As any JW male can attest to, there exists a pressure to “climb the theocratic ladder”. At first a JW brother is given small responsibilities like carrying mics. If he is responsible he is given bigger responsibilities until he is appointed as a ministerial servant and then an elder. Then as an elder he is encouraged to accept greater responsibility on the circuit and district level in the various depts. Also those elders who give parts on the assembly programs are looked up to.
The higher one climbs this “theocratic ladder” the more spiritual one is considered to be. This training often leads one to crave the attention or to desire prominence. Although the organization does speak against the desire for prominence, only when one goes against a procedural guideline of the Society is it considered to be a “desire for prominence” or a “lack of humility”. I have known traveling overseers who in my opinion showed a remarkable lack of humility along with a desire for prominence but nothing was said because they followed the Society’s procedures to the letter.
A desire for prominence was a problem for the apostles as well. Mark 9:33,34 – “Then they came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest.”
Notice Jesus’ correction. Mark 9:35-37 ” Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.”
This counsel goes against our human desire for recognition. I served as an elder for 13 yrs. and I can say that I felt a sense of pride when others looked up to me and came to me to ask my opinion. This pride makes it difficult to willingly accept to be lowered in the eyes of others in the congregation. To intentionally diminish oneself goes against our imperfect nature and hurts our ego, but it is exactly what we need to do.
When a JW elder or MS because of conscience decides to renounce his position in the congregation, he is not viewed with admiration because of taking a stand for what he feels is right. In reality it is the complete opposite. Those in the know view him as rebellious and prideful. Those who don’t know the reason for his stepping down view him as spiritually weak. The brothers at the Kingdom Hall no longer view him the same way. If this ex-elder later fades these viewpoints only intensify.
It has been hard for me personally to have the bros. and sisters think of me as spiritually weak, and as someone who doesn’t have a close relationship with God. I realize when my fade is complete I will have sunk to zero in their estimation. How true what Paul and Barnabas told the brothers in Acts 14:22 – “…”It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
Philippians 1:29 – “For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him,”
Our Lord suffered many humiliations (Isaiah 53:4,5). If one of our faults is that we like to be thought of as wise, strong, or someone significant whose viewpoint is always respected , we do well to remember 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
Utter self-renunciation is a difficult thing to accomplish. Having no regard for our own reputation or standing among the people we have known all or most of our life similarly goes against our nature.
Paul was highly esteemed as a zealous Pharisee. No doubt he was thought of as having a bright future. However, because of knowing Christ he regarded his former reputation and standing as “filth” (Philippians 3:8).
If we are a servant of God, follower of Jesus, and lover of truth no price will be too high to pay. We will be like the merchant who found a priceless pearl and “went and sold everything he had, and bought it” (Matt. 13:46). I am determined not to let concern for my reputation lead me to do anything that will cause me to act out of harmony with my bible trained conscience.