“Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition.”—COL. 2:8.
SONG 96 God’s Own Book—A Treasure
SATAN wants to turn us against Jehovah. To achieve his goal, he tries to influence our thinking, in effect, to bring our mind into captivity and make it obedient to him. He tries to persuade or to deceive us into following him by appealing to our desires.—Read Colossians 2:4, 8.
2-3. (a) Why should we pay attention to the warning recorded at Colossians 2:8? (b) What will we consider in this article?
2 Are we really in serious danger of being misled by Satan? Yes, we are! Remember, Paul did not write the warning recorded at Colossians 2:8 to unbelievers. He wrote it to Christians who had been anointed with holy spirit. (Col. 1:2, 5) Those Christians were in danger back then, and we are in even greater danger today. (1 Cor. 10:12) Why? Satan has been confined to the vicinity of the earth, and he is focused on misleading God’s loyal servants. (Rev. 12:9, 12, 17) In addition, we are living during a time when wicked men and impostors are advancing “from bad to worse.”—2 Tim. 3:1, 13.
3 In this article, we will discuss how Satan uses “empty deception” to try to influence our thinking. We will identify three of his “crafty acts,” or “schemes.” (Eph. 6:11; ftn.) Then, in the following article, we will consider how to counteract any negative effects his tactics may have had on our thinking. First, though, let us consider what we can learn from the way Satan misled the Israelites after they entered the Promised Land.
TEMPTED TO COMMIT IDOLATRY
4-6. According to Deuteronomy 11:10-15, what change in farming methods did the Israelites have to make when they settled in the Promised Land?
4 Satan cleverly tempted the Israelites to commit idolatry. How did he do so? He took advantage of their need to provide food for themselves. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they had to change their methods of growing food. While in Egypt, the Israelites irrigated the farmland by using water drawn from the Nile. However, the agricultural system in the Promised Land was based, not on water drawn from a huge river system, but on water gained from seasonal rains, as well as from the dew that watered the vegetation. (Read Deuteronomy 11:10-15; Isa. 18:4, 5) Therefore, the Israelites had to learn new farming methods. That would not be easy because the majority of those who had any farming experience had died in the wilderness.
5 Jehovah explained to his people that their circumstances had changed. Then he added the following warning, which at first glance may seem unrelated to the subject of agriculture: “Be careful not to let your heart be enticed to go astray and worship other gods and bow down to them.” (Deut. 11:16, 17) Why did Jehovah warn against worshipping false gods while he was speaking about learning new farming methods?
6 Jehovah knew that the Israelites would be tempted to learn some local farming techniques from the pagan people around them. Of course, their neighbors were much more experienced than the Israelites were, and God’s people could learn some useful skills from them, but there was a danger. The thinking of those Canaanite farmers was affected by their belief in Baal. They viewed Baal as the owner of the sky and the giver of rain. Jehovah did not want his people to be deceived by such false beliefs. However, time and time again, the Israelites chose to worship Baal. (Num. 25:3, 5; Judg. 2:13; 1 Ki. 18:18) Now notice how Satan was able to take the Israelites captive.
THREE TACTICS SATAN USED TO TAKE THE ISRAELITES CAPTIVE
7. What test of faith did the Israelites encounter when they entered the Promised Land?
7 The first tactic Satan used was that of appealing to a normal desire to see the land watered by rain. There was very little rain in the Promised Land from late April through September each year. Life and prosperity depended on the rain that usually started about October. Satan deceived the Israelites into believing that to prosper, they had to adopt the practices of their pagan neighbors. Those neighbors believed that certain rituals were needed to get their gods to act and bring the needed rain. Those who lacked faith in Jehovah believed that this was the only way to avoid a prolonged drought, so they performed pagan rituals in honor of the false god Baal.
8. What is a second tactic Satan used? Explain.
8 Satan used a second tactic on the Israelites. He appealed to immoral desires. The pagan nations worshipped their gods by engaging in grossly immoral acts. This perverted form of worship included both female and male temple prostitution. Homosexuality and other forms of sexual immorality not only were tolerated but became normal! (Deut. 23:17, 18; 1 Ki. 14:24) The pagans believed that these rituals encouraged their gods to make the land fertile. Many Israelites were attracted by the pagans’ sexually immoral rituals and allowed themselves to be lured into serving false gods. In reality, they were taken captive by Satan.
9. In line with Hosea 2:16, 17, how did Satan blur the Israelites’ view of Jehovah?
9 Satan used a third tactic. He blurred the Israelites’ view of Jehovah. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, Jehovah declared that the false prophets made His people forget His name “because of Baal.” (Jer. 23:27) God’s people apparently stopped using Jehovah’s name and substituted it with the name Baal, which means “Owner” or “Master.” This act would blur the line between Jehovah and Baal in the minds of the Israelites, making it easier for them to combine the rituals of Baal worship with worship of Jehovah.—Read Hosea 2:16, 17 and footnote.
