How Jehovah Prospers His Work
IN RECENT decades Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced phenomenal growth. In just the last ten years, they have expanded from 42,600 congregations to a total of 60,192 in 212 lands. In view of this, some have asked: How is the work of the Witnesses financed? The Watch Tower Society is pleased to answer this and related questions in this article.
Do Jehovah’s Witnesses practice tithing?
No. In ancient Israel, tithing was commanded under the Mosaic Law in order to support God’s temple workers, the Levites and the priests. (Numbers 18:21, 24-29) These had no tribal lands other than certain cities, so they needed this special support. In addition, faithful Israelites were free to give voluntary contributions for special projects, such as the construction of the tabernacle and, later, the temple.—Exodus 25:1-8; 1 Chronicles 29:3-7.
However, when Jesus died, the Bible says that “he abolished the . . . Law of commandments consisting in decrees.” (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:13, 14) In other words, in God’s eyes the Law was no longer binding on either Jews or Christians. Hence, along with other features of the Law, such as regular sacrifices at the temple, tithing was no longer required of the faithful.
Among Christians, giving is motivated by love, not law. The apostle Paul explained the principle when organizing a collection for needy Christians in Judea. He said: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) This Scriptural method of voluntary giving is practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do you resort to fund-raising dinners, collection envelopes, canvassing for funds, and similar ways of raising money?
No, true Christians do not have to be coerced or bribed into giving by having prizes dangled in front of them. Religious groups that resort to bingo, bazaars, raffles, carnivals, the renting of pews, or the passing of collection plates reveal that they have not given their people spiritual food, and so God’s spirit does not move their parishioners freely to contribute funds. The same could be said of those who resort to the outdated practice of tithing.—Matthew 10:8.
How do you finance projects such as the construction of new Kingdom Halls and branch offices, as well as your expansion at the world headquarters in Brooklyn and at Patterson, New York?
Jehovah pours out his holy spirit upon his Witnesses, enabling them “to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:18, 19) This spirit motivates Jehovah’s Witnesses to support the Kingdom work in every way.
In 1989, for example, 3,787,188 Witnesses in 212 lands spent 835,426,538 hours in teaching God’s Word to others. And they conducted 3,419,745 regular home Bible studies with interested persons. Any expenses incurred in this work were borne by the individuals doing it. Jehovah rewarded this labor of love with an increase of 263,855 newly baptized Witnesses.
A similar spirit of giving motivates Witnesses and interested persons to support the work in a financial way. Apart from helping defray the regular costs of their local congregation, they support any construction work that may become necessary, such as renovating or enlarging their Kingdom Hall or Assembly Hall or building a new one. Each year, because of rapid growth, a large number of Kingdom Halls have to be built, some even costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. The expense of these is borne by the local Witnesses through their voluntary contributions and labor.
Further, in many lands branch printing and office facilities as well as residence buildings have had to be extended—or new ones built—to accommodate the increased staff and facilities demanded by the growing organization. This too is supported by voluntary donations and labor, as are the building and renovation projects in Brooklyn and in Patterson, New York. Where possible, local Witnesses finance the construction. In some cases, the Watch Tower Society arranges for branches to receive help—both financial and in the form of skilled labor—from other lands. Thus, under the direction of the Society, “an equalizing” takes place.—2 Corinthians 8:14.
Why do you not operate hospitals or clinics and engage in relief work and other social services as many religious groups do?
Jehovah’s Witnesses quickly respond to emergencies in the aftermath of war or natural disaster when they can. In fact, usually they are among the first on the scene with food, clothing, and volunteers to help with rebuilding. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not operate hospitals or clinics, any more than they run fire departments or police forces, which are also for the preservation of life.
They are dedicated ministers of the gospel, and their assignment is to preach and teach the good news of God’s Kingdom in all the world for a witness before the end comes. (Matthew 24:14) As Jesus said, the harvest is great and the workers are few. It would be unforgivable to neglect this all-important work in order to take up other activities, however praiseworthy.—Matthew 9:37, 38.
As it happens, a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses are doctors, nurses, and hospital aides. But they view this work as additional to their primary vocation, the Christian ministry.
