1 Tim. 4:1-7
4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 4:5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 4:6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 4:7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.
Asceticism for the Mind
First, I couldn’t help but notice that we have a mirrored structure here in the first 7 verses of 1 Timothy 4. In vs 1, we have the source of corruption, seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, which is contrasted in vs. 5 with the source of true righteousness, the Word of God and prayer. In vs. 2, we have the internal corruption of these false teachers, speaking lies in hypocrisy with their conscience seared with a hot iron, which is contrasted in vs. 6 with the spiritual maturity of Timothy having been nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.
Then we have the most fascinating contrast of all.
In vs. 3, Paul defines the awful brand of religious legalistic asceticism that would soon be taught in the apostasy to come: forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats, which is contrasted in vs. 7 with Paul’s exhortation to refuse profane and old wives’ fables.
Isn’t that fascinating?
Whereas the false teachers teach asceticism for the body, Paul points the way to something better than that: asceticism for the mind.
Whereas religions the world over advocate various forms of asceticism, denying things to the body for the betterment of the soul, Paul basically says if you’re going to deny yourself anything start with denying your mind subversive, profane content for the betterment of your soul.
Fascinating that in this chapter Paul counters every aspect of the great apostasy: the faithless vs. the faithful, evil vs. good doctrine, wrong vs. right living. We have men who’ve departed from the faith compared to Timothy who’s never veered from the faith. We have the source of corruption for these false teachers, which were demons, compared to the source of truth, which is the Word of God. We have the doctrines of devils contrasted with good sound doctrines of grace from God. We have the evidence of corruption in those false teachers compared to the evidence of Timothy’s spiritual maturity in his exemplary walk because he has been nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.
Plus, we have the bad teaching of asceticism for the body compared to the good teaching of asceticism for the mind, denying the mind the subversive and profane stories of the world. I love that!
I used to be an aspiring fiction writer. Here’s the world’s worst kept secret about fictional stories. Every story makes a point. Even stories that try hard to not make a point is actually making a point.
Ask yourself, what’s the point of that story you’re reading or that series you’re binge watching? Is it even Biblical? If it isn’t, why are you taking in that nonsense? If these creators are making content that is designed to subvert your mind or your faith, then what is the point of giving them your time or your money? Even if they aren’t intentionally trying to subvert your faith, they’re often doing it unintentionally, because they’re telling a secular story with values that are right in their own eyes.
Paul highlights two types of stories: profane fables and old wives’ fables.
What’s the difference between the two?
Let’s begin with profane fables, which is the less subtle of these two types of fables. Fables are stories of fiction or myths. I’ll admit that not all stories are bad. Not all stories are to be refused. But we are to refuse profane stories. We refuse to waste our time and mental energy allowing Satan to gain a foothold in our minds with stories that are irreverent to God.
In these cases, you can, in fact, judge a book by its cover or a movie by its poster because those stories are completely transparent as to what they are all about, the celebration of carnality, the celebration of violence and revenge when we’re to be a people of peace, or that they are tales designed to condemn your faith and perhaps even challenge the very notion that God exists. A profane fable is a polluted work of fiction; impure. A profane fable is obscene; heathenish, appealing to a carnal mind, enticing to the lusts of the flesh, that draws one into a narrative that subverts the mind.
To profane something is to violate any thing sacred, or treat it with abuse, irreverence, verbally hateful or show contempt. The Lord told Israel in Lev. 19:12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. If you can imagine all the damage that can be done when one of God’s own people curses His name, just imagine the damage that can be done when God’s own people today indulge in entire works of fiction that curses God and condemns our faith or it emotionally manipulates us into accepting something immoral.
Let’s not forget that we’re in a spiritual warfare.
Today, with technology as it is, so invasive in our lives that we are assaulted relentlessly with advertising for profane fables whether it’s books, movies, podcasts, plays, or tv shows. Now, more than ever, we must practice asceticism for the mind, always being on guard against worldly fables polluted by irreverence to God and the glamorization of immorality, which is celebrated within this giant satanic system, and designed to draw us in a false narrative that takes us further and further away from the truth.
These are stories with morals that seem right in the eyes of men but they are in fact spiritual lies because they do not have spiritual eyes.
And make no mistake. The creators of that secular content you digest, most of those people hate you for your faith and they want to steal the minds of your children away from you. They’re coming after the minds of your children. You have a duty to not only protect your mind but also the minds of your children. One cannot overstate how effectively Satan uses fiction and music and online content to subvert our minds even in family friendly stories. If it is of the world it is neither family nor friendly. Odds are, most Christian content isn’t grace friendly either.
Even if you read a seemingly innocent story with a protagonist who is clearly worldly and you let yourself love that protagonist, you run the danger of allowing his or her worldly attitudes to influence you and they could become your attitudes, which effects your testimony because it flies in the face of what Paul teaches us about how to live.
