“Come to Me, … and I Will Refresh You” – Study 2019/38
“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you.”—Matthew 11:28
[From ws 9/19 p.20 Study Article 38: November 18 – November 24, 2019]
According to paragraph 3 the Watchtower article will answer the following 5 questions. They are:
- “How can we “come to” Jesus?
- What did Jesus mean when he said: “Take my yoke upon you”?
- What can we learn from Jesus?
- Why is the work that he has given us to do refreshing?
- And how can we continue to find refreshment under Jesus’ yoke?
We will therefore examine each answer carefully.
How can we come to Jesus? (Par.4-5)
The first suggestion given is to ““come to” Jesus is by learning as much as we can about the things he said and did. (Luke 1:1-4)”. This is a good suggestion. In fact, Luke’s example is very good. Note what he did: “I resolved also, because I have traced all things from the start with accuracy, to write them in logical order to you, most excellent The·ophʹi·lus,4 that you may know fully the certainty of the things that you have been taught orally”. Certainly, if we do this to the best of our ability then we will begin to see where the Organization is leading us away from the Christ.
The next suggestion (in paragraph 5) is not so good. Why? Because it is based on a mistranslation of Ephesians 4:7-8,11. It is also designed to keep one within the Organization rather than going to Christ. It says “Another way to “come to” Jesus is by going to the congregation elders if we need help. Jesus uses these “gifts in men” to care for his sheep. (Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11; John 21:16; 1 Peter 5:1-3)”.
The problem is the phrase “he gave gifts in men”, and then proceeding to apply it today to the Organization’s elders. A brief look at the Kingdom Interlinear in the Watchtower library alerts us to the issue. The correct translation is “he [Jesus] gave gifts to the men”, as confirmed by the verses that follow as Paul lists those gifts. See also Biblehub.. Ephesians 4:11 says “And it was He [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,” (Beroean Study Bible). See also Biblehub..
The Bible record makes it clear that gifts of Holy Spirit were given to first century Christians by Jesus. Also notice that there were different gifts. This means a good shepherd was not necessarily a good evangelist or a prophet. The congregation needed all these gifts and needed all to use those gifts and to work together. Paul made this point in Ephesians 4:16 when he wrote: “From him all the body is harmoniously joined together and made to cooperate through every joint that gives what is needed. When each respective member functions properly, this contributes to the growth of the body as it builds itself up in love“.
Today, firstly, there is no clear appointment of any religious group by Jesus, despite most groups claiming this. Secondly, neither is there clear evidence of gifts being given by Holy Spirit to members of any Christian group.
Yes, back in the first century Jesus gave gifts of Holy Spirit to men and women that Christians could use to benefit the congregation. He did not give imperfect men as elders to the congregation and expect others to obey them and do their bidding.
Take my yoke upon you (par.6-7)
Paragraph 6 engages in speculation stating: “When Jesus said: “Take my yoke upon you,” he may have meant “Accept my authority.” He could also have meant “Get under the yoke with me, and together we will work for Jehovah.” Either way, the yoke entails work”.
Innocent enough suggestions at first viewing. But, is it that innocent? Let us look at the context and meaning more closely.
What is a yoke? Jesus’ listeners would have immediately thought of a yoke for draught-cattle, usually for two cattle to enable them to pull a plough or similar farming implement. It also acts to give a balance of work between the two cattle.
The first suggestion in the Watchtower article is that Jesus wanted us to come under his control by accepting his authority.
Did Jesus ever try to control anyone? No. That would contradict Jesus words in John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be truly free” when he discusses freedom from enslavement to sin. It would hardly be freedom, if we gave up one form of control and we were then to be controlled by Jesus.
The second suggestion is sharing the yoke with Christ, and work.
Work is rarely thought of positively, rather as a necessary evil. The suggestion is partially correct but gives the wrong impression. The impression given is that we have no choice but to work, when we can choose to work and how much we work.
The real answer to what Jesus meant by taking his yoke is contained in the theme scripture, Matthew 11:28-30 which says: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for yourselves. 30 For my yoke is kindly, and my load is light”.
