“Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception . . . of the world.”—COLOSSIANS 2:8.
1. What did the apostle Paul write to Christians in Colossae? (See opening picture.)
THE apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae while he was a prisoner in Rome about the years 60-61. He explained to them why they needed to have “spiritual comprehension,” that is, the ability to see matters as Jehovah does. (Colossians 1:9) Paul said: “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.” (Colossians 2:4, 8) Then Paul explained why some popular ideas are wrong but why many people like them. For example, some of these ideas may make people feel that they are wiser or better than others. So Paul wrote his letter to help the brothers avoid worldly thinking and reject wrong practices.—Colossians 2:16, 17, 23.
2. Why will we discuss examples of worldly thinking?
2 People who think in a worldly way ignore Jehovah’s principles, and if we are not careful, their ideas can gradually weaken our confidence in God’s wisdom. All of us are exposed to worldly thinking on television, on the Internet, at work, or at school. What can we do to avoid this bad influence? In this article, we will discuss five examples of worldly thinking and see how we can reject these ideas.
DO WE NEED TO BELIEVE IN GOD?
3. What idea do many people like? Why?
3 “I can be a good person without believing in God.” This idea is common in many countries today. People who say this may not have thought deeply about whether God exists but may simply enjoy feeling they have freedom to do whatever they want. (Read Psalm 10:4.) Others think that it makes them sound intelligent to say, “I can have good principles without believing in God.”
4. What can we say to help someone who believes that there is no Creator?
4 Is it logical to believe that there is no Creator? Some people get confused when they look to science to find the answer. But the truth is simple. Could a house simply appear out of nowhere? Of course not! Somebody needed to build it. Yet, living things are much more complex than any house. Even the most basic living cells can make copies of themselves, which a house could never do. This means that cells can both store information and pass it on to new cells so that they too can make copies of themselves. Who created living cells with the ability to do these things? The Bible answers: “Every house is constructed by someone, but the one who constructed all things is God.”—Hebrews 3:4.
5. What can we say about the idea that we can know what is good without believing in God?
5 What can we say about the idea that we can know what is good without believing in God? It is true that God’s Word says that even people who do not believe in him may have good principles. (Romans 2:14, 15) For example, someone might respect and love his parents. But if he does not follow Jehovah’s standards, he may make very bad decisions. (Isaiah 33:22) Many intelligent people today are convinced that we need God’s help to fix the terrible problems of the world. (Read Jeremiah 10:23.) So we should never think that we can know what is good without believing in God and without following his standards.—Psalm 146:3.
DO WE NEED RELIGION?
6. What do many people think about religion?
6 “You can be happy without religion.” Many people think that religion is boring and has no value. Also, many religions teach hellfire, force people to give money, or support politicians. It is not surprising that more and more people say that they are happy without religion! They may say things like, “I am interested in God, but I do not want to belong to a religion.”
7. How can true religion make you happy?
7 Can we really be happy without religion? Of course, a person can be happy without false religion. But no one can really be happy unless he is a friend of Jehovah, “the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11) Everything Jehovah does helps others. As his servants, we are happy because we too look for ways to help others. (Acts 20:35) For example, think of how true worship can help a family to be happy. We learn to respect and be faithful to our mate, raise respectful children, and have real love for our family members. True worship helps Jehovah’s people work together in peace in the congregation and show love for their brothers.—Read Isaiah 65:13, 14.
8. How can Matthew 5:3 help us understand what really makes people happy?
8 So can a person really be happy without serving God? What makes people happy? Some enjoy their career, sports, or hobbies. Others feel good when they take care of their family and friends. Although these things do bring pleasure, there is more to life than that. We are different from animals, so we can come to know our Creator and worship him. He made us in such a way that we are happy when we do this. (Read Matthew 5:3.) For example, we feel happy and encouraged when we meet with our brothers and sisters to worship Jehovah. (Psalm 133:1) We also find joy in being part of a worldwide brotherhood, living clean lives, and having a wonderful hope for the future.
DO WE NEED MORAL STANDARDS?
9. (a) What is a popular view of sex? (b) Why does God’s Word say that sex outside of marriage is wrong?
9 “What is wrong with sex outside of marriage?” People may ask: “Why are you so strict? Just enjoy your life.” But God’s Word forbids sexual immorality. * (See footnote.) (Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.) Jehovah has the right to make laws for us because he created us. He says that only a man and a woman who are married to each other are allowed to have sexual relations. Jehovah gives us laws because he loves us. He knows that if we follow them, our lives will be better. A family that obeys God’s laws will become more loving and respectful and will feel safe. But God will punish those who know his law and disobey it.—Hebrews 13:4.