SATAN’S TACTICS TODAY
10. What tactics does Satan use today?
10 Satan uses the same tactics today. He captures people by appealing to natural desires, promoting sexual immorality, and blurring people’s view of Jehovah. Let us consider that last tactic first.
11. How has Satan blurred people’s view of Jehovah?
11 Satan blurs people’s view of Jehovah. After the death of Jesus’ apostles, some who claimed to be Christians began to spread false teachings. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thess. 2:3) These apostates started to blur the identity of the only true God. For example, they stopped using the divine name in their copies of the Bible and preferred such expressions as “Lord.” By removing God’s personal name and replacing it with “Lord,” they made it difficult for a Bible reader to see how Jehovah is different from the other “lords” mentioned in the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 8:5) They used the same term, “Lord,” for Jehovah and for Jesus, making it difficult to understand that Jehovah and his Son are different individuals with distinct positions. (John 17:3) This confusion contributed to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity—a doctrine not taught in God’s Word. As a result, many see God as mysterious and believe that we cannot know him. What a lie!—Acts 17:27.
12. What has false religion promoted, and with what result, as explained at Romans 1:28-31?
12 Satan appeals to immoral desires. In the days of ancient Israel, Satan used false religion to promote immorality. Today, he does the same. False religion tolerates and even promotes immoral conduct. Consequently, many who claim to serve God have abandoned his clear standards of morality. The apostle Paul describes in his letter to the Romans what has been the result. (Read Romans 1:28-31.) Among “the things not fitting” are all forms of sexual immorality, including homosexuality. (Rom. 1:24-27, 32; Rev. 2:20) How important it is for us to stick to the Bible’s clear teachings!
13. What is another tactic that Satan uses?
13 Satan appeals to natural desires. We have a natural desire to learn skills that can help us provide for ourselves and our families. (1 Tim. 5:8) Often, we can gain those skills by attending school and being diligent students. But we must be cautious. The educational system in many countries teaches students not only practical skills but also human philosophy. Students are encouraged to question the existence of God and to disregard the Bible. They are told that the theory of evolution is the only intelligent explanation for the origin of life. (Rom. 1:21-23) Such teachings are opposed to “the wisdom of God.”—1 Cor. 1:19-21; 3:18-20.
14. What does human philosophy nurture?
14 Human philosophy ignores or contradicts Jehovah’s righteous standards. It does not nurture the fruitage of God’s spirit but, rather, “the works of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:19-23) It generates pride and arrogance, and the result is that people become “lovers of themselves.” (2 Tim. 3:2-4) These qualities are the opposite of the meek, humble spirit that God’s servants are encouraged to have. (2 Sam. 22:28) Some Christians who have pursued university education have had their minds molded by human thinking rather than by God’s thinking. Let us consider just one example of what can happen.
15-16. What do you learn from the experience of one sister?
15 A sister who has been in full-time service for over 15 years says: “As a baptized Witness, I had read and heard about the dangers of pursuing university education, but I dismissed such warnings. I thought that the counsel did not apply to me.” What challenges did she face? She admits: “Studying for my courses took so much time and effort that I was too busy to linger in prayer to Jehovah the way I used to, too exhausted to enjoy Bible discussions with others, and too tired to prepare well for the meetings. Thankfully, once I realized that being immersed in higher education was damaging my relationship with Jehovah, I knew I had to stop. And I did.”
16 What effect did higher education have on this sister’s thinking? She answers: “I am ashamed to admit that the education I pursued taught me to be critical of others, especially my brothers and sisters, to expect too much of them, and to isolate myself from them. It took me a long time to unlearn these lessons. That time in my life showed me just how dangerous it is to ignore the warnings given by our heavenly Father through his organization. Jehovah knew me better than I knew myself. If only I had listened!”
17. (a) What should be our determination? (b) What will we consider in the next article?
17 Be determined never to be taken captive “by means of the philosophy and empty deception” of Satan’s world. Continually guard against Satan’s tactics. (1 Cor. 3:18; 2 Cor. 2:11) Never allow him to blur your view of Jehovah. Live by Jehovah’s high moral standards. And do not let Satan trick you into ignoring Jehovah’s advice. But what if you detect that you have already been affected by the thinking of this world? The next article will show how God’s Word can help us overturn even “strongly entrenched” thoughts and habits.—2 Cor. 10:4, 5.
SONG 49 Making Jehovah’s Heart Glad
^ par. 5 Satan is a master at fooling people. He has tricked many into believing that they are free, though in reality he has taken them captive. This article will analyze a number of tactics Satan uses to deceive people.
^ par. 48 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Israelites associating with the Canaanites are being tempted to engage in Baal worship and immorality.
^ par. 51 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: An advertisement from a church that tolerates homosexuality.
^ par. 53 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A young sister has enrolled in a university. She and her classmates are taken in by their professor’s idea that science and technology can solve all mankind’s problems. Later, at the Kingdom Hall, she is disinterested and critical.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION