“Therefore, we do not give up.”—2 Corinthians 4:16.
[From ws 8/19 p.20 Study Article 31: Sept 30 – Oct 6, 2019]
This is yet another article on the same type of theme, the theme behind all of them being “Do not give up”. Other recent examples this year include:
- Do not be Fooled by the Wisdom of the World
- Look out that no-one takes you captive
- Are you fully accomplishing your Ministry?
- What prevents me from getting Baptized?
- Keep your Integrity
- What our attendance at meetings says about us
- Do not be anxious for I am your God
- I will walk in your truth
- Are you making Jehovah’s thoughts your own?
- Buy truth and never sell it
- Who moulds your thinking?
Maybe at first sight you might wonder what link all these articles have, but behind all these subjects and in the content of the actual articles, there has been similar content. The prevailing thrust and common theme running through these study articles has been:
- to encourage those with doubts to ignore them and get baptized,
- if baptized, not to stop attending meetings,
- to continue on in the Organization even though you feel like giving up,
- ignore any information not provided through the Organization,
- only accepting what the Organization teaches.
Why the need for these types of articles, instead of proper Bible Study to build up the faith of the Brothers and Sisters, and to assist them in developing Christian qualities? It can only be because many are giving up, at least in attending meetings, and participating in field service, and even considering themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses, with youngsters and even some adults holding back from baptism.
What can be the root cause(s) of this obvious climate of malaise? Why would Brothers and Sisters do that? Could it be because many are becoming disturbed by the following?
- the constant news items about court cases regarding paedophiles within the Organization,
- the constant moving of the date of Armageddon,
- the growing awareness of problems with various claims and teachings of the Organization.
- doubts about whether 1914 is true,
- doubts about the disfellowshipping policy,
- doubts about the scriptural basis for refusing whole blood transfusions, but accepting blood fractions
- perturbed by the constant calls for donations, while their own self-funded and paid-for Kingdom Halls are being sold out from under their feet and they are being forced to travel longer distances to attend meetings at another hall?
After an introduction, paragraphs 4-7 deal with the example of the Apostle Paul. Now, it is true that he was a fine example for all; but he was also a particularly driven individual as proved by his advancement among the Pharisees before his conversion to be a Witness of Christ. The vast majority of Witnesses will not have the same drive, abilities, or circumstances to follow Paul’s example, yet that is what is held out to the rank and file Witnesses as the way to conduct ourselves. We cannot hope to match it, or anywhere near it.
Personally, speaking despite having a strong will to succeed at what I choose to do, I know that he could never approach the example of Paul, neither physically and mentally. It also becomes discouraging to frequently have this outstanding example held out as if it is the only acceptable way to conduct ourselves and be acceptable to God and Christ.
Back in the first century, many slaves became Christians. They had no freedom to go evangelizing, travel on missionary tours, nor preaching in the marketplaces, nor go to meetings. They were likely limited to talking to fellow slaves about what they had learnt. In fact, it is understood that probably 20% in the Roman Eastern Provinces were slaves, rising to 25%+ in Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, and Rome itself having 30% of the population as slaves.[i] Did the apostle Paul constantly encourage them to follow his example? No, only to do their best in their circumstances.
Paragraphs 9 and 10 deal with “Postponed Expectations”. This confirms in great part the conclusions mentioned at the beginning of this review. These two paragraphs are also very interesting in what they do not say.
For instance, Paragraph 9 says “At that time many anointed Christians expected to receive their heavenly reward in 1914. When that did not happen, how did faithful ones deal with their delayed expectations”.
- It contains actual admittance of failed expectations “when that did not happen”
- But who is subtly blamed for these failed expectations? “how did faithful ones deal with their delayed expectations” (bold ours). Yes, the blame is put on them, there is no apology for the wrong expectations being given by C T Russell and the rest of the Bible Students leadership over the decades up to the present day.
