Does Superstition or Knowledge Govern You?
“The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established. The way of the wicked ones is like the darkness; they have not known at what they keep stumbling. My son, to my words do pay attention.”—Prov. 4:18-20.
1. What is the spiritual condition of many people, and why?
HAVE you ever seen a small child who was afraid in a dark room? As soon as light is put into the room all his fears vanish. He sees everything that is in the room and knows there is nothing there to hurt him. With this knowledge he feels satisfied; he feels safe. We may say it is childish for anyone to be afraid in the dark; but today millions of grownups are filled with fear, uncertainty and superstition because they are in the darkness that Satan the Devil has brought upon this world. Paul described the spiritual condition of the mass of mankind, saying: “The god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” These fear-ridden, superstitious, bedarkened people are pitiable in the eyes of any enlightened person.—2 Cor. 4:4.
2, 3. What are some of the strange beliefs held by Arctic peoples?
2 The prophet Isaiah foretold of our day: “The darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” (Isa. 60:2, AV) Down through the centuries Satan has held sway over the human race and has seen to it that they have come to believe many strange things. In every community today peculiar superstitions influence the lives of the people. From Arctic lands to the tropics Satan’s superstitions are found. The Eskimos believe in ghosts. Many also believe in the transmigration of souls, that spirits return in animals, winds, rocks, ice and water, and that they can be appeased by hoodoo rites. To change the wind they chant, drum and howl against it, and, as a last resort, fire the graves of the dead. So much superstition, with no reasoning! Though they have never been able to change the wind, their superstitious blindness keeps them trying it.
3 In some parts of Greenland when a child dies the natives bury a live dog with it, the dog to be used by the child as a guide to “the other world.” When questioned in regard to this peculiar superstition they will only answer, “A dog can find his way anywhere.”—The Encyclopedia Americana.
4, 5. How has lack of knowledge of the condition of the dead led to peculiar teachings and ideas?
4 The condition of the dead is a great mystery to many. Widespread is the belief that humans possess an immortal soul, and related to this unscriptural belief are many strange ideas and superstitions. Particularly in the Orient millions upon millions of persons hold the idea that the soul transmigrates. But belief in transmigration is nothing new. The ancient Egyptians, propounding the theory that the human soul is immortal, believed that souls went from one body to another. There is no doubt that the Egyptian custom of preserving the mummies of cats, crocodiles and some other creatures had its origin in the notion that they had been inhabited by souls that might someday reclaim these bodies for their own.
5 The ancient Pythagoras likewise believed in this metempsychosis or transmigration of souls and therefore preached against the eating of all animals, fish and even eggs. If his ancestors had passed down the information from God given to Noah, he would have known that “every creeping animal that is alive may serve as food for you.”—Gen. 9:3.
6. (a) What is one evidence of Satan’s darkness in Christendom? (b) What is the true condition of the dead, and how would you prove it from the Bible?
6 While millions of people in the world today may look on these practices and beliefs as ridiculous, are they so enlightened that they do not fall victim to similar superstitions? Consider for a moment the hundreds of millions of persons who now profess Christianity and yet who sincerely believe in the immortality of the human soul and that their dead loved ones suffer in purgatory fires and can be relieved of the suffering only through the giving of money to a priest for certain religious rituals to be performed. The person enlightened by God’s Word knows that those who have died are not in purgatory fires or alive anywhere, but are dead, unconscious and in the graves awaiting the resurrection, just as Christ Jesus said. But those who have been made victims of the purgatory teaching through darkness and superstition do not know man is a soul and does not possess an immortal soul; so they have been subjected to much worry and considerable loss of money. What a blessing accurate knowledge from God’s Word would be to them!—Gen. 2:7; Eccl. 9:5, 10; Ezek. 18:4, AS; John 5:28, 29.
7. How does the Bible account of the origin of man compare with some theories of men?
7 The Bible gives us accurate knowledge provided by God. It tells us of the origin of man through creation. (Gen. 1:27) Evolutionists may think they have a better idea that is modern and up to date; but for centuries many primitive peoples have held to erroneous ideas that are very similar, though without the backing of so-called men of learning and science. For example, there are some people in Madagascar who believe they are descended from crocodiles. They therefore deal with these animals as if they were men, their own brothers. Unless a crocodile kills a man no one ever kills a crocodile, dangerous as they are. When a crocodile does kill someone it is captured by means of a baited hook, given a trial, sentenced to death, executed, and then buried with as much ceremony as if the animal had been one of the family. Foolish superstition! we say; but they believe it.—Introducing Africa, by Carveth Wells.
8. By what means can one free himself of harmful superstitions?
8 There would be no end of telling of the strange ideas and superstitions found throughout the world. Satan has completely confused his bedarkened subjects and has brought them much injury thereby. Superstitions are harmful to mankind. Superstition will never lead anyone to the accepted service of Almighty God and life eternal in his new world. There is only one way to be free of the harmful superstitions and credulity, and that is by gaining accurate knowledge from Jehovah God. Knowledge is so important in our lives that Jehovah says people can be destroyed for the lack of it.—Hos. 4:6, 10, AS.
