Will You Stumble Because Of Jesus? Study 2021/18
“Happy is the one who finds no cause for stumbling in me.”—Matthew 11:6
[Study 18 from ws 5/21 p.2, July 5 – July 11, 2021]
Perhaps this article would have been better entitled, ‘Will you stumble because of the Organization’. This article is presumptuous in that it compares how Jehovah’s Witnesses are treated and viewed today with how most people viewed and treated Jesus. Yet Jehovah’s Witnesses today are not anything like Jesus. Nor do have they been asked to accomplish the same things. Jesus came to fulfil prophecies, move the Jews to repentance and accept him as their mediator, and then die a sacrificial death. Jehovah’s Witnesses were not sent to earth to accomplish this. It is therefore like comparing apples with pears, there maybe some similarities in what the Organization claim that Witnesses should do, but there are also lots of differences. Likewise, it is not a fair comparison to compare Jehovah’s Witness with Jesus, the perfect son of God.
Nonetheless, this is done, no doubt in part to justify the policies of the Organization.
For example, paragraph 5 reminds us that many were stumbled because of Jesus background, because he came from Nazareth and had the trade of a humble carpenter. It then compares this with the fact that many of Jehovah’s Witnesses are of humble background, uneducated and ordinary.
But why are many of Jehovah’s Witnesses uneducated and ordinary? Is it not because of following the policies of the Governing Body’s pronouncements on avoiding further education? As a youngster, there was tremendous peer pressure on me from the congregation and other Witnesses whom I knew well, to leave school at 16 and pioneer because Armageddon was coming so soon in 1975. Yet, I will soon be looking forward to retiring from secular work and being a grandparent. Fortunately my parents supported me in getting a little more than a basic school education, but I should have done more. As a result for a good portion of my adult life, money has been very tight, unnecessarily so, and all because I listened to the policies of the Organization. How much more pleasant to live in are the conditions based on the sentiments expressed in Proverbs 30:8 when Agur wrote: “Give me neither poverty nor riches.”
It is also a serious question as to whether being a carpenter even back in the first century was such a humble job. It is a skilled job, and many are not capable of doing such a job. Today, as through most of history, skilled carpenters are always in demand, and it takes education you cannot get in normal schooling up to age 18, to become a skilled carpenter. Jesus did not go “pioneering” until he was nearly 30 years of age. Yet youths in the Organization are expected to so at 18 with no life skills and no profession.
Then there is this disingenuous statement. “Others claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are an “American religion,” even though, in fact, only approximately 1 in 7 of Jehovah’s Witnesses lives in the United States.” Paragraph 7.
Firstly, the religion was established in America, and hence it is accurate to describe it as an “American Religion”. Any brief examination of the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses will show this to be true, such as ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses, Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom’ and other literature from the Organization.
Secondly, 1 in 7 Witnesses is about 14%, a large amount. A review of the 2020 Service Year report indicates that the peak was 1,242,976, close to 1.243m. This means that the largest amount of Witnesses live in America by a considerable margin. The next largest countries are Brazil with 897k and Mexico with 874k, Nigeria with 374k, then Italy and Democratic Congo with c. 250k.
Thirdly, we need to add to the above that the headquarters are and always have been in the USA. We would laugh at any other Organization, religious or secular, who had this spread of followers \ employees and headquarters in America and dared to claim they were not an American religion \ firm. (The US Inland Revenue would also take a dim view of this claim!)
The next claim in paragraph 7 is “Still others have been told that the Witnesses do not accept Jesus.”
This rumour is hardly surprising when an impartial examination of the Organization’s literature quickly reveals an undue emphasis on Jehovah that overshadows and minimizes Jesus role, not only as mediator for all mankind but as the most powerful person in the universe after Jehovah. 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us that “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, …”. While Matthew 28:18 reminds us that Jesus told his disciples (after his resurrection) that “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.”.
