Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to live a modest life and be content with simple things. This is so that they can throw themselves into their service to Jehovah. They are discouraged from pursuing wealth, fame, or even a career because these things will tend to draw them away from God. It’s called a “theocentric” life and is the source of true happiness. In return, God will make sure they have everything they need.
There are a gajillion stories in the Bible about how Jehovah provided for this prophet or that widow. One prophet had fled to the barren desert to escape the wrath of an evil queen, and Jehovah sent ravens to him to provide him with food. God provides for the sparrows – why would He not provide for you? During a famine one faithful servant of God found herself with an inexhaustible supply of cooking oil and flour.
Jesus himself said, at the conclusion of a parable on the folly of pursuing wealth, “Keep on seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness and all these other things will be added to you.”
My ex-husband and I were very sincere in our beliefs. We were always looking for ways to improve ourselves and boost our spirituality and usefulness to Jehovah. In return, we believed that we would be cared for by the god we worshiped.
Hubby’s parents raised him as a JW. They envisioned him rising quickly through the organization to become a circuit overseer or district overseer – maybe even becoming a bigwig at Bethel. Consequently, he would not need to learn a trade. In any case, the end was so near that he wouldn’t have to worry about it. In fact, his parents were told that he wouldn’t graduate high school before the end came.
I should add that he’s 61 years old now. Whoa, talk about your failed prophecy.
My parents were more practical, pushing me to take typing and business classes in school so I was always able to find work. However, it was never enough to support the two of us because I was determined to follow the counsel from Brooklyn – it’s not a career, it’s just a job. I worked in a number of different industries – insurance, banking, oil, medicine, and always got terrific performance reviews, but I never got much farther than entry level in any one of them. Just when I was getting somewhere we ended up moving because hubby couldn’t hold a job, partly because he had no skills and partly because of his daddy issues (couldn’t deal with male authority). To be fair, I should add that he did eventually settle into a decent job, and as far as I know he’s still working there.
We focused on doing the divine will by faithfully serving Big J and being good Christians according to WTS teachings (hubby was working toward becoming an elder), but we were always barely scraping by.
In the midst of one particularly lean period of time I was sitting in my seat between sessions at a district convention chatting with two sisters from my congregation. They were discussing the new ring one of them had just been given by her husband and the Disney vacation the other was going to take after the convention.
Now, wait a ding-dong minute here.
Hubby and I were working our tails off being good servants of Jehovah, but we were driving a 20-year-old clunker, living in a two-room apartment where water froze on the floor in the winter, and sometimes eating only rice. And here were two less-than-average publishers (oops, got a tad judgmental there) who were enjoying luxuries.
Being a well-programmed JW my first thought was that we must be doing something right if Satan were testing us so savagely. My second thought was, “What are we – chopped liver?” Why are we clawing our way through the mud while these two chicks are gliding in style down Easy Street?
What I wanted to do at that moment was throw myself onto a fainting couch a la Scarlett O’Hara and weep bitter tears, but what I did was smile and nod and reprove myself for my momentary lapse into selfish thinking.
I had to remind myself that serving Jehovah is its own reward. I mean, maybe my material circumstances were threadbare, but I was living the best way of life, right? I had the spiritual paradise at the kingdom hall, I had a clean conscience, I had Jehovah’s approval, I had a good marri…well, I didn’t know any better back then. That’s it – focus on the positive. Focus on hubby’s good qualities, focus on the fact that you indeed have food to eat and a roof over your head, focus on the important disciple-making work, focus on the glorious future you have before you – the New System where everything will be perfect.
There, that’s better. Hubby returned to his seat next to me and the afternoon program started, completely diverting all of my troubled thoughts.
I was back to my regular program.