Customs or Bible Principles—Which Govern Your Life?
THE Japanese man visiting another Asian land looked on in shocked disbelief. His host, using his own chopsticks, picked over the meat on the serving platter, selected a choice piece, and then placed it on the guest’s bowl of rice! Back home in Japan, this would be regarded as bad manners. No one would use his own chopsticks to take food from the common dish unless the chopsticks were first reversed so that the end that is placed in the mouth did not contact the food. Yet his host was really seeking only to honor him, not to offend him. What was unthinkable in Japan was a gesture of respect in this land!
How customs vary! How inconsequential many customs are! And who can say which ones are best? However, some customs are based on superstitions or false teachings. For those whose consciences have been trained by the Bible, such customs are clearly to be avoided. What can help one who is desiring to please God to decide which customs can be observed and to what extent? Following Bible principles can, for a Christian accepts the Bible as his standard no matter where he lives.
Applying Bible Principles
That God’s Word does have great power to work on a humble person’s heart and to bring his life more and more into harmony with God’s way has been amply demonstrated. The apostle Paul said that the Christians in Thessalonica received God’s Word “just as it truthfully is, as the word of God, which is also at work in you believers.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) So powerful is that Word that, as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 points out, it had caused many in ancient Corinth, noted for its licentiousness, to forsake their former course of thievery, fornication, drunkenness, and homosexuality. Is God’s Word also at work in you? Do its principles govern your life to the fullest extent, enabling you to discern what to do when confronted with local customs?
At times it is obvious that a custom is directly in conflict with Bible principles. In such cases one knowing Jehovah’s standards and desiring to be pleasing to him will avoid such customs. For example, the custom may be that of burning incense at a funeral to appease the deceased or his “departed soul” or to give him a good send-off and make his “soul” happy. Or it may be that models of houses, TV sets, cars, and so on, are burned with a view to providing him with enjoyment in the spirit realm. However, a Christian who believes the Bible’s statement that the dead “are conscious of nothing at all” knows that such practices are based on false beliefs and thus avoids them.—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Psalm 146:4.
However, when a custom does not directly violate Bible principles but simply makes it more difficult to serve Jehovah God fully, it is harder to draw the line and show that Bible principles govern your life. High regard for education and material success, lifelong subjection to parents, and parental choosing of marriage mates are among some widespread customs that can affect one’s relationship with Jehovah. How can Bible principles be applied in situations such as these?
[Picture on page 3]
Burning models at a funeral