Salvation by Overcoming Proud Tradition
“‘Do not go beyond the things that are written,’ in order that you may not be puffed up individually in favor of the one against the other. For who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”—1 Cor. 4:6, 7.
1. What danger to the family is seen in worldly tradition?
PROUD tradition is old-world thinking that must be eradicated, as it has no place in God’s new world. Worldly traditions affect practically every family in one way or another. Often people do not even realize the extent to which their thinking is conditioned by the ingrained traditions and customs of the community in which they live. The salvation of the family requires that its members be conscious of the dangers of this old-world habit. This article discusses the barriers, the divisions, the disunity that proud tradition creates between families, communities and national groups.
2. What are some of the proud traditions of this world, and why are they opposed to New World principles?
2 Some of these traditions, which deeply affect thinking and bring in divisions and prejudices, are national pride, pride of race or clan, pride of family and its historical accomplishments; pride of wealth, caste, color or language; pride of class or profession. Some families take much pride in their ancestors and the worship of them, in the military exploits and traditions of their forebears, in the antiquity of their ecclesiastical traditions. There can be no question that these traditions, which set one man or group apart from another, are in opposition to the godly principle of unity. No one can hold these traditions and prejudices and be a part of the New World society.
KEEP YOURSELVES FROM THESE THINGS
3. What is proud tradition based on? Why does it interfere with Christian association and service?
3 Let us now consider how some of these worldly traditions operate in relation to humankind. Class distinction is found in practically all nations. It may be based on possessions, accomplishments, titled ancestry, professions or intellectual attainments. Families descended from these privileged groups suppose themselves to be above others of mankind, so they become haughty, high-minded, considering themselves better than others. This thinking is certainly contradictory to the teachings of Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul condemned the worldly thinking of those who are “self-assuming, haughty, . . . puffed up with self-esteem.” (2 Tim. 3:1-7) “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (1 Pet. 5:5) Anyone with such attitudes cannot really help his neighbors in the way of salvation, for they will prevent him from having a brotherly association with them. Therefore all should seek humility, as God’s Word states: “The very haughtiness of earthling man will humble him, but he that is humble in spirit will take hold of glory.”—Prov. 29:23.
4. Why has national pride been built up, and why is there no room for it in the New World society?
4 Another tradition that plays a major role in the thinking of the old world is national pride. This is carefully built up by the political state and its educational institutions, as well as its ecclesiastical authorities. It is an age-old scheme used by political leaders to enslave all classes of people and tie them to the political state. They are taught that their particular nation is different, its people superior to others. Germany in the Hitler era is a recent example of a generation of people imbued with the idea that they were the ‘master race’ destined to rule and control the lives of others. This is not new, for the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons and others have followed the same pattern. Those of the New World society must be able to see beyond this sham glory. It is the Devil’s work and “he is a liar.” God’s inspired Word says: “He made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.” (Acts 17:26) And again: “‘Do not go beyond the things that are written,’ in order that you may not be puffed up individually . . . For who makes you to differ from another?” (1 Cor. 4:6, 7) From these godly principles it must be seen that there is no room in the New World society for pride of nation. That men can live in harmony without this foolish old-world division can be seen in the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses at New York city in 1958, when 253,922 people of 123 nations lived together in Christian peace and unity.
5, 6. How has the Resolution of Jehovah’s witnesses condemned national pride, and what must be done to gain God’s approval?
5 This immense international gathering united in a Resolution made known to the world by distributing over 70,000,000 copies. Among other things it was declared: “That because of our common descent from Noah . . . we are one human family, one human race, for whom Jehovah God has made one common provision through his Son, Jesus Christ, for our everlasting life and happiness in his approaching new world. . . . the Holy Bible declares Satan the Devil to be the invisible god and ruler; and that under him and his demons the nations and languages of the earth have broken up the unity of the human race and have brought mankind to the dangerous situation today.”
6 The great family of the New World society that adopted this Resolution has overcome national pride. All families who want to gain God’s approval must likewise put away proud national tradition and recognize their dependence upon God, who requires them to live with one another as brothers.
