I don’t know how I missed this at our 2012 district convention, but a friend in Latin America—where they are now having their district conventions for the year—brought it to my attention. The first part of the Saturday morning sessions showed us how to use the new tract about Jehovah’s Witnesses. The part used the term our “spiritual mother” when referring to the earthly organization of Jehovah’s people. Now the only Scripture that uses ‘mother’ as a term to refer to an organization or group of individuals is found in Galatians:
“But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (Gal 4:26)
So why would we invent a role for the earthly organization that does not appear in Scripture?
I did some research to see if I could answer that question from our publications and was surprised to find nothing in writing to support the concept. Yet I have heard the term used repeatedly from the assembly and convention platforms, and even had a circuit overseer use it once when encouraging us to follow some unpalatable direction we were getting from the branch office Service Desk. It appears to have crept into our oral tradition, while skirting our official written doctrine.
It is remarkable how easily and unquestioningly we can slip into a mindset. The Bible tells us not to ‘forsake the law of our mother’. (Pro. 1:8) If the convention speaker wants the audience to obey the Governing Body, it adds much to the weight of the argument if we see that the direction comes not from a humble slave, but rather the honored matriarch of the household. In the home, mother is second only to father, and we all know who father is.
Perhaps the problem lies with us. We want to return to the protection of mommy and daddy. We want to have someone care for us and rule over us. When God is that someone, all is well. However, God is invisible and we need faith to see him and feel his care. The truth sets us free, but for some that freedom is a kind of burden. True freedom makes us personally responsible for our own salvation. We have to think for ourselves. We have to stand before Jehovah and answer to Him directly. It is so much more comforting to believe that all we must do is submit to a visible man or group of men and do what they tell us to be saved.
Are we acting like the Israelites of Samuel’s day who had only one King, Jehovah, and enjoyed a freedom from care that was unique in history; and yet threw it all away with the words, “No, but a [human] king is what will come to be over us.” (1 Sam. 8:19) It may be comforting to have a visible ruler take responsibility for your soul and your eternal salvation, but it is only an illusion. He will not stand beside you on judgment day. It’s time we started acting like men and face up that fact. It’s time we took responsibility for our own salvation.
In any case, the next time someone uses the “spiritual mother” argument on me, I’m going to quote the words of Jesus at John 2:4:
“What have I to do with you, woman?”