[From ws15/11 for Jan. 18-24]

“You must love your neighbor as yourself.” – Mt 22:39.

Paragraph 7 of this week’s study opens with this sentence: “Although a husband is the head of his wife, the Bible instructs him to ‘assign her honor.’”

Would it not be more appropriate to say Because a husband is the head of his wife, the Bible instructs him to ‘assign her honor’”?  Using “although” is like saying, “in spite of the fact”, which indicates that the writer considers that being head wouldn’t normally imply assigning honor to those over whom he presides, but “although” that might be the case, the Bible says differently.

That JWs have a skewed view of headship is evident by the way many males in the organization view the female.  Elders will often view a single sister (even a married one) as someone over whom they have the authority to act as head.  This is not the Bible’s teaching.

Governing Body member Geoffrey Jackson, when questioned by the Australia Royal Commission, would not countenance the possibility of allowing women into the judicial process other than as witnesses.

Sadly, the misapplication of the headship principal, both inside and outside the Organization, has caused many woman to reject the principle stated in 1Co 11:3.

“But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.” (1Co 11:3)

Yet, before we reject out of hand a clearly stated Scriptural principle, let us first consider our head, Jesus. He said: “…I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” (Joh 8:28)

A boss tells you what to do and doesn’t have to explain himself. He acts on his own discretion. You can take it or you can quit.  However, a head as defined in Scripture does only what the Father tells him to do; he does not act on his own initiative. That is how Jesus acted and he is my head. Am I to act differently? Am I to act on my own initiative apart from the things Jesus has taught me?  Am I to come up with teachings of my own, apart from God’s?

Headship is therefore a Scriptural chain of command. The commands come from God and are relayed down the line. Therefore, as head it is not my place to command my wife. It is my place to help her obey the commands of God as I too strive to obey them.

Jesus, as the perfect head, submitted himself to the congregation for the purpose of purifying and beautifying it. He put the interests of the congregation above his own. That is what headship really means.

“Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ.” (Eph 5:21)

Opening with this, Paul shows that all congregation members are in subjection to each other.  Then specifically to husbands, he states:

“Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and gave himself up for it, 26 in order that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word,” (Eph 5:25, 26)

If we do not object to Jesus as our head, then a husband who properly imitates our Lord in his headship role will win the admiration and approval of his wife.

Now on a related matter, verse 33 used to puzzle me.

“Nevertheless, each one of you must love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Eph 5:33)

At first glance, this counsel does not appear to be even-handed.  Is the wife not also required to love her husband as she does herself?  Is the husband not also required to show deep respect for his wife?

Then I came to realize that the verse is actually telling each one the same thing.  It is telling both how to show love for the other.  But since men and women view the expression of love differently—it’s a Mars vs. Venus thing—the focus on each is different.

Men can easily become selfish in a marriage and fail to demonstrate their love regularly, both in deed and by word. (Do women ever tire of hearing a husband say, “I love you”?) Men need to think of their wives first, before themselves.

On the other hand, men perceive love differently from women. Let me give you a scenario.

The kitchen sink is leaking. The husband gets out his tools and rolls up his sleeves, all set to do the job. The wife takes one look at him, another at the sink, and utters the fateful words: “Honey, maybe we should call a plumber.”

She’s just trying to be helpful, but what he hears is ‘I don’t trust that you can fix this’. Maybe she’s right. That doesn’t matter however. A man will take this as a sign of disrespect, whether the woman meant it that way or not. It will hurt him.  (I’m speaking in generalities.  There are men who are very secure with their masculinity for whom this statement of the wife would be no problem.  However, in my humble opinion, they are a very tiny minority.)

Every time a woman shows respect for her husband, he hears “I love you.”

I realize I’ve gotten off topic.  My apologies.  However, in my defense, this Watchtower study does that as well, as we’ll see shortly when the real topic of the article is made clear. (Hint: It’s the same topic we had last week.)

Have Love for Fellow Worshippers

Paragraph 11 states [boldface added]: “Genuine love and unity identify Jehovah’s servants as the ones who practice the true religion, for Jesus said: ‘By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.’” (John 13:34, 35) This sums up what the previous two paragraphs were stipulating.

Because we have intense love for our fellow servants of Jehovah, we make up a unique worldwide organization. (Par. 9)

How thankful we are that love—“a perfect bond of union”—prevails among us regardless of our background or national origin! (Par. 10)

(Paragraph 11 also quotes 1 John 3:10, 11 to make its point. Notice however that those verses refer to the “children of God and the children of the Devil” being made evident by the love (or lack thereof) they display. No mention is made of the “friends of God”, that third group only Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in.)

