Tuesday, May 4
If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself. —Matt. 16:24.
When you make a dedication, you approach Jehovah in earnest prayer and tell him that you will use your life to serve him forever. When you dedicate yourself to God, you “disown” yourself. You now belong to Jehovah, which is a great privilege. (Rom. 14:8) You are telling him that from now on, you will be focused on serving him and not on pleasing yourself. Your dedication is a vow —a solemn promise made to God. Jehovah does not force us to make such a vow. But when we do, he expects us to fulfill it. (Ps. 116:12, 14) Your dedication is personal and private; it is between you and Jehovah. Baptism is public; it takes place in front of others, usually at an assembly or a convention. When you get baptized, you show others that you have already dedicated yourself to Jehovah. So your baptism lets others know that you love Jehovah your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and that you are determined to serve him forever. —Mark 12:30. w20.03 9 ¶4-5
If an individual’s willing dedication of themselves to God is irrevocable what about the dedication of a thing? More to the point: when something is dedicated to Jehovah in a solemn ceremony can it be undedicated and re-purposed for ordinary use? Specifically, what about Kingdom halls?
As in the case of baptism being a public demonstration of one’s inner dedication, Kingdom halls are also publicly dedicated to God for the exclusive use of dedicated Christians in carrying out their service to Christ. Virtually every Kingdom hall has been formally dedicated to God. Usually, the public is invited to attend and a special talk is given and then the facility is dedicated to God in prayer—much like when King Solomon dedicated the temple he had built to Jehovah.
If a dedicated Christian becomes the property of God, isn’t the same true of dedicated facilities like Kingdom halls, assembly halls, and branch offices? Of course, unlike people, buildings do not have free will. Things that are dedicated to God are dedicated to Him by persons who are devoted to God. That being true, those who dedicate things to God become the custodians of God’s earthly possessions. Jehovah’s Witnesses understand this principle and the obligation that comes with being a caretaker of God’s things. That is why elders who oversee their congregation’s Kingdom hall arrange for regular cleaning and maintenance of the facility. That is why ordinary activities are not allowed to take place in Kingdom halls—at least, that’s the way it was when Kingdom halls were open.
Even before the pandemic hysteria swept the world the Watchtower embarked on a scheme to sell off property—properties that had been solemnly dedicated to God. Obviously, things wear out. Buildings need constant upkeep. Some Kingdom halls were built in inner cities that have become crime-infested and are unusable. Those who are unfamiliar might imagine that the Watchtower is merely unloading unsuitable properties because they are beyond repair or are located in dangerous neighborhoods; however, that is not the case. Most of the roughly 1,000 halls that have been sold or are for sale are in pristine condition and located in desirable areas.
For example, here is a Kingdom hall for sale in Kelowna, British Columbia. The asking price is just under $3 million, Canadian. Apparently, due to asset price inflation, the real estate where the hall was built 40 years ago has become much more valuable. According to the Watchtower’s spokesman, the sale is not due to dwindling attendance. He didn’t say, but obviously, the motive for putting the property on the auction block is profit. Three million dollars is just too tempting.
And that seems to be the standard. The Brooklyn headquarters complex was sold off, not because the facilities had become unusable. No, just the opposite. The Brooklyn waterfront property was highly prized and that is why the Governing Body—or, more correctly, the Watchtower’s faceless board of directors, sold the property for top dollar. “Top dollar” being in the neighborhood of a billion!
The UK branch of the Watchtower was sold too. The campus was located in the posh Mill Hill area of London, a very desirable area with homes costing millions of pounds. Because the Watchtower has at its command a virtual volunteer construction company, Jehovah’s property in Mill Hill was sold off into the red-hot real estate market and an old wrecking yard in Chelmsford, an industrial area, was bought for cheap in order to construct a new facility there.
I do not know. I am not an insider. But, I suspect that the Watchtower has hired outside business consultants who have been schooled by Wall Street financial practices, and they have done a spreadsheet analysis of all of the Watchtower’s holdings and have advised selling off some of the most valuable properties. After all, business is business, or so they say.
The question, though, is, whether it is proper for a property that has been dedicated to God to be sold off like common real estate? Before answering that question consider what Jesus said to the Pharisees regarding a similar issue. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is under obligation.’ Fools and blind ones! Which, in fact, is greater, the gold or the temple that has sanctified the gold? Moreover, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is under obligation.’ Blind ones! Which, in fact, is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?” — Matthew 23:16-19
Luke revealed that the Pharisees were money lovers. That explains why they valued the gold of the temple more than the temple itself. It is the same with the leadership of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. They regard a Christian’s dedication to God as a sacred obligation that cannot be annulled. But property once dedicated to God is nothing. It can be flipped—if the price is right.
If a dedicated person belongs to God surely dedicated property does too. And if someone sells something that belongs to another that is called theft. Stealing from Jehovah is a very serious thing. (See Achan)
Of course, God knows the human heart. He knows everything. Back when Jehovah exclusively dealt with the Jews the religious leaders of the nation treated Jehovah with contempt. In spite of their wickedness, they assumed that Jehovah was obligated to bless and protect them simply because the temple was located in Jerusalem and Jehovah had caused His name to reside there. They were wrong.
Sound familiar? It should. Too bad for the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the lesson contained in the Bible record is lost on them. Even so, here is what Jehovah has said: “‘But you are putting your trust in deceptive words—it will bring absolutely no benefit. Can you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make sacrifices to Baal, and follow after gods you had not known, and then come and stand before me in this house that bears my name and say, ‘We will be saved,’ despite your doing all these detestable things? Has this house that bears my name become a cave of robbers in your eyes? Here I have seen it for myself,’ declares Jehovah.” — Jeremiah 7:8-11