This September 2021, the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world are going to be presented with a resolution, an appeal for money. This is huge, though I daresay the true significance of this event will go unnoticed by many Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The announcement we speak of is from the S-147 form “Announcements and Reminders” which is issued periodically to the congregations.  Here’s paragraph 3 from the part of that letter that is to be read to the congregations:spl

Resolved Monthly Donation to the Worldwide Work: For the upcoming service year, the congregation will be presented with a single resolution to donate a monthly amount to the worldwide work. The branch office uses worldwide work funds to support various activities that benefit congregations. Such activities include renovating and constructing Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls; caring for incidents at theocratic facilities, including those involving natural disaster, fire, theft, or vandalism; providing technology and related services; and assisting with the travel costs of selected special full-time servants in foreign service who attend international conventions.

Now before going further, let’s be clear on one thing: No reasonable person will deny that the preaching work costs money. Even Jesus and his disciples required funding. Luke 8:1-3 speaks of a group of women who provided for our Lord and his disciples materially.

Shortly afterward he traveled from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the Kingdom of God. And the Twelve were with him, as were certain women who had been cured of wicked spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s man in charge; Susanna; and many other women, who were ministering to them from their belongings. (Luke 8:1-3 NWT)

However—and this is the key point—Jesus never solicited money from these women nor from anyone else. He depended on their willingness to donate freely as the spirit moved them so as to supply the needs of those doing the work of preaching the good news.  Of course, these women had benefitted greatly from the ministry of Jesus which included miraculous healings and a message that exalted women from the low station they held in Jewish society. They truly loved our Lord and it was that love that motivated them to give of their own belongings to further the work.

The point is, Jesus and his apostles never solicited funds. They relied entirely on voluntary donations made from the heart. They put their faith in God knowing that he was supporting their work.

For the past 130 years, the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society has agreed wholeheartedly with the approach that the preaching work must be funded by completely voluntary donations.

For instance, this 1959 Watchtower article states:

BACK in August, 1879, this magazine said:

“‘Zion’s Watch Tower’ has, we believe, JEHOVAH for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: ‘All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,’ fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication.” The Society did not suspend publication, and The Watchtower has never missed an issue. Why? Because during the nearly eighty years since The Watchtower stated this policy of reliance upon Jehovah God, the Society has not deviated from it.

How about today? Does the Society still maintain this position? Yes. Has the Society ever begged you for money? No. Jehovah’s witnesses never beg for funds. They never petition… (w59, 5/1, Pg. 285)

As recently as 2007, this belief had not changed.  In the November 1, 2007 Watchtower article titled, “The Silver Is Mine, and the Gold Is Mine”, the publishers again repeated and applied Russell’s statement to the modern organization.

And here is a recent quote from Governing Body member Stephen Lett from the May 2015 broadcast of JW.org:

In fact, the Organization has often looked down on other churches by criticizing their methods for gathering donations.  Here’s an excerpt from the May 1, 1965 issue of The Watchtower under the article, “Why No Collections?”

To pressure members of a congregation in a gentle way to contribute by resorting to devices without Scriptural precedent or support, such as passing a collection plate in front of them or operating bingo games, holding church suppers, bazaars and rummage sales or soliciting pledges, is to admit a weakness. There is something wrong.

No such coaxing or pressuring devices are needed where there is genuine appreciation. Could this lack of appreciation be related to the kind of spiritual food offered to the people in these churches? (w65 5/1 p. 278)

The message from all these references is clear. If a religion has to pressure its members with devices such as passing a collection plate so that peer pressure induces them to donate, or by soliciting pledges, then the religion is weak. There is something very wrong.  They need to use these tactics because their members do not have genuine appreciation.  And why do they lack appreciation?  Because they are not getting good spiritual food.

Folding in the quote from the 1959 Watchtower about what C.T. Russell wrote back in 1879, these churches do not have Jehovah God’s backing, which is why they have to resort to such pressure tactics to get money.

To this point, any Jehovah’s Witnesses hearing all this would have to agree.  After all, this is the official position of the Organization.

Now remember what Russell said as it applies to the Society.  He said that we “will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: ‘All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,’ fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication.””

That 1959 article went on to conclude:

“The Society did not suspend publication, and The Watchtower has never missed an issue. Why? Because during the nearly eighty years since The Watchtower stated this policy of reliance upon Jehovah God, the Society has not deviated from it.

