Something that bothered me a great deal when I was a Jehovah’s Witness was my complete lack of involvement in charitable works. If you don’t know, Witnesses do not spend time organizing soup kitchens, giving to the needy regularly or fundraising for needy causes.
I thought I great deal on how I learnt to not give. It’s not as if Witnesses do nothing at all, it is very specific what they do and the Organization will decide what happens to the money that is donated. I remember being told to not designate your donation to the Society, for instance ‘for the Hurricane Katrina relief’ because what if they didn’t need anymore help for that, and instead needed it for something else? Being listed as a charity means that designated funds have to be used as said, they didn’t want that. Saying that Witnesses do nothing for their fellow man besides giving them literature will immediately spark a protest. They do indeed help when there are disasters and are very proud to point out that they are ‘often first on the scene’ giving assistance to their brothers and sisters as well as others. As commendable as that is, it shouldn’t be the only thing they do.
I was taught over and over that the preaching work is the most important work being done today. So important that it completely overshadows everything else. Take an excerpt from their Kingdom Ministry of 2010 – (km 3/10 p.2) ‘The Work of Paramount Importance’ it is on their site if you want to see it for yourself. In the first paragraph it reads:
“Why are we regularly encouraged to devote our time, energy, and resources to the ministry? Because no work has greater value!….
The last paragraph closes with: “Thus, preaching and making disciples is the most urgent, important and beneficial work taking place today. Let us give it the foremost place in our lives!”
No where in there was it telling me to not give to charity (I was still a JW in 2010) but it was telling me over and over that preaching is WAY MORE IMPORTANT, that it deserves ALL my attention. Now, as I’ve come to learn being regularly involved in charitable works means effort, time, energy and resources – so if you are giving everything in preaching, how will you have anything to help in doing something substantial for a needy person or cause?
When it comes to simply making monetary donations, there too is an overwhelming encouragement to donate to the Society, so again if you are giving all the surplus you can to them, how do you have anything to help anyone else?
I was also repeatedly told by my brothers and sisters back then that helping out someone with money or food was a temporary fix, and wouldn’t it better to rather teach them about everlasting life, where everything will be fixed in paradise? Of course, I did actually note that if someone is hungry right now, how would knowing about everlasting life benefit them? Its not going to take their hunger pangs away is it?
One of the first good things I felt when I left the Witnesses was a warm glow of “I can help whoever I want to now!” When my heart compels me to do something I can just go ahead and do so – no ‘witness logic’ stopping me. The freedom to decide for myself how my time, energy and resources is used is a wonderful feeling, and I get to do something worthwhile, far better than the preaching work I spent far too many hours doing. I often feel that I have years of not helping my fellow human beings to make up for, and so I’m constantly looking out to do better.
I have also been the grateful recipient of much kindness and sheer generosity, which has shown better than any words how human beings should treat each other. Their compassion when we were in need only encourages me to be ready to help others.
Perhaps you too have thought of this and have felt the pull at your heart to help someone other than a witness. That feeling is genuine and shouldn’t be talked away and ignored. Handing out literature is an empty gesture, sometimes people really need a blanket, and food and clothes. Your heart is not leading you the wrong way on this. Listen to it.