“Speak the truth with one another.”—Zechariah 8:16.
[From ws 10/18 p. 6 – December 3 – December 9]
The contents page has the following summary about this article and the article for the following week: ”Lying has become commonplace in today’s society. How did the practice get started? What was the worst lie ever told? How can we protect ourselves from being deceived, and how can we show that we speak the truth with one another? How can we use our Teaching Toolbox to teach the truth in our ministry?” Next week’s study article “Preaching the truth” is all about the “Teaching Toolbox”.
Let us examine the first point “Lying has become commonplace in today’s society” and the theme scripture “Speak the truth with one another”.
The important question for all Witnesses is: Does the Watchtower Organization lie just like everybody else? Let us just take a little time to examine the article in the same Watchtower prior to this study article, entitled “1918, One Hundred Years Ago”.
1918, One Hundred Years Ago
The opening paragraph of this article reads: “The Watch Tower of January 1, 1918, opened with the words: ”What will the year 1918 bring forth?” The Great War still raged in Europe, but events early in the year seemed to suggest good things for the Bible Students and for the world in general.”
From this the average reader might assume that the Watch Tower article of 1918 quoted, went on to suggest that there were better conditions ahead for the Bible Students and the world in general. All the more so when paragraph 2 goes on to discuss in a positive light the outline of the formation of the League of Nations by American President Woodrow Wilson on January 8, 1918. Its paragraph 3 then suggests that peace was also on the horizon for the early Bible Students with the consolidation of power over the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society now in the hands of J.F. Rutherford and his supporters, rather than his opposers. (As an aside, do they not say history is written by the victors?)
However, this article is misleading on so many levels. The cited 1918 Watchtower says a good many things, but none of them are suggesting good things for the future in the sense conveyed in this current article. Some examples include:
- The theme scripture is 1 Peter 4:7-8 “The end of all things is at hand”. Doesn’t sound too positive does it?
- The third paragraph is about the growing Coal Famine including 300,000 families in Greater New York were without heating fires for several days in the depths of a very cold winter. Very difficult times for many more than those 300,000 people highlighted.
- The seventh paragraph has the theme – “The thickening turmoil”. This is foreboding about the future, not positive.
- The same paragraph quotes from a conservative financial journal “The grey skies of February grow dark with gloom and hoping almost against hope one tries to see some signs of the coming of the end.” Again a very negative report from another journal with a reputation of not reacting sensationally or emotionally to events.
- Paragraph 10 “and in our own country a week of remarkable events and growing apprehension” [bold italics in original]. The Watchtower writer himself emphasises “growing apprehension” rather than growing optimism.
- Even when it says in the first paragraph “The Christian looks for the year to bring the full consummation of the church’s hopes” referring to the end of the world or Armageddon, it is not conveying it in a joyous way that “good things” usually are. Furthermore, as we now know they were completely disappointed in this.
- There was nothing in at least the first 3 pages of the Watchtower (which is as far as I read) that painted anything other than a pessimistic view of the near future for both the early Bible Students and the world in general.
- After a thorough search of the entire magazine (pdf version)[i] I found the front cover listing the contents of this 1st January 1918 issue suggested a small article on page 13 entitled “Good hopes for 1918”. It is placed between “Some interesting letters” and “Interesting questions” in the index. However, of this section there is no trace on the page referenced or in the magazine at all, although all other sections are present. This would suggest that it was either dropped before going to press and the front contents page was not updated, or as the pdf appears to contain a bound volume of the year, it was not included in the bound volume print at the end of the year. Hardly good solid backing for the suggestion that there were better times ahead for the Bible Students.
Is this what they call “speaking the truth at all times”? The statements made in the article about 1918 are misleading at best. When we consider they make the claim about their article writers that “They spend many hours in researching the Bible and other reference material to make sure that what is written is the truth and that it faithfully follows the Scriptures”,[ii] it is difficult to believe that having decided to quote the January 1st 1918 Watchtower they did not read the context that followed.[iii] If they did not then this quote is a lie, if they did read the context and research carefully, then what they wrote in the article about 1918 is a lie. One way or the other, they are deliberately telling untruth or deliberately giving the wrong impression.
