“Stop judging by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”—JOHN 7:24
[From ws 04/20 p.14 June 15 – June 21]
“As imperfect humans, all of us have a tendency to judge others by their outward appearance. (Read John 7:24.) But we learn only a little about a person from what we see with our eyes. To illustrate, even a brilliant and experienced doctor can learn only so much by just looking at a patient. He must listen attentively if he is to learn about the patient’s medical history, his emotional makeup, or any symptoms he is having. The doctor may even order an X-ray to see the inside of the patient’s body. Otherwise, the doctor could misdiagnose the problem. Similarly, we cannot fully understand our brothers and sisters by simply looking at their outward appearance. We must try to look beneath the surface—at the inner person. Of course, we cannot read hearts, so we will never understand others as well as Jehovah does. But we can do our best to imitate Jehovah. How?
3 How does Jehovah deal with his worshippers? He listens to them. He takes into account their background and situation. And he shows compassion for them. As we consider how Jehovah did that for Jonah, Elijah, Hagar, and Lot, let us see how we can imitate Jehovah when dealing with our brothers and sisters.”.
So starts this week’s study article. How then could we apply this?
Imagine for one moment you have known a brother or a sister or a couple for many years. In all that time you have known them, they have been faithfully attending meetings and participating in field service. They have been regular in answering at meetings. Perhaps the brother has even been an appointed man in the congregation. In other words, doing everything the Organization asked of them. How would you react if they started to miss meetings and / or field service?
Would you conclude as many do and then many say in gossip, that they are leaving Jehovah? What if at the meetings they answer up deep questions as usual and by their expressions they still clearly love God and his creation? Would you start to shun them, not talking to them, as some of their answers do not fully agree with the Watchtower?
How do these two quoted paragraphs help us? Note that they say, “He must listen attentively if he is to learn, … Otherwise, the doctor could misdiagnose the problem”. Clearly shunning is not the right way to go about things. Shunning does not allow one to listen attentively. We would be unable to diagnose the problem, or if indeed there is a problem in the first place. We are reminded “we cannot read hearts”.
So why might our brother and / or sister not be acting as they did before? The only way to know if they have a problem or perhaps if instead, we have a problem, is to talk to them and listen attentively to them. Perhaps then you might begin to understand why they are doing what they are doing. If they clearly still love God, might it be that they are finding that the diet of spiritual food they are receiving is now giving them indigestion, or perhaps food poisoning or leaving them hungry? Could they be becoming emotionally distressed when they see the lack of justice within an Organization claiming to be God-directed? Could they be finding that when they make the effort to grow their own organic spiritual food just using God’s word, instead of turning up for the mass-produced takeaway food, they find their spiritual health improving?
Is it not true that most brothers and sisters, just turn up to a meeting and take away what is offered? How many pre-prepare their own healthy food and share it with others? It is a good question to ask ourselves. Do we prepare our own food, or do we just accept what we are given without examining the ingredients? After all, we are reminded in Acts 17:11 that the Jews in Beroea were noble-minded. Why? Because they carefully examined the scriptures daily as to whether these very things they were being taught by the Apostle Paul were true or not.
Did the Apostle Paul accuse them of doubting him? No, rather he commended them. Was he afraid of being proved wrong? No, because truth will always out, as the saying goes. Truth is eventually victorious, lies are always eventually discovered, even as Luke 8:17 states “For there is nothing hidden that will not become manifest, neither anything carefully concealed that will never become known and never come into the open.”
Other principles which we can learn directly from God’s word are:
Proverbs 18:13 “When anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts,
It is foolish and humiliating”.
Proverbs 20:5 “The thoughts of a man’s heart are like deep waters,
But the discerning man draws them out”.
Matthew 19:4-6 “In reply he said: “Have you not read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female 5 and said: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? 6 So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together, let no man put apart”.
