Questions From Readers
● What should a Christian wife do if her unbelieving husband asks her to visit his family for a meal on a worldly holiday?—B. S., U.S.A.
This puts a Christian wife in a difficult situation, because a number of factors come into play. Probably she will immediately think of two factors involving subjection. She has a Scriptural obligation to be in subjection to her husband. (Titus 2:4, 5) Yet, she also has the responsibility to be obedient to Jehovah, who exercises supreme headship over her.—Heb. 12:9.
The Christian position on worldly holidays such as Christmas is quite clear. The only day for special observance as far as Christians are concerned is the anniversary of Christ’s death. (Luke 22:19, 20) It would be wrong to share in religious celebrations that, although associated with Scriptural events, are saturated with paganism, as with Christmas and Easter. (2 Cor. 6:14-18) But as long as we live in this old system of things we probably will have some contact with individuals who celebrate holidays based on pagan worship. (1 Cor. 5:10) These may include relatives.
If, at her husband’s request, a Christian wife did go along to visit relatives on a worldly holiday, her conduct would undoubtedly make it plain that she was not celebrating the holiday. The relatives might bid welcome with a special holiday greeting, but she would not say a holiday greeting in return. They might use the visit as an occasion to give gifts, but she would not be giving gifts. In fact, she would not even share in the festive spirit of the holiday season. Thus it would be evident that her visit to have a meal was not something special on her part because of the holiday.
If she tactfully and respectfully spoke to her husband in advance, explaining the embarrassment that might occur if the relatives did have some holiday activities and she did not share in them, he might decide to schedule the visit for another day. (1 Pet. 3:15) Once he fully understood her Scriptural position, he would likely be more inclined to decide on a course that would be more suitable for all concerned.
If, after hearing her explanation, he still insisted that she accompany him, the wife would have to make a personal decision as to whether she should do so. She might conclude that as head of the household he has the responsibility to provide food for the family. (Col. 3:18) In this case her head, her husband, might be arranging for her meal in this way, at the home of his family, because both families are free from secular work and a visit is possible. Just because it is the date of a worldly holiday does not make it wrong to have a meal with one’s relatives. She could witness during such meal.
Note the principle at 1 Corinthians 8:8: “Food will not commend us to God; if we do not eat, we do not fall short, and, if we eat, we have no credit to ourselves.” The food is not contaminated just because it is eaten on a worldly holiday. The Christian would view it as a common meal; she would not be joining in any holiday greetings, songs, toasts, and so forth. So just eating the meal would not be a sin.
Another factor to be considered, though, is the effect that sharing such a meal might have on others. The apostle Paul added in 1 Corinthians 8:9: “Keep watching that this authority of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” While the apostle was discussing food sacrificed to idols, this does highlight the possibility that others who learn of her visiting worldly relatives on that day might be stumbled.—1 Cor. 10:23, 24.
Also, she faces dangers as to maintaining her Christian integrity if the family puts pressure on her to compromise. The desire to avoid any embarrassment might exert a powerful influence on her and lead her to share in some apostate religious activity. Surely she would regret it if she did something that displeased Jehovah. So, it would be important to think the matter through in advance, taking these factors into consideration when making the decision.
In the final analysis she can weigh the factors and then make an individual decision. (Gal. 6:5) She would do well to decide in such a way as to retain a clear Christian conscience, to be able to say, as did Paul: “I am exercising myself continually to have a consciousness of committing no offense against God and men.”—Acts 24:16.
● Does Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew 24:12 about the cooling off of the love of the greater number find fulfillment in Christendom or among Jehovah’s Christian witnesses?—P. A., U.S.A.
The things that have occurred in this generation show that both Christendom and God’s true servants are involved in the fulfillment of this prophecy. In the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew Jesus Christ was describing to four of his disciples different aspects of the composite sign that would be observed during his second presence. After mentioning wars, food shortages, earthquakes and persecution of true Christians, he added: “Many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.”—Matt. 24:11, 12.
The various aspects of this composite sign have been in evidence since the establishment of God’s kingdom in 1914, including the leading of people away from the Bible and fundamental Christian beliefs. The clergy of Christendom joined the trend to label the Bible as mythological; then they mixed in among their teachings human theories such as evolution, and now they spread the “God is dead” idea. Whereas people in Christendom claiming to be Christian used to read the Bible and view it as God’s inspired Word, many have now been led away from it by their ‘false prophet’ religious leaders. And some of the leaders have as much as admitted this. One clergyman told a Baptist convention: “A spirit of lethargy has overcome the people . . . and it is our fault.” Another minister told the same group: “We have drifted away from the practice of scriptural Christianity.”—Houston Post, December 5, 1964, page 15.
With millions of persons in Christendom rejecting the Bible as the standard to follow, morals have been adversely affected. There has been an increase of lawlessness. Some think that if there is a God he is not concerned with what they do. The people in general are frightened by the resulting crime and lawlessness, but, instead of their turning to God, they drift farther away from Him. As the aforementioned clergyman noted, they become lethargic and what love for God and fellowman they had diminishes; it cools off.
Some wonder how these can be the “greater number” referred to in this text, since they are not even true Christians. But they claim to be so. Of all the people professing to be Christians, these having little love for God and neighbor constitute the majority, the greater number.
However, those who are actually Christians can also be involved in this prophecy. For a time following the setting up of the Kingdom in 1914 Jehovah’s servants were in a state of spiritual captivity. There was persecution from the outside, and even within the organization of true Christians there were problems. Some had allowed their love for God to grow cold and they tried unlawfully to seize control of the organization. When they failed, they fell away and became an “evil slave” class, opposing those who continued to show true love for God. (Matt. 24:48-51) And over the years others have been influenced by the lawlessness of the world or have let their love die down for some other reason. The cooling off of their love caused them to abandon true worship and to join the imitation Christians, thus adding to the “greater number.”
Yet there appears to be no reason to conclude that the greater number of those in Jehovah’s organization of Christian witnesses now are going to lose their love for God in the future. The lawlessness and lack of love in the world is already well advanced, but most of Jehovah’s witnesses are remaining devoted to God and with strong love. Even so, we each need to be concerned with our own spirituality so that our love for God remains strong. (Matt. 22:37) If that is the case with each one of us, Jesus’ words in the next verse of Matthew chapter 24 will be fulfilled in us: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matt. 24:13.