9, 10. (a) Is going to a school sufficient for the gaining of accurate knowledge? (b) What are some hindrances to gaining accurate knowledge? (c) Why is knowledge, not mere sincerity, needed?
9 Today there are more institutions of learning in the world than ever before in the history of man. Governments are emphasizing educational programs and constructing new schools, even in isolated districts. But what kind of learning is pursued? What knowledge do the people have? Not all learning is beneficial. Not all knowledge brings life. Years of university training and the reading of mountains of books will not guarantee one’s gaining the protective, life-giving knowledge. Some persons, the Bible says, are ‘always learning and yet are never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.’—2 Tim. 3:7.
10 Jehovah God has provided the Bible so man might gain accurate knowledge and light. But there are many obstacles in the way that hinder the people. The communistic governments object to the teaching of the Bible. In some lands the Bible is not available to the people in general. But one of the greatest obstacles in the way of the people to hinder their gaining accurate knowledge is false religion. The innumerable clergy put their superstitions and traditions of men ahead of the Word of God, deceptively claiming to represent God and at the same time withholding true knowledge of God from the people. These clergy are in the class that Christ Jesus judged, saying: “Woe to you who are versed in the Law, because you took away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not go in, and those going in you hindered!” (Luke 11:52) The leaders of Christendom have the Bible and they speak about God. Like the ancient Jews, “they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge; for, because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” (Rom. 10:2, 3) They will not humble themselves to learn from God through his Word. Selfishly they seek to establish their own false religious ideas, a false knowledge. Some of them may have become so superstitious themselves that they have convinced themselves they are right. But thinking one is right does not make one right and in full accord with the principles of God. God says: “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Prov. 14:12) Such men who reject the true knowledge of Jehovah are the ones he spoke of prophetically at Hosea 4:6, 10 (AS): “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, . . . they have left off taking heed to Jehovah.”
11. What is the only basis for complete knowledge?
11 Although the clergy and world leaders may think they have much knowledge, no one can really have complete knowledge unless he humbly accepts the instruction from Jehovah, the Source of all knowledge and light. “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov. 1:7) This fundamental knowledge of Jehovah is the primary part; it is the foundation of all true knowledge.
12, 13. (a) To what source must men go for true knowledge? (b) In what ways is this knowledge like a treasure?
12 There is only one way to grow in knowledge of the truth and keep clear of harmful superstitions—by having the light. Jehovah says: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God. For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.”—Prov. 2:1, 2, 4-6.
13 Yes, accurate knowledge is like a hidden treasure. What could be worth more than the knowledge of Jehovah and Christ that means everlasting life? (John 17:3) But treasure must be sought for and found. Then it must be held on to. It can even be enlarged or increased. All of this takes effort on our part. How can this treasure be gained?
14. (a) What means has Jehovah provided for dispensing true knowledge? (b) Which people can gain this accurate knowledge?
14 Jehovah has provided his Word, his spirit and his organization. We must take in knowledge with the proper attitude, as “babes,” in humble recognition of Jehovah and his organization, which he uses today to dispense spiritual food. We should have an attitude of gratitude for all the provisions made through the organization of the anointed witnesses of Jehovah, the “faithful and discreet slave” mentioned by Jesus at Matthew 24:45. Jehovah has his own good way and purpose in providing the spiritual food as he does. What is provided is good and we should study it to learn. When a person realizes that he does not know everything, and is teachable like a child, then he can learn; then he will gain spiritual discernment. If he feels proud and wise as worldly men do who advance their theories instead of sticking to God’s principles, he will not understand. Jehovah will not give him his spirit. It is beyond the proud men of this world to understand the spiritual things. “A physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things.”—1 Cor. 2:14, 15.
15. Why is spiritual discernment so important?
15 But someone may ask, Do not the clergy and others who claim to be wise men have the Bible and quote from it? Do they not know what it says? There is a vast difference between knowing some Scripture and having spiritual discernment. In time of temptation of Jesus, Satan showed he knew something from the Scriptures and quoted some texts, misapplying them completely. But Jesus had the spiritual discernment. Satan could not understand the meaning of the Scriptures because he did not have the spirit of God with him. Jesus knew how to use the Scriptures, and he used them well in resisting Satan’s temptations. Spiritual things are discerned only by those devoted to Jehovah who humbly seek for his treasures and to whom he gives his spirit. “For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.”—1 Cor. 2:10; Matt. 4:1-11.
16. Who gain the spiritual discernment?
16 So it is seen that Jehovah commits his sacred secret to his faithful servants, and not to worldly-wise men who would try therewith to bring honor to themselves and not to God. Christ Jesus saw this and gratefully exclaimed: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.” (Matt. 11:25) His disciples were given understanding because they humbly sought the treasure from Jehovah God. This spiritual discernment is not something common, to be treated lightly. It is not something one can buy. It is a gift from Jehovah to those who approach him in humility, who study Jehovah’s Word and who use their knowledge to honor him. It is a great hidden treasure. Seek it, every one of you.
17, 18. Why is study necessary, and what should be our attitude toward it?
