How the Bible Can Improve Your Family Life
HAVE you ever visited a small African village? Since this is quite unlikely would you join us as we make a visit to such a village in Rhodesia? We would like you to see how one’s life can be affected by true Bible knowledge.
As we leave the capital, Salisbury, we see cozy clumps of grass-roofed houses quite near the highway. Some miles farther we reach what is called Tribal Trust Land, where only African people live.
We are going to visit the home of the local overseer of the congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses. What a warm reception we are given! As is the custom in Africa, everyone who is able to walk would like to greet us personally by shaking our hand. The overseer’s name is Samuel and his wife is Sarah, both Bible names.
We tell Samuel that we have come especially to find out from him just how the Bible has affected his life and that of his family. He says he will be pleased to give what information he can.
Knowing that Africa is much in the news in connection with newly emerging nations becoming independent, we ask Samuel: “Do these national changes affect your life as a Christian?”
“Very little,” he replies. “But I must say that in many of the newly independent nations persecutions have flared up against true Christians because they will not share in political activities. Such a nationalistic spirit, however, is not really something new, because prior to my learning about God’s kingdom my family was very much affected by tribalism. This tribalism was always a source of division and friction, and there did not seem to be any remedy.
“Nevertheless, there was a remedy, and it came from the Bible. Yes, when we commenced learning about God’s kingdom as the one government over all the earth we were able to look beyond the barriers of tribe and nation. Now it does not really matter to us from which tribe we come, or in which country we live. We know that God’s kingdom soon will unite everyone left remaining on earth into one happy family. We look forward to that occurring in the very near future.”
“This Bible hope must certainly bring you much peace of mind, Samuel. But there’s something we would like to ask you. In books on Africa, there is always much said about belief in spirits, both good and bad. And superstition is said to be a strong force in the African way of life. Is this correct?”
BELIEF IN SPIRITS OF ANCESTORS
“Much of what you have read is true. It is the same with African people as with people from every other country. They feel the need to worship something or someone. Because of not knowing the truth about the condition of the dead, African people have quite easily become ensnared with the false doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
“Of course, we now know from our study of the Bible that it is the demons, wicked spirit creatures, who work through men and women in the form of witch doctors, medicine men, and others. But until one receives Bible knowledge these demons very much affect the life of an African person. For instance, it is believed that if the spirit of a dead ancestor is not appeased it can cause sickness and eventual death to those alive. I actually know of cases of healthy, young people who became ill and died as a result of witchcraft. Now I realize that it is not the dead who have power to cause this, but it is the demons who are responsible.”
“What Bible texts convince you that it is not the dead that cause such trouble?”
“Oh, there are many. One that always comes to my mind is at Ezekiel 18:4, where it specifically says that the soul dies. Then in Ecclesiastes chapter 9 it says that the dead are not conscious, that they do not do any work and have no knowledge. So I am completely convinced that my ancestors who have died are not now existing in the spirit world. And if I did have troubles from the spirit world, then it must be from the wicked spirits, the demons. Since we have accepted the truth about God’s kingdom, my family has cast off all belief in superstitions and the spirits of our ancestors.”
“What are some superstitions believed by the African people?”
FORMER BELIEFS IN SUPERSTITION
Samuel, putting his hands up in the air, says: “There are many of these. One very common superstition is that women and children must wear a string around the waist in order to prevent sickness, and, in the case of the women, to prevent sterility. Some believe that if a woman with a newborn baby who is not wearing this special string meets another woman with a newborn baby wearing this string, the child of the first woman will die.
“Other persons will take a stick and knock leaves from a certain plant or bush. They will then collect only the leaves that fall bottom side up, boil them, make a tea and drink it. It is a medicine for blackouts or fainting, and it is believed that this drink has unusual power. Another belief is that a pregnant woman should never walk across a freshly plowed field since this will cause her expected child to die. But, thanks to God’s Word the Bible, these superstitions now have no effect on me or my family.”
“By the way, Samuel, were you a member of a church of Christendom before you became one of Jehovah’s witnesses?”
“Yes, I was. But at that time we did not appreciate what God’s kingdom would do and how important it is, so we continued to look to our tribe and to our nation as being something special, superior to others. The religion we had did not unite us as Bible truth has done. And our old pagan beliefs in superstition and the spirits of our ancestors—well, we didn’t have to change, we still believed in these although we called ourselves Christians. So when I learned the truth about God’s kingdom and God’s purpose for the earth I had many changes to make. Now I’m glad that I made them.”
