“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” (Colossians 2:8).
In the King James, this verse begins, “Beware…” Given the brain that God has given me, I immediately began humming a tune, then singing it out loud. I know there are others of you out there. The song I was singing comes from one of my favorite cartoons: “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.” It begins this way…
They’re black, they’re brown, they’re up, they’re down
They’re in, they’re out, they’re all about
They’re far, they’re near, they’re gone, they’re here
They’re quick and slick, they’re insincere
Beware, Beware, Be a very wary bear
A Heffalump or Woozle, is very confusel
A Heffalump or Woosel’s very sly
– sly – sly – sly
They come in ones and twoosels
But if they so choosels
Before your eyes you’ll see them multiply
– ply – ply – ply
At first all I could think was, “Great, I’ve gone chasing windmills again.” But then a question popped in my head. “What are my “heffalumps and woozles?” Aha, there is a connection with Paul’s letter and my random imaginations. “[Beware of being taken] captive by philosophy and empty deceit…”
There is a reason that we fight dragons and monsters as children. It is preparation for a life of adulthood where the dragons and monsters are real! And as a follower of Christ, we must understand that they present a real danger to our walk with Him.
“Philosophy” describes simply a love of wisdom, which in itself is not wrong. However, Paul here equates it with “empty deceit,” and so clearly in this context he is using it in a negative way. These are ideals that will lead us away from Christ. They can come from false prophets in the church or from the sages in the culture. These both promise life, but in the end only bring death.
This does not have the sense of running away from these things, however. We cannot simply bury our heads in the sand and think that we are safe from the “spirits of this world.” We must engage with them. With the foil of the Word in my hand, I shout, “En garde!” “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
That means that we must know our weapon well. We must practice, which involves the daily discipline of spending time in God’s word. And it also means that I must understand the times in which I live, but I must always do it with caution – we must “beware.” Thus, there is no “idle time” when I can check out and veg with some mindless drivel. I must realize that each time I engage, I am poking my head above the rim of the foxhole, and become a target.
And as we engage with our culture, let us remember that we belong to Christ, who has secured the victory through his substitutionary death and glorious resurrection, all the while being “a very wary bear!”