“Come … into an isolated place and rest up a little.” – Mark 6:31
[From ws 12/19 p.2 Study Article 49: February 3 – February 9, 2020]
The first paragraph opens with this following truth regarding the situation of a large proportion of the world’s population “In many countries, people are working harder and longer than ever before. Overworked people are often too busy to rest, to spend time with their families, or to satisfy their spiritual need”.
Does that also sound like many Witnesses you know? Are they “Working harder and longer than ever before” because they have no choice as their choice of job is limited, all because of blind obedience to the Organization’s constant pressure not to take higher education? The result, they “are often too busy to rest, spend time with their families, or to satisfy their spiritual need”, all of which things are important.
Paragraph 5 notes that “The Bible encourages God’s people to be workers. His servants are to be industrious rather than lazy. (Proverbs 15:19)”. That is true. But then comes an almost unbelievably insensitive statement, “Perhaps you work secularly to care for your family. And all disciples of Christ have the responsibility to share in the work of preaching the good news. Still, you also need to get sufficient rest. Do you sometimes struggle to balance time for secular work, for the ministry, and for rest? How do we know how much to work and how much to rest?”.
“Perhaps you work secularly?” Almost without exception you will whether directly for an employer or as self-employed. There are only a few people who are able to live free of charge totally supported by others. These few are either people on social security benefits as provided by Western countries or if you live in Bethel or are circuit overseers or missionaries and hence are supported free of charge by all the other Witnesses, most of whom are poor.
If any reading this review are in this category, please prayerfully consider what the first line of paragraph 13 reminds us “The apostle Paul set a good example. He had to do secular work”. Given his example highlighted in this paragraph, is it right that Bethelites and Circuit overseers and their wives live off of the donations of others, including many widow’s mites? Should not the example of the Apostle Paul be followed?
As a Witness, or as a former Witness do you get sufficient rest? Or does it feel like a treadmill that you want to get off, but can’t because of the obligation you are made to feel to do everything expected of you by the Organization. Likely with a low paying job, do you struggle to balance time between secular work, ministry and rest?
Paragraphs 6 and 7 highlight that Jesus had a balanced view of work and rest. The paragraphs that follow merely discuss what we could do or should do in the Organization’s view. But they offer no solution to reduce the demands the average Witness has on their time.
At this point, the following scripture comes to mind. Jesus’ words in Luke 11:46 where he told the Pharisees: “Woe also to YOU who are versed in the Law, because YOU load men with loads hard to be borne, but YOU yourselves do not touch the loads with one of YOUR fingers”.
Paragraphs 8-10 are about the Sabbath day that the nation of Israel observed. “It was a day of “complete rest . . . , something holy to Jehovah”. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a day of rest. The Sabbath was not a day to do “theocratic” work. It was a day to do no work. A true day of rest. There is no day of the week in which Jehovah’s Witnesses can comply with the spirit of the Sabbath, with the moral principle established by God in the Sabbath law. No, they must work every day of the week.
Paragraphs 11-15 deal with the question “What is your attitude to work?”.
After mentioning that Jesus was familiar with hard work, paragraph 12 says the following about the Apostle Paul: “His primary activity was bearing witness to Jesus’ name and message. Yet, Paul worked to support himself. The Thessalonians were aware of his “labor and toil,” his “working night and day” so that he would not put “an expensive burden” on anyone. (2 Thess. 3:8; Acts 20:34, 35) Paul may have been referring to his work as a tentmaker. While in Corinth, he stayed with Aquila and Priscilla and “worked with them, for they were tentmakers by trade.””.
If the Apostle Paul was ““working night and day” so that he would not put “an expensive burden” on anyone” then how can it be said “his primary activity was bearing witness to Jesus’ name and message”?
True, “bearing witness” was likely his primary goal, the goal he focussed on, however in terms of activity, his work as a tentmaker was likely “his primary activity”. Working night and day to support himself and often only spending the Sabbath preaching means the preaching was likely a secondary activity in time. This was certainly the case in Corinth according to Acts 18:1-4 , and in Thessalonica according to 2 Thessalonians 3:8. We cannot and should not speculate further, although the Organization feels free to do so. But it should be noted that Paul’s custom was to speak to the Jews on the sabbath in the synagogue wherever he went “as was his custom” (Acts 17:2).
