Editor’s note: The following article was written by Brother Spike. Some small editorial adjustments were made by Brother Andrew and myself. Spike and I have shared some discussions recently, where the topic of what Sacred Service is was brought up. It is certainly an appropriate discussion for all of us as strugglers on the Christian walk, whether we are active or inactive Witnesses or former Witnesses. Please enjoy the following article. — JJ
I felt moved to write something about this subject for different reasons. First of all this is an extremely important subject where Christians are concerned. Also, there seems to be conflicting ideas about what sacred service actually is. Any misinformation about sacred service or misunderstandings, could seriously affect our standing with our Creator. I feel it is important to let God’s word be the final authority as to the definition of Sacred Service. Let me explain what has prompted me to spend two weeks in meditation and study on this matter, as well as some sleepless nights.
As you are all well aware, Jehovah’s Witnesses place a great amount of emphasis on the preaching work, the main method being the “house-to-house” covering of territory. I respect the dedication shown, and I don’t doubt the motives of others doing this work since man cannot read hearts. In fact everyone I personally know appears to have fine motives. As you all probably know the normal “rank and file” members are mostly very sincere and humble people. So while not doubting their personal convictions and love of God and neighbor, I question the information they have been given to keep them motivated.
The new January 15, 2012 Study Edition of the Watchtower is a prime example, and one of the main motivating factors is writing this article. A scripture that comes mind is Job 34:3 “For the ear itself makes a test of words, just as the palate tastes when eating.” While reading an article entitled, “Making Whole-Souled Sacrifices For Jehovah”, I came across something that just did not “taste” right to my ear, as it had an off flavor that quickly ruined what could have been a refreshing spiritual meal.
The article is on page 21 of the Study Edition and starts off fairly well, and the first four paragraphs seem accurate. We are first reminded of how the ransom abolished the Mosaic Law (Colossians 2:13,14). Also that the law is a “tutor leading to Christ” as recorded in Galatians 3:24. The point is made that even though the Mosaic Law was abolished, Christians today are still concerned about making sacrifices, and 1 Peter 2:5 is mentioned because of the need for “spiritual sacrifices”. Romans 12:1 is cited as proof that “a dedicated Christian’s life-every aspect of it-may be appropriately considered a sacrifice”. It would have been nice for Romans 12:2 to also have been mentioned, but so far so good. Next, in paragraph 3 we are reminded that “a Christian makes sacrifices to Jehovah by offering up certain things to him or by giving up certain things for him.”
Then the off-flavor begins to be detected. The last part of paragraph 3 asks,
“On the basis of what we know about the requirements that existed for the Israelites, how can we be sure that all our sacrifices are acceptable to Jehovah?”
We are no longer under the Law, so although understanding it’s purpose and meaning are important, why use the requirements of the Law to gauge our service today? As paragraph 4 goes on to state the spirit in which we take care of housework, schoolwork, secular work, and even shopping is important because we are Christians 24 hours a day. (Colossians 3:18-24) These activities are defined in the paragraph as mundane activities. According to Webster’s Dictionary mundane means, “transitory, commonplace, worldly, etc…”, and an example of washing dishes is given. Even so, we must do these things “whole-souled as to Jehovah and not to men” as verse 23 says.
Finally, paragraph 5 makes the statement:
“A Christian’s day-to-day activities are not part of his sacred service.”
So how are we to harmonize this with the previous four paragraphs? In particular, paragraph 2 of this January 15th study article states:
A dedicated Christian’s life- every aspect of it- may appropriately be considered “a sacriﬁce.” (Rom.12:1.)
So how then can the opening thought in paragraph 5 be true, where it flatly states that day-to-day activities are not? Is there a fundamental difference between a sacrifice and sacred service? Perhaps a technical difference between the two? Or are sacrifices an integral part of sacred service, which in my understanding is the same as worship? What does God’s word say about the matter?
We have already mentioned Romans 12:1, 2. These two verses on their own seem to refute the statement in paragraph 5. These read:
“Consequently I entreat YOU by the compassions of God, brothers, to present YOUR bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with YOUR power of reason. And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making YOUR mind over, that YOU may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1, 2, NWT)
Are there others? Hebrews 13:16 states “Moreover, do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”. JJ brought an excellent article to my attention while discussing this subject, and I recommend that you read it. It is entitled “Are You a Steward of God’s Underserved Kindness?” from the January 15, 2009 Watchtower. This article shows how love and caring for one another is key to being a true Christian. Here is a partial quote:
10 …We know that preaching the Kingdom message can save lives. At the same time, however, we also strive to imitate Paul by looking for opportunities to “impart some spiritual gift” to fellow believers…
11 Which of these two Christian activities is more important? Asking a question like that is somewhat similar to asking about a bird, Which of his two wings is more important? The answer is obvious. A bird needs to use both wings in order to fly properly. Similarly, we need to share in both aspects of our service to God in order to be complete as Christians. Thus, instead of regarding our assignments to preach the good news and to build up fellow believers as unrelated, we view them just as the apostles Peter and Paul did—as responsibilities that complement each other. In what way?