10. How can a Christian resist sexual immorality?
10 The Bible teaches us how to avoid sexual immorality. We must control what we look at. Jesus said: “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.” (Matthew 5:28, 29) So we must avoid pornography and immoral music. Paul wrote: “Deaden . . . your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality.” (Colossians 3:5) We also need to control what we think and talk about.—Ephesians 5:3-5.
SHOULD WE FOCUS ON A CAREER IN THE WORLD?
11. Why might we want a good career?
11 “A good career will make you happy.” People may tell us to focus our time and energy on a career in the world, especially one that can make us famous, powerful, or rich. Since so many think that a good career is the secret to happiness, we might begin to think this way too.
12. Will a good career make you happy?
12 Is it true that a career that makes you powerful or famous will also make you happy? No. Think about this. Satan wanted to be powerful and famous. In a way, he got what he wanted. But he is angry, not happy. (Matthew 4:8, 9; Revelation 12:12) In contrast, think about how happy we are when we help others learn about God and the wonderful future he promises. No career in the world can give you that kind of happiness. Also, to have a good career, people often become competitive, aggressive, or jealous of others. But they still end up feeling empty. The Bible says that they are “chasing after the wind.”—Ecclesiastes 4:4.
13. (a) How should we view our job? (b) What made Paul truly happy?
13 Of course, we need to earn a living, and it is not wrong to choose a job that we like. But our job should not be the most important 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.” (Matthew 6:24) Serving Jehovah and teaching others the Bible will bring us the greatest joy. The apostle Paul experienced this. When he was young, he focused on having a successful career. Later, he became truly happy when he saw how God’s message changed the lives of the people he preached to. (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 19, 20.) There is no career in the world that can make us as happy as serving Jehovah and teaching others about him!
CAN WE SOLVE THE PROBLEMS OF THE WORLD?
14. Why do people like the idea that man can solve his own problems?
14 “Humans can solve their own problems.” Many people like this idea. Why? If it were true, it would mean that we do not need God’s guidance and that we can do whatever we want. You may have heard people say that problems such as war, crime, disease, and poverty are decreasing. One report stated: “The reason humanity is getting better is because humans have decided to make the world a better place.” Is this true? Are humans finally figuring out how to solve the problems of the world? Let us examine the facts.
15. Why can we say that the problems in the world are serious?
15 Have humans solved the problem of war? During World Wars I and II, more than 60 million people died. During 2015 alone, 12.4 million people were forced to leave their homes because of war or persecution. This brought the total number of displaced people to 65 million. What about crime? In certain places, some kinds of crime have decreased. But meanwhile, other kinds, such as cybercrime, domestic violence, terrorism, and corruption, keep increasing. As for disease? It is true that humans have found cures for some diseases. But in 2013, a report said that each year nine million people under the age of 60 die from heart disease, stroke, cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes. And what about poverty? The World Bank reported that the number of people who live in 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 the problems of the world? (b) What did both Isaiah and a psalmist say that the Kingdom will do?
16 These facts do not surprise us. Today, economic and political organizations are controlled by selfish people. These people cannot end war, crime, disease, and poverty. Only God’s Kingdom can do that. Think about what Jehovah will do for mankind. His Kingdom will remove all causes of war, such as selfishness, corruption, patriotism, false religion, and Satan himself. (Psalm 46:8, 9) God’s Kingdom will end crime. Even today, it is teaching millions of people to love and trust one another. There is no other government that can do this. (Isaiah 11:9) Jehovah will soon end disease and make all people perfectly healthy. (Isaiah 35:5, 6) He will end poverty and make it possible for all to have happy lives and a close relationship with him. This is much more valuable than any amount of money.—Psalm 72:12, 13.
“KNOW HOW YOU SHOULD ANSWER”
17. How can you reject worldly thinking?
17 So if you hear a popular idea that seems to challenge your faith, learn what the Bible says on the subject. Discuss it with a mature brother or sister. Think about why people like the idea, why it is incorrect, and how you can reject it. We can protect ourselves from worldly thinking by doing what Paul said: “Go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside . . . Know how you should answer each person.”—Colossians 4:5, 6.
^ par. 9 Some Bible translations include verses at John 7:53–8:11 that were not originally part of the Bible. Some have read these verses and come to the wrong conclusion that only a person without sin could judge someone guilty of adultery. But the law God gave Israel stated: “If a man is found lying down with a woman who is the wife of another man, both of them must die together.”—Deuteronomy 22:22.