“Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception . . . of the world.”—COL. 2:8.
1. What counsel did the apostle Paul write to fellow Christians? (See opening picture.)
THE apostle Paul wrote his letter to Christians in Colossae evidently at the end of his first confinement in Rome, or about 60-61 C.E. He mentioned to them the importance of acquiring “spiritual comprehension.” (Col. 1:9) Paul further stated: “I am saying this so that no one may delude you with persuasive arguments. Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:4, 8) Paul went on to explain why some popular ideas were wrong and why worldly thinking may be appealing to imperfect people. For example, it may make a person feel wise and superior to others. The letter was aimed at helping the brothers to reject worldly thinking and wrong practices.—Col. 2:16, 17, 23.
2. Why will we consider examples of worldly thinking?
2 Worldly thinking ignores or belittles Jehovah’s guidelines, and its influence could gradually weaken our faith. Today, we all are exposed to worldly thinking. It is promoted on television, on the Internet, at work, or at school. In this article, we will examine what we can do to prevent such thinking from corrupting our mind. We will consider five examples of worldly thinking and discuss how we can reject these ideas.
DO WE NEED TO BELIEVE IN GOD?
3. What idea is appealing to many people, and why?
3 “I can be a good person without believing in God.” In many countries, it is not unusual to hear people say that they do not believe in God; they consider themselves to be nonreligious. They may not have examined the question of God’s existence carefully, but they are drawn to the idea of being free to do as they please. (Read Psalm 10:4.) Others may feel worldly-wise when they say, “I can have high principles without believing in God.”
4. How could we reason with someone who claims that there is no Creator?
4 Is the claim of unbelievers that there is no Creator based on logical reasoning? When looking to science to determine whether life was created, a person can easily get lost in a fog of information. But in reality, the answer is simple. If a building needs someone to construct it, how much more so do living things! Actually, the most basic living cells on earth are far more complex than any house because they can do what no house can do—reproduce. So these cells have a way to store and copy the information needed to replicate themselves. Where did the design for living cells come from? The Bible answers: “Every house is constructed by someone, but the one who constructed all things is God.”—Heb. 3:4.
5. What can we say about the notion that an individual can determine what is good without believing in God?
5 How can we reason about the notion that a person can determine what is good without believing in God? God’s Word acknowledges that unbelievers may have certain commendable principles. (Rom. 2:14, 15) For example, they may respect and love their parents. But how well-founded are the moral standards of someone who refuses to acknowledge our loving Creator as the One who sets the standards of right and wrong? (Isa. 33:22) Many thinking people today will admit that the deplorable conditions on earth confirm that man needs God’s help. (Read Jeremiah 10:23.) So we should not be tempted to think that someone could fully determine what is good without believing in God and adhering to his standards.—Ps. 146:3.
DO WE NEED RELIGION?
6. What view of religion do many people have?
6 “You can be happy without religion.” This example of worldly thinking appeals to many people because they view religion as dull and irrelevant. Also, many religions turn people away from God by teaching hellfire, collecting tithes, or preaching politics. No wonder an increasing number of people feel that they can be happy without religion! Such individuals may say, “I am interested in spiritual matters, but I do not get involved in organized religion.”
7. How does true religion promote happiness?
7 Is it really true that one can be happy without religion? Certainly an individual can be happy without false religion, but a person cannot be truly happy unless he has a relationship with Jehovah, who is described as “the happy God.” (1 Tim. 1:11) Everything God does benefits others. His servants are happy because they focus on helping others. (Acts 20:35) For example, consider how true worship promotes family happiness. True worship teaches us to honor and respect our spouse, to treat marriage vows as sacred, to avoid adultery, to raise respectful children, and to practice true love. As a result, such worship unites people in happy congregations and a happy worldwide brotherhood.—Read Isaiah 65:13, 14.
8. How can we use Matthew 5:3 to reason on the question, What makes people happy?
8 How can we analyze the worldly idea that one can be happy without serving God? Consider this question, What makes people happy? Some find satisfaction in a career, a sport, or a hobby. Others find satisfaction in caring for family or friends. All those things can bring pleasure, but our life has a higher purpose that brings lasting happiness. In contrast with animals, we can come to know our Creator and serve him faithfully. We have been created in such a way that we find happiness in doing so. (Read Matthew 5:3.) For example, true worshippers find delight and derive much encouragement from meeting together to worship Jehovah. (Ps. 133:1) They also enjoy a united brotherhood, a wholesome lifestyle, and a happy hope.
DO WE NEED MORAL STANDARDS?
9. (a) What idea about sex is common in this world? (b) Why does God’s Word forbid sex outside marriage?
9 “Why condemn sex outside marriage?” People may say to us: “Life is to be enjoyed. Why condemn having sex outside marriage?” The suggestion that a Christian should tolerate sexual immorality is wrong. Why? Because God’s Word forbids sexual immorality.* (Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.) Jehovah has the right to make laws for us because he created us. The law of God that permits sexual relations only between a man and a woman who are married to each other is part of what defines the marriage arrangement. God gives us laws because he loves us. They benefit us. Families who obey them enjoy love, respect, and security. God does not tolerate willful disobedience to his law.—Heb. 13:4.
