Beware of Complacency!
HAVE you ever said, when spoken to by a student of the Bible: ‘I feel that religion is a personal thing, not to be discussed. I don’t want to get my mind all stirred up, confused’? Do you prefer to be complacent? Yet Jesus Christ himself said of our times:
“Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
Of course, complacency and contentment, with peace of mind, can be good. But complacency that relies on unfounded hopes or ideas can be most dangerous.
For example, there is no wisdom in sitting in one’s home in a complacent attitude when storm and evacuation warnings are coming over the radio. Certainly the Bible proverb has proved true toward many of such complacent, unheeding persons: “The simpleton turns a deaf ear and comes to grief, and the stupid are ruined by their own complacency.”—Prov. 1:32, The New English Bible.
Some may argue with regard to warnings as citizens in some recently flooded areas did. Said a report: “A complacent public, thinking itself protected because of levees and other flood control works built after the famous ‘hundred year flood’ of 1946, ignored the warnings that a worse flood might be yet to come.”
But what about a warning of divine origin, particularly if that warning had been given over a period of years, and if an unbiased examination of the facts proved that the warning was justified? Would complacency then not be even more foolish?
IS CHRISTENDOM NEAR COLLAPSE?
There is such a warning, and that warning is of the collapse of the religions of Christendom, together with the fabric of society into which these religions are interwoven. But do the facts justify such a warning and the need to forsake a complacent attitude, if a person belongs to one of these church systems?
Well, consider the record of the churches. Have they truly raised the moral standards of the people, even of their own members? Rather, have they not gone along with the world, abandoning Bible standards and lowering themselves to the point that to follow them would be no different from following any worldly organization? Have the churches proved able to make their members different, or better equipped to live more decent, moral lives?
What about politics, nationalistic divisions, and war? The religions of Christendom have not warned the people of the danger, in fact, the hopelessness of relying on men. Instead, they have backed man-rule and promoted nationalism. In many cases they have gone so far as to direct their members as to whom to vote for in political elections. They have fomented and encouraged wholesale slaughter of men, including civilian populations, in sanguinary warfare.
Consequently, should a person belonging to a religion in the so-called Christian part of the world feel that he is safe? Should he believe that, no matter what happens, Christendom cannot fall, to his own loss?
DANGER OF COMPLACENCY ILLUSTRATED
If anyone tends to be complacent and unheeding toward the warning message that calamity is about to come upon Christendom, let him consider a Bible illustration that should shake such a one from his complacency.
The illustration is one that would hardly be used today, especially in the Western world. Nevertheless, it is as forceful and pictorially accurate as an illustration can be.
This illustration was given to the prophet Ezekiel only about five years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel, in vision, saw twenty-five complacent men. They were princes of Jerusalem. As prominent men of the city, counselors of the king, they were giving bad counsel to Jerusalem. Not only were they going contrary to the warnings given by the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah, but they were very likely encouraging King Zedekiah to rebel against Babylon and break the covenant that he had made under oath before God. (2 Chron. 36:11-13; 2 Ki. 24:18 to 25:1) They were relying on the military power of Egypt, the ‘arm of flesh,’ to save them. For it was within the three years after Ezekiel’s vision (612 B.C.E.) that King Zedekiah did rebel, with their approval.
God actually said this to Ezekiel in the vision and illustration he gave the prophet. Ezekiel reports:
“And a spirit proceeded to lift me up and bring me to the eastern gate of the house of Jehovah that is facing eastward, and, look! in the entrance of the gate there were twenty-five men, and I got to see in the midst of them Jaazaniah the son of Azzur and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. Then he [Jehovah] said to me: ‘Son of man, these are the men that are scheming hurtfulness and advising bad counsel against this city; that are saying, “Is not the building of houses close at hand? She is the widemouthed cooking pot, and we are the flesh.”’”—Ezek. 11:1-3.
These governmental princes and counselors of King Zedekiah felt complacent inside the strongly fortified Jerusalem. The city walls were like the sides of a metallic pot, unbreachable, as they thought. Like flesh cooking inside an iron pot, they would not be taken out, dispossessed. The counselors felt that they could ensure their permanent residence by appealing to the king of Egypt for help against Babylon. So they reasoned that it was time to build houses, with long-term occupancy in view.
These complacent, overconfident ones and the rest of the people in Jerusalem needed warning. Therefore God commanded Ezekiel to give a prophecy that proved to be very pointed and powerful. Jehovah said:
“‘You people said the right thing, O house of Israel; and as regards the things that come up in your spirit, I myself have known it. You have caused your slain ones in this city to be many, and you have filled her streets with the slain ones.”’ “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘As regards your slain ones whom you people have put in the midst of her, they are the flesh, and she is the widemouthed cooking pot; and there will be a bringing forth of you yourselves out of the midst of her.’”—Ezek. 11:5-7.
These men had gone so far as even to kill off those in the city who favored continued submission to Babylon. But God showed that, instead of these princes staying inside Jerusalem, as they supposed, it was the ones they had killed who would stay there. It would be the overconfident princes that would be dragged out of their homes by the Babylonians. They would see their houses burned before they fell by the sword of the king of Babylon. Ezekiel said to those princes:
“‘A sword you have feared, and a sword I shall bring upon you,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. ‘And I shall certainly bring you forth out of the midst of her and give you into the hand of strangers and execute upon you acts of judgment. By the sword you will fall. . . . On the border of Israel I shall judge you, and you will have to know that I am Jehovah, because in my regulations you did not walk and my judgments you did not do, but according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you, you have done.’”—Ezek. 11:8-12.
