How Is the Kingdom Work Financed?
THE first question that comes to the mind of many strangers that walk past the ten-story, block-wide building in Brooklyn, New York, that houses the international headquarters of Jehovah’s witnesses is, “How is all this financed?” When they are told that the new twelve-story building being constructed across the street also belongs to the Watch Tower Society, as well as a cluster of multistoried factory buildings a half mile away, their question becomes more insistent: “Where do you get the money?”
Since the Watch Tower Society is not engaged in commercial business enterprises but in the philanthropic work of Bible education, it is puzzling to such persons how such big, attractive buildings could be erected and maintained by the Society. But these buildings that are used for publishing Bibles and Bible literature and for housing those who work in the printing plant are not the only financial outlay of the Society. Throughout the world it maintains eighty-five branches with a personnel of 1,236 persons to operate them. In addition to this it maintains a large number of missionary homes. The basic needs of the missionaries and other special representatives of the Society are cared for so that they may devote their complete attention to educating people of good will in the many truths of God’s Word. All this costs money.
A big financial outlay is the production of immense quantities of Bibles and Bible literature. In 1959, the Watch Tower Society produced over 734 million pieces of printed matter. It takes a lot of money to provide the materials and precision machinery needed to do so much printing. So the question as to how such an immense, philanthropic operation is financed is an inevitable one from strangers.
Some persons might think that it is done by money obtained from the Bibles and Bible literature produced by the Society, but this is not so. The small contribution received from persons that take literature does not cover the cost of operating the Society’s activities. Other persons might say the money comes from solicitations, fund-raising programs such as bingo or from tithing. But this too is a wrong conclusion.
From the time the Watch Tower Society was formed in 1884 it has never solicited money. Raffles, bingo and other fund-raising programs so commonly used by church groups have never been employed by the Watch Tower Society. What may be still more surprising to the person not well acquainted with Jehovah’s witnesses is the fact that the Society has not at any time during its seventy-six years of existence passed a collection plate. Collection plates are never seen at any meeting it sponsors.
Tithing does not answer the question either, because Jehovah’s witnesses do not look upon it as a Christian requirement. It was made a part of the Mosaic law to support the Levitical priesthood, but Christians are not under that law. Christ brought it to an end. Besides that, the Levitical priesthood no longer exists. Tithing, therefore, is not practiced by Jehovah’s witnesses.
It is written at Proverbs 3:9: “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things.” This is what persons interested in the work of the Watch Tower Society have been doing. Voluntarily they make regular free-will offerings, or contributions, to the Society to keep the work of proclaiming the name and purposes of Jehovah God continuing and expanding. They recognize this as a Scriptural obligation.
In the eighth chapter of Luke we find an example of Christian women giving material assistance to Christ and his apostles, that the Christian ministry might continue from village to village and city to city. In the third verse it states that these women were “ministering to them from their belongings.” Here is an example of voluntary giving that Jehovah’s witnesses follow today. By making free-will contributions to the Watch Tower Society they are ministering to thousands of special representatives of the Society who are spending all their time in the ministry.
The Corinthians are another example of voluntary giving. Writing to them, the apostle Paul said: “Through the proof that this ministry gives, they glorify God because you are submissive to the good news about the Christ, as you publicly declare you are, and because you are generous in your contribution to them and to all.”—2 Cor. 9:13.
It is a similar generosity on the part of Jehovah’s witnesses world-wide that makes possible the upkeep of the Society’s many branches, printing establishments, missionary homes and ministerial activities. None of the money thus contributed is used to pay officials and special representatives to work for the Society. Those persons that work full time in its branches or as special representatives in the field do so voluntarily, not for pay.
WIDOW’S SMALL OFFERING
On one occasion Jesus Christ watched people make contributions toward the upkeep of the temple in Jerusalem. He was impressed by the devotion shown by a widow who made a contribution although she had very little in material possessions. What she dropped into the sacred treasury of the temple were two small coins of very little value. When compared with what others had contributed and with the expenses for the temple’s upkeep, her contribution was infinitesimal. Jesus, however, did not consider it as of no value because of its smallness. Instead he said: “Truly I say to you that this poor widow dropped in more than all those dropping money into the treasury chests; for they all dropped in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, dropped in all of what she had, her whole living.”—Mark 12:43, 44.
The widow’s generosity was great. It revealed her love for God. The same can be said of those of Jehovah’s witnesses who are poor but who make regular contributions to the theocratic organization despite their meager income. Although their freewill offerings may be no more than a few coins of little value, their offerings are appreciated by the Watch Tower Society. The generosity of these humble people shows their devotion to Jehovah and their appreciation for the work the Society is doing.
If a person were to take the attitude that the financial burden for preaching the good news of God’s kingdom should be carried by Witnesses that have good-paying jobs, he would not be showing the commendable attitude of the widow. He would not be showing her appreciation for God’s work. He may be unable to contribute more than a coin of small value, yet his contribution is important. As small as it is, it helps with the Kingdom work. It also gives him the satisfaction that comes from expressing, in a material way, his love for God’s service.
It is the privilege of Jehovah’s witnesses and interested persons to support financially the theocratic activities in their respective lands. To an extent, they can do it locally by helping with the expenses of the congregation meeting place, or Kingdom Hall. Each Kingdom Hall has a contribution box where voluntary contributions can be made without anyone knowing how much a person contributes. No plea for money is ever made to the congregation, no perfumed coin envelopes are sent to them for contributions and no pledges are ever asked. Like the free-will contributions made by the widow and by others in Jerusalem, so the members of each congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses voluntarily drop in the contribution box at the Kingdom Hall whatever they feel able to give.
The free-will offerings made directly to a branch of the Society support the theocratic activities throughout the country or countries under its jurisdiction. Such donations help with the expense of operating the branch and missionary homes, aid special ministers in the field, make possible the holding of assemblies, finance legal cases in defense of the work and care for other expenses. The Witnesses in each country are happy to carry this financial load in addition to the upkeep of their local Kingdom Halls. They do not want to depend upon their spiritual brothers in other lands to do it for them.
Each Witness wants to share in financing the Kingdom work, no matter how small his offering may have to be. He appreciates the admonition given by the apostle Paul: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Cor. 9:7.
That the Society may plan its expenses for the year, it needs to know approximately how much Jehovah’s witnesses and interested persons plan to contribute. What they promise is not a pledge but merely an estimation of what they hope to donate during the year. Call it their contribution prospects. It is a voluntary promise such as was made by the Corinthians: “I thought it necessary to encourage the brothers to come to you in advance and to get ready in advance your bountiful gift previously promised.”—2 Cor. 9:5.
If you intend to make one or more contributions to the Watch Tower Society during the next twelve months, send a card or letter to the branch office in your country stating what you hope to contribute to that office to help the work of preaching God’s kingdom. Mark it “Contribution Prospects.” On the second page of this issue of The Watchtower is a list of the Society’s English-speaking branches. A complete list of branches is in the back of most of the Society’s books and booklets. In the United States the communication should be sent to: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Treasurer’s Office, 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn 1, N.Y. Your prompt response to this request will help the Society plan its activities.
How the facilities and work of the Watch Tower Society are financed is no mystery. Without resorting to the money-raising schemes employed by Christendom’s churches, it is able to carry on an extensive philanthropic work of Bible education because Jehovah’s witnesses and interested persons voluntarily make contributions from their valuable things.—1 Chron. 29:17.