Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What Is Our Motive

While out speaking to people about the Bible, I met a man that sincerely believed I had been misled by the teachings of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. What impressed me about this man was his mild spirit, respectful conversational style and willingness to allow me to explain. Most that I meet that feel we are deceived resort to insults, take an arrogant “I’m better than you” stance, and refuse to allow me to make any defense. They just want to tell me what a loser I am, while elevating their viewpoints.

I traded email addresses with that man because I sensed a sincere and kind disposition. In fact, he stated what I normally require of anyone that wants to talk—it must be a two-way conversation and it must be respectful. In my first email, I commended him for his wonderful personality. I mentioned that it reminded me of Paul’s counsel to Timothy in his second letter to Timothy, chapter 2, verse 24. Essentially, we need to be peaceable, even under the most disagreeable situations.

I am recounting here the points I made regarding why I believe it is untrue that we are deceived followers and expanding on that.

In order for there to be deception, there must be a motive to do so. From the viewpoint of agnostics and atheists, the motive of many (if not most) religions is financial gain. So let’s take a look at that first.

Unlike other religions, all our activities (both local and global) are supported by unsolicited voluntary donations. There is NEVER a collection basket passed at ANY of our services. If you scroll down to the “Fast Facts” section on the “About” page from the site, you will see that we are active in more than 230 “lands.” Yet whether it be a prosperous or deprived land, we freely share the good news both in the public outreach (our “ministry”) and at our meeting places. The only time in the 42 years that I've been one of Jehovah's Witnesses that I have ever heard anything about money is under two specific conditions: 1) The accounts report that is read monthly, and 2) a talk about once a year on how donations can be made and what they are used for. At one time I was the person in charge of collecting and depositing the donations, so I know firsthand how donations are managed.

Another thing that impressed me is that we do not have paid clergy. We call all male believers “brother” and female believers “sister” regardless of what responsibilities they have in the congregation. How do those that have been assigned as teachers make a living? The same way that everyone else does in the congregation—they hold down a secular job. (There are some in the congregation that I am in that are retirees drawing a pension.) But the main point is that absolutely none are paid for the services they render the congregation from congregation donations.

Finally, (with regards to financials) is the matter of the donations from the public. My personal experience is that I give away about a dozen or so magazines every month without even asking for a donation. (We are encouraged to ask for such, but I’ve never felt comfortable doing so.) In 42 years I’ve been a Witness, I think the donations from the public I've received, all of which I pass on to the congregation donation box, have amounted to less than $50.  But the literature is just one aspect. Not to be forgotten or overlooked is that we have to pay from our own funds for the gas and other incidentals in bringing this message to people. While we live in the communities we serve, those like myself that are active in the ministry 3 to 4 times a week find gas costs adding up. So nobody is in this for the money.

But money is not the only motive for religions to have a following. Some just like the “head trip” of being able to control people. Is that something the Watchtower is interested in? If you read websites written by dissenters, they would have you believe that is true. Some would have you believe supporters are nothing but mindless robots spreading the message. I’m not exactly sure what motivates such slander but it is a completely false charge. Yes, the Watchtower does publish articles that are intended to help its adherents grow in godly qualities. What religion do you know that doesn’t try to direct the flock? Jesus worked hard to teach the truth to others. The first-century Christians (the writers of the Greek scriptures or, as some call it, the “New Testament”) wrote extensively about Christian beliefs and how to live. For those that think giving guidance and counsel are bad things, I can only ask what other honorable purpose a religion could possibly have. If power and prestige were motivating factors within our faith, you’d expect to see men of prominence bill-boarding their names all over the place. Yet that is not the case. While many Bible translators and publishers of religious material have no problem in putting their names all over the materials, the writers of our publication readily give credit to God who is the source of the real message of hope.

So money and riches are not a motive. Neither is power and prestige. When people I’ve met run out of all other excuses, they usually go with, “Oh, you guys are just servants of the devil. You’re only desire is to mislead. You don’t care about anything else.” I’m usually left flabbergasted, and speechless. But even if I could respond, before I can respond, I usually get the door slammed in my face. That charge is so completely unfounded that it demonstrates they are merely mimicking something they’ve heard before. They make no attempt to substantiate the claim, they just puppet it. Jesus said “by their fruits you will recognize” who is really serving God and who is not. So what are the fruits of Jehovah’s Witnesses? We are the only global religion that lives by Jesus’ words not to engage in war. We are the only global religion that practices on a global scale giving freely of the Bible’s message to all we meet. I might be mistaken about this one, but I think we are the only religion that globally recognizes what medical science has said for years—that smoking is bad. We teach that a loyal servant of God cannot be defiling his body with this habit. We teach moderation in lifestyle, devotion to God by reading and adhering to the Bible. We teach tolerance and understanding. I could go on listing many other features, all of which are admirable qualities. No, we are not perfect individuals. We readily admit we are imperfect. But individually and collectively we comprise a fellowship that is a real joy to be a part of.
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