Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Ever “Good Enough”?

goodenoughA telltale mark of any destructive cult is a continual progression of works along the path to salvation.

The adherent follows a strict set of rules and code of conduct. He or she works tirelessly to please the leadership of the organization which operates under the guise of God Himself.

Unfortunately the cult member is never granted 100% confirmation that he or she is “saved”. Whether they’ve been working for six months, a year or fifty years, there is always some question or seed of doubt placed in their minds by the leadership. There is always some new plateau of perfection to attain to.

With Scientologists they have to get to “clear” (their term for perfection) by paying through the nose for countless auditing sessions.

With Jehovah’s Witnesses, they have to maintain a level of performance inside the group while observing hundreds of written and unwritten rules regarding dress, grooming, employment, health, social status and associations as well as regular meeting attendance and spending countless hours in “field service” recruiting others for the cause and selling books and magazines for the mother organization. However the “perfection” they seek is still yet unattainable. They have to wait for Armageddon (the end of the world) to come so that they can spend the next thousand years seeking physical perfection. Even then they aren’t guaranteed their salvation. At any point during that thousand years they can “fall away” and be destroyed by Jehovah!

Bottom line? There is always more WORK to do.

Whether it is the Hare Krishnas selling flowers in the airports, the Scientologists peddling their “auditing” services at flea markets, or Jehovah’s Witnesses “placing” magazines and books with the householder, the mantra is always the same:

“Move the product, get the cash, and gain converts.”

Is this really what is required for true salvation or is it simply a requirement for advancement in your particular cult?

The answer is in Acts 16:30-31

He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

No airports. No auditing. No sitting in a lotus position for ten years. No magazine placements or time reporting or endless meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Just simple faith in Jesus Christ is all that is required for salvation.

That simplicity is deceptive in that it is difficult for us to accept such a simple act of faith as having the power to save our eternal lives. However that is exactly what it takes for salvation.

Many Jehovah’s Witnesses will wag their fingers and their tongues and recite the oft quoted “Faith without works is dead.” scripture in James. However if you read the whole chapter instead of just taking the verse out of context you will quickly find out that he was speaking of charity and taking care of those who are sick and in need physically.

Remember the last time you met for field service and the conductor said:

“Okay everyone: Instead of going door to door today, we’re going to team up and go out to mow yards for those who can’t do it. We’re going to buy groceries for the elderly in the neighborhood. We’re going to organize a car wash to raise money for a non-JW who has just been diagnosed with cancer. We’re also going to pass the hat around and make a contribution to help the children in Africa get an education.

Have any of these things been so much as mentioned in the Kingdom Hall? Nope. Will they? Probably not. The leadership is primarily interested in moving product, getting the cash, and gaining converts. Anything other than these three prime objectives is secondary or irrelevant. Oh they’ll give lip service to charity when it serves them. They’ll even arrange for the media to cover their (your) work in cleanup after Katrina for example. However that isn’t what they are about and if you are honest with yourself you’ll know this to be true.

What of taking care of the sick, the elderly and the poor? These are works that meet the need at its source. This is what Christ did. When He was approached by the blind, the sick and the crippled he didn’t tell them to go and get baptized first or to even profess their faith in Christ. All Jesus did was meet the need without any strings or expectations.

That is what all Christians should strive to do. When we see someone who is without food we should provide them with food. When we see them naked we should provide them with clothing. You see these are the real works that James 2:17-20 was referring to!

The works of a Christian are a natural outgrowth of being a Christian just as a peach tree will produce peaches! If someone is a Christian it is quite obvious by the way that they live their lives and the good that they do for others. The Holy Spirit leads us to do good in our lives and in our charity for others. Christians do these things out of a joyful heart and not under compulsion.

2 Corinthians 9:7

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Our works as Christians can take an almost unlimited number of forms specific to the Christian! Yet when one joins a destructive cult they are immediately given a set of very narrow, specific and measurable works to perform in order to “please God”. Accurate reporting of such works to the leadership is almost always required.

I find it interesting that Jesus spoke of this very thing in a scripture which the Jehovah’s Witnesses often misquote without realizing its true meaning:

Matthew 24: 21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Why were these folks condemned by Christ? In their day of judgment before Jesus Christ, instead of bowing to him and confessing their own unworthiness they immediately began justifying themselves by reciting all of the works that they had performed in His name. Yet Christ gave that no value whatsoever.

Why?

Because they put their faith in their WORKS instead of in CHRIST!

This was the very same snare that the Jewish religious leaders had fallen into and this was why Jesus condemned that religious system of things in its entirety.

Paul was quite specific when writing about what we are to do as Christians:

Romans 12:6-8

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

The scripture above shows that the works that we Christians should engage in are specific to our own gifts that God has given us and not dependent upon some mandated robotic theocratic assembly line where “one size fits all”!

Our problem is that most of us prefer to abdicate our responsibility to know what the bible says. Oh we give it a lick and a promise but the fact is that very few of us read it with a view toward understanding it ourselves. Instead we prefer to give our God given birthright to men who claim a special knowledge or communion with Him! They then set about exploiting our need to follow and to be told what to do. They then enslave us and profit from our own gullibility and weakness. Our logical, left brains, and “employee mindsets” make us think that we have to work for our salvation.

We look at the simple act of having faith in Jesus Christ as missing something.

It is simply too simple!

Why is this? It is because the entire world works in that manner. We work eight hours a day for a boss and we get a paycheck. We give a gift and the receiver feels compelled to give us one back. We get caught speeding and we get a fine. We break a law and we get punished.

Have you ever seen someone give a friend a bit of cash for something like “gas money” and they end up fighting about the cash? The receiver doesn’t want it and gives it back and the giver gets upset because their friend won’t take it! This is a prime example of how we humans are wired with regard to giving and receiving.

Our entire social concept is built upon an equalization. We don’t want anything if we haven’t earned it.

Yet Jesus was very specific when He talked about giving!

Luke 14:12-13

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.”

What Jesus was doing here was teaching His host (and us) that God gives without expecting anything in return and that is how we should live our lives as well. This is as close to being like God as we shall ever get. This concept of giving without expectation and receiving without earning is so foreign to us that it is exceedingly difficult for most humans to grasp.

King Solomon spoke of this very thing in Proverbs:

Proverbs 14:12

There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward. -NWT

Now I may be reading into this a bit but this scripture hits the works / reward concept right between the eyes!

I think this is why Christ said the following:

Matthew 18:1-4

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Christ’s disciples were bickering constantly about who was “better”. They were caught up with status, ego, and all the things that the world views as being important! A child, on the other hand, has no ulterior motive and their ego hasn’t developed yet. They place no import on money or status or what is “due them”. They love unconditionally without expecting anything in return. They also can receive a gift joyfully without feeling obligated to pay it back!

That is how God wants us to be!

Christ died for our sins (all of them!) and the only thing we have to do is to BELIEVE IT!

We can’t earn it.

We can’t ever be good enough to deserve it.

We can’t work hard enough for a hundred lifetimes to be worthy of it.

We can only accept it as the free gift that it is.

Romans 4:4-5

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Paul’s words above make it quite plain that when it comes to salvation, works don’t work.

Yours in Christ,

Doug Shields is an activist against religious oppression, control and manipulation. He has many years of experience dealing with this issue because he was an active Jehovah’s Witness himself for over twenty-three years.