QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
On June 29, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Question: Is stepping down from a spiritual privilege in the Congregation an act that is contrary to God's will? The [Watchtower] Study article "Be of Good Courage Jehovah Is Your Helper!" has been discussed in our congregation this morning. Paragraph 16 covers a sister whose husband gave up serving as an elder because she had leave home to travel abroad for their family. The sister said: "So I really hope that Jehovah will bless this move." What now follows is an interesting (to some, disturbing) comment from said paragraph:
“Jehovah always blesses decisions based on faith in him, but how can he bless a decision that is contrary to his will, especially when it involves needlessly giving up sacred privileges?”
While reaching for or desiring a privilege (e.g. overseer/elder) is a noble task (1 Tim. 3:1), where in the bible do we see a verse that stepping down from a privilege or position is automatically contrary or not according to God’s will? The [Watchtower] supplied Hebrews 11:6 and 1 John 5:13-15 but none of these verses would even indicate a hint that resigning from a privilege is contrary to God’s will, much less a detestable thing that deserves unfavorable judgment from the Father.
Isn't it only God knows what is in the heart of a man (Luke 16:14)? He rightfully knows if the decision will do good for a man and his family or not. Not being an overseer or elder makes any Christian less or automatically diminishes his standing before God. He would never forget our fine works. Heb. 6:10 states: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints.” I think the WT should not impose subtly human organization precepts or understanding as though they are coming from the Father.
I have raised this question here since we have heard reports of brothers occupying sensitive privileges (e.g. District Overseers, Circuit Overseers and Elders) who have resigned or given them up after some awakening experience or after learning the real truth to shine over and above what the Society has taught them for years. Looking forward to your kind comments.”
To the author, thank you for your email. However, the brothers who have elected to step down from their positions of oversight, and those who are considering doing so, based on the plain and open teachings of Jesus are not misled by statements such as those you refer to.
They know that serving in positions of oversight in a congregation is not a ‘sacred privilege,’ but rather an administrative privilege. This is more true in the Kingdom Halls than anywhere else because, with only a few exceptions, modern day Elders and Servants have not heeded the call to sonship, and are therefore not members of the body of Christ and thus are not in the true Christian congregation.
Further, these brothers know that stepping down so as to avoid teaching untruths or taking the lead in the ministry of “another sort of good news” is in full harmony with God’s will.
As Paul wrote to Timothy:
“Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”
– 2 Timothy 2:15
These brothers are doing their utmost to please God by removing themselves from the shame of preaching a false hope. They desire to ‘handle the word of truth aright’ by preaching the things Jesus taught, not the ‘commands of men.’ And, as you well know, remaining under the oversight of the Governing Body precludes them from doing so.
Perhaps one might want to look at the Watchtower statement in a different light. For example, the brothers who are stepping down based on the plain and open teachings have made those decisions based on faith in God and Christ Jesus. Therefore, they can surely expect the Father’s blessing.
On June 1, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“In Question and Response 5/26/14, you wrote: "For these reasons, we believe it is error to require the free sons of God to strictly adhere to antiquated outmoded mores such as the repression and suppression of women in the congregation setting as suggested by Paul." From this, I concluded that one should not pay attention to some of Paul's writings because we no longer live in his time, and therefore, these tips are excessive. Would you say that the Sisters in congregations have the same status as men to be elders, servants, etc.?
You also wrote: "And we respect the ministry of anyone who attempts to follow Jesus' plain teachings and example, both Bible writers and those whose writings are not included in the Bible canon." Without interpreting this sentence, I concluded that anyone can follow even the apocryphal writings which are not included in the canon of the Bible today. What do you base this reasoning on? God waited 2,000 years for us to be able to read and follow the earlier writings, so on what basis would this permission be given? ”
To the author, as always, thank you for your email. We are not saying that one should not pay attention to Paul’s teachings. We are saying that we should put them into perspective, as Paul himself does. He wrote a few times that what he was writing was his own opinion, not the opinion of the Lord. We must likewise learn to distinguish the difference between his opinion, or the opinions of others, and the words of the Lord. We do not believe Paul ever thought that he was writing the ‘word of God’ that would be canonized and put on display for all eternity. He was writing to his friends. He knew Jesus was the word of God and he was only seeking to encourage and organize. Paul was trying to develop fellowships of believers and establish congregations. In so doing, he no doubt pulled from his own Jewish experiences.
According to Jesus, women have equal standing before God, so if a religious fellowship offers women equal position as overseers in a congregation, we do not think that would be wrong or offensive to Jesus or the Father, although our personal opinion is that the best position of oversight would be one held jointly by husband and wife.
The fact is that most modern day Christian religions do not strictly adhere to Paul’s counsel. Paul said women should not speak in the congregation, yet among Jehovah’s Witnesses, women comment more than men at meetings, women give talks on the platform, women take the lead in the ministry, and it is said that many of the talks given by husbands are written, reviewed and edited by their wives. Common sense has taught them that Paul’s counsel must be acclimated to modern day circumstances. This is not error, nor it is disrespecting the counsel of Paul. It is using our perceptive powers to work what is good and workable under the circumstances. We provide more details on this matter in the article The Spiritual Equality of Women, Part II. Take another look at it.
As to your second point, we do not suggest that one should follow the apocryphal writings. What we said is that we respect any writing that supports the plain and open teachings of Jesus. If certain apocryphal writings do, then we have no problem with them. Remember, the Watchtower publications are also extra-Biblical (not part of the authorized Bible canon), yet Jehovah’s Witnesses have no problem reading them. Raymond Franz’ writings are not a part of the Bible canon, yet many ex-Witness read it intently. And the writings of many websites, including this one, are not a part of the canonized Bible, yet common sense tells the readers that it is okay to read this information when it is in harmony with the plain and open teachings of Jesus. But, let us not forget that the some of the writers of the apocryphal were contemporaries with Jesus and the apostles. Thus, their writings should not be dismissed if they are in harmony with the plain and open teachings of Jesus. Of course, all of this requires that we use our thinking abilities, our perceptive powers. Jesus does not want us to run from knowledge, he expects us to be mature enough to throw back the “unsuitable fish.” (Matthew 13:47) So with all of these writings, the key is in the content. Are they supporting the plain and open teachings of Jesus? When they do, we have no problem with them.
Of course, others may not agree with our view and choose instead to limit their own spiritual reading to the Bible and to restrict their own behavior according to Paul’s opinions. As free sons of God, they can choose how much of their freedom to exercise. But they must recognize and respect the freedom of others who may be a bit more progressive in their thinking, a bit more free in their spiritual understanding, and courageous enough to live as free as Jesus did. We are of that sort, and we have no intention of changing.