What God’s Word says about traditional Asian beliefs and customs
Asians have rich traditional beliefs and customs that have been passed down the generations. The Bible also talks about traditions within a Christian context. For example, we are to pray in Jesus’ name, fast, take part in communion, and be baptised, all of which have important spiritual significance for believers. The apostle Paul even reminded the early churches to “stand firm and hold to” their Christian traditions. Do our Christian traditions conflict with our rich Asian heritage in any way? What does the Bible say?
2 Thessalonians 2:15 ESV So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
1 Corinthians 11:2 ESV Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
Loyalty to our eternal Father
As a start, it is helpful to keep in mind that every culture’s beliefs, practices, and institutions cannot outlast God’s. Some civilisations and their cultures have already ceased to exist. Our Asian customs can feel like an important part of our family traditional practices now, but in reality, these will pass away too. Only God’s Word and commandments will prevail for eternity.
Psalm 119:89-91 NIV Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.
Yet our earthly beliefs and traditions can become so ingrained as our way of life that we never stop to ask God how He feels about them. Many Asian customs and traditions have been passed down for so many generations that we may not even be aware of their true spiritual significance, except that they are just “something our family and community do.” But just as Jesus warned, we have to be careful not to “leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
Mark 7:9 ESV You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
When Jesus gave this warning, He was talking about God’s Law found in the Old Testament. (The New Testament had not been written yet nor had the new covenant been established through Jesus’ death and resurrection.)
Jesus also emphatically stressed that He did not “come to abolish the Law or the Prophets … but to fulfill them” and that “whoever relaxes one of the least of these (Old Testament) commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,” and that “whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:17-19 ESV “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
As we take a thoughtful look at God’s Law, we find that He provides a lot of guidance regarding belief systems and customs, with particular warnings against pagan ones. This is because God is “passionate that the spirit He has placed within us should be faithful to Him.”
James 4:4-5 NLT Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.
Without the spirit that God put in us, we would not be alive. We owe our entire existence to the one true God, not to other gods or our families, no matter how connected we may feel to them. Marriage does not exist in eternity and therefore, neither do families. For disciples of Jesus Christ, God is our one true Father.
James 2:26 ESV For as the body apart from the spirit is dead…
Matthew 22:30 ESV For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
Matthew 23:9 ESV And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
When we start to look at our traditional Asian customs, however, we see that many look exceptionally similar to the very things that our Heavenly Father strongly condemns. Here are 17 examples.
17 traditional Asian beliefs and customs
1. Trust in fortune and fate
Many Asians believe in destiny and fate.
God’s Word reminds us that we are to seek God’s will in all that we do. By believing in destiny and fate, we “forsake the Lord” and do what is evil in His eyes. Thankfully, God will forgive us when we repent and turn away from such ways.
Proverbs 3:6 NLT Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Isaiah 65:11-12 ESV But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.”
2. Different Asian gods and deities
Many families in Asia revere different gods and deities.
God’s Word calls idol worship evil and corrupt. They are “no gods, but the work of men’s hands.” God has personally and repeatedly spoken out against worshipping false gods throughout the Bible that we can feel His frustration and anger. He calls those who worship idols people who hate Him. Idol worship, therefore, brings judgment and curses.
Deuteronomy 4:25 NLT … do not corrupt yourselves by making idols of any kind. This is evil in the sight of the LORD your God and will arouse his anger.
Isaiah 37:19 ESV … For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.
Exodus 20:4-5 ESV “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Deuteronomy 28:20 NLT “The Lord himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning me.
Deuteronomy 27:15 NLT ‘Cursed is anyone who carves or casts an idol and secretly sets it up. These idols, the work of craftsmen, are detestable to the LORD.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.’
3. Places with idols
Many places in Asia are dedicated to various idols in different forms.
Deuteronomy 4:16-18 ESV beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, an animal on the ground, a bird in the sky, a small animal that scurries along the ground, or a fish in the deepest sea.
God’s Word shows us that this earth and its land belong to God. We are only here temporarily. When people erect idols on God’s land, we defile it and double our due punishment for our sins. From many historical sites, we can see that entire civilisations that worshipped idols have been wiped out. God is patient and gives us time to repent but we cannot test His patience or take His grace for granted. If we have erected idols in our homes or offices, it is crucial we destroy them and repent.
Leviticus 25:23 NIV “’The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.
Jeremiah 16:18 NLT I will double their punishment for all their sins, because they have defiled my land with lifeless images of their detestable gods and have filled my territory with their evil deeds.”
Leviticus 26:30 NLT I will destroy your pagan shrines and knock down your places of worship. I will leave your lifeless corpses piled on top of your lifeless idols, and I will despise you.
2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Why feng shui is unprofitable
4. New moon festivals
Many places in Asia have various festivals in honour of the moon.
