If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:6-8)
Old Wives Fables
Man’s imagination has created wonderful stories of childhood that fill the mind with fantasy, creativity, and inspiration. Walter E. Disney took a mouse and built an empire on the whimsical tales of heroines and villains that remain a culture of its own. Stories handed down from generation to generation created legacies of family treasures of gnomes, fairies, and leprechauns. All of these stories are vivid creations of the mind given by God to entertain and amuse and, for the most part, harmless. There is a danger when myths become part of the standard of belief in the will of God where men have more faith in the legends than in the word of God. The purity of the word of God has always been under attack by the philosophical renderings of Satan’s whimsical allurement to change what God has said. It seems innocuous at first, but then it takes a life of its own.
An example of this is found in the story of a fifth-century missionary by the name of Patrick. He was known as the “apostle of Ireland.” One legend said when Patrick died, his friends refused to bury his body. After four days, the “body swelled up, burst, and emitted profusely the most marvelous perfume men had ever smelled” (James Burton Coffman). The legend of the shamrock is from a story that Patrick used the flower to describe the Godhead. Other legends about Patrick include banishing all snakes from Ireland, his walking stick grew into a living tree, and he spoke with ancient ancestors. St. Patrick’s Day was established by the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th Century.
Paul warned Timothy of how the imagination of men would creep into the church and fill the hearts of the weak and unsuspecting of godless ideas and tales told by old women. These were irreverent and silly myths that took on more importance than the word of God. The danger is going beyond what the Bible says and believe in stories that are not true. Christmas is a classic example of an old wives fable when people believe the wise men visited Jesus at His birth and a star hovered above the manger of the newborn. Nothing is further from the truth but trying to convince people is nearly impossible. Sadly, more faith is put in fables and myths than the clearly written word of God. When men begin to follow myths more than the word, they are led astray to their own destruction.
Combatting the error of old wives’ fables is done by staying in the word. God has delivered His will in written form so that everyone can read and understand the knowledge of the Divine. Traditions are often more powerful than truth. Practices are followed because that has been the way things have been done for generations. The failure of studying the scriptures has led to many doctrines being followed that were never in the original pattern of the New Testament church. Most churches use instrumental music as if it were part of the early church; not realizing it is a modern innovation. There is never a record of the saints using an instrument of music. Salvation by faith alone is an old wives fable. In other words, it is a myth, an untrue, a made-up story from the imagination of human philosophy.
The Athenians were known as people who loved to hear and discuss some new things. A new thing can be an old thing. The Holy Spirit warns about following deceptions of men that lead men away from the one trustworthy source of divine will. Godliness is a character that expresses sole dependence on the word of God and His word alone. It is necessary to reject all false doctrines as fables. Little children enjoy a tall tale because they don’t know any better. Serious children of God must know the difference and know what to reject.