A quick search of WT Library reveals that on average since 2011 Jesus has been mentioned in all contexts about 700 times a year, while Jehovah has been mentioned over 1700 times a year. A strange way to treat the head of the Christian Congregation and the one to whom “All authority has been given … in heaven and on the earth.”. Is it any wonder then that commentators get the understanding that the Witnesses do not accept Jesus, when the majority of the focus is put on Jehovah. Of course, this particular claim is inaccurate, but do you think Jesus, the second most important in the universe, who has been delegated all authority in heaven and on earth, will necessarily be happy with the way he is treated in Watchtower Literature?
The next sentence claims “Over the years, Jehovah’s people have been labeled “Communists,” “American spies,” and “extremists.” Because those who are told these stories do not have or do not accept the facts, they are stumbled.” I do not know anyone who refuses to talk to the Witnesses or has been stumbled because of those particular accusations. By contrast, I know a great number of Witnesses and non-Witnesses who have been stumbled by the following:
- The continuing cover-up and mishandling of child sexual abuse allegations,
- the continued refusal around blood transfusions, despite the fact that the body does not feed on transfused blood,
- the stance against higher education,
- and the shunning policy applied to all those who leave the Organization whether voluntarily or removed.
All of these policies (including the quasi-judicial system), break what most countries and peoples view as basic human rights. Such as:
- The right to have any judgement affecting their lives to be just and fair, (which the judicial system of the Organization is not),
- the right to a family life (unhindered by shunning mandated by a religion),
- the right to determine for oneself what medical treatment to receive without the fear of social consequences,
- and the right to be presumed innocent and to be telling the truth unless clear evidence is presented to the contrary, (without the need for 2 human witnesses to a criminal act done in secrecy).
The quote from the following paragraph (8) is therefore most insulting and hypocritical when it states “How can one avoid being stumble? People need to examine the facts.”
Oh! Really? To examine the facts, one has to have the facts in their possession. Yet the Organization goes out of its way to ensure both Witnesses and the public do not have the facts.
- For example, the Organization is so secretive about its judicial process. It has a handbook for Elders which is not to be shown to ordinary congregation members.
- The Organization also refuses to pass on accusations of child sexual abuse (a criminal act) to the proper secular authorities (even when required to by law) attempting to claim clergy-laity privilege when challenged as to why they did not comply with the law.
- The Organization then goes further and threatens those who would speak out about these things, (thereby giving the brothers and sisters the facts to examine), with disfellowshipping and subsequent shunning by their families. If you feel this is a harsh or untrue statement, try asking your local elders about the Australian Royal High Commission on Child Abuse.
- Why does the Organization avoid telling the brothers and sisters what the accusations made by so-called Apostates are, and disproving these alleged lies with facts, then the brothers and sisters could examine the all facts for themselves? After all, if the accusations are lies and the brothers and sisters have the facts from both sides they can make their own minds up. However, that is not allowed. The Organization makes the judgment for us.
The paragraph (8) continues “That is what the Gospel writer Luke was determined to do. He made it a point to trace “all things from the start with accuracy.” He wanted his readers to “know fully the certainty of the things” they had heard about Jesus. (Luke 1:1-4) The Jewish people in ancient Beroea were like Luke. When they first heard the good news about Jesus, they consulted the Hebrew Scriptures to confirm what they were being told. (Read Acts 17:11.) In a similar way, people today need to examine the facts. They must compare what they are taught by God’s people with what the Scriptures say. They also need to study the record of Jehovah’s people in modern times. If they do a proper “background check,” they will not allow prejudice or hearsay to blind them.”.
The reviewer did exactly what this paragraph 8 states with the teaching of 607BC. He was determined to find proof in secular history for the fall of Jerusalem being in 607BC. After spending thousands of hours in research and in reading the Bible he came to the conclusion that there was no Biblical or secular evidence for this teaching. He then spent hundreds of hours more researching what the Bible record itself suggests without any preset or required result. He found that the secular chronology of this period could be reconciled easily to the Bible record. The results of this Biblical record investigation are available on this site with the series name “Did the Gentile Times start in 607BC”. Why not check out the facts for yourself? Examine what the Bible says and then compare the Bible record with secular history just as the writer did. While doing so keep in mind a very important key point for success which we can totally agree with: “The Jewish people in ancient Beroea were like Luke. When they first heard the good news about Jesus, they consulted the Hebrew Scriptures to confirm what they were being told. (Read Acts 17:11.)”.
