Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and
God is displeased with
When Jehovah finds such individuals—as he found you—he draws them to himself and to his Son. (John 6:44) What an honor that is! Lovers of Bible truth, however, must “keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord,” for Satan is a master of deception.—Ephesians ; Revelation 12:9.
2 Consider what occurred
The Lesson? If we want to keep ourselves in God’s love, we must “touch nothing unclean” and jealously guard the truth against any form of corruption.—Isaiah 52:11; Ezekiel 44:23; Gal 5:9. Scroll << Gal 5:8 >> << Ezekiel 44:22 >> Isaiah 52:11 Reads Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the LORD—Scroll << Isaiah 52:10 >> 3 Sadly, after the death of the apostles, who acted as a restraint against apostasy, so-called Christians who had no love of truth began to adopt pagan customs celebrations, and “holy” days, which they dubbed Christian. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, 10 Scroll << 2 Thess1:4 >>
you consider some of these celebrations, note how they reflect, not the spirit of God,
but that of the world. Generally speaking, worldly celebrations have a common
theme: They appeal to fleshly desires, and they promote false religious beliefs
and spiritism—the hallmarks of “
4 As true Christians, we know that certain celebrations are not pleasing to Jehovah. But we need to be firmly determined in our heart to have absolutely nothing to do with them. A review of why Jehovah is displeased with such celebrations will strengthen our resolve to avoid anything that might hinder us from remaining in God’s love.
5 The Bible makes no
mention of a birthday celebration for Jesus. In fact, his exact birth date is
unknown. We can be sure, though, that he was not born on December 25 in
the cold of winter in that part of the world. For one thing, Luke recorded that
when Jesus was born, “shepherds [were] living out of doors” minding their
flocks. (Luke 2:8-11) If “living out of doors” had been their habit year round,
that would not have been noteworthy. However, because
6 The roots of Christmas
are found, not in Scripture, but in ancient pagan festivals, such as the Roman
Saturnalia, a celebration dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture.
Likewise, according to their reckoning, devotees of the god Mithra celebrated December 25 as the “birthday
of the invincible sun,” says the New Catholic Encyclopedia. “Christmas originated at a time when
the cult of the sun was particularly strong at
7 During their celebrations, pagans exchanged gifts and feasted—practices that Christmas preserved. As is also true today, however, much Christmas giving was not in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 9:7, which reads: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” True Christians give out of love, their giving is not tied to a date, and they expect no gifts in return. (Luke 14:12-14; Acts 20:35) Moreover, they deeply appreciate being set free from the Christmas frenzy and relieved of the heavy yoke of financial debt that many incur at that time of year.—Matthew 11:28-30; John 8:32.
8 But, some may argue, did not the astrologers present birthday gifts to Jesus? No. Their gift-giving was simply a way of paying their respects to a person of note, a common custom in Bible times. (1 Kings 10:1, 2, 10, 13; Matthew 2:2, 11) In fact, they did not even come on the night that Jesus was born. Jesus was, not a babe in a manger, but many months old and living in a house when they arrived.
BIBLICAL LIGHT ON BIRTHDAYS
9 Even though the birth of a baby has always been a cause for much joy, the Bible makes no reference to a birthday celebration for a servant of God. (Psalm 127:3) Was this simply an oversight? No, for two birthday celebrations are mentioned—that of a Pharaoh of Egypt and that of Herod Antipas. (Genesis 40:20-22; Mark 6:21-29) Both events, however, are presented in a bad light—especially the latter, which saw John the Baptizer beheaded.
10 “The early Christians,” notes The World Book Encyclopedia, “considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.” The ancient Greeks, for instance, believed that each person had a protective spirit that attended the person’s birth and thereafter watched over him. That spirit “had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born,” says the book The Lore of Birthdays. Birthdays also have a long-standing and an intimate link with astrology and the horoscope.
11 Besides rejecting birthday customs on account of pagan and spiritistic roots, God’s servants of old likely rejected them on principle as well. Why? These were humble, modest men and women who did not view their arrival in the world as so important that it should be celebrated. (Micah 6:8; Luke 9:48) Rather, they glorified Jehovah and thanked him for the precious gift of life.—Psalm 8:3, 4; 36:9; Revelation .