7. What attitude should Christians adopt toward language?
7 A further development of this satanic barrier of human distinctions is seen in the prejudice and discrimination manifested toward groups of differing language, race and color. Pride of language debars people from mixing freely with others, but Christians must reach all people with the message. If this is not done, there is failure to fulfill the God-given commission to ‘teach all nations.’ It should be the earnest desire of every person who wishes to live in God’s new world to be able to converse freely with his neighbors. Sometimes there is a disinclination to make the effort to learn the language of the country.
8. How can racial and social customs lead to an unscriptural course?
8 Then there are those groups who put their racial customs, traditions and practices above Christian principles. This particularly applies to social customs. Some would rather show hospitality and have association with persons of their own race, or relatives, in preference to their brothers of the New World society. Parents at times will encourage their children to associate with and to marry those of their own racial and language group rather than their Christian brothers, even though this is contrary to the scripture, ‘Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.’—2 Cor. 6:14.
9. (a) Why are all men equal before God regardless of skin color? (b) What practice of men will Jehovah’s organization recognize, and why?
9 Skin color is another subject upon which purely human tradition has built a system of artificial barriers between man and man. Fundamentally men are all descended from the same ancestor and have the same basic capacities. All have to recognize the one true God and worship him and accept as their personal Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. Men do make a difference, and God’s people have to recognize the law of the land when it requires separation with respect to race or color in some countries. But inside the New World society there is no difference and there is no justification for discriminating against brothers because of the color of their skin. Jehovah God does not render such discriminatory treatment: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
10. Why is ancestor worship reprehensible before God, and what difficulties are in the way of overcoming it?
10 In Oriental lands particularly there is a deep-seated tradition of ancestor worship. Dead ancestors are the gods: food is laid out for them, elaborate rituals are followed and prayers are addressed to them. It is a matter of the honor of the family name, and the living members of the family are all concerned with it. Older members of the family, who are the living ancestors soon to become gods, find this cult a valuable means of controlling and enslaving younger members of the family. Even middle-aged men have no authority in the household until their parents die. Ancestor worship is also a subtle form of self-flattery—the worshiper is a descendant of ancestor gods and therefore on the way to being a god himself. This belief sets a man apart from his neighbors. Also, one who becomes enlightened finds it most difficult to break with a family tradition that is bound down with social, traditional, religious and economic practices. The thought of change is looked upon with scorn and fear; so their minds are closed to change or progress. The family that will advance into the New World society must be prepared to put aside the cult of ancestor or family worship.
11. For what reasons did Jesus condemn religious tradition, and what examples were given?
11 Another deep-seated human tradition is the reverence for religious antiquity. The Moslems, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Confucianists and Hindus hold in awe their ancients, the works and the sayings of dim antiquity, which are contrary to the Word of God. This human tradition blinds their minds to enquiry. Catholics and Protestants put their traditional beliefs and creeds ahead of God’s Word. The Jews regard the Talmud, with its compilation of human reasonings, as more precious than the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. To them the Scriptures are to the Talmud as water is to rich, red wine. All the teachings of these human, worldly traditions, no matter how ancient, will lead to disaster. Jesus said: “Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition? . . . you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep paying respect to me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’”—Matt. 15:3-9.
TRUTH EXPOSES PROUD TRADITION
12. In what way could pride of social standing hinder acceptance of the truth?
12 Families or individuals accepting the truth of Jehovah’s Word are often hindered by these proud traditions. For example, one may be really enthusiastic when he is first told of Jehovah God, Christ the King and the new world of righteousness. It sounds wonderful! But there is a problem: “How will this affect my family position? We are one of the highly respected families in the community. Instead of respect and honor, we might bring on ourselves contempt or persecution. The truth is not popular.” What should the individual in this position do? Be governed by human traditions, or accept God’s Word and walk in the light of it? To obtain the favor of God, it is best to obey him.
13. How is certain family tradition contrary to the principles of the Prince of Peace, as outlined in the Resolution of 1958?