Traditionally, God’s Law included a monthly new moon festival to honour Him. Today, many cultures have been “seduced into worshipping” the sun, moon, and stars, instead of God. This is another form of idolatry. We need to remember that the “Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other.”
1 Chronicles 23:31 NIV and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the LORD on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals. They were to serve before the LORD regularly in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them.
Isaiah 66:23 ESV From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord.
Deuteronomy 4:16,19,39 NLT So do not corrupt yourselves by making an idol in any form… And when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced into worshiping them. The LORD your God gave them to all the peoples of the earth. “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other.
Deuteronomy 17:3,5 NLT For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden… the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death.
5. Horoscope / Zodiac
There is a common belief in many Asian cultures that a person’s horoscope or zodiac sign will dictate their personalities and futures.
God’s Word reminds us that we are made in His image and created to rule over all animals. Instead, we now believe that we are made in the image of animals, based on the year that we are born in. How we must insult and grieve God.
Deuteronomy 17:2-3,5 ESV “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden… then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.
Genesis 1:26 NLT Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
What is your horoscope?
6. Superstitions and myths
Every culture has its own man-made superstitious beliefs and mythical legends.
God’s Word calls us to have “nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales.” We are to look to His Word and His history for the lasting truth.
1 Timothy 4:7 NIV Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
7. Jewelry charms
It is common in Asia for people to wear jewelry that they believe have some power to bring prosperity, healing, love, and so forth. Of particular interest are crystals or stones.
God’s Word warns us that when we prefer to put our faith in charms instead of God Himself, we only bring destruction on ourselves.
Ezekiel 13:18 NIV This is what the Sovereign LORD says: What sorrow awaits you women who are ensnaring the souls of my people, young and old alike. You tie magic charms on their wrists and furnish them with magic veils. Do you think you can trap others without bringing destruction on yourselves?
8. Name selection
When Asian parents have a baby, they tend to seek an earthly authority to help determine their child’s name. This can involve an ancestral “rulebook,” an almanac / divination guide, a fortuneteller, or a spiritual head. Many names feature elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, which are selected to bring prosperity, health, and good luck. All these are based on superstitions, idol worship, and witchcraft.
God’s Word shows us that children are from a blessing from Him. He is the one who forms every baby and decides their future paths in life. He also has a name prepared for each person who follows Him. Even Jesus’s name was not selected by Joseph or Mary, but by God Himself. If we or our parents have ever relied on superstitions, idol worship, and witchcraft for our names, we will need to confess this and ask God for His forgiveness. Perhaps He will even tell us the name He has designated for us, just as He renamed Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, and Saul to Paul.
Psalm 127:3 ESV Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Psalm 139:13-16 ESV For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Matthew 1:20-21 ESV But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Revelation 2:17 ESV He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Names can bless or curse
9. Baby dedication
In Asia, parents can sometimes bring their children to be prayed for by temple priests, pay to have their children’s names engraved on temple plaques, or dedicate their children to various gods as protectors and guides.
God’s Word shows us by dedicating one’s children to idols or temples, we bring shame to God by offering our children to Satan (also known as Molech).
Leviticus 20:2-3 NLT “Give the people of Israel these instructions, which apply both to native Israelites and to the foreigners living in Israel. “If any of them offer their children as a sacrifice to Molech, they must be put to death. The people of the community must stone them to death. I myself will turn against them and cut them off from the community, because they have defiled my sanctuary and brought shame on my holy name by offering their children to Molech.
Baby dedications must be renewed
10. Cleansing rituals
When anyone enters places of idol worship in Asia, they are often invited to be spiritually cleansed with water or drink holy water.
God’s Word reminds us that only the blood of Jesus can wash us clean spiritually because He died in our place and shed His blood as a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. Full-body water baptism in Jesus’ name then brings the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
1 John 1:7 ESV But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Acts 2:38 ESV And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
11. Potions and blessed water
Temple priests or shamans in Asia usually prepare potions and drinks for those who seek healing through some spiritual power, other than God.
God’s Word reminds us that we cannot drink from the “cup of demons.”
1 Corinthians 10:20-21 ESV No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
12. Eating food offered to idols
Many altars in Asia feature food offered to ancestors and other idols, which are then eaten by their worshippers.
God’s Word informs us that we can eat anything without fear. But if it stumbles someone’s faith, we should refuse to eat it for the sake of their conscience. As such, it is best to abstain from eating whatever has been sacrificed to idols if we have worshipped idols in the past.
1 Corinthians 8:4,7,13 NLT So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.
13. Burning incense and offering gifts
In Asian temples and ancestral halls, we can find people burning joss sticks and donating their money for their upkeep and favour.
Jeremiah 18:15 NIV Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways…
Traditionally, God’s people have burnt incense to Him. Today, non-believers burn incense to their idols. God’s Word warns us not to be “participants with demons.”