- What is missing? No claim or assertion is made about as to when these ones received the fulfilment of their delayed expectations. Paragraph 11 gives an experience of such a couple who remained loyal JW’s “until they finished their earthly course many decades later.” However, no mention is made of them gaining their heavenly reward expectations at that time. Is the Organization preparing for an adjustment in thinking? I searched the Organization’s publications thoroughly a number of years ago and was unable to find a single article that mentioned what those claiming to be anointed would be doing on their claimed immediate resurrection to heaven on death until Armageddon comes. There is a deafening silence on the issue.
The second experience in paragraph 11 quotes the elderly brother who was praised by the nurse for serving the Organization so long, as saying “But it’s not what we have done that is important. It’s what we do from here on that counts.”. This is actually an unscriptural sentiment, but it is put in the article to subtly give the message, ‘you may have done a lot in your life serving the Organization, but you still need to do more, you cannot stop’.
However, Hebrews 6:10 (which is actually cited in the next paragraph) says “For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering”. Therefore, to state what the brother did, in effect saying: ‘whatever I did in the past is irrelevant, for my salvation it is what I do in the future’, is contradicting Paul’s words in Hebrews, that “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name”. By his statement, the brother was implying that God is unrighteous, that if you do not keep up at the same rate or improve your work and love, then you will fail to receive the promised reward. Clearly, the Apostle Paul disagrees with this erroneous view.
Paragraph 12 also mentions “that whole-souled devotion is not measured by how much we do in Jehovah’s service”. It is true that Jehovah God does not measure us that way, but the Organization does. If you stop giving in a field service report, you are soon considered inactive. You are also judged on its contents if you wished to be appointed as an elder or ministerial servant. It also is a very narrow-minded judge of your service to God. There is no room for return visits attempted, but not found at home. Neither is there room for time spent helping others in need, whether brothers and sisters or the general public, in a physical or emotional way. Only the preaching counts.
As I write this review, the Bahamas are in the news with the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. The residents of the Bahamas will therefore need physical and emotional help at present, with little time for spiritual things. Why? Their very survival in the short term depends on securing the basic necessities of life, clean water, safe food and some shelter. However, no doubt there will be some small news item soon, either in the Watchtower or on JW.org showing how Witnesses in the Bahamas went preaching at this time. Jehovah does not measure how much we do, but rather the spirit in which we do it, and how we do it. The Organization that claims to be his, on the other hand does judge and measure one’s worth. It does this on how much one does to further the Organization’s aims, by building its real estate empire, or participating in its recruiting drive, rather than displaying fruits of the spirit to all we come in contact with.
The only problem with commending the stance of Brothers and Sisters who have endured decades of hardship and persecution is that in many instances it may have (a) been avoidable, with a less confrontational approach, without compromising true Christian qualities, and (b) was it because of standing for their belief in Christ’s promises or for particular aspects of their faith which rest on interpretation by the Organization.
In addition, we need to ask whether it was persecution specifically only of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are frequently told the persecution is because of being Witnesses, thereby allegedly offering proof that the Organization is God’s Organization, but we are rarely, if ever told the full facts. We rarely, if ever, hear from the Organization about the fact that other Christians were also being persecuted in the same country, such as Eritrea and China and even Russia, amongst others.
During the week this review was being prepared, a local elder was encouraging the congregation to show faith and defiance of opposition to preach in blocks of flats, where there was a ban on religious callers. This confrontational approach will only cause more opposition, along with unnecessary trouble for those who put this advice into practice. Will it actually be beneficial for the purpose of giving a witness to all those that will listen? Jesus gave clear instructions to brush the dust from off one’s feet and move on when people rejected and resisted the message the disciples brought. He did not recommend his disciples to be deliberately provocative, nor to view an arrest like a badge of honour (Matthew 10:14, Hebrews 12:14).
The final paragraphs 14-17 discuss the subject “Motivated by our hope for the future”.
The final two paragraphs deal with only focussing on the goal of winning the race for life, with the implication that we should ignore anything going on around us, even if we are going in the wrong direction!