Do any of the Watch Tower Society’s officers or members make money from your extensive printing activities?
Emphatically, no! By law, the Society is a nonprofit corporation. There are no stockholders, no dividends, not even salaries. Each minister at headquarters, including the Society’s president and directors, has taken a legal vow of poverty. He receives food, shelter, and necessary medical care, as well as a small reimbursement of money for out-of-pocket expenses. If a Witness travels on Society business, his travel expenses are usually covered.
In addition, nowhere in the world do our ministers charge for performing weddings, baptisms, or funerals. And there are no admission charges or collections at public lectures or conventions.
Since collection plates are never passed, how do the local congregations receive contributions to meet their expenses?
Contribution boxes are kept in the Kingdom Halls so that individuals can make voluntary donations if they wish. (2 Kings 12:9) All donations, however big or small, are appreciated. (Mark 12:42-44) Once a month, the minister caring for the congregation accounts reads a brief statement to the congregation advising them of total contributions received, expenditures, and donations made by the congregation to the Watch Tower Society to support the worldwide preaching work and other projects.
When individuals understand this arrangement, they are free to take part if they so desire, each one “as he may be prospering.” (1 Corinthians 16:2) This is the practice in each of the more than 60,000 congregations worldwide.
At Pentecost early Christians held all things in common. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses do this?
An emergency situation arose following Pentecost 33 C.E. when Jews from distant places who had recently been converted to Christianity remained in Jerusalem to take in further spiritual enlightenment. They needed temporary housing and feeding; hence, local Christians conducted a voluntary sale of property and a common sharing of the proceeds to provide for an extended period of fellowship. (Acts 2:1, 38-47; 4:32-37) No one was forced to sell or donate. (Acts 5:1-4) This holding of things in common was not communism, as some suppose. It was merely a temporary arrangement. When the Christians went back to their own homes, it ceased.
Do you teach that material giving is a means of atoning for sin?
Far from it! The Bible says: “You know that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, that you were delivered from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.”—1 Peter 1:18, 19.
Jehovah’s Witnesses put faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus for salvation. They do not make voluntary contributions expecting that this will bring them salvation. Nevertheless, they know that considerable funds are needed to spread the good news of God’s righteous new world. (2 Peter 3:13) And they feel that contributing toward this proclamation is a privilege granted by Jehovah.
When making a large contribution toward Jehovah’s temple that his son Solomon was to build, King David prayed: “Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; for everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. . . . And yet, who am I and who are my people, that we should retain power to make voluntary offerings like this? For everything is from you, and out of your own hand we have given to you.”—1 Chronicles 29:11, 14.
Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other righteously inclined people feel the same way that David felt. They are happy to have the privilege of making contributions to support the work of praising Jehovah, recognizing that everything they give to his service comes from him anyway. Jehovah blesses this spirit, and this is how he prospers his work.
[Box on page 23]
HOW SOME CONTRIBUTE TO THE KINGDOM WORK
□ GIFTS: Voluntary donations of money may be sent directly to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to the Society’s local branch office. Property such as real estate, as well as jewelry or other valuables, can also be donated. A brief letter stating that such is an outright donation should accompany these contributions.
□ CONDITIONAL-DONATION ARRANGEMENT: Money may be given to the Watch Tower Society to be held in trust, with the provision that in case of personal need, it will be returned to the donor.
□ INSURANCE: The Watch Tower Society may be named as the beneficiary of a life-insurance policy or in a retirement/pension plan. The Society should be informed of any such arrangements.
□ TRUSTS: Bank savings accounts can be placed in trust for the Society. If this is done, please inform the Society. Stocks, bonds, and property can also be donated under an arrangement to benefit the donor during his or her lifetime. This method eliminates the expense and uncertainties of probate of will, while ensuring that the Society receives the property in the event of death.
□ WILLS: Property or money may be bequeathed to the Watch Tower Society by means of a legally executed will. A copy should be sent to the Society.
For more information and advice regarding such matters, write to the Treasurer’s Office, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to the Society’s local branch office.
[Picture on page 24]
Part of the Bible educational center of Jehovah’s Witnesses under construction at Patterson, New York
[Pictures on page 25]
Jehovah prospers the building work by his people who make voluntary donations