Community or Congregational Interests
“For the body, indeed, is not one member, but is many.”—1 Cor. 12:14, NW.
1. Why are persons desirous of living and working together in communities? Is this communism?
SOCIABILITY being one of the basic principles in human nature, man has always desired to live in social groups. Such has enabled him to enjoy fellowship and to share in joint enterprises where combined interests are undertaken for the common advancement. This has meant that each individual man has had to give up some of his time spent for individual interests to undertake joint or collective interests for the larger group with which he associates. In sacrificing some of his own freedom of action in exchange for community responsibilities, the individual receives collective benefits that lead to greater happiness than if he operated by himself. The Bible supports this principle of working together for the greater good. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. . . . and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:9, 12, AS) The greater man’s association becomes with a community the more he surrenders of his individual interests and the greater are his community interests. Carrying this to the extreme would become communism, where the community interests outweigh the individual interests almost to the latter’s exclusion.
2. What was Israel’s experience in becoming a kingdom?
2 The taking on of greater community interest proved to be the experience of the Israelites when their countrified national community during the period of the judges was changed to that of a national community organized under a human king. Before the organization of the kingdom under Saul and then David, when their theocratic community responsibilities were not very large in number, the Israelites had much time to develop “what was right in their own eyes” as to their individual interests of personal pursuits. “In those days there was no king in Israel. What was right in his own eyes was what each one was accustomed to do.” (Judg. 21:25, NW) The prophet Samuel foretold what increased interests or burdens of taxation and services to the king personally would be involved in such a kingdom government under an imperfect human king. (See 1 Samuel 8:10-18.) But in spite of Samuel’s objection the Israelites pleaded for a kingdom government. And it came to be that increased organization under imperfect kingship was their lot for a period of 510 years.
3. Explain Proverbs 29:2 as to “ruler interests” and “community interests.”
3 What is here demonstrated and proved by Israel’s long experience with kings is that “ruler interests,” good or bad, become part of the community’s interests, bringing accountability to the community for good or bad. When local or national rulers use their ruling interests for the good of the people, community merit is built up and the community prospers in reward. But when the rulers use their powers for selfishness and badness, then community fault is quickly produced, resulting in much sorrow and oppression of the people. It is written: “When the righteous are in power, the people rejoice; but when the wicked bear rule, the people groan.” (Prov. 29:2, AT) For King David’s fault in having a census taken of Israel that was against God’s will, Jehovah brought punishment of a pestilence upon the entire nation so that seventy thousand persons died. (2 Sam. 24:1, 10, 15) Later, of a king of the northern kingdom of Israel it was written: “And Omri kept doing what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah and came to do worse than all who were prior to him.” (1 Ki. 16:25, NW) For a record of a good king we read: “In his days the land had no disturbance for ten years. And Asa proceeded to do what was good and right in the eyes of Jehovah his God.” (2 Chron. 14:1, 2, NW) The reflection upon the entire community of good and bad rulership has been man’s experience from ancient times to this very present hour, regardless of the level of ruling power on which the rulers have exercised their authorities.
4. What and who are considered “communities” and “rulers” in the old-world society?
4 By a community is meant a social group of human creatures residing together in a general area and sharing a similar heritage. As to the old-world society the smallest form of the community is the family unit and from there the size rises in order to include the village, town or city, then the county, next the state or province, and finally the entire country or nation. The father would be considered the ruler of the smallest community, the family unit, and from him rising up the scale to larger communities the rulers of these respective levels are the ones who considerably affect the community’s goodness or badness. Where a member of a family commits a terrible crime, such a one brings disgrace upon the entire family and indeed upon the whole local village or town community. Where a national ruler like Hitler became bad, the entire country was punished and reproached.