17 When we study our motive must be pure and our minds open. Our purpose should be the learning of something for future use in serving Jehovah rather than wanting to boast in our personal knowledge, feeling our own importance and having all our brothers come running to us so we can throw out our chest in pride when we can answer some Scriptural questions. By having the proper attitude toward the treasured light we can gain the spirit of Jehovah, which is the way to the understanding of the Word that was written under its inspiration.
18 Personal study is the foundation part of the life of the true minister of God. We cannot get along without it. Just as the strong physical man maintains strength through regular training, exercise and proper eating, so the spiritual man must exercise his mind by having proper spiritual food regularly. Busy though Jehovah’s servants are in ministering to others, they cannot neglect their personal study. For a little while one may get by with hastily taking in his spiritual food while on the run, but later on he will feel a loss. Time must be set aside for this personal study, making oneself think, and the schedule must be held to carefully.—Deut. 8:3.
19, 20. How is concentration related to successful study?
19 When we sit down to study let us have clear minds, putting aside other things for the moment. What are you thinking about now? Are you concentrating on what you are reading? Or are you preoccupied with things in your home or what you are going to do tomorrow? You are spending valuable time reading this article. Then is it not wise to be practical and absorb all the spiritual things presented here? Think about other things when you are not engaged in theocratic study.
20 This is just an example. The same principle can be applied to any meetings we attend for Bible study. We can cultivate the quality of concentration. We shall achieve this only by being more interested in what we are studying than in anything else. When one is very much interested in a subject, concentration becomes almost automatic. One can cultivate the ability to concentrate by reminding oneself of this fact each time one starts to study.
21. How can one gain the most from time spent in study?
21 As we study let us reason on what we are studying. Let us prove for ourselves by the Scriptures that these things are so. Remember that we are trying to learn for future use and we are studying material that is the basis for what we do. In the Bible and in Bible study publications of the Society we can make notes. We should learn to pick out the key words that answer questions, and we may even underline them to help us remember. Our desire must be to make the truths our own, useful to us in the ministry.
22. How is use of accurate knowledge related to gaining spiritual discernment?
22 After this concentration and preparing of the mind to receive and retain the accurate knowledge, make practical use of what you have been given by Jehovah. Think about the things learned and, by association of ideas, get them firmly in mind. The apostle Paul said: “Give constant thought to what I am saying; the Lord will really give you discernment in all things.” (2 Tim. 2:7) Not only think about these things, but talk about them. Write about them. Repetition is needed by almost everyone to hold on to the accurate knowledge. A wonderful provision of Jehovah is the regular meetings where we can discuss spiritual things we have already studied and gain answers to questions or points that trouble us. For our own good we take an active part in giving comments. By thus keeping close to the organization and by helping others with their study of the Bible, we ourselves can be filled with accurate knowledge. And the more we use our knowledge of the truth the more we understand and have the spiritual discernment; as Paul showed at Hebrews 5:14: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” This solid food is spiritual food. Does solid spiritual food belong to you? Have you made it your own?
23, 24. (a) Why become filled with accurate knowledge? (b) What benefits result from the field ministry use of our knowledge?
23 The spiritual food and knowledge have been provided for Jehovah’s servants in abundance to help us take a course that will be pleasing to Jehovah. If we have filled up our minds with accurate knowledge we know how to walk before Jehovah and please him. At Colossians 1:9-12 we read: “Be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God, being made powerful with all power to the extent of his glorious might so as to endure fully and be long-suffering with joy, thanking the Father.” Think about those words. It is this accurate knowledge that brings wisdom and spiritual discernment. It is to be made use of in walking before Jehovah in his service. And as we go bearing fruit in Jehovah’s service, doing good work, we shall be increasing in the accurate knowledge of Jehovah. To be active in the ministry, preaching at the doors and in the homes, is a good friend and benefactor to us. By using the spiritual knowledge we enlarge our perceptive powers. We get the full benefit of the personal study we have done. Note how it comes about.
24 One example is the use we make of the knowledge in field ministry. Before we can preach we must be prepared. In our service meetings and at home we outline Bible sermons to be given at the doors and on our back-call visits. Then we go to the homes of the people and deliver the sermons. People ask questions of us and we find the answers for them in the Bible, thus enlarging our knowledge. We repeat the principles of Jehovah and more firmly implant them in our minds. Our minds become more keen in perception as we study the Bible each day and conduct Bible studies in the homes of the people. So by bearing fruit in the ministry, by use of the knowledge we have gained, we are constantly increasing in accurate knowledge. We are alive spiritually.
25. What results to those who do not put knowledge to use in serving God?
25 In contrast, those inactive in God’s service do not go on increasing in accurate knowledge. Even if one sits at home and reads for hours and hours, he is not gaining in perceptive powers through use of the knowledge. He does not produce fruit in God’s service. Jesus said those who do not produce fruit are put aside. (John 15:2) Individuals who do not put their knowledge to use demonstrate that they do not have discernment, nor its key, God’s spirit. As Jesus demonstrated at Luke 19:26, if one does not use what he has been given it will be taken away from him. The only way to go on increasing in accurate knowledge, to have spiritual discernment and wisdom, is to be bearing fruit consistently in the service of Jehovah.