13 Another person may be overjoyed to learn that it is God’s purpose to provide a thousand-year reign of world-wide peace and happiness, during which time the resurrection will take place. Now a problem arises. He is told of the great Resolution adopted by Jehovah’s witnesses in New York in the summer of 1958. In part it says: “That, figuratively speaking, we have beaten our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning shears and, although of so many nationalities, we will not lift up sword against one another because we are Christian brothers and members of the one family of God, neither will we learn to war against one another any more, but we will walk in God’s paths in peace, unity and brotherly love.” Now the interested person says: “But my family has a proud military and naval tradition. Our name has borne the colors of this nation for generations. My ancestors have fought in many famous battles.” Such proud tradition is in direct conflict with the principles of the Prince of Peace. This person will have to choose between proud family tradition and living in the new world.
14. (a) Explain the real source of the truth preached by Christ Jesus and by his faithful followers today. (b) What is the reason for having the headquarters of the Society in America? Why should this not prejudice people against the truth?
14 Other people, proud of their ancient national traditions, with an air of superiority say concerning the Biblical research and studies published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society: “Where does this literature come from? From the United States? Why that is only a new nation. We have had Bible scholars in our country for centuries. What can America hope to teach us?” Such persons are contemptuous and their attitude is no different from what was said of the despised city of Nazareth. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) The message of Jesus came, not from Nazareth, but from Jehovah God. So, today, the message of Jehovah’s witnesses comes, not from America, but from the Most High God, delivered to faithful men by Jehovah God through the operation of his holy spirit. The truth is not an American message, though, as a matter of convenience and practical handling of the activities of the Society, the headquarters is in New York, one of the major shipping and trade centers of the earth today. National tradition should not make reasonable people so prejudiced that they become blind to the truth of God’s Word, for Jehovah’s truth is the same in any country or language. To receive the truth one must overcome such tradition.
15. Give an example of how human tradition prevents acceptance of the truth.
15 An actual example can be found in the case of a German Jewish man who had been in concentration camp with Jehovah’s witnesses in the Hitlerian era. He said: “There is no question they are a wonderful people. Others, Catholic priests, rabbis, Protestants, I saw abandon all their principles and live like animals. But Jehovah’s witnesses they could not break. I admire them very much. Certainly God is with them. In my own case, however, there is my family, my friends: by tradition and education, I am a Jew and must remain such. I will be a silent supporter and admirer, but I could never really go with them.” Here is an example of an open-eyed admission that human traditions and pride of race are holding a man back from joining with those upon whom he has visibly seen the spirit of Jehovah.
WHY PROUD HUMAN TRADITION MUST BE OVERCOME
16. Present scriptures and reasons why human traditions must be overcome by God’s people.
16 Because it does not originate with Jehovah, but with this world, Jehovah’s faithful people must have no part with this world: “They are no part of the world just as I am no part of the world,” the Lord Jesus said. (John 17:16) The necessity of separateness from worldly practices and traditions was stated by the apostle John: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) This command is quite clear; one must not be conformed to the ways of the old world. The apostle Paul said: “And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.”—Rom. 12:2.
17. Who is the originator of human tradition, and what will be the result to those who cling to it?
17 These scriptures clearly show that human, proud tradition is not from God but from the Devil. It does not come from above, but from below, from this evil world that is at enmity with God. “Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4) Surely no one intelligently wants to be an enemy of God. Therefore Jehovah’s people must overcome the world and its tradition.
18, 19. The works of human tradition are what, and how are they seen today?
18 Human tradition is part of the pride of flesh. It works evil. The apostle Paul states: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” (Gal. 5:19-21) This is another strong reason why proud tradition must be overcome by all who desire to be of God’s new world.
19 The evils of proud, human tradition are seen in the present deplorable state of this world with its strife, disunity, division, partiality, hatred, corruption and war. The whole theory of separative tradition is a divisive force. World unity, national unity and family unity are broken by such tradition.
20. What stand have Jehovah’s witnesses taken individually and collectively as shown by the Resolution adopted at the New York assembly?
