“Bible Teach,” Chapter 16, paragraphs 14-17 (pp. 160-161) shows the extent to which the Watchtower organization controls the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Paragraph 14 (p. 160) asks how a Christian should handle holiday greetings by people who don’t share their convictions. It answers, “Good judgment is needed to discern how to handle each situation. If a holiday greeting is casually extended, you could simply thank the well-wisher.” (Notice that it doesn’t say you should return the greeting, even though not to do so would probably seem quite rude.)
On the other hand, according to the Watchtower, if the person is someone you see or work with regularly, you should tactfully explain your views.
Paragraph 15 (pp. 160-161) draws fine lines, all with regard with what to the rest of us is simple holiday gift giving:
What if someone wants to give you a gift? Much depends on the circumstances. The giver might say: “I know that you do not celebrate the holiday. Still, I want you to have this.” You may decide that accepting the gift under those circumstances is not the same as taking part in the holiday. Of course, if the giver is not familiar with your beliefs, you could mention that you do not observe the holiday. This would help to explain why you accept a gift but do not give one on that occasion. On the other hand, it would be wise not to accept a gift if it is given with the clear intention of showing that you do not stick to your beliefs or that you would compromise for the sake of material gain.
Jehovah’s Witness children
Paragraph 17 (p. 161) discusses Jehovah’s Witness children. “What can you do,” it asks, “so that your children do not feel deprived because of not celebrating unscriptural holidays? Much depends on what you do at other times of the year. Some parents set aside times to give presents to their children.”
An accompanying photo (p. 163) shows Jehovah’s Witness parents outdoors giving happy, smiling children presents, complete with wrapping paper and bows.
Concerning this picture, ask the Witnesses several questions:
- Do you ever give your children wrapped presents like this?
- Do other Witnesses you personally know do so?
- Those gifts are wrapped like Christmas or birthday presents. Isn’t the giving of wrapped presents part of the birthday and holiday practices the Watchtower condemns as pagan?
- Why would doing the same thing but just on a different day make it acceptable?
- Isn’t that really a way of compromising with the world system?
At this juncture, I recommend that you discuss with the Witnesses the no-win situation of teachers and other non-Witnesses who deal with Witness children. They don’t want to force them to participate in activities the parents consider pagan, but neither do they want Witness children to feel ostracized by constantly being excluded when the other children are having joint activities.
Ask them how they would advise teachers, parents, or non-Witness children to handle those situations in order to let the Witness children know that they are loved, appreciated, and respected.
“True worship”—Meeting attendance and field service
Paragraph 18 (pp. 161-162) instructs you to attend “Christian meetings” which are “happy occasions for you to worship God in a way that he approves.” That means that if you become a Jehovah’s Witness, you will be expected to regularly attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall as well as Watchtower assemblies and conventions.
Paragraph 19 (p. 162) exhorts you to “take a stand for true worship” by speaking to others “about the things you have learned from studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
In other words, witness for Jehovah!
Ask the Witnesses how much of this activity is a matter of individual choice and how much is regulated through organizational expectations.
For example, all Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to turn in monthly time records to the elders documenting their “field service” witnessing and literature placement and are contacted by the elders if they fail to do so.
Meeting attendance records are also monitored by the elders.
Celebrating birthdays and holidays are commonplace for the rest of us. But for Jehovah’s Witnesses and their children, they are forbidden as paganism. The Watchtower organization even gives Witnesses directives regarding how to respond to offers of gifts by non-Witnesses in various situations.
Rather than leaving such matters to individuals’ consciences, the Watchtower requires all Jehovah’s Witnesses to think and act alike in such matters.
The Watchtower doesn’t see this as legalism.
It sees it as Jehovah’s way of keeping his organization engaged in “true worship.”
Next week we’ll move on to “Bible Teach,” Chapter 17—“Draw Close to God in Prayer.”