Paragraph 11 informs us “But what are people who attend religious services learning about God and his purposes? Those who attend our Christian meetings learn what Jehovah requires of us and how to act in harmony with his will.” So then dear reader, please answer these questions honestly.
- When did you last read an article or listen to a video or a broadcast from the Organization which helped you how to have better self-control? Please bear in mind that something telling us that Christians need to have self-control, is not the same as practical help to keep self-control, and why it is important to exercise self-control. It should also have real-world application, not just in the congregations.
- When did you last read an article or listen to a video or a broadcast from the Organization which helped you to control or avoiding feelings of jealousy? And with all people, not just within the congregations.
- When did you last read an article or listen to a video or a broadcast from the Organization which helped you to avoid lying? Was there something that helped us understand why we should not lie and the results of lying. Is there ever justification for telling so-called white lies?
- When did you last read an article or listen to a video or a broadcast from the Organization which helped you practice honesty in everything? Or be a hard worker? Or how to show respect for others, whether poorer or richer than we are, whether of another race, gender, etc?
There are certainly articles that tell us to do these things, but never how to, especially with all peoples in different situations. Only rarely the Organization gives us examples as to how to practice a particular fruit of the spirit within the congregations in certain circumstances, but not in the real world in which we live.
A brief look at the midweek meeting workbooks will confirm this. The week of this Watchtower Study, the “Living as Christians” section is local needs, and the Congregation Bible study which is from the “Pure Worship” book. This weeks portion of the Pure Worship book is about dry bones! and the questionable interpretation of prophecies of Ezekiel by a double fulfilment, without any scriptural basis for doing so. What is that to do with living as a Christian? What Christian quality does that help us learn?
Paragraph 11 also claims “Those taking the lead do not wear distinctive garb; nor do they take on pretentious titles.”
Are we reading the claim correctly? What about the very expensive suits and rings and watches that the Governing Body wear? Most brothers, including myself would love to be able to afford one outfit like they each have. But did you know that when the current Governing Body members became Bethel members they would have signed an agreement. According to the *** w17 April p. 8 par. 19 “What You Vow, Pay” *** article: “Currently, there are some 67,000 members of the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some perform Bethel service, others engage in construction or in circuit work, serve as field instructors or special pioneers or missionaries or as Assembly Hall or Bible school facility servants. They are all bound by a “Vow of Obedience and Poverty,” with which they agree to do whatever is assigned to them in the advancement of Kingdom interests, to live a simple lifestyle, and to abstain from secular employment without permission”. How can you reconcile a vow of poverty with the way the Governing Body members and their helpers are shown on the JW Broadcasts?
As for pretentious titles: Pretentious means “characterized by assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved”. How are the speakers on JW Broadcasting introduced? This is Bro xxxxxxxx, a Governing Body member, a Governing Body Helper, a Circuit Overseer, a Branch Committee member, etc, thereby drawing undue attention to their position. Are these not pretentious titles? Is there any trace in the scriptures that the apostle Peter or apostle Paul was introduced as, or introduced themselves as ‘Governing Body member’? No, they were all brothers, on first name basis with each other. Even the term “Governing Body” is not in the scriptures and that is before we ask what proof there is that Christ appointed any such “Governing Body”.
Paragraph 12 continues “We must acquire strong faith based on accurate knowledge because “without faith it is impossible to please God well.” (Read Hebrews 11:1; 11:6.) Thus, we do not need to see a spectacular sign from heaven to prove that we have found the truth.(bold ours) A careful examination of the Bible’s faith-strengthening teachings is enough to convince us and to dispel any doubt.”. So, the question we need to ask ourselves is, why do the Organization keep looking for signs that we are so close to Armageddon? Every sneeze that the world order has, ends up with brothers and sisters, egged on by the Organization and in particular the pronouncements of the Governing Body, to interpret some so-called sign or other as evidence that Armageddon is about to start. The current pandemic is a case in point.
