I’m not much of a tool person, even though I like to look at them and have been known to buy all kinds of tools at garage sells, most of which I never found a time to use. Somewhere around ten years ago I purchased a circular saw at a garage sell thinking it really looked great and I would be able to use it when I needed it. It sat in my garage for the next ten years, hardly ever coming out of its case and if it did come out it was for a brief moment and then back in the case. Finally, I admitted to myself that it was useless to me and gave it away. The truth is, any tool only has value if you use it. But some are useless for me even if I try to use them. They just plain don’t work in real life the way they do in the advertisements on TV. Have you noticed how easy some of the things shown are supposed to work? They just seem like something any old boy could figure out and use effectively. But when they arrive at my house and I try for three days to put it together only to decide I’ll have to get someone to help me put it together, so I put it in the garage, where it stays, half put together until I decide to give it away.
Its not just tools that pretend to have great value and often offer little to nothing in real value. It is often philosophies of life. A philosophy is a way of seeing things. It may be bad or good. It usually comes from someone whom we trust and think that it must have worked well for them so we try it on for us. These philosophies are passed around in every environment. If you go to school the teacher or professor has certain philosophies that they think are worth sharing with everyone else. Since they are the instructors we usually buy into some of their philosophies, if for no other reason than to make a decent grade in their class. Parents pass down their ways of seeing things to their children, coaches pass them down to their athletes, preachers pass them down to the congregation.
I think Paul must have been thinking along this line when he penned the Book of Colossians. In chapter two and verse 8 he said, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy or empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” There were false teachers who had a mixture of ideas that they wanted to share with the church to lead them in the direction they wanted to travel. Some were from a Jewish background and wanted to take the church made up of Gentiles into the Jewish religion and make them follow their traditions. There were also those false teachers who would later be known as Gnostics who tried to convince them to worship angels, to deny the deity of Jesus Christ and to put lots of stoke in visions they had seen. Paul warns that any idea that leads away from Christ is wrong and harmful.
Later in verses 20-23 Paul continued “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why , as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) – in accordance with the commandments and teaching of men? These are matters which have to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
It seems to be part of our human nature that we like to come up with rules for other people to live by along with us. The rules invariably seem to us to make sense and to be helpful for all. Sometimes the rules were even needed when they were first given but as time goes by they make less and less sense but we cling to them anyway since they have always been there. The making of rules often comes from those who feel that they are mature and superior to others. The thought is, that I can make the rules for the immature that will cause them to do right. It is the very nature of rule making that we tend to draw the line somewhere inside where God originally drew the line.
Think about the point as it relates to drinking and drunkeness. There is no question that the Bible teaches that drunkeness is something that we should avoid. It leads to all kinds of other wrongs along the way. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul declares, “Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” When he gave the qualities of an elder they were not to be addicted to wine. When Paul listed the works that keeps one out of the kingdom of the Lord and acceptance by him in I Corinthians 6:9-11 drunkeness was in the list. So it is obvious that getting drunk is wrong, and forbidden in Scripture. But people who want to be all that God wants them to be often step over that teaching to push the line back much further and say that it is wrong to take a drink of wine or other alcoholic drinks. They may argue that if one takes one drink that he is to some degree already drunk. In their fear that their family will turn into drunkerds they forbid taking a drink and go much further than the Bible.
Such laws of “Do not touch, do not taste or do not handle” seem good to us. We are protecting others. Yet God had Paul to say that this kind of thinking wasn’t right with God and did not do any good in leading people to stay away from indulgences of the flesh. In reality such teaching often seems to lead to more people testing the line to see how far they can go and still be o.k. The place we have as Christians is to make no laws where God hasn’t made them and not to push the line further than God has drawn it.
Any supposed rule we have that has no value in our living for God ought to be dropped. They useless rules are actually tools of the devil to drive people away from the Lord.