20 Jehovah’s witnesses have quit the world and taken a stand against it. They are for God’s new world and have made known world-wide their stand as one united people separate from this world and its divisive traditions. In the Resolution adopted at their international convention at New York in 1958 they declared: “That what has made us one Christian people despite the fact that we come from so many diversified peoples is that we have separated ourselves from this world and its hateful conflicts and have dedicated ourselves through Jesus Christ to our one God and heavenly Father . . . we will not permit men who fight against God to break up our unity.” And furthermore: “ . . . that we may be accounted worthy of being ushered into God’s everlasting new world after Armageddon, there to worship him unitedly as one family of his creatures without racial distinctions and national boundaries and divisions under one government, His kingdom by Christ, and to do his will forever and ever.”
HOW TO OVERCOME PROUD TRADITION
21. Is proud tradition new? Explain what the apostle Paul found at Athens.
21 The proud human traditions that manifest themselves in this twentieth century are not new to the history of mankind. The Greek civilization seen by the apostle Paul when he visited Athens 1,900 years ago had the same basic thinking. While Paul was alone, waiting for Silas and Timothy to reach him, he keenly observed the city and its customs. Though he had seen many cities and much idolatry, he was shocked at what he saw in Athens: “Now while Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit within him came to be irritated at beholding that the city was full of idols.” (Acts 17:16) Idols were not only in the temples but also in the public squares, on the streets and throughout the city.
22. What condition of the people did Paul face at Athens? And what problems confronted him in presenting the truth?
22 Athens was a university city, filled with professors, lecturers, philosophers, students, and intellectuals. “In fact, all Athenians and the foreigners visiting there would spend their leisure time at nothing but telling something or listening to something new.” They loved to talk and argue: “Certain ones of both the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers took to conversing with him controversially.” (Acts 17:18-21) The Christian Paul was alone in this godless community of agnostics, intellectuals, full of proud traditions and theories of men. How could true worship be set before these unbelievers? How could he help these worldly-wise people to begin to realize that they did not have the truth? How could he help them by removing from their minds the barriers of tradition? He saw that the salvation of these people would depend on his first breaking down their proud tradition. Therefore he went to the court of the Areopagus, the highest court at Athens. This was a place of great antiquity, and here Paul pleaded the cause of Christianity. Once we understand how the apostle Paul proceeded under the guidance of the holy spirit, then we have set before us an example of how basic Bible truths can be used to overcome proud tradition.
23. In breaking through proud tradition what fundamental truths did Paul use?
23 Paul first brought the proud Athenian intellectuals down to a common level by stating these fundamental truths: “The God that made the world and all the things in it, being, as this One is, Lord of heaven and earth, . . . he himself gives to all persons life and breath and all things. And he made out of one man every nation of men . . . For by him we have life and move and exist . . . Seeing, therefore, that we are the progeny of God, we ought not to imagine that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, like something sculptured by the art and contrivance of man. . . . he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead.”—Acts 17:24-31.
24. Show from the Scriptures why no human has anything of which to boast.
24 Here we see how Paul placed humankind with its proud traditions in the true light by showing that all men are dependent upon God for their very existence. Without this first gift from God, neither they, their cities, nations or traditions would even be here. Therefore, realizing their entire dependence upon the Creator and Life-giver, they should learn his way and obey his commands. As Paul later said in his letter to Timothy: “For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”—1 Tim. 6:7, 8.
25. What must we do to gain salvation, and why should we give thanks?
25 None of us will ever be able to gain salvation, either as a family or individually, unless all realize that everything we have comes from the Almighty Creator of the universe. Everyone should be filled with gratitude to Him for his goodness and undeserved kindness in opening for us the way to his favor and salvation. If we do not forsake human worldly traditions with their pride, they will be a barrier always in the way, always hurting, always dividing, always keeping people at enmity with God and with their neighbors. Let us give thanks to Jehovah for the revelation of truth, knowing that Jehovah’s new world has no place for anything divisive and discriminatory. All must live together now in peace and be at unity with one another.
The result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.—Prov. 22:4.
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