5. Give examples of some of these old-world society interests. Do they bring obligations to Jehovah’s witnesses?
5 Old-world–society communities today have many different interests, some of which are as follows: providing for the general education of the children, postal service, police protection of persons and property, fire protection, building of roads, removal of sewage and refuse, promoting general health, operating of parks, preservation of natural resources, election of rulers, payment of taxes, taking general security measures (war), and many other governmental matters. Jehovah’s witnesses still in the midst of the old-world society have certain obligations to perform in connection with those communities wherein they reside. (John 17:15) For example, they are fully law-abiding to local and national rules consistent with the Bible, obediently pay their taxes and publicly maintain the peace. They endeavor, however, to reduce their old-world community interests to a bare minimum. Why so?
6. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses seek to reduce their old-world community interests to a minimum?
6 Because a New World society has come on the scene, of which Jehovah’s witnesses are the members. They heed Jesus’ counsel to “pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things [governmental requirements] to Caesar, but God’s things [divine requirements] to God.” (Matt. 22:21, NW) God’s things are based on his divine interests, which we acknowledge as being of supreme importance and higher than those of the local communities. From our study of the sacred Scriptures and from physical facts we see that the divine interests indicate the forming of such a New World society made up of Christian congregations. For this reason we are more concerned with congregational interests. These we shall now proceed to examine in some detail.
CONGREGATIONS OF NEW WORLD SOCIETY
7. Describe the greater community of Jehovah’s witnesses today.
7 Up to the beginning of the year 1956 there were 16,044 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses established in 160 different lands. All together these thousands of congregations are brought into one worldwide community known as the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. The central governing body is located in Brooklyn, New York, where the legal corporation known as the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania is used to direct the global interests. From the headquarters the administration is directed through seventy-eight branch offices, which in turn supervise the individual congregations in their assigned territory.
8. How does Paul describe the local congregation? What kind of government do these congregations have today, and how does Isaiah 60:17 apply thereto?
8 Each individual congregation forms a local community of Christian ministerial associates residing in the local area and having the same Christian training and background. Today as in Paul’s time each congregation is made up of many individual members but working together as one entire body, each member making a highly necessary contribution to the organizational whole. (1 Cor. 12:14-25, NW) These congregations are organized according to the same pattern as the congregations of Christians in the first century. They have a theocratic form of government where all the local servants are appointed for their good qualifications by the governing body of the New World society through the branch office. None of these servants (corresponding to rulers) are democratically elected to office. When appointed, they serve in their respective positions until others are assigned to take on the responsibilities. In fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “I will also make thy officers peace,” the general leadership has been one of goodness, which has built up merit for the congregations and brought the reward of Jehovah’s blessing. (Isa. 60:17, AS) The few servants who turn to a course of badness are quickly removed to prevent bringing in congregational contamination. However, when some of the congregation have followed the bad leader then those of the congregations have been disfellowshiped too by the New World society to avoid the spreading of community fault, or to keep the leaven of badness from affecting other congregational groups. The congregation must be kept clean, the servants and their associates. Now, then, what are some of the various congregational interests today and are they the same as those of the Christian congregations in the days of the apostles?
9. Describe a chief interest of a congregation today.
9 A chief interest of these congregations is to assemble for joint worship of the living God Jehovah through Jesus Christ. Those assembling have been called out by Jehovah into a knowledge of the truth and to recognize Jesus Christ as their savior and King. Not any one can become an associate of these congregations. Rather only those who are morally and spiritually clean and who have dedicated themselves as Jehovah’s witnesses. This is in harmony with Jesus’ words: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, . . . It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah.’ Everyone that has heard the Father’s teaching and has learned comes to me.” (John 6:44, 45, NW) Each week meetings are held where congregational prayers are offered and songs of praise to the living God are sung. (Acts 4:24) Sectional, regional, national and international assemblies are periodically held in worship of the true God in spirit and in truth.
10-12. Describe additional congregational interests.
10 Another interest of the congregation is to take in life-giving knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. (John 17:3, NW) At their weekly meetings the congregations make a study of the Scriptures and of the Bible study publications prepared by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania. A uniform spiritual feeding program is maintained to keep all the congregations advancing together world-wide in the course of Christian maturity. Their unitedly feeding together on God’s Word, the Bible, enables Jehovah’s holy spirit to serve as an organizational force to stimulate the minds of all present. For individual Christians to receive the guidance of God’s holy spirit they must come together congregationally under community interests.—Matt. 18:20; John 14:26, NW.