“In what ways did you find that the Bible improved your own family life?”
UNITY AND WARMTH IN FAMILY LIVING
“I can say that it is entirely different now. You see, before I became one of Jehovah’s witnesses, I viewed Sarah, my wife, as a necessity in the home, but I did not really appreciate the wonderful role she plays. I must admit that I viewed her more as a hired worker and one who would give me children. Now it makes me sad to think of the little consideration that I used to show her and the little appreciation I expressed to her for the hard work she did and her care for the children. The Bible’s counsel at Colossians chapter 3, verse 19, has helped me very much. There husbands are told to ‘keep on loving their wives.’”
“Samuel, you say that your family life is entirely different now. Can you tell us what it used to be like?”
“Well, since I obtained my wife by giving lobola (bride-price) to her father, I thought that she was now to be my worker for my benefit. Since we men considered ourselves superior to our wives, we did not favor sitting with them to eat, nor did we generally sit with them when discussing anything. It was our custom for our wives to give us our food first and then they and the children would eat their food in another place. Giving of correction to our children was also my wife’s job.”
“Well, it certainly is fine to see you, Sarah, and the children here together this morning. Sarah, we haven’t heard from you. How do you feel the Bible has improved your family life?”
Speaking slowly, deliberately, she replies: “It has improved our family life in so many ways. We work just as hard, but we have so much more for which to work. We now have real love for one another, and this has produced a strong bond of unity in the family, even as the apostle Paul said it would, at Colossians 3:14. We are all so much happier now.”
“Samuel, you mentioned earlier that you used to leave to your wife the responsibility of giving correction to the children. What moved you to make a change here in your family life?”
“You see, previously I did not think that the training of our children was an important part of family life. When our firstborn, Mary, was less than ten years old she had much of the responsibility of caring for and correcting her younger brothers and sisters. In those days I didn’t really see much of the children. I wasn’t concerned with how they were getting along. As long as they were not sick, I thought they were all right. I never found the time, or I guess I never wanted to associate with our children in relaxation. Rather, when I wasn’t working I would be visiting with men who lived nearby, and we used to drink quite a lot of homemade African beer. My wife, Sarah, would join our drinking parties sometimes, and then the children would be by themselves at home. At times there would be quarrels at these parties as the evening wore on, and this would cause much unpleasantness.”
“Excuse me, Samuel. We are sorry if our question has caused you unhappiness in recalling former activities. But what we would like to hear more about is what it was that moved you to make these changes.”
“Well, without any hesitation I can say that it has been due to the clear understanding of Bible truths I now have. We are all so thankful to Jehovah for making it possible for us to learn of his ways and purposes. That which made a greater change in our family life than anything else was the Bible truth concerning family headship. The Bible principles at Ephesians chapter 5, verse 28, and Eph chapter 6, verse 4, were made plain to me, and I came to see that I was responsible for much more in my family than I had been accepting. It was clear that I must take more interest in my wife and my children. After commencing to do this, I found that my family life became so much more interesting. We now have so much in common. How the children responded to the care and interest that I showed them! Really, this was God’s blessing for my willingness to make adjustments to comply with his Word.
“Also, my wife gave me full support as I accepted my God-given responsibility of guiding and correcting the children. As I mentioned a few minutes ago, I used to spend much time with the men of the neighborhood, talking and joining them in their parties. Well, that’s all in the past now, and I don’t feel I am missing out on anything. This improvement in my family life has given me time to enjoy my family in relaxation too, and now I appreciate just how much I was missing!”
“We have certainly enjoyed hearing you tell us about these changes that have come about in your life, Samuel. But I have another question I would like to ask you. As we passed through the village and its surrounding fields, we noticed very few men of working age, either around the houses or out in the fields. Where are all the men?”
“Most of the men from this village are away working in the towns and cities. You see, work in the towns brings much more money than work here in the country. But after a man comes to appreciate the importance of the family circle through understanding Bible principles he becomes more balanced spiritually. Several of the men in our congregation used to work away from home. However, since giving up that work and returning to live here they have become much stronger spiritually, and their family life has greatly improved. This has taken real effort on their part and trust in Jehovah, but they are glad they made these changes. We are too, because we now have them with us regularly at all our meetings in the congregation.”
The time of our visit has passed quickly, and we must now depart. On our return journey to Salisbury we reflect on the tremendous amount of good that would result to families throughout Africa, and in every part of the earth, if they would only stop long enough to learn how the Bible can improve their life together.