12 At death, all integrity-keepers are safe in God’s memory, and their future life is guaranteed. (Job 14:14, 15) Says Ecclesiastes 7:1: “A name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one’s being born.” Our “name” is the good reputation we have gained with God through faithful service. Significantly, the only commemoration commanded for Christians involves, not a birth, but a death—that of Jesus, whose excellent “name” is the key to our salvation.—Luke -20; Hebrews 1:3, 4.
EASTER—FERTILITY WORSHIP IN DISGUISE
13 Promoted as a celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Easter is actually rooted in false religion. The name Easter itself has been linked to Eostre, or Ostara, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn and of spring. And how did eggs and rabbits come to be associated with Easter? Eggs “have been prominent as symbols of new life and resurrection,” says the EncyclopædiaBritannica, while the hare and the rabbit have long served as symbols of fertility. Easter, therefore, is really a fertility rite thinly disguised as a celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
14 Would Jehovah condone the use of a filthy fertility rite to commemorate his Son’s resurrection? Never! (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18) In fact, the Scriptures neither command nor authorize the commemorating of Jesus’ resurrection in the first place. To do so in the name of Easter, therefore, is to be doubly disloyal.
HALLOWEEN IS FAR FROM HOLY
15 Known for its witches,
goblins, and other grotesque decorations and paraphernalia, Halloween—also
called All Hallows’ Eve or the eve of All Saints’ Day—can be traced back to the
ancient Celts of Britain and
KEEP YOUR WEDDING UNDEFILED
16 Soon, “no voice of a
bridegroom and of a bride will ever be heard in [
17 Customs vary from country to country. Some customs that may appear innocent may have their roots in Babylonish practices that are supposed to bring ‘good luck’ to the bridal couple or their guests. (Isaiah 65:11) One such tradition involves the throwing of rice or its substitutes. This practice may have had its roots in the notion that food appeased evil spirits and kept them from doing injury to the bride and groom. Additionally, rice has a long mystical association with fertility, happiness, and longevity. Clearly, all who want to remain in God’s love will shun such tainted customs.—2 Corinthians -18.
18 Servants of Jehovah likewise refrain from worldly practices that may rob weddings and wedding receptions of Christian dignity or that may offend the conscience of some. For example, they avoid giving speeches tainted with hurtful sarcasm or sexual innuendos and refrain from practical jokes or remarks that can embarrass the newlyweds and others. (Proverbs 26:18, 19; Luke ; ) They also avoid lavish fairy-tale receptions that reflect, not modesty, but “the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) If you are planning a wedding, never forget that Jehovah wants your special day to be something you can always look back on with joy, not regret.
TOASTING—A RELIGIOUS GESTURE?
20 True, many people may not consciously view toasting as a religious or superstitious gesture. Still, the custom of lifting wine glasses heavenward might be viewed as a request to “heaven”—a superhuman force—for a blessing in a way that does not accord with that outlined in the Scriptures.—John 14:6; 16:23.
“YOU LOVERS OF JEHOVAH, HATE WHAT IS BAD”
21 Reflecting the
plummeting standards of today’s world—a trend promoted either directly or
22 On the days of worldly celebrations, a Christian would be careful that his conduct not give others the impression that he is joining in the celebration. “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else,” wrote Paul, “do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31; see the box “Making Wise Decisions,” on pages 158-9.) On the other hand, if a custom or a celebration clearly retains no false religious significance, is not part of a political or patriotic observance, and violates no Bible principles, then each Christian might make a personal decision as to whether he will share in it. At the same time, he would consider the feelings of others so as not to become a cause for stumbling.
GLORIFY GOD IN WORD
23 Many people view the days of certain popular celebrations primarily as opportunities for family and friends to get together. Thus, if someone wrongly assumes that our Scriptural stand is unloving or extreme, we can kindly explain that Jehovah’s Witnesses value wholesome gatherings of family and friends. (Proverbs 11:25; Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 9:7) We enjoy fellowship with loved ones throughout the year, but because of our love for God and for his righteous standards, we do not want to tarnish such happy occasions with customs that offend him.—See the box “True Worship Brings the Greatest Joy,” on page 156.
24 Some Witnesses have had good success in sharing with sincere inquirers points from chapter 16 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? Remember, though, that our goal is to win hearts, not arguments. So be respectful, maintain a mild temper, and “let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt.”—Colossians 4:6.
25 As Jehovah’s servants, we are well-informed. We know why we believe and practice certain things and abstain from others. (Hebrews 5:14) So parents, teach your children to reason on Bible principles. By doing so, you build up their faith, you help them to give Scriptural answers to those who question their beliefs, and you assure them of Jehovah’s love.—Isaiah 48:17, 18; 1 Peter .