11 Additionally it is the purpose of each congregation to conduct a theocratic ministry school for the training of all its associates to improve their ministry, or, as Paul said, “with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work.” (Eph. 4:12, NW) The local congregations have also the outstanding interest of carrying out their commission to preach the good news of the established Kingdom. (Matt. 24:14) To accomplish this interest the congregation is organized for field-preaching service, having received an appointed territory in which to preach to the public from house to house. The preaching work is done in an orderly and systematic way. All local associates co-operate toward carrying out this preaching service as a united congregation.
12 The local congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses is an object of attention and a spectacle to those on the outside. For this reason they have as their interest to “let your light shine before mankind, that they may see your right works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matt. 5:16, NW) In this respect they fulfill Peter’s words: “That you should declare abroad the excellencies of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9, NW) It is in connection with this congregational interest that they delight to proclaim the greatness and excellencies of Jehovah’s name. For this reason the congregation has a jealous interest to keep itself morally and spiritually clean beyond reproach to bear the name of the living God Jehovah properly.
13. What bad actions are against the congregation’s interest to keep clean, and why? What Biblical examples are recalled?
13 The congregations cannot take on any of the defiling interests, immoral practices or pagan customs of the old-world society. These are utterly rejected as unclean. Any who are guilty of misconduct as to sex relations, loose conduct in general, drunkenness, thievery, lying and defrauding are summarily cut off from the congregation by disfellowshiping to avoid community contamination. (Jude 4-10) No true Christian may have sex relations with any other than his marriage mate. Any other sex relations with the opposite sex naturally or with those of the same sex unnaturally are considered wicked, shocking and revolting. Such base practices are not a matter of private individual interest as some perverted ones try to claim, but since always two or more are involved in such acts these deeds are at once a violation of the congregational interests of moral cleanness, requiring immediate disfellowshiping. (Rom. 1:26, 27, NW) Jehovah’s witnesses remember the Biblical example where the tribe of Benjamin failed to cut away from their midst the sex criminals of Gibeah and thus brought community accountability or responsibility upon the entire tribe. The entire tribe was punished almost to the point of extermination, 25,000 men being put to death. (Judg. 19:1, 25, 27-30; 20:39-48) They also recall the case of the fornicator found in the Corinthian congregation, which brought divine displeasure for their failure to disfellowship until the apostle Paul urged such proper action immediately to save the entire congregation from total rejection.—1 Cor. 5:1-4.
14. When one violates the community interest how is this viewed? What should be done about it, and why?
14 When one violates the community interest or pursues a course of badness with respect to the congregational interests he commits a fault by which, if it is not properly dealt with, the whole congregation will become contaminated and accountable for God’s displeasure. The Bible illustration that a little leaven or yeast of badness will spoil the whole loaf or congregation is a true one; just as one bad apple in a basket, if not removed, will spoil all the apples in the basket. This requires the alert righteous-minded servants or rulers of the congregation to be quick to preserve the cleanness of the congregation. Following are some more Biblical examples of where bad individuals brought congregational responsibility or accountability threatening punishment upon the entire group when the guilty ones were not removed at once.—See Leviticus 20:1-5; Numbers 16:19-35; Deuteronomy 21:1-9; Joshua 7:1, 11-26.
BUILDING UP MERIT
15, 16. (a) When one upholds the congregational interests, what happens? (b) Give Biblical examples of merit established.
15 On the other hand, where faithful members of the congregation uphold and advance the congregational interests in the course of goodness, then these are contributing toward the congregational merit that brings rewards of blessings, prosperity, expansion and happiness to all associated. Consider some interesting examples of congregational merit contributed by those who pursued a way of theocratic goodness. Isaiah prophesied that the righteousness of the faithful Jewish remnant established sufficient merit to warrant Jehovah’s restoring Israel to the land of Judah for theocratic worship in 537 B.C. and not permitting Judah to lay destroyed forever like Sodom and Gomorrah. (Isa. 1:9; 10:22) Demonstrating the possibility of a meritorious righteous servant’s saving an entire city Jeremiah records: “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh truth; and I will pardon her.” (Jer. 5:1, AS) A similar illustration is recorded at Ezekiel 22:30.