The first four paragraphs remind us that Satan was the first liar. Also that he was malicious in that he knew the result that would follow if Eve was deceived into listening to him.
Paragraph 1 contains the definition of a lie. It says “The lie! That is, saying something that one knows is not true in order to deceive someone else.” The read scripture of John 8:44 speaking about Satan, reminds us in part that “he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition”.
Therefore what does this paragraph tell us about the Organization, bearing in mind what we have found out about the Watchtower article previous to this one?
How Satan is misleading Humans (Par.5-8)
Paragraph 5 reminds us that “We know that the whole world—including false religion, corrupt politics, and greedy commercialism—is under the Devil’s control. (1 John 5:19)”
Also that “We are not surprised, then, that Satan and his demons would influence men in powerful positions to “speak lies”.”
From these statements we can easily conclude that a religion that tells lies must be controlled by Satan and hence is false. Also, that men will use their positions to speak lies which would benefit them.
Paragraph 6 goes further when it states “Religious leaders who lie are especially guilty because they endanger the future life prospects of those who believe their lies. If an individual accepts a false teaching and practices something that is actually condemned by God, it can cost that person his eternal life. (Hosea 4:9)” It is therefore very important to discern if any religious leader is a liar as they can endanger our future life prospects if we are taken in by them.
Paragraph 8 continues, stating, “In truth, we “know very well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night.”—1 Thessalonians 5:1-4.”
Let us just stop for one moment and think about this statement. We all know that a thief does not announce their arrival. So how can one know the thief is imminent? We cannot. It therefore stands to reason that anyone claiming to know when the thief is about to arrive, must be lying. Imminent is defined as “about to happen”[iv] such as “they were in imminent danger of being swept away”.
With this in mind, what about this quote from a Watchtower article. The context is talking about how, unlike the Watchtower, popular evangelists do not know “about God’s kingdom being at hand and Armageddon being imminent”.[v]
When was this article written? In 1959, before most of our readers were born. Yet according to the Awake of 2005 “It is similar with God’s warning message about the imminent “storm wind” of Armageddon.”[vi] It is also frequently mentioned in public discourses and Circuit Overseer visits and assembly talks as “being imminent”.
Does something that was about to happen in 1959 still qualify as imminent 59 years later in 2018? Let’s look again at paragraph 6:
Religious leaders who lie are especially guilty because they endanger the future life prospects of those who believe their lies.
How many witnesses lost faith in God when the false expectations sown by the leadership of the Organization failed to come true? The difference between a person who makes a mistake and a person who lies, is that the latter will never apologize, nor acknowledge wrongdoing? Therefore regarding the many failed predictions of the Organization, was it just human error or prideful deception?
Did not Jesus say in Matthew 24:42
“Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming”.
Most are familiar with the story of the boy who called ‘wolf’ too often. It too was a lie, each time he cried ‘wolf’. Sadly, though when eventually he actually did tell the truth, no one believed him. Would Jehovah appoint people who constantly cry ‘wolf’ to represent him, the God who cannot lie? (Titus 1:2) Or is the reality more like that recorded in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 where Jehovah warned
“However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: ‘How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?’ when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him”.
Why people commonly lie (Par.8-13)
Paragraph 9 states that “People often resort to lying either to protect themselves or to promote themselves. They lie to cover up their mistakes and misdeeds or to gain economic and personal advantages.
Examining these reasons for why people lie, why would the Organization lie?
Quite simply, by lying about the truth about 607 BCE and what they said about 1914 AD, they protect themselves from a large loss of followers and financial contributors. In doing so they are also covering up their mistakes, and they gain economic advantages. Can you imagine how the contributions would plummet? Their board and lodging for life would also be in jeopardy.
