“God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Hebrews 6:10

 [From ws 8/19 p.20 Study Article 34: Oct 21 – Oct 27, 2019]

We will start this week’s article with what some might view as a controversial comment – Although not explicitly stated in the article, the article really seeks to allay the discomfort and unhappiness of many Bethelites and full-time servants that were reassigned in recent times, some with no means of providing for themselves or their spouses and at very short notice.

The theme text is really to reassure all those who have been reassigned that their labour was not in vain and that the time they spent serving the organisation is valued by Jehovah.

To set the tone and disguise the real reason for the article, the first 3 paragraphs start out with experiences of brothers and sisters who could no longer serve in their assignments due to aged parents, health issues and a closure of the branch office due to persecution from secular authorities.

Paragraph 4 begins with “Add to these the experiences of thousands of Bethel family members and others who have received new assignments.”

What do you notice about the difference between the experiences in the first 3 paragraphs and paragraph 4?

The change in assignment was brought about by a change in their personal circumstances or matters outside the Organization’s control.

It is also worth noting that the brothers referred to in paragraph 4 did not leave Bethel service voluntarily but were “retrenched” or requested to leave. Some who received a small stipend as full-time servants and special pioneers were given very little time to adjust to the lack of financial support.

This may seem to be a small matter to those not affected but it becomes quite significant if you consider the Organization’s message constantly requesting parents to encourage children to serve the Organization ahead of everything else without even helping them become equipped for life after full-time service.

Bearing all that in mind what questions does this week’s article seek to address?

What can help them to deal with the change?”

“How can you assist them?”

“The answers to those questions can help all of us to deal with changing circumstances in life.”

HOW TO DEAL WITH A CHANGE

The challenges presented by paragraph 5 when facing a new assignment:

  • Missing those who are left behind
  • Experiencing a culture shock in the new assignment or when returning home
  • Facing unexpected financial challenges
  • Feeling uncertain, insecure and discouraged

The solutions proffered to the challenges:

Paragraph 6 – 11

  • Trust Jehovah as a hearer of prayer
  • Read the Scriptures daily and ponder on them
  • Maintain a regular schedule of family worship and meeting preparation, just as you did in your former assignment
  • Continue to be fully involved in preaching the good news in your new congregation
  • Keep your life simple
  • Avoid unnecessary debt
  • Maintain good relationships

Then paragraph 7 continues to make the following comment:

“Jehovah remembers those who continue to serve him faithfully, even if they cannot do all they did before. Read Hebrews 6:10-12.”

If we read Hebrews 6 from verse 7, I.e. in context, it says the following:

7 For land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is tended receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless, and its curse is imminent. In the end it will be burned. 9 Even though we speak like this, beloved, we are convinced of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. 10For God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown for His name as you have ministered to the saints and continue to do so.” –  Hebrews 6: 7-10 (Berean Study Bible)

Did you notice the difference between useful and worthless land?

Useful land produces a useful crop and receives a blessing from God, while worthless land produces thorns and thistles and a curse is imminent. Before assuming that the work we do will be remembered or appreciated by Jehovah, should we not firstly make sure we are cultivating “useful” land?

Perhaps some questions for thought for these full-time servants would be:

After having used my life to serve the Organization, do I have convincing evidence that I have received Jehovah’s blessing or is it just a feeling?

Am I cultivating useful land or worthless land by continuing to serve the Organization?

How would I know whether the Organization I serve is the useful or worthless land?

Does the manner in which fellow full-time servants were reassigned show that I serve a loving Organization?

Considering that some servants were financially dependent on the Organization and did not have any retirement savings, did the organization care for them appropriately?

Would others consider full-time service and not getting skilled work so readily if there was transparency around why the brothers were reassigned?

How do I know that I am performing works for an Organization approved by Jehovah?

Here are some scriptural thoughts to consider when attempting to answer those questions:

15 Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20So then, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’

23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” – Matthew 7: 15-23 (Berean Study Bible)

“34A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” ­­– John13:34-35 (Berean Study Bible)

Perhaps the most useful advice in this passage of writing is the admonition to avoid unnecessary debt, to keep one’s life relatively simple and to maintain good relationships.

Strangely, the Organization again takes the view that the one way to deal with the struggles of a new assignment is to just do more and more JW activities which is the cause of the difficulty in the first place.

Many of the full-time workers do not even have any other activities outside of JW.org because the Organization encourages exclusive devotion to its activities. This may yet be a bigger cause for depression when one is reassigned. Their assignment becomes all that they live to do.

HOW OTHERS CAN HELP

What does the Watchtower suggest the congregation do to help those who have been reassigned?

  • Encourage them to continue their work
  • Give them financial or other material support
  • Help them to care for their family members back home
  • Offer practical assistance
  • Involve reassigned ones in your ministry

Surely it would not be a Christian kindness to suggest they continue on in the same path that put them in this predicament in the first place would it?

Likewise, how would encouraging someone who has difficult financial circumstances, health problems or aging parents to continue with their assignment be either helpful or loving?

Perhaps as practical assistance and Christian kindness we could help these ones learn a new skill to earn a living, help them find an apartment or place to stay, or see how we can help them receive good medical care.

But both they and we ourselves need first to consider 1 Thessalonians 2:9:

“Don’t you remember dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you”  – (New Living Translation)

This is the record of the Apostle Paul’s attitude to such circumstances. It is clear he helped others once he had taken care of his own financial necessities. He did not expect others to support and care for him on an ongoing basis. His work was self-funded, not funded by an Organization or by individuals.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Ironically, the following point is useful when considering Organizational assignments:

“We must find our joy primarily in Jehovah and not in our assignment, no matter how much we treasure it”.

If only Jehovah’s Witnesses all really thought like that. Then there would be very little to no importance placed on being a full-time servant, an elder, a ministerial servant, a pioneer, a circuit overseer, a branch committee member or even a Governing Body member.

Conclusion:

The advice in the Watchtower article for the reassigned servants is the following:

  • Trust Jehovah as a hearer of prayer
  • read the Scriptures daily and ponder on them
  • Keep your life simple
  • Avoid unnecessary debt
  • Maintain good relationships

While Others should

  • Give them financial or other material support
  • Help them to care for their family members back home
  • Offer practical assistance

This Watchtower article has not really offered any real help for the brothers in general to help them deal with any changes to their circumstances in life, if it is not being reassigned in full-time service.

The purpose of the article therefore is clear; for all those who have been reassigned, the message is: Forget the injustice and unloving way in which they have been dealt with. Instead move forward, accept their new assignment without grumbling and carry on preaching as if nothing happened! What a missed opportunity to apologize for the poor planning by the Governing Body that necessitated this rapid contraction of Bethel staff.

As for the rest of the brothers, in this Watchtower article at least, they will find little of practical value to help them when perhaps they receive a new secular work assignment.