Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV).
In the world online, if you read it on the Internet it’s obviously true, right? Political conspiracies, celebrity gossip, re-written history, “hit like and share for Jesus to bless you:” if it happens online it’s obviously true, isn’t it? Paul never imagined anything like electronics or worldwide virtual media yet I’m betting he would have applied this same advice to the internet as he did to day to day real interactions between people.
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
Horoscopes. Superstitions. Rumors and gossip. Country platitudes. Even in Paul’s time they happened, and even in Paul’s time they were widespread, traditional, and everywhere. He saw these things could be destructive, could cause people to put their faith in chance and circumstance rather than the living Christ. So Paul cautioned believers to reject these things, to have nothing to do with them.
Don’t forget that this verse is right after one where Paul exhorts Timothy to be a good minister, to be nourished and nourish others in the truths of Scripture. It is in a section full of general instructions on high-level concepts such as adhering to doctrine, minding gifts, and hope. Thus, it makes sense that Paul would here proffer general instructions on how to deal with myths and old wives’ tales.
Yet in a larger sense, he’s giving a specific piece of godly advice that is much-needed even today. There are things in Paul’s world and ours that work to pull our focus away from Jesus. You could list them all day and never complete the list. Paul reminds us to reject them and keep our only focus on Jesus. That requires discipline and work; individual effort. He says “train yourself to be godly” and he’s saying it to us as well as to his protégé. We are to shy away from superstitions. We are to reject gossip. We are to run away from conspiracies and ridiculousness because all these things work against the work of God’s Kingdom.
Chicken soup cures a cold. Pregnancy heartburn indicates a hairy baby. Itchy palms mean you won money. Black cats are bad luck (ditto walking under a ladder). Pick up a penny for good luck (unless it’s tails-up). These colloquialisms seem harmless and quaint. So does a poisonous spider. Paul says we should have nothing to do with them. That’s good advice still. Anything that tries to change my focus away from Christ and onto myself is something to beware.
For further reading: 2 Timothy 2:16, 1 Timothy 4:8
Lord, constantly remind me to reject anything that threatens to pull my focus away from You.