Reject “False Stories”
8. (a) How does Satan seek to destroy our faith today? (b) What warning by Paul is found at 2 Timothy 4:3, 4?
8 Satan tries to break our integrity through the sowing of doubts about what we have been taught. Today, as in the first century, apostates and others seek to destroy the faith of guileless ones. (Galatians 2:4; 5:7, 8) Sometimes they use the media to spread distorted information or even outright lies about the methods and motives of Jehovah’s people. Paul warned that some would be turned away from the truth. “There will be a period of time,” he wrote, “when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.”—2 Timothy 4:3, 4.
9. What may Paul have had in mind when he referred to “false stories”?
9 Instead of holding to the pattern of healthful words, some were intrigued by “false stories.” What were these false stories? Perhaps Paul had in mind fanciful legends, such as those found in the apocryphal book of Tobit.* False stories may also have included sensational and speculative rumors. Then, too, some—“in accord with their own desires”—may have been intellectually seduced by those who endorsed a permissive view of God’s standards or who were critical of those taking the lead in the congregation. (3 John 9, 10; Jude 4) Whatever stumbling blocks were involved, some evidently preferred falsehoods over the truths of God’s Word. Soon they stopped practicing the things they had learned, and this was to their own spiritual detriment.—2 Peter 3:15, 16.
10. What are some present-day false stories, and how did John highlight a need for caution?
10 We can avoid turning aside to false stories today if we scrutinize and are selective about what we listen to and what we read. For example, the media often promote immorality. Many people encourage agnosticism or outright atheism. Higher critics ridicule the Bible’s claim to divine inspiration. And modern-day apostates keep on trying to sow seeds of doubt in order to subvert the faith of Christians. Regarding a comparable danger posed by false prophets in the first century, the apostle John warned: “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” (1 John 4:1) So we need to be careful.
11. What is one way to test and see if we are in the faith?
11 In this regard, Paul wrote: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) The apostle urged us to keep testing ourselves to determine whether we are adhering to the body of Christian beliefs. If our ears are inclined toward disgruntled ones, we need to analyze ourselves prayerfully. (Psalm 139:23, 24) Are we inclined to find fault with Jehovah’s people? If so, why? Have we been hurt by the words or actions of someone? If so, are we keeping things in proper perspective? Any tribulation we face in this system of things is temporary. (2 Corinthians 4:17) Even if we experience some trial in the congregation, why should we quit serving God? If we are upset over something, is it not far better to do what we can to resolve the matter and then leave it in Jehovah’s hands?—Psalm 4:4; Proverbs 3:5, 6; Ephesians 4:26.
12. How did the Beroeans set a fine example for us?
12 Rather than being critical, let us maintain a spiritually healthy view of the information received through personal study and congregation meetings. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15) And instead of questioning God’s Word, how much wiser it is to have the attitude of the first-century Beroeans who examined the Scriptures closely! (Acts 17:10, 11) Then, let us act on what we learn, turning down false stories and clinging to the truth.
13. How might we unwittingly be spreading false stories?
13 There is another type of false story that we need to be on guard against. A great many sensational tales circulate, often by means of E-mail. It is wise to be cautious about such tales, especially if we do not know the original source of the information. Even if an experience or story was sent by a reputable Christian, that individual may not have firsthand knowledge of the facts. That is why it is important to be cautious about repeating or forwarding unverified accounts. We surely would not want to repeat “godless myths,” or “false stories which violate what is holy.” (1 Timothy 4:7; New International Version) Since we also have an obligation to speak truthfully to one another, we are acting wisely by avoiding anything that would cause us even unwittingly to spread untruths.—Ephesians 4:25.
Tobit, possibly written in the third century B.C.E., includes the superstition-filled tale of a Jew named Tobias. He was said to have the ability to obtain curative and demon-exorcising powers by the use of the heart, the gall, and the liver of a monstrous fish.