“Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting.”—John 4:35
[From ws 04/20 p.8 June 8 – June 14]
What a strange theme for the scripture provided.
Does it matter how we view the fields?
No, we can view the fields, and regardless of what we think they are like, if they are not ready for harvesting, they are not ready, regardless of how we may want to interpret the color of the fields. Likewise, if they are ready, they are ready even if we think they are not.
Additionally, today we are not in the position that Jesus has told us to harvest, as he told the first-century disciples. The context of this scripture was that many had been looking for the Messiah, they were oppressed by the religious leaders of the day and the occupying Romans. The Jews of the first century were therefore ripe for the good news about Jesus as the Messiah and the hope for the future.
That is not the situation today. So, to infer that the fields are white for harvesting today is dishonest and misleading without any proof that the harvest is ripe.
Therefore, this whole article is based on a false premise. In fact, paragraph 2 quotes (from a non-verifiable source, which could even be a Watchtower publication for all we know) “One Bible commentary says about this account: “The eagerness of the people . . . showed that they were like grain ready for harvesting”. Rather than eagerness, most people show apathy or even outright opposition. A field white for harvesting is the whole field full of ripe grain, gone whiteish with ripeness. This is clearly not the case today.
Why does the Organization want us to view people as ripe for harvesting? It tells us why in paragraph 3. “First, you will preach with more urgency. A harvest period is limited; there is no time to waste. Second, you will be happy as you see people respond to the good news. The Bible says: “People rejoice in the harvesttime.” (Isa. 9:3) And third, you will see each person as a potential disciple, so you will adapt your approach to appeal to his or her interests.”
Taking the first point, the Organization has been banging the drum about the urgency for the past 140 years. This is not a short time like all harvests usually are. The Organization’s harvest time by contrast to a literal harvest appears unlimited!
The second point is about being happy as we see people respond to the good news. Has there been any notable increase in the numbers getting baptized as a percentage of existing Witnesses or the world population? The answer is NO. There has not been any notable increase in either of these means, in fact, if anything it is a drop in both these areas. In fact, the only reason the baptism rate has not dropped dramatically is because of the push to get children of Witness baptized, by having frequent study articles on baptism. However, the benefits from this only last so long. The pool is limited and shrinking far faster than the number of Witness children being born.
Thirdly, what about seeing a potential disciple in every person? That is just an illusion. The reality is that the ratio of hours spent preaching to baptize one individual is going up, i.e. there are fewer potential disciples being found. Also, when you harvest a field white for harvesting, you harvest almost the whole field. You do not go round deciding how differently to cut each stalk of wheat or barley, which is the equivalent of what is suggested here – adapting our approach to the individual. Jesus’ disciples had one simple message.
Instead of providing proof that the field is indeed white for harvesting, we are treated to instructions as to how to try and harvest people, by finding common ground in what they believe (paragraphs 5-10) and in their interests (paragraph 11-14), and then refusing to accept reality and assume they will become disciples if we preach to them often enough (paragraphs 15-19).
Paragraph 19 then admits “At first glance, it may appear that there are not many in the territory who are like grain that is ripe for harvesting. But remember what Jesus said to his disciples. The fields are white, that is, they are ready to be harvested. People can change and become disciples of Christ”. Here the Organization finally admits that it appears there are not many ripe for harvesting, but then they want us to ignore that reality and instead accept the Organization’s modern application of something Jesus said to his first-century disciples and therefore in their view must apply today.
Finally, how many non-Christians are becoming Witnesses? The vast majority of those getting baptized as Witnesses are poached from other Christian religions. That is not making someone a disciple of Christ, it is just changing some of the beliefs of someone who is already a disciple of Christ. The real test would be how many Chinese, Moslems, Buddhists, and atheists are changing and becoming disciples of Christ according to the Organization. In reality, very few are coming from these groups of people. Most baptized were previously Christians or brought up as Witnesses from birth.
One cannot make a field ripe that is not ripe, which appears to be the aim here. Also, we should ask how many ripe stalks have spoiled and not been harvested because of the scandal of child sexual abuse which is rumbling on and gaining momentum. Would it not be better to ensure that the Organization’s image is, in reality, squeaky clean, instead of the cleanness being an illusion, before attempting to harvest anything? Get the equipment sharp and fit for the purpose is a pre-requisite for any harvesting. The Organization’s equipment is rusty, sullied, and unfit for purpose.
How do you view the fields? Reality tells us that the fields are not white for harvesting, at least not for harvesting by the Organization. Reality is what counts, not an illusion.
Does that mean we should not try and help others to build up or keep faith in God and Jesus? Of course not. But neither does that mean living in denial, and supporting such a corrupt Organization that still has not got its act together to stamp out as much child sexual abuse as possible and instead continues to allow an environment where it can fester undiscovered.