Who are you to be judging your neighbor?
Humility restrains us from overstepping our authority. If we recognize that we are not authorized to sit in judgment, we will not be quick to criticize others for their faults or question their motives. Humility helps us to avoid being “overly righteous,” looking down on those who may not have the abilities or privileges that we have. Humble elders do not view themselves as superior to fellow believers. Rather, such shepherds “consider others superior” and conduct themselves as lesser ones. If we are truly lowly in heart, our words will reflect humility. In conversations with others, we will avoid focusing on our own achievements and privileges. Instead, we will look for the good in our brothers and sisters and commend them for their positive qualities, abilities, and accomplishments.
By saying “if we recognize we are not authorized to sit in judgment” the text seems to imply that some are authorized to judge. But according to James 4:12, which was only partially quoted, “There is only one who is Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy.”
So, whether an elder is humble and lowly is not the point. While elders are required to judge within the congregation, what authority do elders have to judge others in matters that are not clearly specified in Christian law?
Take the matter of blood transfusions, for example. The Bible makes clear that we ought to abstain from blood. But what if a Christian breaks when they are pressured to take blood? Is it a sin that comes under any of the categories that Paul listed that would warrant removing such a person from the congregation, such as practicers of sexual immorality, homosexuality, drunkenness, thievery, greediness, etc.?
The answer is no. The Governing Body has gone beyond what is written in God’s law. Instead of allowing Jehovah to be the judge they have inserted themselves as such.
Take the matter of smoking. There is no question it is an unclean habit and an insidious addiction. Christians are admonished to cleanse themselves of every defilement of the flesh. Tobacco use is certainly a defilement of the flesh. But, again, is disfellowshipping a smoker scripturally justifiable? Perhaps it could be reasoned that smokers are practicing a form of greediness. However, most smokers wish they could quit but they lack the will power to overcome it. The Watchtower, though, stands in judgment and condemns weak-willed persons to banishment from the congregation.
Another example, and by far the most egregious, is the Watchtower’s treatment of inactive publishers. The very fact that some Christians are labeled as “irregular” or “inactive” stigmatizes them as inferior. In recent years the Watchtower has gone so far as to implement a policy of seeking out inactive persons with the intent of getting them to dis-associate themselves or find some pretext to disfellowship them in absentia.
These are the matters that Jehovah will be taking up in the near future regarding the way his sheep have been treated. “Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding themselves! Is it not the flock that the shepherds should feed? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, and you slaughter the fattest animal, but you do not feed the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bandaged the injured or brought back the strays or looked for the lost; rather, you have ruled them with harshness and tyranny. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; they were scattered and became food for every wild beast of the field. My sheep were straying on all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the surface of the earth, with no one searching for them or seeking to find them.”