“He remembered us when we were low.” – Psalm 136:23
[From ws 1/20 p.14 Study Article 3: March 16 – March 22, 2020]
Following on from the previous article which focused on being a source of comfort to brothers and sisters, this week’s article aims to encourage those who have to deal with illness, economic hardship and the limitations of aging. The purpose of the article is to assure those dealing with these hardships that Jehovah values them.
Paragraph 2 says that if you are experiencing those hardships, you may feel that you are not useful anymore. The question would be useful to whom? We hope to find the answer to that question as we progress through the review.
JEHOVAH VALUES US
Paragraph 5 and 6 state the following reasons why we know that we are valuable to Jehovah:
- “He created humans with the ability to reflect his qualities”
- “In doing so, he elevated us above the rest of physical creation, putting us in charge of the earth and the animals”
- “He gave his beloved Son, Jesus, as a ransom for our sins (1 John 4:9, 10)”
- “His Word shows that we are precious to him no matter what our health condition, financial situation, or age may be”
All these are plausible reasons why we may believe Jehovah values us.
Paragraph 7 says “Jehovah also invests time and effort in educating us, showing that we are precious to him.” The paragraph also refers to how “he disciplines us because he loves us”. No substantiation is given as to how Jehovah invests time and effort into educating us or how he disciplines us.
One can assume that saying “Jehovah also invests time and effort in educating us” is really just saying: “The [Governing Body] also invests time and effort in educating us”.
While we can agree that Jehovah loves humankind, there is no evidence that Jehovah is investing time today in educating us through a human organisation. Jehovah teaches us through his word the Bible. When we read and meditate on Jehovah’s dealings with his servants of the past, we begin to understand his thinking on matters. When we endeavour to follow the example of Christ fully, our personality is refined and, in this sense, we are taught to be better Christians. When we read a passage of scripture which encourages us to change our personality or abandon a course of wrongdoing, we are effectively being disciplined.
That is not to say that as Christians we should not have guidelines that protect the flock from corrupting influences. We must simply be aware that these are man-made guidelines, not necessarily directly from Jehovah.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”- Romans 15:4 (New International Version)
There is no evidence that today Jehovah or Jesus have delegated any disciplinary powers to human beings (Matthew 23:8).
WHEN DEALING WITH ILLNESS
Paragraph 9 mentions that illness can take an emotional toll on us. It may even result in embarrassment and shame.
Paragraph 10 tells us that reading encouraging verses in the Bible can help us deal with negative feelings. In addition to reading the Bible, talking to friends and family about our feelings may help us to see ourselves in a more positive light. We could also express our deepest feelings to Jehovah in prayer.
Whatever the case may be, we can take comfort in the fact that humans are of great value in the eyes of Jehovah. (Luke 12:6,7)
WHEN DEALING WITH ECONOMIC HARDSHIP
Paragraph 14 says “Jehovah always keeps his promises”, and he does so for the following reasons:
- “His name, or reputation, is at stake”
- “Jehovah has given his word that he will care for his loyal servants”
- “Jehovah knows that we would be devastated if he did not care for those who are part of his family”
- “He promises to provide for us both materially and spiritually”
None of these reasons are incorrect. However, there is better motivation behind why Jehovah would not want us to suffer economic hardship. We have already cited Luke 12:6, 7 as an example. The over-arching reason why Jehovah would not want us to suffer is because he has deep love for his servants. 1 John 4:8 says that “God is love”.
This does not mean that Jehovah will miraculously intervene in all our economic hardships. However, he does provide us with wisdom through his Word. This wisdom allows us to take practical steps to provide for ourselves and our family even in difficult times.
Some principles that can help us deal with economic hardships:
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11 (New International Version)
“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty”. – Proverbs 14:23 (New International Version)
“A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty.” – Proverbs 28:19 (New Living Translation)
“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5 (New International Version)
“The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them.” – Proverbs 28:22 (New International Version) also see 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” – Proverbs 22:9 (New International Version)
What do we learn from these scriptures?
- Economic hardships are sometimes caused by circumstances outside of our control irrespective of our efforts or abilities.
- “All hard work brings a profit” – we should be willing to do whatever work that is available and exert ourselves in it even if it is not the type of work we enjoy.
- Avoid get-rich schemes and “fantasies” which could lead us into poverty.
- Plan for unforeseen events, perhaps setting aside some money in the event of loss of employment.
- Be generous and willing to share, this will make it easier for others to share with you in times of hardship.
- Be open to receiving help from those who are willing to help or have a surplus.
- Plan as to what skills or training or qualifications you will need to support yourself, and if you wish to marry and have a family, could support them as well. Do not abandon these plans, diligently follow through (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
WHEN COPING WITH THE LIMITATIONS OF OLD AGE
Paragraph 16 says “As we get older, we might begin to feel that we have little to give to Jehovah. King David may have been plagued by similar feelings as he grew older.” The paragraph then cites Psalm 71:9 as support for this statement.
What does Psalm 71:9 say?
“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” – (New International Version)
What do verses 10 and 11 say?
“For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.”
When we read Psalms 71 in context, we quickly realise that this is a complete misapplication of scripture. David requested Jehovah not to abandon him in his old age when likely his strength was fading away and his enemies sought to kill him. There is no reference in this scripture to feelings of having little to offer Jehovah.
The reason many in the Organization feel they are not able to offer Jehovah anything is because of the onerous and unnecessary expectations which are placed on them by the organization throughout their lives.
- The expectation to be regular in the door-to-door work and to meet the “congregation average”.
- Supporting cleaning arrangements.
- The pressure to attend meetings and assemblies even when circumstances do not permit.
- Conducting Bible studies.
- Taking part in the construction work.
The list seems endless, never mind the fact that at assemblies and conventions before each part, mention is made of the “privileges” enjoyed by the speaker or those taking part in interviews and demonstrations. The intro amounts to: “Listen to brother so and so who serves as a pioneer, an elder, a circuit overseer, a Bethelite, or a branch committee member”.
It is understandable then that the elderly who can no longer meet the requirements to serve in such capacities would feel useless.
What does paragraph 18 suggest that those with such feelings of inadequacy do?
“So, focus on what you can do:
- Speak about Jehovah;
- Pray for your brothers;
- Encourage others to stay faithful.
Likely the elderly would already be doing these things. Not very helpful advice in making them feel worthy of Jehovah.
What does the Bible say about the elderly?
“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” –Proverbs 16:31 (New International Version)
“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” –Proverbs 20:29 (New International Version)
“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” –Leviticus 19:32 (New International Version)
“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers” –1 Timothy 5:1 (New International Version)
The scriptures clearly show that Jehovah values the elderly, particularly when they pursue righteousness.
Jehovah wants all to show respect and honour to them.
The writer of the Watchtower article raises some useful points in relation to dealing with illness, economic hardships and the limitations of old age, but fails to expand the discussion further by offering practical advice and principles that would help the brothers and sisters feel reassured of Jehovah’s love in the trying circumstances discussed in this article. It looks good on the outside, but has no substance and hence does nothing to address the problems Witnesses face.