26 All who worship God “with spirit and truth” not only avoid unscriptural celebrations but also strive to be honest in every aspect of life. Today, many view honesty as impractical. But as we shall see in the next chapter, God’s ways are always the best.
It is of interest to note that the most important day in the religion called Satanism is one’s birthday. Why? Because Satanists hold that each individual is a god if he chooses to view himself as one. Thus, to celebrate one’s own birthday is to celebrate the birth of a god. Of course, most people do not take such an extreme, egotistical view. Nevertheless, the book TheLore of Birthdays states: “Other holidays lift the heart, but birthdays warm the ego.”
The next most “holy” days on the Satanists’ calendar are Walpurgis Night and Halloween. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the former as “the eve of May Day on which witches are held to ride to an appointed rendezvous.”
Jehovah is “the happy God,” and he wants his servants to be happy. (1 Timothy 1:11) This fact is reflected in the following scriptures:
“The one that is good at heart has a feast constantly.”—Proverbs 15:15.
“I have come to know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.”—Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13.
“As regards the generous one, it is for generous things that he has given counsel; and in favor of generous things he himself will rise up.”—Isaiah 32:8.
“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I [Jesus] will refresh you. . . . For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matthew 11:28, 30.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32.
“Let each one [give] just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Corinthians 9:7.
“The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, . . . kindness, goodness.”—Galatians 5:22.
“The fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth.”—Ephesians 5:9.
MAKING WISE DECISIONS
At times, situations may arise that test our love for Jehovah and our grasp of Bible principles. For example, a Christian’s unbelieving marriage mate may invite him or her to have a meal with relatives on a worldly holiday. Some Christians may in good conscience accept; others may not. If a Christian does accept such an offer, his conduct should make it plain that he is not celebrating the holiday and that his visit is purely to enjoy a meal with relatives.
It would be prudent for a Christian to speak respectfully to his marriage mate in advance, explaining the embarrassment that might occur if the relatives share in holiday activities and the Witness declines. The unbelieving mate might decide to visit on another day.—1 Peter .
After hearing his wife’s explanation, what if the husband of a Christian woman still insists that she accompany him? She might conclude that as head of the household, he has the responsibility to provide food for the family. (Colossians 3:18) In this case, the meal is at the home of his relatives. She may even be able to give a fine witness on that occasion. The food is not contaminated just because it is eaten on a worldly holiday. (1 Corinthians 8:8) The Christian might view it as a common meal and not join in any holiday greetings, songs, toasts, and so forth.
Another factor to be considered is the effect that sharing in such a meal might have on others. A Christian wife should take into account the possibility that others who learn of her visit with worldly relatives on that day might be stumbled.—1 Corinthians 8:9; , 24.
In addition, will the family pressure the Christian wife to compromise? The desire to avoid any embarrassment can exert a powerful influence! So it would be important to think the matter through in advance, taking all these factors into consideration, including, of course, her own Christian conscience.—Acts 24:16.
Should I Accept a Christmas Bonus?
During the Christmas season, a Christian’s employer may offer a present or a bonus. Should the Christian reject such? Not necessarily. The employer may not even be thinking that by accepting the bonus the receiver is celebrating Christmas. The employer may simply be giving all his workers a share of the company’s profits. Or the bonus may be evidence of his gratitude for services rendered all year long as well as a stimulus to continued good work. The employer may give a gift to all employees—Jews, Muslims, or others—regardless of whether they celebrate Christmas or not. So the mere timing of the gift or the name that may be associated with it does not necessarily rule out its acceptance by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Even if the gift is given because of a religious holiday,that does not mean that the recipient is thought to share the religious view. A fellow worker or a relative may tell a Witness, “I know that you do not celebrate this holiday, but I still want you to have this as a gift from me.” If the Christian’s conscience would be at rest, he might choose to accept the gift and express thanks without any reference to the holiday. (Acts 23:1) Perhaps at a time when there will be less likelihood of causing offense, the Christian can tactfully explain his stand.
However, what if the one offering the gift has the clear intention of showing that the Christian is not firm in his beliefs or will compromise for material gain? Then it is definitely best to decline. To be sure, we want to render Jehovah God exclusive devotion.—Matthew 4:8-10.
True Christians give out of love