions.
Be Considerate in the Ministry
Some good points are raised in paragraphs 13-17 regarding how we could show consideration in the field ministry. Sadly though, this is again side tracking the focus from the theme text and focusing on the preaching of JW doctrine. The best ways to show consideration for those in the ministry would be to set the example Jesus did and show love to all in any way possible. This would draw right-hearted ones to want to learn Bible truth. It would also be much more successful at attracting these good-hearted ones, rather than attempting to push JW teachings on an unreceptive public.
In conclusion, although ignored in the Watchtower article, we have been able to see from the Scriptures that we should seek practical ways to assist those who are in need. Indeed, Jehovah is pleased with such sacrifices. Furthermore, the article has missed a good opportunity to help those in the congregation to appreciate the real significance of David’s words. Meditating on Jesus’ example and that of the first century Christians will help us appreciate the importance of assisting those who are weak as the course of love and true worship and get the real benefit of David’s encouragement.
[With grateful thanks to Nobleman for his assistance for the majority of the article this week]