It has been three weeks since we have met. My Jehovah’s Witness friend had to cancel the last two weeks, but he did let me know beforehand. I received a text message from him yesterday and we were both looking forward to getting back together again. I’ve viewed these few weeks off as a nice break. I needed it too. Our recent meetings have been exhausting.
We spent nearly an hour today talking about what it was like for him to grow up in another country. For a Jehovah’s Witness, he sure does know a lot about politics. He explained how the government worked and described what I would call “controls” over the citizens of his country. I mentioned George Orwell’s 1984 and told him a little about the book. He seemed interested, yet put off at the same time. I hope he will look it up on his own. Maybe I’ll get it for him as a CHRISTmas gift.
Once we finally got into the book, we didn’t pick up where we left off. My Witness friend wanted to revisit something we talked about last time. It was a side issue so I didn’t include it in my last blog post, but on page 31 of the “Teach” book it states, “Yes, you have the opportunity to support Jehovah’s side in answer to Satan’s challenge. You can accept Jehovah as your Ruler and help to show that Satan is a liar. (Psalm 73:28; Proverbs 27:11).”
After we read both verses, I expressed confusion with the verse in Proverbs which reads, “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, So that I can make a reply to him who taunts me.” The last time we met, my Witness friend applied this verse to God in the sense that we need to live wisely so that God has something to say in reply to Satan. I have never had a Jehovah’s Witness quote this verse to me before.
JW: We had a little discussion about Proverbs 27:11 last time, right?
KW: I think so, I think this is the one I didn’t understand.
I had forgotten all about it so I had to look the verse up again.
KW: Yes, that is the one.
JW: So what is it you didn’t understand about this?
KW: You were applying it to God and I don’t see anything in the context that gives me the impression that this is about God. This is just Solomon telling his son to be wise.
My Witness friend again explained how Satan is on one side and how Jehovah is on the other and we need to choose sides to oppose Satan. He kept calling Satan the “accuser of God” who had made false claims about God which needed to be disproven.
KW: I don’t see Satan as an accuser of God. I see him as the accuser of Christians. Revelation 12:10 says, “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.’”
I’ve always seen Satan as a prosecution attorney. God is the judge, the scene is a heavenly courtroom, Jesus is our defense attorney and Satan is accusing Christians telling God, “You can’t save that one, look what he has done! Look at this list of sins!” Ultimately yes, Satan is God’s enemy, but I see him more as my enemy than God’s.
My Witness friend made reference to Genesis three and said that Satan was questioning whether or not God has the right to withhold certain fruit from Adam and Eve and that Satan questioned God because he wanted the worship for himself. I just looked at him inquisitively. I wanted him to give me his full argument so that I could deal with it all at the same time. Once he finished, I said;
KW: I see what you are saying. I just don’t think that Proverbs 27:11 is a verse I would use to prove all of that. There isn’t anything here in the context that tells me this is God saying this.
JW: No, but this is a conversation between a father and a son. For example, let’s say your neighbor says bad things about you to your son. You would hope that your son sides with you because the accusations being brought forth are unfounded. His actions will prove whose side he is on.
KW: Yes, I understand this, but I don’t think Proverbs 27:11 is talking about God and Satan. If I can insert that idea into this text, then I can insert just about any idea into any passage and say, “Oh, this applies to God.”
In fact, some of my atheist friends will give examples of things from the Bible and try to imply that God approved of these things. For example, when Lot left Sodom and Gomorrah, his daughters got him drunk then had sex with him. My friends look at that and think that because it is in the Bible, it must be “God-sanctioned incest.” I explain that this was never sanctioned by God, it is merely a report of an event that happened. God is telling us what happened, not that he commanded it or like that it happened.
What my friends have done is take an outside idea and put it into scripture and claiming that because it is in the Bible, God is applying it to Himself or approving of it. No! There is nothing in the context that tells us that God commanded it, approved of it or anything of the sort. I am really careful of taking outside ideas and inserting them into the text because I deal with it with my friends all the time.