I wonder if profane fables includes fake news. I’ll bet it does.
Old Wives’ Fables
Then we get to old wives’ fables, which is the more seemingly cutesy of the two. Why on earth would Paul trash old wives’ fables?
Old wives’ fables is the more dangerous, the more cunningly subversive assault on your faith than the profane fables. Profane fables are transparent about what they’re all about whereas old wives’ fables draws you in through deception.
No, he doesn’t mean old wives’ tales. He means old wives’ fables, which are also stories of fiction or myths.
Some think Paul was referring to the Talmud. I wouldn’t limit old wives’ fables to only the Talmud or books of lore about supposed saints. Heathen religions at the time were filled with tales of myths about their “gods,” like Roman and Greek mythology, and those fables or myths formed the basis for many false religions. All those myths were old wives’ fables.
Old wives’ fables goes back to the kind of oral tradition of storytelling prominent at the time and many centuries later, the kind of fairy tales told to children before they go to bed. Just as you can trace Christmas trees today back to Babylon, you can trace many types of stories, like fairy tales, back to the old wives’ fables Paul wrote about.
Take fairy tales, for example. Fairy Tales have their roots in the oral tradition of folklore, which has its roots in old wives’ fables from long ago. For example, the Brothers Grimm, took fairy tales which had their roots in the oral tradition of folklore, which had its roots in old wives’ fables, and they turned them into full blown stories, like Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, many of which were popularized by Disney.
When I worked for Disney, I and others, often joked about how those princess stories are actually harmful to little girls, although Disney won’t even distinguish between boys and girls anymore.
Take Cinderella, for example. If you sit around dreaming a wish your heart makes and you wait around long enough, the universe will send you a fairy godmother who will give you everything you ever wanted for nothing. People have created religions out of that nonsense, called the Law of Attraction, which Bryan and Becky talked about on a podcast. That kind of thinking in a story became a religion! If you put positive vibes out into the void, the universe will give you everything you want. What?
Ariel from the Little Mermaid disobeyed her father, ran away from home, made a deal with the devil for a man she did not even know, and ultimately, she got everything she wanted, including a happily ever after marriage to a man she BARELY knew. When in doubt, run away. And it’s okay to make a deal with the devil so long as your Prince Charming kills the devil for you.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! What garbage!!!
And Prince Charming is always such a PERFECT MAN.
Bwaaaah ha ha ha ha WOO HA ha ha ha ha!!! Oh, puh-lease!!!
In Aladdin, Jasmine ran away to find her happily ever after, even though Aladdin started the relationship off with a whopper of a lie about being a wealthy prince in order to make her love him. But that’s okay. A relationship can TOTALLY have a happily ever after ending even though their entire relationship was built on the premise of a LIE, and you can totally trust a man like that. He would NEVER lie like that again.
Rapunzel taught us it’s okay to fall in love with a convicted felon who breaks into your house.
Consider Beauty and the Beast, which is quite evil. Belle was kidnapped, under house arrest, and literally found herself in an abusive relationship. The abuser often bought his way into getting forgiveness from her, and the grand point of the story was that an abuser has a good man inside who can be changed solely by her love. Belle’s romance with the Beast was not true love. It was Stockholm Syndrome, and she never truly knew him. How many abusers have you seen changed by the love of the one they were abusing? How unhealthy is it to teach little girls that she can change an abuser by loving him? The only thing that’ll change anyone is the Word of God reinforced by saints in the world manifesting the life of Christ.
In Disney films, villains always looked scary, even though Satan can be transformed into an angel of light. The random kiss of a stranger without your consent while you’re sleeping will fix all your problems. You can rush into any marriage with a man you hardly know, or a criminal who breaks into your house and/or lies to you about who he is, and – would you believe it – you will still find happiness ever after! Hurray!
But the most chilling aspect is that because God is always absent from these stories, the moral at the end about living happily ever after is that you can find all the fulfillment and happiness you seek in life…
But today, it’s a whole other level of evil altogether. Now it’s about actual Marxist indoctrination of you and your children with an emphasis on alternative lifestyles in open rebellion against God.
What did Paul tell us about old wives’ fables? Refuse them!
What’s better for a little girl? Cinderella or Esther? Ariel or Ruth? Belle or Abigail? In fact, I’ll take the story of even Rahab the Harlot over any modern-day animated movie.
The same case can be made for comic book superheroes. It’s a new coat of paint over old secular tales of mythology. It’s a new design of sheep’s clothing over a very old wolf, and those tales have morphed from unhealthy mythology into social programming and political propaganda.
I don’t think many really understand the importance of refusing old wives’ fables, because herein lies the danger of fables, especially for children. One story leads to two stories, which leads to hundreds of stories, and before your kids know it, a fables’ propaganda and emotional manipulation into accepting their brand of morality becomes more important than God’s wisdom and being nourished up in the words of faith.