1 Corinthians 10:20 ESV No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons…
14. Spirits of the dead
There is a common belief in Asia that dead relatives, vengeful ghosts, and powerful people can return and influence our daily lives for better or for worse. This has led to the veneration of deceased ancestors, grave sweeping, festivals of the dead, performances for “ghosts,” and so forth.
God’s Word makes it clear that “people are laid to rest and do not rise again.” No dead spirit can return to the living. The dead “know nothing” and “their plans die with them.”
Job 14:12 NLT people are laid to rest and do not rise again. Until the heavens are no more, they will not wake up nor be roused from their sleep.
Ecclesiastes 9:5 ESV For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing…
Psalm 146:3-5 ESV Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
Instead, we are called to put our hope in our Father in heaven who is eternal and everlasting. He has the power to determine our futures. God is also jealous about us and will not tolerate us venerating human idols, dead or alive. God calls those who seek “guidance from the dead” people “who contradict His Word” and “are completely in the dark.” This will lead to “trouble and anguish and dark despair.”
Isaiah 8:20,22 NLT But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark… wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.
Chanting, silent or aloud, is a spiritual practice that has been passed through the generations in Asia.
God’s Word simply tells us not to “babble on and on as the Gentiles do.” Chanting often opens our human spirit to influences in our subconscious that are not godly and outside our conscious control.
Also, see Chanting dulls the mind
Matthew 6:7 NLT “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.
16. Witchcraft incl. “games”
We recognise witchcraft when someone professes to exercise a power or authority that is not of God. Examples include fortune-tellers, sorcerers, mediums, or psychics. In Asia, we tend to use different names for such people, such as “professors”, “masters”, “teachers”, or “healers”.
Witchcraft can start early in life. Children learn about mythical figures with “magical powers” that become their role models. They are taught “games” that call upon spirits and magic, without realising they are actually inviting demons to enter their lives.
God’s Word has many warnings against witchcraft, calling it “spiritual prostitution”. Anyone who has participated in any form of witchcraft will “not inherit the kingdom of God.” The Bible warns that their “portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Deuteronomy 18:13-14 NLT But you must be blameless before the Lord your God. The nations you are about to displace consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the Lord your God forbids you to do such things.”
Leviticus 20:6 NLT “I will also turn against those who commit spiritual prostitution by putting their trust in mediums or in those who consult the spirits of the dead. I will cut them off from the community.
Galatians 5:20-21 ESV idolatry, sorcery … I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Revelation 21:8 ESV But as for … sorcerers, idolaters… their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Every culture has its way of looking at life and often includes philosophical proverbs about family, relationships, money, and so forth.
God’s Word, on the other hand, warns us not to “let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” As believers, the only way of thinking or doctrine we follow is God’s eternal truths.
Colossians 2:8 NLT Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.
Taking up our cross to follow Jesus
As we can see, many Asian traditional beliefs and customs are in direct opposition to God’s Word.
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 NLT And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the Lord your God will drive them out ahead of you.
As Asian believers, we have a crucial choice to make. Will we follow God’s commandments or will we follow the “tradition of men”?
Mark 7:9 ESV You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
No one in our Asian families or communities has ever given their lives for our sake, but Jesus has. Who will we stay more loyal to?
2 Corinthians 5:15 NLT He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
Listen to what Jesus has to say in Luke 9:23-26:
Luke 9:23-26 ESV And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Our family traditions and customs are simply patterns of this world, which will pass away. God will be the only Relationship we have left and we need to be able to “test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2 NIV Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Thankfully, we don’t to have continue as unbelievers who do not know God or His commandments.
Ephesians 4:17-18 NLT With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.
God’s Word clearly states that we are to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” In this way, we will be received as His “sons and daughters” and become “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy… ready for every good work.”
2 Corinthians 6:17-18, 7:1 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
2 Timothy 2:21 ESV Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
God has said that His Holy Spirit will come live with us on the condition that we:
- are not yoked with unbelievers
- do not fellowship with darkness
- do not agree with idolatry
- separate ourselves and come out from them
- touch no unclean thing
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 NLT Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
In this way, we can become temples of the Holy Spirit, rather than remain temples of idols.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
2 Corinthians 6:16 ESV What agreement has the temple of God with idols?
Our first step is to repent of and renounce all the beliefs and customs that God finds offensive and invite the Holy Spirit to cleanse and purify us. Below is a sample prayer:
1 John 3:2-3 ESV Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
The next step is to decide to take a stand for our faith and not to “go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world”. Otherwise, we only test God’s patience and grace towards us and risk being destroyed by serpents (metaphors for Satan and evil spirits).
Galatians 4:8-9 NLT Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?
1 Corinthians 10:6-7,9,14,12:2 ESV Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were… We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents… Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry… You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.
God promises anyone who leaves the ways of their family traditions for His sake that He will reward “many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” It is not always easy to follow Christ but the stakes are too high for us to give up. What will we choose to do?
Luke 18:28-30 ESV And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
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