Questions From Readers
● What is the meaning of the prayer to God: “Do not bring us into temptation”?—E. D., U.S.A.
This is part of Jesus’ familiar ‘model prayer.’ After urging his disciples to pray for forgiveness, Christ concluded the prayer: “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.”—Matt. 6:12, 13; Luke 11:4.
Some have wondered whether this means that unless one asks God to do otherwise God is going to tempt one to sin. But that absolutely cannot be, for Jehovah inspired Jesus’ half brother James to write: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ No; for with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (Jas 1:13) Jesus’ words must be understood in the light of this verse and in harmony with it.
The experience of Adam and Eve illuminates what Christ meant. God permitted them to eat to satisfaction from “every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food.” However, they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.—Gen. 2:9, 16, 17.
That was a test on them, true. Yet it was not an evil test designed to hurt them. God was not like the religious enemies of Christ who schemed to test him so as to trap him and thus have an excuse to have him killed. (Matt. 22:15-18; Mark 11:18; 12:13; John 11:53) By this simple test of Adam and Eve, Jehovah could make plain what they really were, whether as free moral agents they truly wanted to obey and serve their Creator.
But note what a fine thing God did: To help Adam and Eve avoid error, in effect, to ‘bring them not into temptation,’ He explained that to disobey would be wrong and would lead to death. Surely warning a person against evil is not tempting him with it. Was it not the Devil who tempted the first pair? He saw an opportunity to tempt them to go beyond the boundaries that God had set for them. His false description of the outcome of eating from the tree created a wrong desire, which in turn led to sin.—Gen. 3:1-6; Jas. 1:14, 15.
As he did with Adam and Eve, God leads Christians today ‘not into temptation’ by warning us against evils and by advising us what the outcome will be if we share in such things. We are thus aided to avoid temptations to do wrong.
For instance, Jehovah clearly tells us that adultery is a sin and to be shunned. (Ex. 20:14; Rom. 13:9, 10) That is a warning so that we are not ignorant of what is wrong. Also, He states what the results would be if a Christian practiced that wrong; he would defile the marriage bed, be judged adversely and not inherit the Kingdom. (Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Plainly, Jehovah is not tempting Christians into adultery. On the contrary, observe the splendid counsel at 1 Corinthians 7:5. To married couples who might, by mutual consent, abstain from marital relations for a time, went the advice that then they should ‘come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting them’ toward adultery. The temptation would not be from God, who had alerted and forewarned them, but from Satan through the operation of wrong desire.
Similarly, at 1 Timothy 6:9, 10 Jehovah warns that the love of money is dangerous and that it can lead to all sorts of injurious things. And he states that the outcome of this love and the determination to be rich can include being led astray from the faith and suffering many pains. So we are notified of what is wrong and made aware of the harm that can result if we fall into this temptation.—2 Cor. 2:11.
One who prays not to be brought into temptation obligates himself to do his best to avoid temptations. That would include shunning thoughts that build up wrong desires as well as situations where temptations are likely to arise. Also he must let Jehovah strengthen him by studying God’s Word so that he can discern good from evil.
Consequently, Jesus’ words “Do not bring us into temptation” do not imply that God tempts us or brings us into situations that tempt us with evil, and hence the necessity of begging Him to do otherwise. Rather, they constitute a request that God not leave us ignorant of evil things that might be a temptation, but that he warn and strengthen us so that we can avoid the temptation or endure it.
● May dedicated Christians attend church funerals of other religious organizations?—C. S., U.S.A.
Some Christians may feel obligated to attend a church funeral because of a debt of gratitude, because a close relative is involved or due to pressures from an unbelieving mate. But before doing so each one should consider the various factors involved and the possible alternatives. While doing so is not forbidden by the Christian congregation, such a course is certainly fraught with dangers and problems.
First of all, it is well to remember that a church funeral is not held primarily to afford friends an opportunity to console the bereaved family. Usually that is done in the funeral parlor beforehand or by visiting the family in their home. The church funeral is really a religious service. It therefore is likely to involve a sermon advocating such unscriptural ideas as the immortality of the soul and that all good people go to heaven. It may also involve unscriptural practices such as making the sign of the cross and most likely the joining in united prayer with a priest or minister of another religion. Of course, a Christian could not take part in such, in view of the command at Revelation 18:4.
In this regard Japanese funerals represent a real test for dedicated Christian wives with unbelieving husbands. If they attend the funeral, their name is called out and they are expected to go up and offer incense and a prayer to the dead. So, many of such Japanese Christians have decided that it is better not to attend these funerals.
Some dedicated Christians have attended church funerals because they wanted to stay close to the immediate family and support them. So they went to the funeral parlor, to the church funeral and then even to the grave. They might have been able to do all that without personally committing any false religious act. There are, of course, spiritual hazards in going to any place of false worship.
True, a Christian wife whose husband is an unbeliever and who wants her to attend a church funeral might look to the example of Naaman. He was the Syrian general who was cured of leprosy by bathing himself seven times in the Jordan River at the command of the prophet Elisha. Because of this miraculous cure Naaman was determined never to worship any other god than Jehovah. But that would be a hard thing for him to do because he was still in the service of his king. He helped the king get around and so would have to go with him into the house of the pagan god Rimmon. He might even have to help the king bow down. So he asked that Jehovah God forgive him and not hold this against him. Naaman, who had become a true worshiper of Jehovah, was not himself worshiping this false god; he was only there under orders.—2 Ki. 5:1-19.
And so with the Christian wife who has an unbelieving husband. If her husband insisted that on a certain occasion she go with him to a church funeral of a relative or family friend she might feel that she could act in a way similar to that in which Naaman did—be present on that occasion but not share in any acts of false religion. But whether she went would be up to her to decide. She would have to resolve the conflict between respect for her husband’s wishes and obedience to Jehovah and the dictates of her conscience, trained by God’s Word.—1 Pet. 3:16.
Yes, her conscience would be involved. Why? Because others might see her, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, entering the church, and they might be stumbled. She would therefore have to consider that possibility. As the apostle Paul wrote: “Make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ.”—Phil. 1:10.
Better it would be if such a wife tried to explain her position to her husband. She would do well to pick a time when he was relaxed and in a good frame of mind, taking a lesson from Queen Esther, and then tactfully try to explain why she felt she could not attend such a church funeral. Among other things, she could point out that if she attended and did not take part in the ritual it might be very embarrassing to others, and especially to her husband. So an unbelieving husband might agree, out of love for his wife, respect for her religious scruples and a desire to avoid embarrassment.—Esther 5:1-8.
But might one offend the bereaved family by not attending? Only if one ignored the death entirely. One would not need to do that. A person could do things to show that he was sympathetic and interested in helping. He could go to the funeral parlor beforehand, express condolences to the family and offer practical help. A person could bring over food if need be, or cook a meal there for the family, or watch the children, relieving the adults of that responsibility temporarily. Then the family would not think that the person was unloving just because he did not attend the church funeral.
Thus there is no need for a Christian to feel obligated to go to a church funeral of another religious organization, where there may be the temptation to give in to pressure and follow the crowd when everyone else is performing some false religious act. Thus also the danger of performing an act of apostasy and displeasing Jehovah God can be avoided. But each one must decide for oneself on the basis of circumstances and one’s own conscience.