I was the kid who always asked, “Why?”
“Why do we hang stockings at Christmas?” “Why do we eat turkey at Thanksgiving?” “Why does the Tooth Fairy leave coins for my lost teeth?” Why? Why? Why? Some answers helped me understand the history behind the mysterious actions, while others left me even more perplexed.
Becoming a Christian didn’t make me less inquisitive; if anything, it made me even more curious -- and that’s a good thing. Rather than blindly following tradition or culture, God calls us to base everything we do on biblical principles and spiritual truth.
By asking ‘Why?’ I’ve uncovered ten things Christians like to do that aren’t biblical.
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Worrying is probably the most common thing Christians like to do that isn’t biblical. Worry disturbs our days and steals the sleep from our nights. It causes ulcers, panic attacks, and a host of other physical and emotional ills. Worst of all, it’s a sin that stands in direct disobedience to God’s Word.
“Do not be anxious about anything,” Philippians 4:6-7 says, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Lee Roberson, founder of Tennessee Temple University, said this: "Worry is nothing but practical infidelity. The person who worries reveals his lack of trust in God and that he is trusting too much in self."
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2. Pray for God's Presence
I do this all the time. “God, please be with our missionaries as they share the Gospel in Mexico. Please be with Mary in the hospital as she has her gallbladder removed. And please be with the Jones family as they mourn the loss of their mother.”
Praying for God to be with us flies in the face of Scripture. Jesus, in Matthew 28:20, told the disciples, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” If we are His disciples, this promise belongs to us, too.
The Psalmist beautifully captured the essence of God’s presence in Psalm 139:7-10: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
Even more comforting than God’s presence with us is God’s presence in us. When we accept Christ as our Savior, he promises, “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians. 1:27).
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In the Old Testament, God instructed his people to tithe – give ten percent of their income to meet the needs of the religious, economic, and political system of ancient Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus set forth a higher, albeit less precise standard for giving. The Christian Bible Reference Site describes it this way:
“Giving is to be done cheerfully, rather than as an obligation (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and not for the purpose of public recognition (Matthew 6:1-4). The right amount to give may be more or less than ten percent, depending on one's circumstances (Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22, Luke 21:1-4, Heb. 13:16, 1 John 3:17). Generous giving is an acknowledgment that everything we have is a gift from God, and is to be used in His service (Luke 12:33, Acts 20:35, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, James 1:17, James 1:27, 1 Peter 4:10).
“Rather than give a certain amount as an obligation, we are urged to share generously of whatever talents, abilities and wealth God has entrusted to us.” For most of us, this is an amount far above a mere ten percent.
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4. Include the Easter Bunny and Colored Eggs in Our Celebration
Got Questions Ministries tells us, “The legend of the Easter bunny bringing eggs appears to have been brought to the United States by settlers from Germany. Over the past 200 years, the Easter bunny has become the most commercially recognized symbol of Easter in the United States.”
While including the Easter bunny and colored eggs in our celebration isn’t wrong, it has no biblical basis. The events of Jesus’ resurrection, however, are not only biblical, but historically accurate. Focusing on this is much more exciting than a fluffy bunny and a pile of chocolate eggs.
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5. Pray the Lord's Prayer
Possibly the most memorized passage of the New Testament, the prayer known as The Lord’s Prayer, is recited in churches around the globe every Sunday. Unfortunately, praying it as a personal or corporate prayer is not exactly what Jesus intended for this beloved of all passages.
“Lord,” His disciples asked, “Teach us to pray.” In response, Jesus gave them practical tips for how to pray (Matthew. 6:5-18): Don’t pray in such a way as to call attention to yourself. Do most of your praying in private. And don’t, as the King James Version of the Bible says, pray “vain repetitions.” In other words, every prayer should be an original expression of your heart.
Jesus intended His words to be a model or a sample prayer, not one meant to be recited verbatim. He said, “This then, is how you should pray. . .” He didn’t say, “This, then, is what you should pray.” Scholars agree that Jesus was instructing the disciples to take the framework of his model prayer and use it to fashion their own original petitions.
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6. Read Horoscopes to Determine Future Events
Astrology is the ancient belief that a person’s destiny can be found in the pattern of the stars and planets at the time of one’s birth. The “horoscope” is the chart that attempts to describe that destiny.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has this to say about astrology: “Astrology is offensive to God because it attributes to planets and stars the power that belongs to God alone and because it tries to find the will of God by other means than God has appointed. Throughout the Bible God tells us that He will guide us . . . A Christian has no need of astrology with its futile hints because believers can turn instead to the guidance of God’s Word.”