Paragraph 10 spells out the result when liars are discovered. “What is the result of all this lying? Trust is lost and relationships can be ruined. Imagine how disheartening it is,”
The writer, like so many of our readers, faced this loss of trust when he examined what the scriptures themselves taught on such subjects as higher education. Did you not find that the scriptures are opposite to many of the teachings of those who claim to be God’s Spirit directed ones? Also as with their further education policy, did you find there was no solid basis for their policy, which like many teachings is just total misapplication of scripture? That was inevitably compounded by further discoveries.
No doubt most of our readers have their own stories to tell of how they lost trust in the Governing Body.
Paragraph 11 contains the poignant warning of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to look good in others eyes. Yet they couldn’t fool Jehovah. This is as true today as in the first century. It is good for all of us and especially the Organization to take heed of the moral of this account.
The following paragraph reminds us how Jehovah detests liars.
“”Jehovah hates . . . a lying tongue.” (Prov. 6:16, 17) To have his approval, we must live by his standard of truthfulness. That is why we “do not lie to one another.”—Colossians 3:9” is the concluding paragraph of this section. Yes, whoever it is, an individual or an Organization controlled by a committee of men, if we do not “live by his standard of truthfulness” then we cannot hope to “have his approval.”
We “Speak the truth” (Par.14-19)
This is another case of “do as the Bible says, but not what they do”. Paragraph 14 states “What is one way that true Christians distinguish themselves from members of false religions? We “speak the truth.” (Read Zechariah 8:16-17.)”
So is the Organization a true religion or a false religion based on our opening section and the following?
A quick review of many of the quotes on this link https://jwfacts.com/watchtower/failed-1914-predictions.php will show, not claims or suggestions, but stated ‘facts’ in the publications of the Organization that contradict the reality.[vii] So on this basis is not the Organization a false religion?
What paragraph 14 goes on to say is so true: “Jesus said of man: “Out of the heart’s abundance his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) So when a good man speaks truth in his heart, truthful speech will come out of his mouth. He will tell the truth in ways big and small—to strangers, coworkers, friends, and loved ones.” Notice the key point. Whether someone or an Organization tells the truth in small things, just as much as large things, it shows their true heart condition and of course when they lie in small and large things, that likewise shows their true heart condition. As Hebrews 13:18 says, true Christians will desire to act honestly in all things.
Paragraph 15 is aimed at youths encouraging them not to live a double standard. Sadly, in my experience leading a double life is just as big a problem amongst adult Witnesses. They masquerade as faithful Witnesses doing everything the Organization asks of them, but they forget to do what Jesus asks of them. Zechariah 7:10 warned that we should “defraud no widow or fatherless boy, no alien resident or afflicted one, and scheme out nothing bad against one another in YOUR hearts”, yet that is what happens. Schemes to rid themselves of a spouse, because they are not happy in their marriage. Schemes to defraud their fellow brothers of a just wage for services rendered, having no intention of paying for work done despite making repeated promises to do so. Heavily drinking on a regular basis. And let’s not overlook the problems of spousal or child abuse. Suffice to say a bad double life amongst Witnesses of all ages is far more common than the Organization would like to admit.
Paragraph 16 perpetuates the unscriptural requirement to confess all your sins to a human intermediary in order to obtain God’s forgiveness.
Yet 1 John 1:9 states “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Is this confession of sins required to be to an elder? One of the cross references the NWT (1984) gives to this verse, Psalm 32:5 shows clearly it is Jehovah to whom we should confess when it says “My sin I finally confessed to you, and my error I did not cover.I said: “I shall make confession over my transgressions to Jehovah.” And you yourself pardoned the error of my sins”.
But what about James 5:16 you may ask? James wrote “Therefore openly confess YOUR sins to one another and pray for one another, that YOU may get healed. A righteous man’s supplication, when it is at work, has much force.” He did not say, secretly confess your sins to an elder.