10. How can a Christian keep far away from sexual immorality?
10 God’s Word teaches us how to keep far away from sexual immorality. An important way to do so is by controlling what we look at. Jesus stated: “Everyone who keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If, now, your right eye is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you.” (Matt. 5:28, 29) Therefore, a Christian will avoid looking at pornography or listening to music with immoral lyrics. The apostle Paul wrote to fellow Christians: “Deaden . . . your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality.” (Col. 3:5) Further, we need to control what we think about and talk about.—Eph. 5:3-5.
SHOULD WE PURSUE A SECULAR CAREER?
11. Why can pursuing a secular career sound appealing?
11 “Pursuing a career is the key to happiness.” Many people urge us to pursue a secular career as our goal in life. Such a career may promise status, authority, and wealth. Because many make pursuing a career their main goal in life, a Christian might adopt the same way of thinking.
12. Is succeeding in a career the key to happiness?
12 Is it true that succeeding in a secular career that offers power and prestige leads to lasting happiness? No. Remember that the craving to control others and the longing to be admired are the desires that enticed Satan, but he is angry, not happy. (Matt. 4:8, 9; Rev. 12:12) Compared to the lasting joy that comes from helping people to benefit from God’s wisdom so that they can gain everlasting life, a secular career can provide only limited satisfaction. Moreover, the spirit of this world is intensely competitive. It pushes people to outdo one another, breeds jealousy, and in the end, proves to be “a chasing after the wind.”—Eccl. 4:4.
13. (a) How should we view secular pursuits? (b) According to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, what gave him deep joy?
13 True, we have to earn a living, and there is nothing wrong with choosing work we enjoy. But our secular employment should not be the main thing in our life. Jesus said: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matt. 6:24) When we focus first on serving Jehovah and teaching others his Word, we experience incomparable joy. The apostle Paul, for one, had that experience. Earlier in life, he had pursued a promising career in Judaism, but he found true happiness when he became a disciple-maker and witnessed how people responded to God’s message and how it changed their life. (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 19, 20.) No other career offers satisfaction like that.
CAN WE SOLVE MANKIND’S PROBLEMS?
14. Why may the idea that man can solve his own problems sound appealing?
14 “Humans can solve their own problems.” This worldly idea may sound appealing to many people. Why? If it were true, it would mean that man does not need God’s guidance and that man can do as he pleases. Also, the idea that man can solve his own problems may sound convincing because—according to some studies—war, crime, disease, and poverty are all decreasing. One report states: “The reason humanity is getting better is because humans have decided to make the world a better place.” Does a comment like that indicate that man is coming to grips with the problems that have plagued him for so long? To answer, let us consider those problems more closely.
15. What facts underline the gravity of mankind’s problems?
15 Wars: The two world wars took an estimated 60 million or more lives. Since the end of World War II, mankind has certainly not learned to avoid war. By 2015, the number of people displaced from their homes by war or persecution had grown to some 65 million. An estimated 12.4 million people were displaced during 2015 alone. Crime: Although certain types of crime have decreased in some places, other types, such as cybercrime, domestic violence, and terrorism are increasing at an alarming rate. In addition, many people believe that global corruption has worsened. Mankind is not able to eliminate crime. Disease: Some diseases have been controlled. But a report published in 2013 noted that each year a staggering nine million people under the age of 60 die from heart disease, stroke, cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes. Poverty: According to the World Bank, the number of those suffering extreme poverty in Africa alone has grown from 280 million in 1990 to 330 million in 2012.
16. (a) Why can only God’s Kingdom solve mankind’s problems? (b) What Kingdom blessings are foretold by Isaiah and a psalmist?
16 The present economic and political systems are powered by selfish forces. Clearly, such forces cannot eliminate war, crime, disease, and poverty—only God’s Kingdom can. Consider what Jehovah will do for mankind. War: God’s Kingdom will eliminate such deep-seated causes of war as selfishness, corruption, patriotism, false religion, and Satan himself. (Ps. 46:8, 9) Crime: God’s Kingdom is already teaching millions to love and trust one another as no other government can. (Isa. 11:9) Disease: Jehovah will bless his people with perfect health. (Isa. 35:5, 6) Poverty: Jehovah will eliminate it and will provide his people with spiritual and physical prosperity, a quality of life far more valuable than riches.—Ps. 72:12, 13.
“KNOW HOW YOU SHOULD ANSWER”
17. How can you reject worldly thinking?
17 If you hear a worldly idea that seems to challenge your faith, research what God’s Word says on the subject and discuss the matter with an experienced fellow believer. Consider why the idea may sound appealing, why such thinking is faulty, and how you can refute it. Indeed, all of us can protect ourselves against worldly thinking by following the admonition that Paul gave to the congregation in Colossae: “Go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside . . . Know how you should answer each person.”—Col. 4:5, 6.
Many people do not realize that the passage found in some Bibles at John 7:53–8:11 is an addition that was not part of the original inspired writings. On the basis of this passage, some have claimed that only a person without sin could find someone guilty of adultery. But the law that God gave to the nation of Israel said: “If a man is found lying down with a woman who is the wife of another man, both of them must die together.”—Deut. 22:22.