“Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition.” – Colossians 2:8

 [From ws 6/19 p.2 Study Article 23: Aug 5-Aug 11, 2019]

Given the contents of the theme scripture, you could be forgiven for thinking that the article would be about types of philosophy and deception. However, it quickly launches into an examination of the Israelites being tempted by Satan to commit immorality, tempted by Satan into appealing to false Gods for water, and Satan blurring clarity about who was the true God. It then gives an Organization-slanted modern application of these things which includes the desire for education! Yes, according to the Organization, the account of Israel’s desire for water and their worshipping of a false God to bring that water is equivalent to one’s normal desire for education.  Apparently, this desire will entice you to worship a false God unless you forgo further education!

Let us just backtrack for a moment and review the context of the theme scripture. Colossians 2:18 in the NWT Reference Edition says:

“Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry YOU off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ;  9 because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily”.

That scripture is warning us to lookout for someone—a human, not an invisible spirit creature—who might deceive us with men’s traditions. What sort of traditions might they be?

Ask a Witness the real reasons for the following:

  • Why we have two meetings a week? Clear specific Scriptural instructions or the tradition of men?
  • Why are we expected to go from door-to-door in field service every week as a minimum? Scripture or tradition?
  • Why are we chased to report field service every month? Scripture or tradition?
  • Why do we study a Watchtower study article every week at the weekend meeting? Scripture or tradition?
  • Why do we offer literature from door-to-door instead of just using the Bible? Scripture or tradition?
  • Why do 99% of Witnesses not partake of the bread and wine on the memorial of Christ’s death, when the only Scriptural instructions we have are, “he [Jesus] took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This means my body which is to be given in YOUR behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” 20 Also, the cup in the same way after they had the evening meal, he saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in YOUR behalf”? Scripture or tradition?

The Organization is always pushing Witnesses to do more field service and go pioneering. Were any early Christians to be pioneers spending a minimum of 70 hours a month in preaching? Again, we have a tradition of men put forward as a means to keep Christians captive to the concept that they must obey the direction of the Governing Body to be saved.  Lip service is given to the one command Jesus gave his disciples shortly before his death, found at John 13:34, 35, but in practice, the preaching work as practices traditionally by Witnesses trumps these words of our Lord:

“I am giving YOU a new commandment, that YOU love one another; just as I have loved YOU, that YOU also love one another.  35 By this all will know that YOU are my disciples, if YOU have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35)

Paragraph 2 continues with two more traditions of men:

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.”

Firstly, the Organization’s traditional understanding of these verses is dependent on a number of things being true, all of which can be proven as false.  For instance:

  • Archeology proves that the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was not in 607 but 586/587 B.C.E.
  • There is no scriptural support that the dream of 7 times relating to 7 years of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness has any secondary fulfillment.
  • Jesus therefore did not become King in 1914 AD. (He actually became King nearly 2000 years earlier).
  • Jesus is not Michael the Archangel.
  • Neither Jesus nor Michael cast Satan down to the earth in 1914 AD.
  • We cannot know if we are living in the time of the end of this system, because only Jehovah God knows when that is coming. (Matthew 24:36-39)

Paragraphs 3-6 are under the subheading “Tempted to commit idolatry”.

This deals with how the Israelites were tempted to worship Baal to ensure that they had rain and successful harvests, despite Jehovah promising the nation they would be blessed if they obeyed him. The problem with any attempt at a modern-day application is that it requires proof that an Organization today has been chosen by God, and then given instructions to follow to gain blessings. As no one can read other people’s hearts, it is wrong for one person claiming to be Christian to point at another Christian and say they do not worship Jehovah, but are being idolatrous, just because they understand the Bible differently on some points.

According to paragraph 11, Satan has blurred people’s view of Jehovah. Now this is true to a great extent among Christendom in general. What the paragraph fails to say is that he has also blurred people’s view of Christ. Not us, would reply Witnesses if you asked them. But they have. In the desire to clear up confusion between Jehovah the Creator and his son, Jesus Christ, the Organization has swung too far the other way. They have replaced Lord with Jehovah in many places where the context shows it is talking about Jesus.

As an example, see 2 Corinthians 3:13-18 (NWT Reference) In context verses 16 & 17, the reference should be to the “Lord”, and probably in verse 18 as well. Why can we say this? Verse 14 says the “veil remains unlifted at the reading of the covenant because it is done away with by means of Christ.” Therefore, verse 16 logically reads “but when there is a turning to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Galatians 5 talks about the freedom that accepting Christ brought, so verse 17 logically would read “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

As a result, the true importance of Jesus Christ as our Savior is lost for all Witnesses.

Paragraph 12 discusses how Satan appeals to immoral desires with false religion tolerating immorality. Yet the Organization is hardly spotless in this regard. It tolerates pedophiles in its midst allowing them to hide behind a two-witness rule, and failing to report them in obedience to Romans 13:1-7, even when it has established that a sin has occurred. (Matthew 23:24).

Paragraphs 13-16 are dedicated to supporting the Organization’s stance on higher education under the heading of “Natural Desires”.

Take this statement:

Some Christians who have pursued university education have had their minds molded by human thinking rather than by God’s thinking”.

This is what one would call a glass-half-empty negative view. “Some” means a few, so the sentence rewritten giving the same facts, but conveying a positive view would read, “Most Christians who have pursued university education have not allowed their minds to be molded by human thinking, but rather by God’s thinking”.

Paragraphs 15-16 are dedicated to a personal view of a pioneer sister—as usual, unverifiable as no name is given. It is quoted to support the Organization’s negative view of higher education.

She says, “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”.

To that, the author would say that she was not good enough to cope with the work and perhaps should have done either a different course or something else. As a contrast, the author knows personally of a brother who, with 3 young children and serving as an elder, qualified as a professional accountant in the minimum time possible and did not miss meetings.

She also says, “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”. What a strange course she was doing. Which course she was doing is not mentioned. I could think of many good and useful courses, such as accountancy, medical doctor, nursing, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and more. None of these would teach a person to be critical of others; in fact, most would teach the exact opposite.

The article summarizes by saying, “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 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 2:11)”.

Yes, do not be deceived by those who would claim that taking further education is “ignoring Jehovah’s advice”. Jehovah does not give advice about higher education. If it was necessary, it would be in the Bible.

Do not be deceived by those who blur people’s view of Christ, the Savior of us all (Titus 2:13).

Do not be deceived by those who claim to uphold God’s justice, yet because of their traditions they are giving shelter to pedophiles.

Do not be deceived by those who stick to traditions rather than Scripture.

It is indeed an empty deception to think that pioneering all our lives will make us any more worthy of everlasting life than those who may spend most of their lives caring for elderly and infirm people.

Rather, let us put our trust in Christ’s words as recorded in John 13:34-35 quoted near the beginning of this review and escape from those who would mislead us “by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition.”