Jerusalem Bible : "Make sure that no one captivates you with the empty lure of a "philosophy" of the kind that human beings hand on, based on the principles of this world on not on Christ." Here philosophy is in inverted commas to show that St Paul mocks this kind of thinking.
English Standard Version: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world,and not according to Christ."
King James Version: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
New International Version: "See to it that no one takes you captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ."
The words that I have highlighted give me a different clue as to what St Paul means here. This one little verse gave me so much to contemplate and I thought I'd share it with you here.
"Will you walk into my parlour?", said the spider to the fly
Tis the prettiest little parlour that you ever did spy...
Does anyone remember this poem from school days? The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt. If you've never heard of it, check it out here. This poem is, for me, a graphic illustration of what St Paul is talking about.
The spider starts working to break the fly down. He does the typical bait and trap manoeuvre. He promises all kinds of wonderful things and appeals to the vanity of the little fly with deceitful flattery. He confidently spins his web and waits for her to succumb...which she does.
First of all, let us agree that subtlety is the devil's tool of choice.
He works just like the spider. He sets a seed and waits for it to grow. Many a Christian is lured away gradually, it is seldom a sudden thing. An infiltration of thought, suggestion and the breaking down begins.
Seduced is a very good word to use here. We are seduced by so many things. We get caught in the trap of popular thinking. Well...popular doesn't mean right. Check out these common sayings meant to justify our actions:
If it feels good/right, then do it
Something doesn't have to feel wrong for it to be so. Our own walk with the Lord and the depth of our communion with Him is usually a good barometer to measure this by...but, even so feelings are deceptive! The surest way to know right from wrong is to look at the Word.
You deserve to be happy
At what cost and could we ever truly be deserving of God's great love? How do we pursue happiness, what does it look like in the world? Scripture tells us in Mark 8:36 "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" God didn't promise us happiness on this earth, but an eternity of joy with Him in Heaven. Doing His will is the only thing that will bring lasting and true happiness.
Everyone else is doing it
Sometimes we can feel that we're the cheese that stands alone.Its hard to stand up for our values when we are one out of many. This is especially hard on young people. My own children have questioned whether we are the ones who are wrong...after all how could so many other people be wrong and just us be right. Sadly, this is more the norm than ever in today's world. More often than not we are alone...so was Christ. We have to seek our strength in Him.
These are just some of the ways we can begin to dilute our faith and be broken down. This is what St Paul is warning us about in such strong language. Beware, see to it, make sure... we have to guard against this gradual breaking down. How? Like this...
Colossians 2:6-7 "So then, as you received Christ as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
We have to remain in Christ, when we are grounded in Him He is our foundation.
The world cannot easily shake us and break us down. When we are so deep into His Word and have an abiding relationship with Him, He builds us up, not the world.
He builds us up.
When He builds us up...we allow Him to transform us, to guide us and teach us with His Wisdom. We are less susceptible to the winds of life and do not seek the love and approval of the world...those "elemental spirits of the world" that St Paul speaks of.
We are strengthened by Him
He is the source of all strength. We could never do this tug of war with the world without Him. He gives us the advantage. Isn't that a wonderful thought? An all-powerful God has got our back in battle!
Last, but my no means least...
We must never cease to be thankful for all that He has done and continues to do for us. Gratitude has a way of keeping us humble and focused on what is important. As you leave me today, I want to give you this thought:
There is no room in a grateful heart for discontent. Let us always be grateful to God and perfectly satisfied because His Grace and Love are sufficient.
Blessings to you and your families. May God protect, guide and provide for you as you continue to do this tug of war in His service.