On the basis of Jesus words in this scripture we should choose our mate very carefully, based on scriptural principles, not on whether they are good at Organizational pursuits. You will not have to live with your spouse answering up parrot fashion at meetings, but you will have to live with their temper, their annoying habits, the way they treat you, the way they treat children, elderly ones, the environment, and animals. All these things will tell you what sort of person they are on the inside far better than whether they are a regular pioneer, or an elder, or a bethelite. Do not be like one sister who married a Bethelite thinking all would be great and had a child and then found out her husband was a convicted paedophile.[i]
Paragraphs 8-12 encourage us to “Get to Know your Brothers and Sisters”. That is wise counsel, but do not do so in the manner they suggest, which is “Talk with them before and after meetings, work with them in the ministry, and if possible, invite them for a meal”. None of these suggestions help in getting to know the real person. Any Witness will be on their best behaviour in these situations. These suggestions are also totally Organization centric. It is far better to have general social contact outside of “spiritual activities” to get to know the persons better. That is when you will learn if they enjoy drinking alcohol too much, (especially expensive whisky!!), if they are kind and considerate in all circumstances, or for instance if they become aggressive with a win at all costs attitude when playing sport. How do they treat strangers? And many other attributes, none of which will be readily apparent while in field service, at meetings, or in your home.
Paragraphs 13-17 encourage us to show compassion and “rather than judge another person’s actions, do your best to understand how he feels”. Sadly, how we are not to judge another person’s actions is not even touched on in the study article. Perhaps such helpful information is omitted because of the Organization’s culture of judging others, but not itself.
- After all, the elders are told by the Organization to judge whether someone is repentant or not, in a way that would not be allowed in a worldly court of justice.
- All of us are taught by the Organization to judge all non-witnesses as deserving of death at Armageddon unless they repent and become Witnesses.
- We are also taught to judge that anyone who disagrees with a self-appointed Governing Body, are apostate and have left Jehovah, when that is usually (at least initially) far from the facts.
- We are taught to judge that someone is unspiritual if they are well off materially, or they fail to do regular door to door ministry or fail to regularly attend meetings.
- Yet Jesus counselled in Matthew 7:1-2 “Stop judging that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging; you will be judged”.
- In Hebrews 4:13 the Apostle Paul reminded true Christians that “all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting”.
- We should therefore concentrate on ourselves and our own actions before God.
You may then be moved to ask, “Are these reviews not hypocritical, as in these reviews you judge the Organization?”
It is true we point out the flaws of the Organization, by critiquing the Watchtower Study Articles and literature. One of the biggest reasons is because it claims to be the only source of spiritual guidance from God, (Guardians of Doctrine)[ii]. As such it would be scripturally wrong not to closely examine it and make others aware of its flaws (Acts 17:11).
These reviews are not hypocritical as we present the reviews and ask the readers to verify the contents for themselves. Moreover, the readers of our reviews are free to agree or disagree with the contents of these reviews, both verbally and in writing. Yet disagreeing is not an option with the Organization. Questioning the Organization or the Governing Body leads to social exclusion from all one’s acquaintances within the Organization.
However, we should not, and we do not judge individuals within that Organization as being unworthy of everlasting life. That judgment belongs to God and Jesus Christ alone.
By contrast as a Witness, it is very easy to have the attitude and judge that the majority of the world deserve destruction at Armageddon. How different to Peter who said, “he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Furthermore, the criticism is intended to help honest hearted ones to realize the serious issues within the Organization and the serious flaws in its teachings. It is important that all honest-hearted ones are armed with the knowledge and both sides of the argument. Only then can these ones make up their own minds as to what they want to do and believe, based on all the facts, on which to base that decision.
- Do not judge others, leave that to God and Christ.
- Listen carefully to both sides of any story (particularly regarding the Organization) and only then make up your mind.
- Get to know others in settings where they will act naturally instead of putting on their best behaviour.
- Show understanding for the situation of others.
[i] We are not implying by this statement that all bethelites are paedophiles, far from it, we are merely pointing out that the standards by which to judge a person’s character as promoted by the Organization are seriously flawed and no guarantee of a suitable spouse, or friend, or employee or employer. Some brothers and sisters will only employ tradesmen who are elders, in the mistaken believe that this will mean these tradesmen are harder working, and more honest and reliable. At least in the author’s personal experience, it has been the very reverse.
[ii] Per Geoffrey Jackson in his testimony to the ARHCCA hearing. (Australian Royal High Commission into Child Abuse)