“Complete what you started to do.” – 2 Corinthians 8:11
[From ws 11/19 p.26 Study Article 48: January 27 – February 2, 2020]
If you thought about what you have started but not completed, what would come to mind first?
Would it be the redecoration of a room in your dwelling, or some other maintenance task? Or something you offered or promised to do for someone else? Perhaps for a widow or widower, that was not completed? Or perhaps writing a letter or email to a friend or family member who lives some distance away.
However, would you first think of a promise to pioneer? Or collecting money to send to others? Or reading the Bible all the way through? Or shepherding others, whether an elder or publisher?
Likely you would not think of the latter suggestions, but they are the things the Organization deems the most likely. Or is it rather what the Organization views as the most important and by mentioning it in this way they want you to think about them?
This is because these suggestions are all found in the first 4 paragraphs of the study article, with two of those four paragraphs devoted to the example of Paul reminding the Corinthians of their promise of monetary aid to their fellow Christians in Judea. It seems just another subtle hint for the reader to respond to the Organization’s frequent requests for donations.
Before making a decision (par.6)
Paragraph 6 states “we stick to our decision to serve Jehovah, and we are determined to be faithful to our marriage mate. (Matt. 16:24; 19:6)”. Sadly, that is all that is mentioned about these two subjects. To be fair, they are subjects about which much could be discussed. However, given the problems within the Organization with brothers and sisters entering into unsuitable marriages, and many divorcing, we should not pass on by this subject without any comment.
Other than making a decision to serve Jehovah and Jesus Christ, marriage is one of the most important decisions in life many of us will make.
Therefore, to endeavour to make this review positive and beneficial we try to apply all the articles key points to someone considering marriage or newly married. This is despite the fact that in the Watchtower article they are almost exclusively applied to ministry and other Organizational requirements.
The following key suggestions are made in the article.
- Pray for wisdom
- Do thorough research
- Analyse your own motives
- Be specific
- Be realistic
- Pray for strength
- Create a plan
- Exert yourself
- Manage your time wisely
- Focus on the outcome
Pray for Wisdom (par.7)
“If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all.” (James 1:5)”. This suggestion from James is very beneficial for all decisions. If we are familiar with God’s word then he can help us to remember scriptures pertinent to our decision we wish to make.
In particular, we need wisdom to make the right choice in marriage partners. Many make a judgement based on how physically good looking the potential partner may be. The wisdom from God’s word that we can be reminded of includes:
- 1 Samuel 16:7 “Do not look at his appearance and at the height of his stature, … because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is”. The inner person is of far more value.
- 1 Samuel 25:23-40 “And blessed be your sensibleness and blessed be you who have restrained me this day from entering into bloodguilt and having my own hand come to my salvation”. David asked Abigail to be his wife because of her courage, sensibleness, sense of justice, and good counsel.
- Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him”. By both husband and wife complementing each other in terms of qualities and skills, the married unit can be stronger than the sum of two individuals.
Do thorough Research (par. 8)
“Consult God’s Word, read the publications of Jehovah’s organization, and talk to people whom you can trust. (Prov. 20:18) Such research is vital before making a decision to change jobs, to move, or to choose appropriate education to help you support your ministry”.
For sure, it is beneficial to consult God’s word and talk to people we trust. However, great care has to be taken if reading the Organization’s publications. For example, the continual reminders “to choose appropriate education to help you support your ministry”. Almost all education will help you get a job to support yourself and hence likely whatever ministry you choose to do. But what the Organization means here is to support a pioneer ministry. A concept of ministry only found in the Organization (Psalm 118:8-9).
Surely it is strange that Jesus (and indeed the inspired Bible writers) made no suggestions or rules as to what education one should have nor jobs one should do to support one’s ministry. Yet at the same time both Jesus and Paul and the other Bible writers had plenty to say about Christian qualities and why and how to display them. By contrast the Organization barely lets one Study Article go by without some mention about choice of education, yet many articles go by without a mention of applying or help in applying the fruitages of the spirit in our lives. It says a lot about the Organization’s priorities, which seem to be more designed to help them to control people instead of helping people become better Christians.
On a practical level, how could we apply research to marriage? We would do well to get to know a potential partner very well before marriage. Their likes and dislikes, their moods, their friends, how they treat their parents, how they treat children you both know, how they cope with pressure and stress and change. Their aspirations and desires, their strengths and their weaknesses. (If they have no weaknesses, you need to take off those rose-coloured glasses!). Do they like things clean and tidy and orderly, or do they tend to be messy and or not so clean and orderly? Are they slaves to fashion in what they wear? How much makeup do they use? These things can only be ascertained by observation and discussion and association with over a considerable time, in different settings, different company, etc. This will help one understand if you can cope with the various aspects of their personality, and vice-versa.
