“Turn Down the False Stories”
THE Bible is full of experiences and stories about people. Not only do we enjoy reading them but we benefit from them. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christian congregation in Rome: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”—Romans 15:4.
Paul himself shared in relating experiences. The Bible says of Paul and Barnabas at the conclusion of their first missionary tour: “When they had arrived [at Syrian Antioch] and had gathered the congregation together, they proceeded to relate the many things God had done by means of them.” (Acts 14:27) No doubt the brothers were greatly encouraged by these experiences.
Not all experiences, however, are upbuilding. Under inspiration, Paul cautioned Timothy: “Turn down the false stories which violate what is holy and which old women tell.” (1 Timothy 4:7) And to Titus he wrote that loyal Christians should pay “no attention to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn themselves away from the truth.”—Titus 1:14.
What were these false stories, or fables? Both terms come from the Greek myʹthos (“myth”). The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states that this word describes “a (religious) story that has no connection with reality.”
The world of Paul’s day was full of such stories. An example is the apocryphal book of Tobit, probably written over two hundred years before Paul’s time. This story tells of Tobit, a pious Jew, who is blinded when the dung of a bird falls into his eyes. Later, he sends his son, Tobias, to collect a debt. On the way, at an angel’s direction, Tobias secures the heart, liver, and gall of a fish. Next he encounters a widow who, though married seven times, remains a virgin because each husband was killed by an evil spirit on the wedding night. At the angel’s prompting, Tobias marries her and drives away the demon by burning the heart and liver of the fish. With the gall of the fish, Tobias later restores his father’s sight.
Clearly, this tale is not truthful. Apart from its fanciful nature and its appeal to superstition, it contains error. For example, the account says that Tobit witnessed both the revolt of the northern tribes and the deportation of Israelites to Nineveh, events in Israel’s history that were separated by 257 years. Yet, the story says that Tobit was 112 years old at the time of his death.—Tobit 1:4, 11; 14:1, The Jerusalem Bible.
Such fables are alien to the truthful “pattern of healthful words” proclaimed by faithful servants of God. (2 Timothy 1:13) They are products of the imagination, contrary to historical fact, the kind of thing related by ungodly old women. These were the stories to be turned down by Christians.
Testing Words of Truth
Similar stories abound today. Paul wrote: “There will be a period of time when [people] will not put up with the healthful teaching, but . . . will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4) In certain parts of the earth, tales of the supernatural are widespread and popular. Christians, therefore, wisely “test out [the] words” of religious stories to see if they are in harmony with the Bible.—Job 12:11.
Clearly, many are not. In many parts of the world, for example, it is common to hear stories that support the notion that the human soul is immortal. These stories describe how a person dies, only to reappear either in the body of a newborn infant, as a spirit, as an animal, or as a person in a different place.
God’s Word, however, shows that human souls are not immortal; souls die. (Ezekiel 18:4) Moreover, the Bible says that the dead are lifeless in the grave, unable to think, speak, or do anything. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Romans 6:23) Thus, those who are seduced by false stories that promote the notion that the soul is immortal are, as Paul said, “turned aside” from the Bible’s “healthful teaching.”
Tales of the Supernatural
Other stories focus on the deeds of witches and sorcerers. In parts of Africa, for example, these agents of evil are said to be equipped with terrible powers, able to change themselves or others into reptiles, monkeys, and birds; able to fly through the air to accomplish their missions; able to appear and disappear; able to pass through walls; and able to see objects buried beneath the ground.
The sheer abundance of such stories, along with the widespread belief in them, may tend to influence some in the Christian congregation also to believe that they are true. They might reason that while normal humans cannot do such things, those who receive superhuman powers from spirit creatures, the demons, can. A seeming basis for this conclusion is 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10, which says: “The lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved.”
While it is true that this scripture shows that Satan is capable of powerful works, it mentions that Satan is also the author of “lying signs and portents,” as well as “unrighteous deception.” Consistently, the Bible shows Satan to be the archdeceiver who is “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) He is a master at making people believe things that are not true.
Because of this, even the testimony and confessions of those who have been involved in spiritism and witchcraft are often far from reliable. Such people may sincerely believe that they have seen, heard, or experienced certain things; yet, in fact, they have not. For example, there are those who think they have communicated with the spirits of dead people. But they are mistaken, deceived, victims of a satanic hoax. The Bible says that the dead are “going down into silence.”—Psalm 115:17.
In view of the Devil’s history of deception, the truthfulness of supernatural tales is highly suspect at best. Most are the inventions of superstitious imaginations, exaggerated by constant retelling.
Circulating such fables promotes the interests of the father of the lie, Satan the Devil. (John 8:44) They stimulate interest in occult practices that are detestable to Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) They ensnare people in a web of fear and superstition. Little wonder that Paul counseled Christians “not . . . to pay attention to false stories.”—1 Timothy 1:3, 4.
Rejecting the Testimony of Demons
What, though, if the stories appear to be truthful? Sometimes experiences are related of spirits or spiritists acknowledging the supremacy of Jehovah and the truthfulness of his Witnesses. Should Christians repeat such stories?
No, they should not. The Bible says that when unclean spirits cried out that Jesus was the Son of God, he “sternly charged them not to make him known.” (Mark 3:12) Similarly, when a demon of divination impelled a girl to identify Paul and Silas as “slaves of the Most High God” and publishers of “the way of salvation,” Paul cast the spirit out of her. (Acts 16:16-18) Neither Jesus, Paul, nor any of the Bible writers allowed the demons to testify about God’s purpose or his chosen servants.
It is noteworthy, too, that Jesus Christ had lived in the spirit realm before he came to earth. He had known Satan personally. Yet, Jesus did not entertain his disciples with stories about Satan’s activities, nor did he provide details about what the Devil could and could not do. Satan and his demons were not friends of Jesus. They were outcasts, rebels, haters of what is holy, and enemies of God.
The Bible tells us what we need to know. It explains who the demons are, how they mislead people, and how we can avoid them. It shows that Jehovah and Jesus are more powerful than the demons are. And it instructs us that if we loyally serve Jehovah, wicked spirits cannot do us any permanent harm.—James 4:7.
With good reason, then, Christians turn down false stories, stories that do little more than promote the interests of those who oppose God. Just as Jesus ‘bore witness to the truth,’ so do his followers today. (John 18:37) Wisely they heed the Bible’s admonition: “Whatever things are true . . . continue considering these things.”—Philippians 4:8.
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All manifestations of the occult must be strictly avoided by true Christians