Jesus was well-known as a miracle worker. He restored sight to the blind, healed leprosy, cast out demons, and raised the dead. He even healed a young girl from a distance. And she wasn’t a Jew. Her father was a Roman army officer who was known as a kindly man.
Interestingly, most of Jesus’ miracles were acts of mercy that helped the person(s) involved to lead a productive life. He wasn’t a showman, so we don’t read about flashy displays of magic. No, he was focused on charity. As mentioned last week, Jesus also had a money box containing funds to assist the poor.
Another way he helped was by teaching people about God and His kingdom. The Jewish religious leaders of the time were focused on obeying the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Jesus taught that God was far more interested in the mercy in people’s hearts than in ostentatious exhibitions of piety. Needless to say, the religious leaders did not approve of his message.
Because they claim to be the only true followers of Jesus Christ, you would think that Jehovah’s Witnesses would be well known for their charitable works as well as for teaching people about God. You would be wrong. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses are actively discouraged from participating in charities or volunteer work in the community. They are told that their preaching work is the best possible way to assist their fellow man.
I found this de facto ban on acts of mercy to be excruciatingly frustrating while I was a JW, and I’m sure many current JWs feel the same way. If a natural disaster struck we were told to donate to the Worldwide Work (the Watchtower Society) and that funds would be channeled to assist our brothers and sisters in the affected area. Months later, an article in one of the magazines would describe how an organized team of JWs had swept into a ruined neighborhood and worked tirelessly to repair the homes of local JWs, along with a token non-JW widow or single mother. Photos would show a group of men hammering away on a roof. There might even be a quote from a local newspaper about how quickly the JWs got there and how nice they were. We could all feel proud of the JW contribution to the cleanup.
Meanwhile, back at home, a call would go out to donate school supplies or coats for local children, but we could not participate. Instead, we could knock on more doors and tell our neighbors that they could have a gloriously happy future if they left their church which provided practical help to the community and joined JWs.
Jesus’ ministry lasted only 3 years, but it got him into some serious hot water with the religious leaders, and eventually they just wanted him dead. More on that subject next week.