Did not Jesus warn us against this very mentality? In Matthew 24:23-27 he warned us, ““Then if anyone says to YOU, ‘Look! Here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. 25 Look! I have forewarned YOU. 26 Therefore, if people say to YOU, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; ‘Look! He is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”
Can anyone deny lightning has occurred when it flashes from one side of the sky to the other? No. In fact, even most blind people would be aware of it. So when Jesus comes, all will know. There will be no denying it. But in the meantime Jesus said we should not look for signs that Christ is nearly here! or nearly there! “DO NOT BELIEVE IT” are Jesus own words. It therefore stands to reason that a bad flu epidemic (which are cyclical occurrences), bad as it maybe, is not evidence or a sign that we are living in the last hours of the last day of the last days as suggested by some Governing Body members on JW Broadcasting. Rather it is true that “A careful examination of the Bible’s faith-strengthening teachings [not the Organizations teachings] is enough to convince us and to dispel any doubt.” While Armageddon will undoubtedly come at God’s appointed time, a time of which no-one is privy to know (Matthew 24:36), Matthew 24:39 in non-witness Bible translations such as the Beroean Literal Bible (and ESV) more accurately reads “and they were unaware until the flood came and took away all; so also will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
Paragraph 14 goes on to say “Jehovah said through his prophet Isaiah: “This people approach me with their mouth and they honor me with their lips, but their heart is far removed from me; and their fear of me is based on commands of men that they have been taught.” (Isa. 29:13) Jesus was right in condemning human traditions that did not harmonize with the Scriptures. Those who put man-made rules and traditions above the Scriptures rejected Jehovah and the one whom he sent as the Messiah.”
This statement is so accurate, but not in the way the Organization intends it to be understood.
Can you name any commands of Jesus? Perhaps the following comes to mind: Matthew 22:36-40 which records Jesus’ reply to a Pharisee as saying ““Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 He said to him: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.”.
That is embodied in the other following commandment in John 13:34-35 which says “I am giving YOU a new commandment, that YOU love one another; just as I have loved YOU, that YOU also love one another. 35 By this all will know that YOU are my disciples, if YOU have love among yourselves.”
Beyond these, the writer challenges you to find any other command given by Jesus to all his disciples, certainly ones that would still apply today. Yes, Jesus gave plenty of principles and requests, but no explicit commands come to mind. (Although the Organization turns many of these into commands, but that is exactly the point).
Now you may ask, what about Matthew 28:18-20? What does it actually say? “And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded YOU.”
Is the phrase “Go therefore and make disciples” a request or a command? Arguably it is a request. The only commands Jesus referred to as commands were those quoted above in Matthew 22:36-40 and John 13:34-35. Even, if we accept it as a command, it refers to making disciples, which can be made in a variety of ways. It is not a command to preach from door-to-door as the Organization interprets it.
But there are many things Jesus said, which have since been turned into commandments by people who “approach me with their mouth and they honor me with their lips, but their heart is far removed from me; and their fear of me is based on commands of men that they have been taught.”.
Paragraph 20 shows one such example when it states “Our main focus should be on doing the work that Jesus commanded us to do. (Matt. 28:19-20)”. Yes, it should, but as discussed above, what exactly were those commands. The Organization means by this quote, that we should be preaching, because that is what the meetings are designed to push us to do. Examine the mid-week meeting schedule. Every week about 20 minutes is devoted to “Apply Yourself to the Field Ministry”. It is not about “How to make disciples” by our example and informal witnessing and making friends of people is it?. The meeting should be focussed on the few things Jesus actually did clearly command. By showing love to others, acting as a Christian at all times, we would be honouring Jesus and Jehovah with our heart rather than our lips. To preach is a lot easier than to live as a real Christian. Furthermore, acting as a real Christian will attract people to the message of God’s Kingdom through Christ far more easily than just preaching to them.