That’s no longer true anymore, is it?  For over a century, the Watchtower magazine has been the principal tool the Organization has used to preach the Good News in the worldwide preaching work.  However, in a cost cutting move, they reduced that magazine from 32 pages to just 16 and then in 2018 they reduced it from 24 issues a year to just 3.  Given that it used to come out once every two weeks and now it comes out once every four months, the argument that it has never missed an issue is long gone.

But there is more here than simply the number of issues printed.  The point is that by their own words, when they have to start petitioning men, when they have to start soliciting pledges, it is time to shut down the whole enterprise, because they have visible evidence that Jehovah God is no longer backing the work.

Well, that time has come.  Actually, it came some years ago, but this latest development proves the point like never before.  I will explain.

The elders are directed to go to a secure web page on JW.org to determine how much to make the resolution for.  Each branch office has worked out a per-publisher amount for the territories under its oversight.

Here are the pertinent directions to the elders from the aforementioned S-147 form:

  1. Resolved Monthly Donation to the Worldwide Work: The resolved monthly donation referred to in the announcement for congregations is based on a monthly per-publisher amount suggested by the branch office.
  2. The per-publisher amount listed on the jw.org web page containing the link to this announcement should be multiplied by the number of active publishers in the congregation to determine the suggested monthly donation for your congregation.

Here are the figures from the US branch office:

The amount for the United States is $8.25 per publisher. So, a congregation of 100 publishers would be expected to send $825 a month into the worldwide headquarters. With 1.3 million publishers in the United States, the Society expects to receive about 130 million dollars annually from the US alone.

The Organization says “it will never beg nor petition men for support” and we’ve read that it condemns other religions for “soliciting pledges”.

What exactly is a pledge? According to the shorter Oxford English dictionary, a pledge is defined as “a promise of a donation to a charity, cause, etc., In response to an appeal for funds; such a donation.”

Doesn’t this letter constitute an appeal for funds?  A very specific appeal at that.  Imagine Jesus going to Mary and saying, “Okay, Mary.  I want you to get all the women together. I need a donation that amounts to 8 denarii per person.  I need you to get them to make a resolution promising to give me that amount every month.”

Please don’t be fooled by the wording of this letter that talks about a “suggested monthly donation”.

This is not a suggestion.  Let me tell you something from my years of experience as an elder about how the Organization likes to play with words. What they will commit to paper and what they will actually practice are two different things. Letters to the bodies of elders will be peppered with words like “suggestion”, “recommendation”, “encouragement”, and “direction”. They will use endearing terms like “loving provision”.   However, when it comes time to implement these words, we learn very quickly they are euphemisms for “orders”, “commands”, and “requirements”.

To illustrate, back in 2014, the organization seized ownership of all Kingdom halls and “directed” all congregations to send in any excess funds in their bank account to the local branch office.  The congregation just up the street from where I live was “directed” to hand over its $85,000 in cash surplus. Mind you, this was the congregation’s money donated to repair the parking lot.  They didn’t want to turn it over, preferring to repair the lot themselves. They resisted which got them through one circuit overseer visit, but by the next visit, they were told in no uncertain terms that holding on to the funds was not an option for them.  They needed to comply with this new “loving provision” from Jehovah.  (Bear in mind that since September 1, 2014 the circuit overseer has been given the power to delete elders, so resistance is futile.)

I can assure you that any body of elders that refuses to read out this new resolution will be told by the Circuit Overseer what it really means by “suggested monthly donation”.

So, they may say something is a suggestion, but as Jesus told us, don’t go by what they say, go by what they do. (Matthew 7:21) To put it another way, if you are a store owner and a couple of thugs come in your front door and “suggest” you pay them for protection, you won’t need a dictionary to know what “suggest” really means.

By the way, to this date the parking lot of that hall has not been repaired.

What does all this mean for the Organization and what does it mean for you if you are a faithful Jehovah’s Witness?  Jesus tells us:

“. . .for with what judgment YOU are judging, YOU will be judged; and with the measure that YOU are measuring out, they will measure out to YOU.”  (Matthew 7:2 NWT)

The organization has judged other churches for years, and now the measure they used for those churches must be applied to Jehovah’s Witnesses to fulfill Jesus’ words.

Quoting again from the 1965 Watchtower:

To pressure members of a congregation in a gentle way to contribute by resorting to devices without Scriptural precedent or support, such as…soliciting pledges, is to admit a weakness. There is something wrong. (w65 5/1 p. 278)

This requirement to make a resolution promising to donate a fixed amount every month is the very definition of “soliciting a pledge”.  By the organization’s own words, this admits to a weakness and that something is wrong.  What is wrong? They tell us:

No such coaxing or pressuring devices are needed where there is genuine appreciation. Could this lack of appreciation be related to the kind of spiritual food offered to the people in these churches? (w65 5/1 p. 278)

The faithful and discreet slave is supposed to feed the domestics their food at the proper time, but if there is no genuine appreciation, then the food they are being fed is bad and the slave has failed.