Likely the reason for this ‘slip’ is to keep up the pretence that the Apostle Paul’s missionary tours were basically full-time preaching tours when there is not enough scriptural evidence to say this with certainty.
Paul’s secular work in Corinth and Thessalonica for six days a week does not fit in with the image the Organization projects: i.e. that Apostle Paul was a one-stop preaching machine. (Please Note: Readers should not take this section to be in any way attempting to diminish the Apostle Paul’s achievements and commitment to spreading the good news).
Paragraph 13 is strangely constructed. It starts off admitting “The apostle Paul set a good example. He had to do secular work;”. But the remainder of this first sentence and the next 2 sentences are all about him doing the preaching work. After stating, “Paul urged the Corinthians to have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Cor. 9:8), it then finishes the paragraph saying, “Jehovah even inspired the apostle Paul to write: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.”—2 Thess. 3:10”. It appears they want to convey the impression that if you do not work in their version of the preaching work, then you should not be allowed to eat. The correct placement of the last sentence should be after the semi-colon of the first sentence, when talking about physical work.
Paragraph 14 only emphasises that “the most important work in these last days is that of preaching and disciple-making”. Is not the most important work that of improving our Christian qualities? We need to get the basics right otherwise we would rightly be seen to be hypocrites, preaching to others to follow a way of life which we are not following properly ourselves.
Paragraphs 16-18 covers the heading “What is your attitude to rest?”.
After stating, “Jesus knew that at times he and the apostles needed some rest”, one would hope we would be given some practical suggestions as to how we could find appropriate time to rest. But, no. We are instead counselled not to be like the rich man in Jesus’ illustration in Luke 12:19, who wanted to do no work and enjoy life. How many Witnesses do you know who are either able to live the way the rich man in Jesus’ illustration or are doing so? Likely there are some, but they are rare!
This is followed up by pressure in paragraph 17 to use our rest time from work to do yet more work! In fact, the text is not prefaced with “‘it would be good to’” or similar wording, showing we have the choice, but encouraging us. Rather we are given no option. We are told that we do it, and by implication that means if we are not doing it, then we are not good Witnesses. It says “Today, we try to imitate Jesus by using the time we have off from work not only to rest but also to do good by witnessing to others and attending Christian meetings. In fact, to us, disciple-making and meeting attendance are so important that we make every effort to engage regularly in those sacred activities”. This wording infers that we must do these things without question and with every spare moment. No mention of rest!
But wait, what about those of us fortunate enough to be able to afford a holiday? As Witnesses are we able to relax when we, at last, have time to rest?
Not according to the Organization. “Even when we are on vacation, we keep to our regular spiritual routine of attending meetings wherever we are”. Yes, pack your suit, tie, smart shirt, or your meeting dress, very carefully so it is not creased and your meeting Bible and publications, to fill up half your suitcase. Your great escape from normal routine to rest and recharge your physical and mental strength is not allowed to happen even for one or two weeks. To the meetings you must go!
Even if it was a requirement of Jehovah to attend meetings twice a week (which it is not), would he be so unforgiving to deny us everlasting life because we missed a few meetings.
The concluding paragraph (18) tells us “How grateful we are that our King, Christ Jesus, is reasonable and helps us to have a balanced view of work and rest!”
Fortunately, we can be grateful about Jesus attitude. But what about the Organization’s attitude?
Yes, Jesus “wants us to get the rest we need. He also wants us to work hard to provide for our physical needs and to engage in the refreshing work of making disciples”.
By contrast the Organization is not prepared even to allow us to have a few days away without going to a meeting or even attempting to preach.
We therefore have a choice to make.
Who is our master?
- Jesus, who wants to help us and take our burdens, and who understands what we are physically and mentally capable of?
- The Organization, which shows it cares more about us preaching and attending meetings without a break, rather than our mental and physical health?