How would this scriptural advice work in practice? Imagine this scenario, you are having a nice meal with some fellow Christians and being hospitable they offer you alcohol. Now you were an alcoholic and need to abstain so you don’t return to this addiction. But your hosts are unaware of this and continue to encourage you to partake of their offering. This is where confessing your sins (whether recent or in the distant past) would help both you and them, to avoid you being tempted to sin again. It is not for them to have something they can use against you in future, nor can they forgive what only Jehovah and Jesus can judge and forgive. Rather, if they know what weakness you have, those genuine hearted ones can help you remain clear of these sins. This is far more practical and beneficial than a few hypocritical elders who have drinking problems themselves, giving you counsel and then leaving you to try and resist the temptation. Or perhaps even worse deciding you are unrepentant because you keep falling back into the same temptation and sin, and then disfellowshipping you and thereby removing your entire support network at the time you most need it.
Rather, the emphasis should be not on what one has done, but that one has stopped as Proverbs 28:13 indicates as it says in part “he that is confessing and leaving [them] will be shown mercy.”
Additionally, if there was no prominence and kudos to be gained, then Witnesses would not be tempted to lie on their application forms for Organizational ‘privileges’, as evidenced by this passage in paragraph 16. “Perhaps you wish to serve as a regular pioneer or in some feature of special full-time service, such as at Bethel. During the application process, it is important that you give honest and completely truthful answers to all the questions asked regarding your health, choices of entertainment, and morals.”
Speaking frankly, our choices of entertainment and morals in the past and present should be on our consciences, as they affect our relationship with God and Christ and are therefore our responsibility. The problem with such intrusive questions is that like all of men’s laws, the focus is turned into a matter of pleasing men rather than God. It is hardly surprising then that Witnesses are tempted into hiding wrongdoing to gain so-called ‘privileges’ from the Organization, rather than focusing on pleasing God now and in the future.
Paragraph 17 again perpetuates the Organization’s claim that “The elders, who are responsible for keeping the congregation morally clean”. By contrast the scriptures indicate it is the entire congregation. The Apostle Paul when writing to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5 was talking to the whole congregation. Likewise Jesus instructions about handling problems between congregation members in Matthew 18 states in Matthew 18:17 to “speak to the congregation”, not the elders. Everybody has the responsibility, it should not be delegated to a handful of men in secret. As Proverbs 11:14 says there is “salvation in a multitude of counsellors”.
To round out the paragraph they cite in support of their claims what must be one of the most often misused scriptures, James 5:14-15. As discussed in these reviews more than once James was referring to the elders assisting physically sick or ailing ones, not spiritually ill brothers. The only authority the elders have in the congregation is what the Organization gives them and we as congregation members allow them to have.
So returning to part of the first quote it said “How can we protect ourselves from being deceived, and how can we show that we speak the truth with one another?”
Ephesians 5:10 exhorts us “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord;” Not, keep making sure what is acceptable to the Organization or to men.
That means studying the Bible for ourselves, where we will find “what is acceptable to the Lord”. If we heed the warnings of the Scriptures then we will be able to do that and not be deceived any more. 1 Timothy 4:1-4 warned us “However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron; forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth”.
Notice the traits these ones would have?
- They would be speaking lies.
- They would be giving commands of men that contradict the scriptures.
- They would teach things that go beyond the inspired word and affect people’s lives.
Clearly any person or Organization exhibiting these traits is not to be trusted and is to be avoided. However, whatever others do, let us “Speak the truth with one another.” At all times. (Zechariah 8:16)
[i] www.archive.org Search for Watchtower 1918 you will find “1910-1919 Watch_Tower.PDF” https://ia800200.us.archive.org/12/items/WatchTowerAndHeraldOfChristsPresence1910-1919/1910-1919_Watch_Tower.pdf
[iii] PDF of Watchtower for 1910-1919 download free from archive.org.
[v] w59 11/15 p. 703 – The Watchtower—1959 https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1959846?q=armageddon+imminent&p=par
[vii] To verify the accuracy of the quotes of old publications (both books and Watchtowers) you can download them free of charge from the public website archive.org, which is a free public domain digital library for literature that is out of copyright.