Ancestral worship: a troubling tradition

sangoma tools
A typical sangoma’s tools. Photo: iClipart

It is a cultural tradition to worship ancestors in Africa but is it doing more harm than good?

Whether out of fear, guilt, custom or pressure from others, trying to appease all kinds of spirits opens your life up to the real dangers of the spiritual realm.

While we remember family that have passed away with love and respect, why taint their memory with fear that somehow they could meddle in our lives or need to be satisfied with sacrifices to keep them from doing so?

The Bible warns us that sacrifices and worship to anyone other than God Himself are always received by Satan's kingdom.

Evil spirits can even impersonate the dead, wreaking havoc among all who invite them into their lives unknowingly.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert this is what He said: "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" (Matt 4:10)

On multiple occasions God warned people in the Bible that sangomas, witchdoctors and worship of ancestors are detestable to Him.

"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or is a medium or spiritist who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God" (see Deuteronomy 18:10-15).

The dead cannot
help us, only the
living God can
"When someone tells you to consult mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God's instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn" (see Isaiah 8:19-20).

It is clear from these verses that the God of the Bible does not take ancestral worship lightly but expects those who believe in Him to have nothing to do with such things.

Rather than consulting the dead, there is only one person who sits at the right hand of God and is able to protect, intercede and save us from the punishment we deserve for our wrongdoing (sin).

This person is Jesus Christ, who not only took the punishment for us when he died on the cross but also rose again from the dead. Because He lives, He can intervene.

In Bible it says, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people (on the cross)" (see 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Rather than turning to ancestors, turn to Jesus who gave up His life for you and proved He was God when He rose from the dead.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father God except through me" (see John 14:6). This means that He is not one of the ways but the only way to a right relationship with God.

Jesus is the one who can be trusted and He is the only one through whom we can find salvation and eternal life.

With Jesus on your side there is no need to fear evil spirits or being on the wrong side of the ancestors.

If you have been worshipping other gods, listen to what Joshua had to say to the people of Israel many years ago: "If serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD" (see Joshua 24:15).

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