Also, why not take a little time to meditate upon what Jesus said about divorce. The account in Mark 10:2-12 states “Pharisees now approached and, to put him to the test, began questioning him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. 3 In answer he said to them: “What did Moses command YOU?” 4 They said: “Moses allowed the writing of a certificate of dismissal and divorcing [her].” 5 But Jesus said to them: “Out of regard for YOUR hardheartedness he wrote YOU this commandment. 6 However, from [the] beginning of creation ‘He made them male and female. 7 On this account a man will leave his father and mother, 8 and the two will be one flesh’; so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God yoked together let no man put apart.” 10 When again in the house the disciples began to question him concerning this. 11 And he said to them: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if ever a woman, after divorcing her husband, marries another, she commits adultery.”(See also Matthew 5:31, Matthew 19:3-11).
Now thinking about what Jesus said, firstly, was it a commandment? No, there is no evidence that it was a commandment. Did Jesus forbid divorce? No. Did he not rather say, let no person be the cause of splitting a marriage. (“what God yoked together let no man put apart.”). Further, the issue Jesus actually mentioned was that if someone divorced their spouse, whether it was the husband or the wife, and then remarried, the one remarrying committed adultery. Matthew 19:11 reads similarly “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.” Note that this verse again talks about remarriage being adultery, unless the spouse had committed fornication.
Compare this with the pronouncements in the Organization’s literature, such as *** w20 July p. 3 par. 4 Do Not Think More of Yourself Than Is Necessary *** “We realize that the only Scriptural grounds for divorce is sexual immorality. (Matthew 5:32) “. Based on your examination of Jesus words quoted and cited above, this statement is highly inaccurate. It should state “Jesus said that the only scriptural grounds for divorce and remarriage was sexual immorality on the part of the spouse”. Yet most witnesses I know and probably whom you know, will repeat that statement from the Watchtower verbatim. I will readily admit I did.
When we take time to think about what Jesus was saying, do we really think that both a loving God and a loving Christ would prevent divorce in circumstances such as where the divorcing spouse is in fear of their lives because of a violent spouse, or a spouse that refuses to provide for them at all, perhaps drinking or gambling away all the income of the family? True, a scriptural case could be made that someone who divorces should not remarry, (unless the spouse is immoral), but certainly Jesus did not command that they cannot divorce except on the grounds of the infidelity of the spouse. Remember too the context of Jesus’ answer in Matthew 19 and Mark 10. He was answering the Pharisees who allowed divorce on every sort of grounds. Surely it is reasonable therefore to understand that Jesus was putting the record and the balance straight, i.e. that divorce should only take place on serious grounds rather than frivolous grounds.
This Study article is certainly one of many contradictions, and surely the Organization stop attempting to make commands out of principles. Then it would not be stumbling both non-Witnesses and Witnesses. It should get its own teachings in line with Jesus’ teachings, its own house in order before attempting to command us what to do and think.
Perhaps it is good for all of us, but especially the Organization to reflect on Jesus words in Luke 17:1-2 where he said “Then he said to his disciples: “It is unavoidable that causes for stumbling should come. Nevertheless, woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be of more advantage to him if a millstone were suspended from his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to stumble one of these little ones. 3 Pay attention to yourselves. If your brother commits a sin give him a rebuke, and if he repents forgive him.”
- https://governingbody.net/final-report-by-the-australian-royal-high-commission-into-institutional-responses-to-child-sexual-abuse/https://governingbody.net/the-australian-royal-high-commission-on-child-abuse-and-jehovahs-witnesses/ ↑
- https://awakenjw.com/did-the-gentile-times-start-in-607bc-part-1https://awakenjw.com/category/questions-witnesses-should-ask ↑
- https://biblehub.com/matthew/24-39.htm ↑