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7. Blame Karma
I’ve heard Christians jokingly credit “bad Karma” as the cause of unfortunate events in their lives. “I must have done something bad in the past,” they confess, “and now it’s coming back to haunt me.”
The Spiritual Encyclopedia describes the Hindu and Buddhist concepts of Karma this way: “that all of our thoughts, words and actions begin a chain of cause and effect, and that we will personally experience the effects of everything we cause. We may not experience the effect (the returning karma) right away, and it may not even be in this lifetime, but you can count on it just the same.” Because these religions also teach reincarnation, they embrace the concept that the good or bad works we do in this lifetime have the power to cross over into the next.
The apostle Paul taught the principle of sowing and reaping in Galatians 6:7 as a general rule of life, but this is where the similarity ends. Thankfully, while God often allows us to receive the results of our sinful actions, He also freely lavishes His grace and mercy on us and spares us from many of those consequences. Instead of causing us to be careless about our actions, His kindness should inspire us to live to please Him.
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8. Believing in Luck and Superstition
“I haven’t been sick all year, knock on wood,” my patient said to me as we discussed her health. A friend refuses to fly on Friday the 13th. A cab driver places a small statue of St. Christopher on his dashboard. A baseball-playing colleague uses his “lucky bat” every time he plays in the company softball game. Knocking on wood, a lucky rabbit’s foot, and avoiding black cats are other common examples of superstitions.
Dictionary.com defines superstition as: “a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.”
Scott Reid, in the article “Don’t Become a Superstitious Christian,” points out that even biblical behaviors can morph into superstitions. “I remember the talisman-like power I placed on the amount of time I spent reading the Scriptures in college,” he writes. “If I missed a morning session of Bible reading, I felt like anything bad that happened that day was caused by missing my ritual. I was less concerned with the sincerity and reverence of my behavior toward God than with checking off that box to ensure a good day for myself.”
Reid acknowledges, “The difference between faithful behavior and superstition can be terribly hard to discern, as the difference lies in the subtleties of our inner intentions. But any object, behavior, or belief that you invest with the power to save you—or give you good things apart from the power of the living God—is a pious talisman and is driving you away from the gospel.”
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9. Drink to Get Drunk
Spend any time at all reading Christian blogs, Facebook, or websites and you’ll encounter the discussion about whether or not Christians should drink alcohol. Most biblical scholars agree that while the Bible doesn’t prohibit the consumption of alcohol, it does have very specific guidelines for its use. Here are a few:
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery” (Ephesians 5:18).
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1).
Unfortunately, many believers abuse the freedom they have in Christ to consume alcohol. A glass of wine becomes a bottle. One beer morphs into a six-pack. A cocktail before dinner leads to another, and another, and another. The slope from casual drinking to drunk is slippery and subtle; perhaps this is why the Bible is crystal clear that believers should avoid drinking to excess.
First Corinthians 10:31 is the best litmus test in Scripture for whether or not to drink, eat, or engage in any other activity: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” If we ask ourselves if the activity we’re engaging in brings glory to God, and the answer is no, our choice is clear.
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The Bible is mostly silent on the topic of retirement. With the exception of instructions to the Levitical priests to stop working in the temple after age 50 (in Numbers 8:24-25), nowhere does it mention the concept of ceasing work. In the Theological Matters article entitled “Is Retirement Biblical,” O.S. Hawkins says, “. . . the idea of retirement is a relatively modern phenomenon. My own great-grandparents knew nothing of the concept of retirement. Their generation worked as long as they were physically able, and for most of them, right up until the time of their death.”
The Social Security Act of 1935 provided for benefits to be paid to workers at age 65, which caused Americans to begin to view their retirement at age 65 as an entitlement. While many today view the physical and mental decline that often accompanies aging as valid reasons to stop working at a business, they’ll find no scriptural support for retiring from serving God.
John the Apostle was over 90 and still preaching and writing while exiled on Patmos. Polycarp, the pastor of the Smyrna church, testified at his martyrdom that he had served Christ for “eighty and six years.” Our time on earth, “but a vapor,” as the apostle James called it, is our only opportunity to labor for the God with whom we’ll spend eternity. He not only invites us to serve Him all the days of our lives -- He expects us to. And why wouldn’t we?
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Lori Hatcher is a blogger, inspirational speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).
Originally published Tuesday, 06 August 2019.