Why is this happening?

Let’s go back about 30 years. According to the 1991 Watchtower and Awake!, the total number of magazines published every month was over 55,000,000. Imagine how much they cost to produce and ship.  On top of that, the organization was supporting district overseers, circuit overseers, and thousands of staff in the various Bethels and branch offices around the world, not to mention the thousands of special pioneers that they supported financially with a monthly allowance.  On top of that, they were providing funds for the building of thousands of Kingdom halls around the world.  Where did all that money come from? From voluntary donations made by zealous Witnesses who believed they were providing for the worldwide preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom.

However, in recent years, donations have declined drastically.  To compensate, the Governing Body reduced their worldwide staff by 25% back in 2016.  They also did away with all district overseers, and have reduced the special pioneer ranks drastically saving them millions annually.

Of course, their printing output is down to a mere trickle. 55,000,000 magazines a month is a thing of the past.  Imagine the cost savings from that.

And instead of funding the construction of thousands of halls, they are selling thousands of halls, and scooping up the money for themselves.  They have also absconded with all the surplus cash formerly held by local congregations in their bank accounts.

And yet, with all this drastic cost cutting, and the additional revenue stream from real estate sales, they still have to pressure the congregations to make resolutions that commit them to a pre-determined donation figure.

By their own admission, this is a sign of weakness. By their own printed words, this is wrong.  Based on the policy they have clung to for 130 years, this is a sign that Jehovah is no longer backing their work.  If we were to bring forward Russell’s words from the 1879 Watch Tower, we’d read:

“The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has, we believe, Jehovah for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When he who says: “All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,” fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it is time to shut down our organization. (Paraphrasing w59 5/1 p. 285)

Rather than go from bad to worse, they should admit that by their own printed criteria, Jehovah God is no longer backing the work.  Why is that? What has changed?

They have cut costs drastically, taken congregation surplus funds, and added the revenue from real estate sales and yet they are not getting sufficient donations to keep going and have had to resort to this unscriptural tactic of soliciting donations.  Why?  Well, by their own words, there is a lack of appreciation from the rank and file. Why would that be?

According to the letter that will be read out, these funds are needed for:

“…renovating and constructing Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls; caring for incidents at theocratic facilities, including those involving natural disaster, fire, theft, or vandalism; providing technology and related services; and assisting with the travel costs of selected special full-time servants in foreign service who attend international conventions.”

If that were all of it, the funds would still be coming in by the old method of voluntary donations.  To be forthright and honest, they should have added that they need the money to also pay out millions of dollars in damages and penalties as a consequence of the many lawsuits in country after country being brought against the organization.  In Canada—one tenth the size of the United States—there is a $66 million dollar lawsuit winding its way through the courts right now.  This is such common knowledge that David Splane of the Governing Body had to give a talk at this year’s regional convention to do damage control and try to justify the many times the Governing Body has had to settle these lawsuits out of court.

Would a sincere Jehovah’s Witness want to donate hard earned cash knowing that instead of going for Kingdom interests, it is going to pay for the Society’s mistreatment of child sexual abuse victims?  Some Catholic Church dioceses have had to declare bankruptcy because of the fallout from their child abuse scandal. Why would Jehovah’s Witnesses be any different?

Based on the Organization’s own printed criteria, Jehovah is no longer backing the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  This latest solicitation for a monthly pledge of money is proof of that.  Again, their words, not mine.  They are paying millions for their sins.  Perhaps it is now time to give serious consideration to the words found at Revelation 18:4:

“And I heard another voice out of heaven say: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4)

If you are taking your own money and donating to the Organization, you are already sharing in her sins, and paying for them.  The Governing Body is not getting the message that “when He who says: ‘All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,’ fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend” the work. (w59, 5/1, Pg. 285)

You may say, “But there is nowhere else to go!  If I leave, where else can I go?”

Revelation 18:4 doesn’t tell us where to go, it just tells us to get out.  We are like a little child that has climbed a tree and can’t get down.  Below is our daddy saying, “Jump and I’ll catch you.”

It’s time for us to take a leap of faith. Our Heavenly Father will catch us.

 

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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