Picture yourself as an Israelite living a few years after King Solomon has died. You live in the northern part of the promised land and now you are part of a separate nation with King Jeroboam as your king. You want to worship Jehovah and you know that He appointed Jeroboam to be king over the 10 tribe kingdom (1 Kings 11:29-38).
King Jeroboam has set up 2 golden calves, one in Bethel and one in Dan, saying that all in his kingdom should go to Dan or Bethel to use the golden calves to worship Jehovah. This does sound strange since you know you should go outside of the borders of your nation so as to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. It bothers your conscience to use golden calves in worship, since you know what happened in Moses’ and Aaron’s time. However, you know that God has appointed Jeroboam to be king. Would you therefore reason that your only responsibility to worship Jehovah correctly would be to obey the king, since he was appointed by God? Would you think, “Since Jehovah put Jeroboam in his position, obeying him is the same as obeying God”? Would you believe that God would view you as blameless if you do wrong because you are obeying a king appointed by Him?
Many Jehovah’s Witnesses find themselves in a similar position. They are taught that God has appointed the Watchtower organization to it’s place as His official channel or mouthpiece. What is an individual JW to do if something the organization commands bothers his conscience? Is the only responsibility of an individual JW to obey the direction that the organization provides? If the organization is wrong on one or more points, will individual JWs be held responsible for sins done because of obeying an organization?
This is an important matter, in fact a life or death matter. If you ask elders or other publishers almost all will respond that if we obey “God’s organization” we can’t go wrong. If “God’s channel” is wrong about something that is between them and Jehovah, our only responsibility is to follow and obey the directives of the organization.
Is that what an Israelite living at the time of Jeroboam should have thought?
James 4:17 (NWT) – “Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him”
Will the defense of “I was just following orders” hold up when we are before God’s judgement seat? It didn’t for German soldiers after World War II when on trial for war crimes.
We will be judged as individuals on what we personally have done. 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NWT) – “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of the Christ, that each one may get his award for the things done through the body, according to the things he has practiced, whether it is good or vile.”
We must understand that we will face our judgement alone. Whether our judgement ultimately be favorable or not we will be judged and face the consequences as individuals, not as part of an organization, family or matrimony. Therefore, never do we want to excuse unloving behavior, God dishonoring practices, or harsh treatment of others as simply “following orders”.