Obviously most of the time I deal with people doing this it is in the context of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons, but it is good to have experience with atheists as well. If I can point to another group of people who make these mistakes, then it will be easier for my Witness friend to see the problem without thinking that I am attacking his group.
Speaking of atheists, the day before my meeting with my elder friend, I had a facebook conversation with an atheist who was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. I am involved in numerous facebook groups and the majority of former Witnesses in these groups are either agnostic or atheist. The same is true of former Mormons. Many of them become atheists.
I have talked with some of my colleagues about this and we have bounced some ideas off each other in an attempt to figure out why so many of them choose this path instead of Christianity. I am still formulating my thoughts, but I gained some insight from the conversation with my facebook friend and in this conversation with my Witness elder friend.
Eventually I want to write something on it, but I am not prepared to do so yet. I will say this though. I really don’t like the Watchtower concept of God. The Watchtower has done such a horrible job of describing God to Jehovah’s Witnesses that they end up hating him once they leave or get kicked out of “his” organization.
This whole idea that man needs to choose God so that God can have an answer to Satan’s challenge of who has the right to rule is silly. It makes God look like He is in a spitting match with Satan and mankind suffers because they are in the middle of the war. I am beginning to understand how a twisted concept of who God is can lead to a hatred of the one true God. I imagine the same is true of Mormons. I’ll have to think on this more. Back to our conversation.
My Witness friend spoke again about Job and how God used him as an object lesson to prove to Satan that Job was a faithful man even if he lost everything. From there we transitioned to talking about Christians who are rich and that having money itself is not a sin. My friend then stated;
JW: I don’t believe that material prosperity is necessarily a sign of God’s blessing. I work with a man who mentioned that he has a house, a Harley Davidson an Acura with heated leather seats and then list all of these other things he has. He then ended by saying, “Yes, God has blessed me very much.” I thought, “What? Come on.” This is not how God does things.
KW: Do you think this could be true though, that God really could bless someone that way?
JW: The Bible says to work hard so that you have something to give to your neighbor. The Bible doesn’t condemn material things per se, but it is a matter of how you use it.
My friend then spoke about how he found work after moving to this country and how his salary has gradually increased over the years. He spoke about how he a chance meeting with someone brought him into the field he is in now. He rhetorically asked if it was God’s blessing or was it a matter of hard work and him being in the right place at the right time.
KW: But don’t you think that God could be behind those circumstances and moving you and other people in certain directions for your benefit?
JW: He could, but I still think that people who have less can still be blessed. I am saying that having material wealth is not an indicator of God’s blessing. Why would He bless me and not someone else who may be a better person that I am, but has less materially? I can’t say of that person that they are not blessed so that is why I cannot say this is the only indicator of God’s blessing.
KW: Right, I totally agree. It is not the only indicator, but at the same time I don’t want to discount it as one either. For the sake of argument, let’s say that God really did bless your co-worker for whatever reason. When he says that God blessed him, that is giving God glory and I would much rather err on that side and say that God blessed me than for God to bless me and not say, “God blessed me.” If I claim that it just worked out that way or that I worked hard would give me glory instead of God. So even if God doesn’t have His hand in those things, I would much rather give Him the credit.
My friend seemed to agree with me and told me about how he is raising his son to be grateful for what he has and not take things for granted. My friend’s upbringing was very different as he didn’t have the opportunities and freedoms his son now has. Even though he didn’t have what his son has, he doesn’t view his childhood as less than blessed. I agreed.
At one point in the conversation my friend excused himself to use the restroom. While he was on his way back to the table a news story caught his attention on the TV. It was a report about the recent death of Harold Camping. I brought Camping up in conversation a month or two ago when my friend and I were talking about false prophecy. I watched my friend stand in the middle of the restaurant listening to the story. When he returned to the table I made reference to camping.
