[From ws15/06 p. 24 for August 10-16]
“Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify
your hearts, you indecisive ones.” (Jas 4:8)
Since the decade following the failed expectations surrounding the year 1975, the Organization has focused almost all its attention on Christian conduct and obedience. So articles such as this one, which discusses ways for Jehovah’s Witnesses to remain chaste and stay free of sexual immorality, are commonplace.
Most of the counsel is sound, but it is up to the reader to take from it that which most applies to his or her personal circumstances. However, a word of caution is called for regarding the counsel under the subtitle “Call the Elders”.
Paragraph 15 states: “…courageously placing ourselves under the kindly scrutiny of a mature Christian may prevent us from rationalizing any wrong desires.”
While this paragraph does not specifically name elders as the “mature Christians” in question, the next paragraph opens with the words: “Christian elders are especially qualified to help us. (Read James 5:13-15)”
It then tells us to read from James, which says:
“Is there anyone suffering hardship among you? Let him carry on prayer. Is there anyone in good spirits? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is there anyone sick among you? Let him call the elders of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, applying oil to him in the name of Jehovah. 15 And the prayer of faith will make the sick one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (Jas 5:13-15)
If you, as a Jehovah’s Witness, are reading these 2 paragraphs and do not think deeply on what the verses in James actually say, what would you conclude you should do if you are having trouble dealing with wrong sexual desires?
Would you not conclude that you should put yourself under the “kindly scrutiny” of an elder?
What exactly does scrutiny entail? Dictionary.com gives the following:
- a searching examination or investigation; minute inquiry.
- surveillance; close and continuous watching or guarding.
- a close and searching look.
Is there anything in the book of James – indeed is there anything in all of the Christian Scriptures – that instructs us to subject ourselves to the investigation, minute inquiry, surveillance, or close and continuous watching and guarding of another Christian?
The above reference to James is often used to support the idea that we should confess all major sins to the elders. Indeed, it is pretty much the only Scripture employed for this purpose because it’s the only one that can be twisted to support this erroneous interpretation. The Catholics have used it for this purpose since they instituted the confessional, and likely even before that. Many modern Christian sects and denominations, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, use it for the same reason.
However, even a cursory reading reveals that James was not directing us to confess our sins to men. God grants forgiveness, and men should not be in the equation. In fact, the forgiveness of sins is incidental and comes as a consequence of the prayer of the righteous man to heal the sick, not the sinner. The forgiveness of sins comes as an incidental result to that prayer of healing.
The idea that we need to tell elders the intimate details of any sins we commit is a creation of the religious leaders; a controlling mechanism employed by the Catholic church and the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses—amongst others. It is all about the domination of men over their fellows. It actually distances us from our forgiving heavenly father.
Think of it this way: if you have committed some sin or wrong toward your earthly father, would you go to your older brother and confess it? Would you need your older brother to judge you and determine your worthiness before your father? How ridiculous that must sound! And yet, that is what we practice in religion after religion claiming to be Christian.
There is another warning to keep in mind. The elders are not appointed by Holy Spirit but by men; specifically, the circuit overseer. It is true that the local elders are supposed to recommend a brother for appointment, presumably based on the requirements laid out in the Bible at 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. But in the end, the final decision is entirely in the hands of the circuit overseer and the brothers in the remote service desk at the branch office. If one confesses to an elder because of his appointment or position, one is putting trust in the office rather than the man. So if you’re having trouble dealing with wrong desires, seek out a mature and trusted friend regardless of his official office or lack thereof. For if you confess matters to the wrong person, things may actually end up worse for you. This is a sad reality.
An Observation from the August Broadcast
Around the 8:30 minute mark of the August broadcast, Samuel Herd speaks about how to give commendation to another, using the example of a speaker who has an irritating mannerism. In showing how we can commend a speaker even in circumstances where we are annoyed by some overused phrase like, “Do you know what I mean?” he states the following:
“Of course, if you are an elder or the theocratic ministry school overseer you might bring the overused phrase to his attention, but after sincere commendation.”
By this, he is unwittingly demonstrating the class distinctions that exist in the organization. Obviously, no sister should think to offer counsel to a speaker about such a flaw in his teaching technique. Indeed not even a capable brother, a ministerial servant for example, should dare to counsel an elder.
There is precedent for such an understanding in the Bible, but it is found with the camp of the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Admittedly, not the kind of company we would wish to be identified with.
“In answer they said to him: “You were altogether born in sin, and yet are you teaching us?” And they threw him out!” (Joh 9:34)
Jesus never reflected such a haughty attitude.
When a Grecian woman reasoned with the Lord to get him to change his mind, he did not rebuke her for being presumptuous, or for forgetting her place. Instead, he recognized her faith and blessed her for it.
“The woman was a Grecian, a Sy·ro·phoe·niʹcian nationally; and she kept asking him to expel the demon from her daughter. 27 But he began by saying to her: “First let the children be satisfied, for it is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to the little dogs.” 28 In reply, however, she said to him: “Yes, sir, and yet the little dogs underneath the table eat of the crumbs of the little children.” 29 At that he said to her: “Because of saying this, go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”” (Mr 7:26-29)
There are many fine elders to be sure. There are even more with whom one should never trust intimate details of ones proclivities. Many are affected by the pervasive attitude in the modern organization that elevates elders above the rest of the flock. For this reason following the counsel from paragraph 16 of this week’s study without carefully considering the character and spirituality of the man is ill-advised.