16 In the Greek Scriptures we have further discussions of community merit being established by servants of Jehovah. The righteousness of the apostle Paul produced sufficient merit for God to save the 276 passengers who were aboard the same ship Paul was on during his shipwreck experience. “Have no fear, Paul. You must stand before Caesar and, look! God has saved all your fellow voyagers for your sake.” (Acts 27:24, 37, NW) Concerning the last days where we now are Jesus said: “Unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones [the merit of the anointed remnant of Jehovah’s witnesses who repented for their shortcomings in 1919] those days will be cut short.”—Matt. 24:22, NW.
17, 18. (a) How should ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses work together, and why? (b) What responsibilities have the servants as to congregational interests?
17 This study of congregational interests shows that it behooves all the associates of Jehovah’s witnesses to follow a course that contributes goodness toward one’s local congregation. When one becomes a member of the local congregation by association, he obtains delegated rights and duties as a minister of Jehovah. Therefore, you who are such faithful ministers, seek the local congregation’s advancement, share in its preaching campaign, enlarge its reputation as being the local official representative of God’s holy organization, keep the organization clean, live up to the exalted name of Jehovah that rests upon his witnesses and walk orderly as an example to all the new ones being brought into the local congregation. The congregation being united in love, Paul fittingly describes the organizational bearing of opposition and sharing of joys when he writes: “If one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it; or if a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it.”—1 Cor. 12:26, NW.
18 As a congregational minister of Jehovah, be determined individually never to contribute any badness to the congregation’s theocratic record by any faulty course on your part. When one enters fellowship of a congregation of God’s people he must answer for any failures to bear wisely any congregational interests. The congregation through its leaders or servants has the duty to reprimand any who step out of line from sharing the common interests in the right way. Otherwise, if no reproofs were made, the entire congregation would become contaminated by your evil. The servants themselves must be righteous and discharge their duty to safeguard the congregational interests with justice and mercy.
19. What can be demonstrated to newly interested ones, and how?
19 By your consistent course of right doing demonstrate to the new ones how it is advisable to lower their degree of individual self-interests that they may have time to embrace the highly desirable congregational interests. Show how necessary it is to balance our own individual interests properly with the divine interests that must be brought into the picture as well as the congregational interests. Show them why it is that, when there is a disfellowshiping, it is for the congregational good and for maintaining its record of cleanness with Jehovah God. Reason with them that it is the Biblical principle found at Deuteronomy 19:13 (NW) that is followed: “Your eye should not feel sorry for him, and you must clear away the guilt of innocent blood out of Israel, that you may have good.” All evildoers must be ejected from the congregation as advised by Paul: “You hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”—1 Cor. 5:5, NW.
20. How is Jehovah dealing with people on earth today and in the future? What adjustments should be made in harmony with Matthew 11:29, 30?
20 Regardless of how upright and wholesome one may be in pursuing a full program of private individual interests he will not make the new world of righteousness. Jehovah God is not dealing with individuals as such. He has provided an organization on earth that is being trained to accept increased congregational interests. As the divine Kingdom government of heaven increases its influence on earth, more and more community interests will come to the New World society until after Armageddon all community interests on earth will come into its hands. (Isa. 9:7) As in the days of Noah and in the days of Moses, God is dealing with a congregational society of people. It is as a vast unified flock of sheeplike ones that we are being led by the Right Shepherd Christ Jesus. We hear his voice, accept his kingly leadership and come into his foldlike organization. (Ezek. 37:24) So adjust your business and personal affairs, reduce your unnecessary individual interests, take on a balanced program of divine and congregational interests that will lead you on the way of life. Become yoked in harness with Christ Jesus, who lovingly said: “Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matt. 11:29, 30, NW.