See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NIV)
The Bible warns us that the type of philosophy Paul describes here is what “itching ears” want to hear. We’re told it will increase – not decrease – over time (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Pick your poison today: biblical standards of holiness are now “hate speech,” Christian companies are forced to pay for medical procedures they deem immoral, and Christians are fired for their beliefs. I read an article today in which a former pastor says the church will remain irrelevant in our culture as long as we keep quoting Scripture.
So to avoid being considered an irrelevant hate-monger, it is tempting just to go along to get along.
Of course, this isn’t anything new. Paul warned the church in Colossae about this very thing. He does so by outlining the temptation.
- First, the content of the world’s message is hollow…literally empty. There’s no substance to it. It’s all window-dressing.
- Second, it is deceptive. It claims to be a solution to human suffering, it promises to help people, it assures us of our happiness – but because it is contentless, it just can’t. Even IF it is well-intentioned, it can’t deliver.
Why? Paul tells us the reason this philosophy is empty and deceptive:
- First, this philosophy is human rather than divine. Paul wants his readers to compare the traditions of man to those of God (which he just outlined in 2:2-3). God’s ways are always higher than ours.
- Second, this philosophy is demonic. Many scholars believe the “basic principles of this world” Paul describes here is better translated “elemental spirits (see 2:20).” Paul is saying that these philosophies originate from the spirits of fear, hatred, greed, lust, and the like.
So, we should be careful not to be hoodwinked, kidnapped, and carried off by the high sounding arguments of the world around us. Though the philosophies might sound right and may be articulated well, there’s nothing in them that can help move the human race forward: they are empty and deceitful. The reason for this is because they come from us. They may be the very best humanistic advice we can give, but they come out of our demonically influenced, sinful hearts and minds.
The only answers that offer real solutions to our world’s problems come from Jesus. Call me old fashioned…