[A Review of the December 15, 2014 Watchtower article on page 6]
“Listen to me, all of you, and understand the meaning.”— Mark 7:14
This Watchtower article introduces some welcome simplifications to the way we understand four of Christ’s parables, specifically, the “mustard seed”, the “leaven”, the “pearl of great value” and the “hidden treasure.”
However, a word of caution to the reader: As you go through the study, apply the advice in paragraph 2 to the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses just as you would to any other Christian denomination.
Why did many fail to understand the meaning of what Jesus said? Some had preconceived opinions and wrong motives. Jesus said of such ones: “You skillfully disregard the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” (Mark 7:9) These people did not really try to get the meaning of his words. They did not want to change their ways and views. Their ears may have been open, but their hearts were tightly shut! (Read Matthew 13:13-15.) How, though, can we make sure that our hearts remain open so that we can benefit from Jesus’ teaching?
Paragraphs 3 thru 6 offer excellent advice for evaluating all we learn and we would do well to follow it as well.
The Mustard Grain
“He presented another illustration to them, saying: ‘The Kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard grain that a man took and planted in his field.’” (Mt 13:31)
What is a kingdom? The word comes by combining two words: “domain” and “king”. A kingdom is the domain of a king; that over which he rules. Therefore, that over which Christ rules is likened to a tiny mustard seed that grows to become the “largest of vegetable plants”.
All is well with this understanding until paragraph 8 where we state, “Since 1914 the growth of the visible part of God’s organization has been phenomenal!”[A] By this we teach that the mustard seed has grown into us, the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are, therefore, the kingdom of the heavens Jesus was referring to. Accepting this, we fail to see the problem it creates.
“. . .The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness,” (Mt 13:41)
Limiting the mustard seed to the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses make it equivalent to the kingdom of the heavens. Therefore, the application of the weeds and wheat must also be restricted to the Organization. This means that Jesus will collect out of his kingdom—the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses—all things causing stumbling and doing lawlessness.
Indeed he will, but his kingdom is the worldwide Christian congregation of which Jehovah’s Witnesses must be a part for the illustration of the Wheat and Weeds to make any sense. Therefore, the mustard seed cannot refer exclusively to Jehovah’s Witnesses. We just can’t have our cake and eat it too.
The application of this illustration makes sense if, as before, we do not limit it to the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses exclusively. Consider the point made in paragraph 9 about the work that Edwin Skinner did in India starting in 1926. The brothers studying this article will think about how the seed grew and the leaven reached 108,000 individuals in India in the past 90 years, but will likely not realize that the work of our zealous brother was only possible because there was a large segment of Christians already living in that country. With few notable exceptions, all our success in that country to date is to be found within that Christian community, currently numbering about 24 million. That Christian population has been growing steadily like a mustard seed and spreading quietly like leaven since the time of the first century. Jesus’ prophetic parables clearly have come true in that country, but only if we disregard our self-serving myopic vision of events. In fact, the ratio of Jehovah’s Witnesses to population—if we factor in only those claiming to be Christian—is similar in India to what it is in other countries like Canada or the United States.
The Traveling Merchant And The Hidden Treasure
The application of these two parables seems logical and true. It is certainly consistent with reality. Of course, with an organization-centric view of things, it stops with a person becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, for many of us, it was the realization that many of the “truths” we believed all our lives were not scriptural that initiated our search for the pearl. Realizing that the truth was out there for the discovering we set out, and upon discovering it, have sold all we possess to have it. When one considers how many of us have dedicated our lives to the goals of the organization, thinking they were God’s goals for us, one realizes the enormous investment we have in the life of a Jehovah’s Witness. It is, truly, all we possess. Now we realize that we don’t have the truth, but the truth is within our grasp. We have but to purchase it. And many have, without hesitation, ‘sold all their possessions’ (readily giving up their position, status, and at times, all associates, friends and family) to grasp hold of that single pearl—the real truth of God’s word.
It must be acknowledged that for the average Jehovah’s Witness, considering that the pearl of great value is something other than membership in the Organization is apostasy. Those who would reject any of our teachings, no matter how insignificant, are viewed as resisting the spirit of God. We have our traditions and we will not accept it if they are challenged, no matter how sound the scriptural reasoning may be. To such ones we say—taking our words from paragraph 2 of this study—‘Why do many fail to understand the meaning of what Jesus said? Some have preconceived opinions and wrong motives. They skillfully disregard the commandment of God in order to keep their tradition. They do not want to change their ways and views. Their ears may be open but their hearts are tightly shut.’
The evidence of this is that these ones repeat the conduct of the first century opposers of truth, upholders of religious orthodoxy, and supporters of the authority of the central governing body of that time. To them, Jesus said:
“However, if YOU had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice,’ YOU would not have condemned the guiltless ones.” (Mt 12:7)
As back then, today many guiltless truth seekers are condemned for daring to take a stand and purchase the pearl of great value.
[A] If we accept this statement as true, then we have to acknowledge that the growth of Mormonism, Adventistism, and Fundamentalism has been even more phenomenal. Such is the problem when one measures God’s blessing by the unscriptural standard of growth in numbers.