Of course, these words show that Jehovah would really be the one executing judgment on these complacent schemers. But in doing so he would use the “sword” in the hands of foreign “strangers,” the Babylonians, to do the actual killing. Those who survived the “sword” would not be safe inside the walls of that symbolic “pot,” Jerusalem. Dragged outside, they would be judged “on the border of Israel.” And it took place that way. It was at the northern tip of that territory that had been conquered by King David, namely, at Riblah toward Hamath, that the following occurred:
“Furthermore, the chief of the bodyguard took Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest and the three doorkeepers, and from the city he took one court official that happened to be commissioner over the men of war, and seven men of those having access to the king, who were found in the city, and the secretary of the chief of the army, the one mustering the people of the land, and sixty men of the people of the land, who were found in the midst of the city. So these Nebuzaradan the chief of the bodyguard took and conducted them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. And these the king of Babylon proceeded to strike down and to put them to death in Riblah in the land of Hamath. Thus Judah went into exile from off its soil.”—Jer. 52:24-27.
JEHOVAH NOT COMPLACENT TOWARD COVENANT BREAKERS
Jehovah thereby showed that he is the unfailing Covenant Keeper. He is not complacent about the agreements he makes. He lives up to them to the letter, and he will not ignore those who are untrue to their agreements and who disobey God’s laws and complacently feel that it makes no difference, and that they are safe. He said with plainspokenness to those complacent ones in Jerusalem: “I shall judge you.” Why? “Because in my regulations you did not walk and my judgments you did not do, but according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you, you have done.”—Ezek. 11:11, 12.
Has modern-day Christendom, like ancient Israel, professed to be in covenant relationship with God? Yes. She has distributed millions of copies of the Bible in more than a thousand languages. These Bibles have established his divine name as being Jehovah or Yahweh. She claims her mediator between this God and men to be Jesus Christ the Son of God, and that she is in the “new covenant” with God. (Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6) However, she has violated his laws, broken her covenant with God. In addition to her bloodguilt she has condoned immorality among her church members, and declared that God is dead, that he has no interest in men and has no part in the historical record. Her clergymen say, in effect, that he has forgotten his new covenant. When warning is presented to them they ignore it, even scoff at it. (2 Pet. 3:3, 4) Like the counselors of King Zedekiah of Judah, they prophesy good things for Christendom’s religious, political and commercial establishments, telling the people to put their trust in the ‘arm of flesh,’ and actually causing their church members and others to sit back complacently.—Jer. 6:14.
Christendom does not have a stone wall around her as ancient Jerusalem did. Nevertheless, her clergymen and leaders may feel as Jerusalem’s princes did, that she is in a safe place, just as flesh inside the confines of an iron vessel. Her “wall” is that in which she puts her trust, the military might of the nations. She advocates man-rule, especially through a world organization such as the United Nations. In fact, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America called its predecessor the League of Nations “the political expression of the kingdom of God on earth.”
Will Jehovah do anything about Christendom’s actions that have defamed his name? Will he shake the false religious leaders as well as those politicians who claim that the nations they are leading are Christian nations? Will they be jolted from their complacent attitude? Note what happened in Ezekiel’s case:
“And it came about that as soon as I prophesied Pelatiah the son of Benaiah himself died, and I proceeded to fall upon my face and cry with a loud voice and say: ‘Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! Is it an extermination that you are executing with the remaining ones of Israel?’”—Ezek. 11:13.
In the vision, what was it that caused Pelatiah the prince to drop dead after Ezekiel had prophesied and served notice upon the twenty-five “princes of the people”? According to what he cried out in fear, the prophet Ezekiel took it to be a direct execution of judgment from Jehovah. He took it as a sign not only of impending death for the other twenty-four princes, but, alas! also of a coming extermination of all the “remaining ones of Israel.” He did not, however, challenge God’s right to exterminate them all.
Seeing how God viewed these men in Jerusalem who broke his covenant and complacently considered themselves safe in their materialistic trust in secular power, how does God view Christendom and her leaders? Will he let them continue to say “God is dead,” ignore the laws of his new covenant in which they claim to be joined to him, and ridicule the warning from his Word the Bible, now being publicly declared?
If anyone has tended to be complacent, not really serving God and paying no attention to his Word or the warning of the nearness of the ‘great tribulation,’ he should beware! He should awake from any sleepy, lethargic state, sit up and give immediate heed to what God has to say. If not, God will be acting entirely in harmony with justice and righteousness in destroying him at the coming crisis upon this world.
QUESTIONS DESERVING ANSWER
Just as Ezekiel feared the destruction of all Jehovah’s covenant people during the threatening destruction of Jerusalem, a similar fear might be excited in the hearts of religiously minded persons who do not appreciate the distinction between Christendom and true Christianity. Does Christendom’s attitude toward God and her failure mean that Christianity has failed?
Thinking on these things, a person might fearfully be moved to ask the question, ‘If in the coming “great tribulation” upon the whole system of things Jehovah exterminates all of Christendom and her worldly allies, will this mean the destruction of true Christianity as a whole?’
There are those who would like to have it so. Communist and other radical elements who hate the Christianity of the Bible would like to share in wiping out, not only the hypocritical Christianity of Christendom, but also the “pure religion,” the true Christian worship of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.—Jas. 1:27, Authorized Version.
Will these irreligious radicals have the satisfaction of seeing Christianity erased from the earth? Or will there be a definite line of demarcation between the hypocritical false religion and true Christianity, so that Christianity will survive? Remembering that, though secular powers will be used in destroying Christendom, it is really God’s judgment that is being executed, we will look forward to what the prophet Ezekiel next heard from God. This will be discussed in a forthcoming issue of this magazine. In the meantime, sincere persons will not be complacent, but will be searching to see what God’s will is for them, that they may determine in what way, if any, God has provided for survival.