Note the three phrases put in bold. Jesus had highlighted that his listeners were already working too hard, in fact slaving. They were toiling and loaded down, bending under the heavy burdens placed on them, not only by sin, but the Pharisees. Jesus was offering a refuge, that by leaving the yokes they were already under, and instead coming to him, they would find refreshment, because of accepting the freedom of Christ. They no longer would have to slave to obey the law covenant, which they could never obey completely being sinful. That was before all the Pharisee’s additional traditions were added on top. Instead, they would be able to endeavour willingly, to put on the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:9-16; Romans 8:21; Galatians 5:1).
As 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 states: “12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were closed. For to this day the same veil remains at the reading of the old covenant. It has not been lifted, because only in Christ can it be removed. 15 And even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (Beroean Study Bible). This scripture makes it clear that Christ means freedom, not obligatory work as per the implication in the Watchtower article.
If sharing the yoke with Christ will refresh us, then it will make our lives easier and more pleasant. Christ is offering to reduce our burdens by sharing them with him, instead of trying to carry the burdens on our own. Christ does not add to our burdens, because how would that be refreshment.
The real reason the Organization introduce the “work” and speculation in paragraph 6 is to prepare us for the “work” the Organization wants us to do as highlighted in paragraph 7. Yes, the work of preaching and only preaching. No matter that Jesus gave gifts of Holy Spirit to first century Christians so some could be teachers, some shepherds, some prophets and some evangelisers. According to the Organization we all have to work and be evangelisers.
Learn from me (par.8-11)
“Humble people were drawn to Jesus. Why? Consider the contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees. Those religious leaders were cold and arrogant. (Matthew 12:9-14)”. The passage in Matthew 12 highlights how Jesus cared for those who were ill and cured them even on the Sabbath, following the principle for which the Sabbath was created, for refreshment, both physical and spiritual. However, the Pharisees could only see that Jesus was doing “work” in their eyes and hence breaking the Sabbath law in their eyes. Likewise, today, the modern-day Pharisees will only be interested in the hours on your monthly report spent knocking on empty doors. They will not care how much time you spent helping elderly and infirm ones, or those distressed because of events in their lives outside their control that you spent time with consoling or providing practical help to. You will be considered inactive or a non-reporter if you do not go from door to door for at least 1 hour a month.
Par.9 How many elders do you know that fit this description? “Ask yourself: Do I have a reputation for being mild-tempered and humble? Do I willingly do menial jobs to serve others? Am I kind to others?” Over the years the reviewer became acquainted with 100’s of elders. Literally a handful of them have that humble reputation while a sizeable number have a reputation, but not the kind of reputation we are discussing here. Enough said?
Yes, the elders should have that reputation, being an example to the flock, but the reality is that the circuit overseers and the Organization pay lip service to these qualities when making appointments, instead focussing on how much field service and other Organizational activities the brother does, ignoring the fact that practice of Christian qualities are the most important thing.
Par.11 might make some choke. It tells us “Never would we want to be like the Pharisees, who resented those who questioned them and persecuted those who expressed an opinion contrary to their own”.
A question to the Governing Body, and all bodies of elders.
Where do you stand on this statement?
Is not shunning and disfellowshipping of those who have doubts or scripturally question a current teaching of the Organization a pharisaic way to handle such a problem? The way some have been hounded out of the Organization belies the stated policy that should exist according to the article. For any readers who disbelieve this, why not put it to the test for yourself. Openly tell more than one elder that you cannot believe the “overlapping generations” teaching because it does not make logical sense, (which it does not). As to what then will follow you cannot say we did not warn you!
You will find refreshment (par.12-15)
Par.14 “We have the privilege of working with people who have the highest moral standards but who are not self-righteous”. Really? These type of people are in the minority amongst the many hundreds of Witnesses the reviewer knows. By contrast, the reviewer knows of many who have committed adultery and broken up marriages. The reviewer knows for sure a number who have defrauded others, some of large sums of money. The reviewer also knows of many others who are serial gossipers and backbiters. In addition, the reviewer has personally experienced many elders, including Circuit Overseers who make a practice of being deceitful and liars in their personal lives and dealings with others in the congregations. That is without considering that many of them know that a good part of what they teach from the Organization is lies, but support it by teaching it nonetheless.