This subtitle serves as a launch platform for the next subtitle that gets us off the topic of “love of neighbor” and instead is used to give us yet another booster shot of pride in the Organization and its alleged unique and blessed role.

Gathering “A Great Crowd”

Paragraph 14 through 16 are intended to reassure us that we are the chosen of God.

14 When the last days began in 1914, there were only a few thousand servants of Jehovah worldwide. Motivated by love for neighbor, and with the backing of God’s spirit, a small remnant of anointed Christians persevered in the Kingdom-preaching work. As a result, today a great crowd with an earthly hope is being gathered. Our ranks have grown to about 8,000,000 Witnesses associated with more than 115,400 congregations throughout the earth, and we continue to grow in number. For example, over 275,500 new Witnesses were baptized during the 2014 service year—an average of some 5,300 each week.

15 The scope of the preaching work is remarkable. Our Bible-based literature is now published in over 700 languages. The Watchtower is the most widely distributed magazine in the world. Over 52,000,000 copies are printed each month, and the magazine is published in 247 languages. Upwards of 200,000,000 copies of our Bible study book What Does the Bible Really Teach? have been printed in more than 250 languages.

16 The remarkable growth that we see today is the result of our faith in God and full acceptance of the Bible—Jehovah’s miraculously inspired Word. (1 Thess. 2:13) Especially outstanding is the spiritual prosperity of Jehovah’s people—despite the hatred and opposition of Satan, “the god of this system of things.”—2 Cor. 4:4.

If you are a normal, rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witness, you will come away from this study believing that only we have true brotherly love out of all the religions that profess Christianity. You will believe that our love measures up to Jesus’ words at John 13:34, 35. You will believe that because of this love, Jehovah is blessing us with rapid worldwide expansion that no other religion can match and that our preaching work is unique and unprecedented.

You will want to hold on to this belief because you have been taught that your salvation depends on staying in the Organization, as you’ve just read in paragraph 13 of this study:

13 Soon God will destroy this wicked world in the “great tribulation.”…But because of his love for his servants, Jehovah will preserve them as a group and will usher them into his new world.

Digging Deeper

For years—decades—we have accepted at face value all that The Watchtower teaches. No more. Let us examine everything stated above to see if it is accurate.

We’ll start with the premise on which we base our belief that Jehovah approves of us organizationally, e.g., our “intense and prevailing love for one another.” We based this on John 13:34, 35, but are we misapplying those verses? You will notice that when paragraph 11 refers to verse 35, it does so by quoting only this part: “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.”

How easy it is for us to gloss over this, because we know we have love for one another as we define love. Are we not nice to one another, friendly, even supportive under certain circumstances? Yet, is that the type of love Jesus meant?

No, not at all. In fact, he says elsewhere:

“…And if YOU greet YOUR brothers only, what extraordinary thing are YOU doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? 48 YOU must accordingly be perfect, as YOUR heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:47, 48)

Jesus is talking about perfect love. And how is that defined? Again returning to John 13:34, 35, let’s read the part The Watchtower failed to quote.

“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another.” (Joh 13:34)

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses love one another just as Jesus loved his disciples? Jesus died for his disciples. In fact, what is said about the Father can be said about the Son who is the exact representation of God.

“. . .But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro 5:8)

If we are to be perfect in love, then our love does not stop at the Kingdom Hall door nor at the doorstep when out in the ministry.

What is the reality in the Organization?

It is true that you will have many friends in the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses if you are “one of us”. That means, if you are active in the preaching work, regular at the meetings and never disagree with anything the elders nor the Governing Body have to say. You will be considered a friend. But it is not the “perfect love” Jesus spoke of at Mt 5:47, 48, nor the self-sacrificing love he demonstrated to the point of death. It is instead a highly conditional love.

Drop your meeting attendance, or become irregular in the ministry, or God forbid, suggest that one teaching of the Governing Body is flawed, and you’ll see this love disappear faster than a puddle in the Mojave Desert.

Nevertheless, do not believe this because I say it, nor because of the many testimonials from others on this web site and elsewhere who have experienced this firsthand. No, but instead, test it out for yourself. Join one of the Jehovah’s Witness Facebook groups or go to a web site that supports jw.org. Then raise a valid question about some teaching and see if 1Pe 3:15 is followed as paragraph 13 of this study says it should be:

When we make a defense before everyone who demands of us a reason for our hope, we do so “with a mild temper and deep respect” because we are motivated by neighbor love. (Par. 13)

Based on these words, you would expect to be given a respectful and well-reasoned argument from Scripture. What I have seen time and again is that Scriptures are rarely used, but instead the questioner is accused of having ulterior motives, of being argumentative, disruptive, and divisive. He’s accused of not respecting theocratic order and is often called a Korah. Soon the “A” word is mentioned and before you know it, you are cut out of the group or web site. It you are known to the group, you will likely be reported to the elders or the Circuit Overseer. This is how we apply 1Pe 3:15 and John 13:34, 35.

