Jehovah’s Witnesses And Commands of Men

Here is a question from a reader:

Do you think that anything the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach is beneficial or true?

Here is a short and long answer:

Yes I do. (The short version)

Okay here is the long version:

I think they do a great job of teaching morality to their followers.

They encourage husband and wives to use scriptural principles to raise their families. (The “Family” book was one of my favorites.)

They teach honesty and integrity.

Some of the finest people I’ve ever met were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Therein lies the conundrum.

We have a group of people that have extremely high morals. They are honest. They are clean. They dress well. They pay their taxes. They have a high measure of personal responsibility in themselves and in their families. They don’t break Caesar’s law.

What I just described wasn’t just the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I also described in full detail the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

As you’ll recall, they were condemned by Jesus for teaching commands of men as doctrine.

Matthew 15:1-20

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his fatherc’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

They worship me in vain;

their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”

The problem with the Pharisees besides teaching a laundry list of rules that weren’t found in the scriptures (much like the Jehovah’s Witnesses) was that they were primarily concerned; no they were obsessed with outward appearances.

Keeping up appearances is what everyone does in the Jehovah’s Witnesses too.

I’m going out on a limb here but I think that most will agree with me:

The first thing that goes through a JW’s mind when they think about doing something, whether it is right or wrong, isn’t “What will Jehovah think?” It is “What will my friends, family and the elders think?”

The problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses is that when they choose to do something it is almost always either done or not done out of compulsion. Out of a sense of obligation or a sense of duty. Rarely do you see things done spontaneously, from the heart.

It matters not what you consider! Whether it is a simple game of cards, chess, going to a college class, wearing your hair long, picking out which car to drive, taking on a job, throwing a party, or growing a beard, the fact is that what others think carries infinitely more weight than anything written in the bible.

I remember a saying that we had in the Jehovah’s Witnesses that was pretty much a “catch all”:

“When in doubt. Leave it out.”

This covered everything. If there was any question that someone in the congregation could have a problem with it, I was expected to “leave it out”.

I remember my brother-in-law was growing a beard and one of the elders approached him and made the following statement:

“If you’ve got a beard you’re either on the way into the organization or on the way out.”

I wonder what that same brother would have stated about Christ’s beard. It really hurt my brother-in-law’s feelings and made him sorry that he came to that assembly where this was stated.

This type of legislated behavior results in a “group think”. Everybody watches everyone else and judges them. This was exactly what the Pharisees did. It was wrong then and it is wrong now!

Morality, honesty and integrity are universally accepted as good by just about any religion you could possibly name.The Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have the market cornered on those concepts by any means.

The fact is that we should refrain from doing things that grieve God because of the fact that we love Him. Not because of what brother “so and so” would say or do to us.

The fact is that we should show compassion to anyone who needs it regardless of whether they are “marked” by elder “Self righteous” and his wife.

I experienced first hand the stinging result of showing kindness to someone “on the outs” with the elders and I was “talked to” about it. I was told that a man who I was studying with wasn’t allowed to play basketball with us anymore because there was a question about his character. He was of the highest character and moral fiber but they flat out told me that I couldn’t bring him to a friendly gathering of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It came out later that he had made a remark to the elder’s wife years earlier about her attitude (this man was inactive and I was studying with him) and as a result he made a permanent enemy with the elder and with his wife.

In my day there were people who were “on the list” and those who weren’t “on the list” when it came to parties or “get togethers” with the “friends”. If you made the mistake of inviting someone not “on the list” you ran the risk of angering one or more of the elders and you also ran the risk of having them and anyone they directly influenced boycotting your party.

Is this what Jesus taught us to do?

Luke 14:12-14

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Jesus ate with tax collectors, known prostitutes, and others who were most definitely not “on the list” of the Pharisees. This enraged them and caused them to criticize Jesus at every turn.

What would happen to you if you threw a party and only invited the “weak” ones of the congregation? What if you invited someone who had been disfellowshipped or “removed from the synagogue”?

You know the answer as well as I.

These are things that we all should consider. These practices limit the honest and open love to all of God’s children regardless of their condition.

This type of “group think” is nothing more than “legislated” behavior and not something I ever want to participate in. This isn’t what God wants and it isn’t real. It is politically motivated and uses “commands of men” to regulate the behavior of those in the congregation.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the Jehovah’s Witnesses then you know this is true.

That is why I don’t recognize any authority other than that of Jesus Christ. No man anywhere, can tell me what to think, what to wear, how to comb my hair, how to talk to a friend, who I can and can’t associate with and what I can and can’t say or read.

They certainly can’t tell me who I can and can’t have over to my home or invite to a party!

This is my freedom in Christ and it can be yours as well. You just need to reclaim your own power and realize that any power the Watchtower wields over you is given to them by you.

Yours in Christ,

Doug Shields