KW: Yeah, that’s the guy we were talking about before, Harold Camping. He died earlier this week. The story showed the May 21st, 2011 false prophecy. He predicted that the rapture was going to happen and then when it didn’t, he claimed that Jesus didn’t return physically, he only returned spiritually. Obviously that didn’t happen.
My Witness friend’s eyes were W-I-D-E open. He didn’t volunteer any information and I didn’t press the issue, but I know full well that the Watchtower taught the same thing. At one point in their history they fully expected the physical return of Jesus in 1914. When that didn’t happen, 1914 became a “spiritual presence.”
I did a video a couple of years comparing Harold Camping with the Watchtower. You will be surprised to note that Camping and the Watchtower used a lot of the same ideas and terminology. It is titled, “If the Watchtower is not a false prophet, then Jehovah’s Witnesses owe Harold Camping an apology.”
Once we got back into our discussion, I read the end of James 4:2 and all of verse 3, “You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” My Witness friend said something earlier in our conversation about motives and it reminded me of this verse.
KW: The way I see it, just because someone is wealthy doesn’t mean they have God’s blessing, but it doesn’t mean that He isn’t blessing them either. God could be blessing them, but sometimes the reason why Christians do not have the things they want is because they ask with the wrong motives. Think about the huge payout with the recent lottery, what was it up to, more than 600 million?
When you ask people what they would do with it, most of the answers are selfish in nature. Sadly, many Christians give the same answers as non-Christians. Perhaps that is a reason why God doesn’t bless some people. He doesn’t want to see them spend it all on their lusts.
My Witness friend brought up the fact that many people who win the lottery ruin their lives with it. “Friends” they never knew about came out of the woodwork and ask for money. Even family members feel a sense of entitlement and relationships suffer because of unfulfilled expectations. Some of those people wish they never would have won in the first place. I agreed with everything he said about that.
I then told him a lesson I learned early in my marriage. There was a family in our church that needed help packing their belongings into a moving van. The husband was a big-time CEO of Little Caesar’s Pizza and quit his job to take a position at a Christian camp in Michigan. I couldn’t believe the size of this man’s house and the amount of items which needed packing.
I made the comment that there was going to be a big adjustment for his family in the near future. I admired him for walking away from a job that obviously paid well and moving his family to do something he believed God wanted him to do, yet paid much less. His answer was one I’ll never forget. He stated that nothing was going to change because, “My faith is not in what I do, it is in Who I trust.” He has always seen God as his provider. It didn’t really matter if God provided through Little Caesar’s Pizza or a Christian camp in Michigan. His boss remains the same and will provide for his family regardless.
I wanted to tell my Witness friend that story for two reasons. One, it made such a huge impact on me that I have adopted the same attitude. God is my provider regardless of my job. Two, I wanted him to get an idea that Christians really do trust God. Not only do we trust Him with our eternal life, we trust Him with our day to day matters and provision as well. God is personal and He cares for us.
We agreed to stop our study here and then got to talking about when we could meet next. He figured that I couldn’t meet next Wednesday because it is CHRISTmas day. He then said something which completely surprised me.
JW: There is something about Christmas that I like though.
KW: What’s that?
JW: The bakery.
I laughed so hard. He meant to say “pastries,” but I knew what he was getting at. He described a pastry which is only sold during the CHRISTmas season. It is some sort of fruitcake that he really likes. I found it humorous that there is something about CHRISTmas that he enjoys and that he would volunteer that information. He was so excited to tell me about this pastry that he looked it up on his phone and told me about a local store which sells it. He even asked if I had time to go to the store with him so he could show it to me!
Yeah, right. Why would he want to show it to me? He was totally hinting that he wants a CHRISTmas gift! I’ll see if I can find some of this pastry and get it for him. He’s going to get a CHRISTmas gift whether he likes it or not.
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friend.