12 As evangelizers, we employ whatever teaching skills we may have in trying to touch the hearts of our fellow men with the uplifting message of God’s Kingdom. In that way, we hope to help them to become Christ’s disciples. However, we also use whatever abilities and other gifts we may have in trying to warm the hearts of our fellow believers with uplifting words and helpful deeds—expressions of God’s undeserved kindness. (Prov. 3:27; 12:25)
(Watchtower 2009 1/15 pp. 14-15 pars. 10-12)
There are also two back to back articles on sacred service in the October 1st 1976 Watchtower and they are more balanced and accurate as well as encouraging. Here’s one excerpt:
OUR WHOLE LIFE COURSE A“SACRED SERVICE”
“Sacred service,” then, is not something that occupies only a portion of our lives. It is not limited to just one activity or a certain number of activities but it takes in every aspect of our daily living.
(Watchtower 1976 10/1 page 598 paragraph 9)
Also chapter 18 from “In Search of Christian Freedom”, under the subheading, “Service to God-What it Embraces” can also be recommend as it relates well to this information. Another scripture that seems to be a key to acceptable worship is James 1:27 which says:
“The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (James 1:27, NWT)
The power of this scripture is undeniable and it is this: The effort we put forth in caring for these ones, as well as keeping ourselves free of worldly contamination, can make or break our worship!
Are all these activities always of a public nature, viewed by men? Often times no human is aware of the private struggles we all put forth in resisting the “desires of the flesh” or the “spirit of the world”. This is not kept on file or something that can be measured by men as a means of judging our spirituality. Helping others in private is sometimes only known to our Heavenly Father and a few fellow humans. In fact to try to draw attention to the help we have given others would be incorrect. (Matthew 6:1-4)
It seems very obvious then, that based on James 1:27 these activities are sacred service. I am sure that many other daily activities, if done out of love for God could be considered sacred service as well. Love is an identifying mark of true Christians is it not? (John 13:34,35) Any act motivated by love for our Heavenly Father, our Mediator and Savior, Christ Jesus, and our fellow man regardless of their religion, would be an act of sacred service then would it not? Should we really have a prescribed list of what does and does not constitute sacred service, and then judge our brothers and sisters accordingly? Sadly, the Watchtower article seems to lean toward a prescribed set of works as the only acceptable forms of sacred service, these being:
- Field service hours, especially “entering the ranks of pioneering”.
- Financial contributions.
- Kingdom Hall construction projects.
- Attending meetings.
- Personal study.
While I have no problem with any of these activities in themselves, is it scripturally accurate to state in print, that only these activities and not day-to-day activities done out of love for God constitute sacred service? For example, it is taught that if a JW does not have a good excuse, such as an illness, for being absent at a meeting that it is an act of infidelity against Jehovah.
At the Watchtower Study on a later Sunday, another comment was regarding sacred service. The conductor asked, “What is the difference between sacrifices and sacred service”? No one was answering at, first, but then a brother spoke up and said, “all sacred service is a sacrifice, but not all sacrifices are sacred service”.
Now I am not sure how to class this argument; at first it seems logical, it satisfied the majority of the audience, or seemed to.
In school we did basic logic questions, for example:
All dogs have four legs and a tail, Spot has four legs and a tail, Spot is a dog. True or False? The answer is false. With the limited information given, Spot could be any animal with four legs and a tail.
This got me reasoning on the comment. It seems logical until you realize that not enough information has been supplied. Isn’t the real question this: “Are sacred service and worship synonymous? Do the scriptures show them to be equal? What does the original Greek show?”
To me that is the starting point for the discussion. To try to equate sacrifice with sacred service confuses the issue because sacrifices are just one facet of sacred service.
I deeply feel that the correct understanding is that a True Christian’s entire life is a sacrifice, a part of his sacred service, and that anything we do out of pure motive for our Creator to serve him and our fellow humans is sacred service, or worship.
Maybe I am making an issue out of nothing, or reading into this too much? I admit it could be possible, since after becoming aware of problems within the organization one can become hyper-sensitive or overly critical.
To those of you that are reading this article, and especially those of you that are actively associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider these thoughts with an open mind. Also, please read the Watchtower articles referenced if you can, as well “In Search of Christian Freedom” chapter 18, by Raymond Franz if you have it available.
Please let me know your thoughts on this topic if you can!
With Sincerity and Christian Love,
—— NOTES ——
In Search of Christian Freedom page 656:
“We will find that Christianity is not presented as either a system-oriented or building-oriented way of life and worship; nor is it defined by creeds or law codes. Neither is it centered upon specific activities viewed as specially and distinctly devotional and religious and therefore as having superior merit before God over other activities not so viewed. It is a way of life that embraces all of life and all of life’s activities. In reading the words of God’s Son and the writings of his apostles we find that it is not a matter of belonging to some religious system, practicing certain religious acts at certain times and certain places, but what we are as persons in our daily life that shows whether we are his followers or not.”