That fact is we honor 1Pe 3:15 with our lips, but our hearts are far removed from its spirit. (Mark 7:6)

Is this the kind of perfect love from the Father which Jesus told us to imitate?

Growth Means God’s Blessing

Of course, nowhere in the Bible are we told to recognize God’s blessing based on increasing numbers and growth. If anything, the opposite is true. (Mt 7:13, 14)

Yet even in this measure which we esteem so highly, we fall short.

We proudly proclaim that we number 8 million, up from only a few thousand 100 years ago, and that we have baptized 275,500 in 2014. This is taken as evidence of Jehovah’s blessing.

If so, then what of God’s blessing on the Seventh Day Adventists?  Should not the same measuring stick apply to them?

They had their start only 15 years before we did, yet now number 18 million. They have missionaries in 200 lands. And, get this, they baptized over 1 million in 2014.[i] So if numerical growth is a measure of God’s blessing, they have us beat.

There is also more to be learned by examining our boast that we baptized 275,500 in 2014.  You might think that means we grew by that number, but in fact we only grew by 169,000.[ii] Where’d the 100,000 go?  Only a fraction of that can be accounted for by death.

The most telling figure is the latest one. The world population grows at 1.1% per year, so just baptizing our young should result in a similar growth rate. We grew last year by 1.5%.  That means that subtracting the effect of population growth, we grew worldwide by only 0.4% in 2015. Yet the article claims this “remarkable growth” is because of “the backing of God’s spirit.”

We do have the most widely circulated magazines in the world. That is true. We print 52 million copies of the Watchtower every two months. The magazine has only 16 pages. So annually, we print almost 5 billion pages of the Watchtower.

The third most widely distributed magazine in the world is AARP at 22.5 million copies, also published every two months. It has 96 pages. So its annual printing amounts to 12 billion pages, almost 2 ½ times that of the Watchtower.[iii]

This should show us how meaningless, even silly, it is to base our belief that Jehovah approves of us on the quantity of printed material we produce.

Now perhaps you reason: “But we’re a religious organization. Different standards apply. We are doing God’s will and our numbers reflect God’s blessing.”

Okay, then if so, no other religious organization—because we believe all the rest are false religion—should outshine us, right?

So here we are boasting of publishing Bible-based literature in 700 languages. Wonderful! But what makes up that number?  Many times we are counting a tract or pamphlet.  Print a four-page pamphlet and we’ve added another language.

Now let’s compare:

According to the Wycliffe.org site, there are more than 1,300 distinct language translations of the Bible.  Which religious organizations did that?   Furthermore, in over 131 countries, active translation and linguistic development work is happening to bring the Bible, or portions thereof, to speakers of over 2,300 other languages.  (Sounds like someone else has the idea of Regional Translation Offices.)

Who is doing all of this? Not us!

If the number of languages in which our literature is available means God approves of us and is blessing us, would his blessing not be upon those who are not translating the words of men, but His own words, and in far more languages than we?

The Myth of Remarkable Growth

Paragraph 16 calls our growth “remarkable”.  The reality is we grew last year by 1.1% internal growth and 0.4% external, for a grand total of 1.5%.  This is called remarkable. This is called God’s “speeding up of the work”.

Additionally, this remarkable growth was accomplished “despite the hatred and opposition of Satan.” Where is the evidence for all this hatred, opposition, and persecution?

The fact is, if it were not for Africa and Latin America, our worldwide numbers would be negative. Even without factoring in population growth, they are negative in most of Europe, Canada and the United States. Yet we have nothing else to point to for “proof” of God’s blessing, so new methods are being sought to bolster the numbers; like including the aged ones by allowing them to count 15 minutes of service per month; or boosting the Bible study numbers by allowing us to count return visits as Bible studies – while still counting them as return visits, mind you.

This Watchtower study is supposed to teach us about displaying love for neighbor.  How valuable and practical that would be.  However, half our time is going to be spent on yet another promo article for the Organization.

We should not be bragging about ourselves. Building pride in the Organization will only fulfill the warning of Proverbs 16:18.

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[i] See Adventist statistics here.
[ii] All figures taken from the annual Yearbooks available on jw.org
[iii] To see the top 10 magazines based on circulation, click here.