Analyse your motives (par.9-10)
“For example, a young brother may decide to become a regular pioneer. After some time, however, he struggles to fulfill the hour requirement and he finds little joy in his ministry. He may have thought that his main motive for pioneering was his desire to please Jehovah. Could it be, though, that he was primarily motivated by a desire to please his parents or some person he admired” or maybe to comply with the continual guilt tripping that the Organization engenders by publishing such comments as in this study paragraph. For that is the main reason most brothers and sisters pioneer whether they want to admit it or not (Colossians 1:10).
As for marriage, the motives are also vitally important. It could be for companionship, or peer pressure, or lack of self-control, or prestige, or financial security. If one was getting married for any of these reasons except companionship then one would seriously have to analyse one’s motives, as successful marriage requires two unselfish givers. A selfish attitude will cause problems and be unfair to both you and the potential spouse. Working at a Kingdom Hall refurbishment to find a mate is not a totally honest way to do so, nor a good idea. Typically, people can put on a show of being hard working for a short period, but which does not last long term (Colossians 3:23). Thus, one can be misled by other’s actions in such artificial environments constructed by the Organization and its policies.
“All of a man’s ways seem right to him, But Jehovah examines the motives” is the cited scripture and a good warning to us all, whatever decision we are trying to make (Proverbs 16:2).
Be specific (par.11)
A specific goal is easier to achieve, but with time and unforeseen circumstances a very specific goal may not be achievable (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
Be Realistic (par.12)
“When necessary, you may need to change a decision that was beyond your ability to accomplish (Ecclesiastes 3:6)”. As marriage is one of those few decisions that can rarely be changed in God’s eyes, once followed through on, it is therefore most vital that one has been thorough up to this point, is realistic in expectations going into the marriage and realistic after marriage. We may also need to adjust our expectations after marriage and be prepared to stand by our decision in this instance.
Pray for the strength to act (par.13)
Both scriptures used in this paragraph to support its suggestions (Philippians 2:13, Luke 11:9,13) are quoted totally out of context. As the recent articles on this site about the actions of the Holy Spirit show, it is unlikely that Holy Spirit would necessarily be given for most of the suggested decisions discussed in the study article.
Create a plan (par.14)
The cited scripture is Proverbs 21:5. A scripture not mentioned that should come to mind is Luke 14:28-32 which says in part “who of YOU that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, he might lay its foundation but not be able to finish it, and all the onlookers might start to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man started to build but was not able to finish”. This principle is beneficial in so many areas. Whether to marry, whether to move to a new house or buy one. Whether one really needs a new car or new phone or new item of clothing or footwear. Why, because you may be able to afford to do so now, but as a result will you be able to do other perhaps more important things?
Also notice the wording in the present tense “has enough to complete”, rather than “expect to have enough in the future”. The future is always uncertain, nothing is guaranteed, perhaps a sudden change of personal or local economic circumstances, an unexpected illness or injury, can affect any one of us. Will our decision be reasonably expected to be able to survive all but the most extreme or most unlikely events?
For instance, a marriage based on love and commitment and common goals would reasonably be expected to survive, perhaps even be strengthened by such seemingly adverse conditions. However, a marriage for the wrong reasons, such as perceived financial stability, or social prestige, or for physical looks or physical desires could easily fail under such adverse situations (Matthew 7:24-27).
“For example, you could prepare a daily to-do list and arrange the items in the order you intend to handle them. This can help you not only to complete what you start but also to get more done in less time (par. 15)”.
This is not strictly accurate. One needs to arrange the items in the order of highest to lowest importance. If one does not do so, there is a possibility that the highest importance item may become larger and take more time. Such as not paying an urgent bill, then one is charged interest and so cannot afford to buy the other items intended. The principle we can extract from Philippians 1:10 is valid here, “make sure of the more important things”.
Exert Yourself (par.16)
The paragraph tells us “Paul told Timothy to “continue applying” himself and to “persevere” in becoming a better teacher. That advice applies equally to other spiritual goals”. But this principle applies equally well to all goals that we may have, whether spiritual or not.
For example, in pursuing the goal of finding a good marriage mate and once married remaining happy together, both would need to continually apply themselves and persevere in building a good marriage.
Manage your time wisely (par.17)
“Avoid waiting for the perfect time to act; the perfect time is not likely to come (Ecclesiastes 11:4)”. This is actually very good advice. For your intended spouse, if you wait for the perfect potential spouse and the perfect time to propose marriage, you may never get married! But neither is that an excuse for blindly rushing in.
Focus on the outcome (par.18)
The article is accurate when it says, “if we focus on the outcome of our decisions, we will not give up easily when we encounter setbacks or detours”.
Overall, some good basic principles that can be applied widely in our lives with care. However, all the examples were all very Organizational centric and therefore of limited value to most readers. For example a single mother with a number of children who is a sister in a remote African village, is never likely to be able to pioneer, she is unlikely to have any money to contribute to the Organization as she is one who likely needs financial help and she certainly will never be an elder! This makes the immediate application of the material of little use without giving it considerable thought, which takes time.