Many Witnesses on reflection will admit they have had better dealings with non-Witnesses on average than with Witnesses. Furthermore, it is more hurtful when wronged deliberately by a fellow witness because they make a pretence of being righteous but are not. On the other hand most non-witnesses make no effort to hide what they are.
Continue to find refreshment under Jesus Yoke (par.16-22)
The remainder of the Watchtower article is the Organization’s slant on what they consider Christ’s “yoke” and “work” to be. Yes, you guessed it. In particular, evening meetings and pioneering. Nothing about working on Christian qualities.
Paragraph 16 opens with “The load that Jesus asks us to carry is different from other loads that we must bear”. It then continues with “We may be exhausted at the end of a workday and have to push ourselves to attend a congregation meeting that night”. What load does Jesus ask us to carry? Where in the scriptures did Jesus ask us to flagellate ourselves to attend a weekly evening meeting? Before you answer, remember that Hebrews 10:25 was written by Paul, not Jesus. Also, the apostle Paul was not referring to weekly meetings using an Organization’s prescripted format, where everyone gets served the same bland, non-nutritional food.
The only meeting or gathering together Jesus mentioned was in Matthew 18:20 where he said “20 For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst” and this was not commanded. The meetings and gatherings recorded in the Christian Greek scriptures all appear to have been impromptu, triggered by a particular need or event, not part of a structured regular schedule of meetings (For example Acts 4:31; 12:12; 14:27; 15:6; 15:30).
Can you imagine a Christian slave telling his master, “Master, you will have to cook for yourself this evening, I am off to our weekly evening (or weekend) meeting for a few hours”? I think we all know where that would end! Not pleasantly for sure.
Next, we have the push for us to give up anything resembling a reasonably comfortable life and become paupers by twisting the account in Mark 10:17-22. The paragraph (17) says: “Jesus presented the young ruler with an invitation. “Go, sell what things you have,” Jesus said, “and come be my follower.” The man was torn, but it appears that he could not let go of his “many possessions.” (Mark 10:17-22) As a result, he rejected the yoke that Jesus had offered him and continued to slave “for Riches.””.
There is no evidence given by Jesus that the rich man slaved for riches. In reality, the riches were likely inherited, as rulers in that time period often came from hereditary rich families. Finding it difficult to give up something is very different to working very hard to get more. This is an important point overlooked in the Organization’s desperation to make the scripture fit its own agenda. Furthermore, to follow Jesus around Israel as a disciple was incompatible with being a ruler with many possessions to care for. He could still have become a Christian for all we know, but without the special privilege of being an intimate companion of Jesus during his short ministry.
Of course, the reason for the twisted application of this scripture is to encourage Witnesses to give up full time secular work and slave for the Organization as a pioneer, an artificial construct of the Organization. A Pioneer status was and is not a requirement of a Christian or “work” required by Christ.
Paragraph 18 contains another unverifiable “experience” of a young brother who had spent some years pioneering and decided that the way to deal with the normal desire for a more comfortable life was best dealt with by volunteering for yet more works (free labour) requested by the Organization and going without more, actually making do with less. Talk about self-flagellation!
Paragraph 19 then supports this twisted application of taking Jesus’ yoke by switching from Jesus to appeal to God’s authority to enforce this view: “We are doing Jehovah’s work, so it must be done Jehovah’s way. We are the workers, and Jehovah is the Master”.
A Watchtower article full of points promoting the usual Organization agenda, including a good dose of erroneous speculation to try to make those points.
All we learnt was what the Organization expects us to do rather than what Jesus really intended when he make the suggestion In Matthew 11:28. They have also worked at trying to reintroduce rules and control like the Pharisees did, under the guise of it being Christ’s and God’s commands, thereby stopping the yoke of Christ being refreshing.
As many on this site can vouch for, when one breaks the habit of being at every meeting arranged by the Organization for us just for the sake of it, because of feeling the obligation instilled in us by the Organization, you actually do become refreshed and start to find the true freedom of Christ. Part of that is surely deciding for yourself what your worship of God and Christ will consist of, and when and how it will be done, and standing personally accountable before God and Christ for those decisions. How wrong it would be to continue to abdicate those choices that affect our lives to others who neither know us nor care about us but will be quick to judge us if we do not live up to their expectations.