Colossians 2:22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.
Every once in a while the Japanese translation I use makes a lot more sense than the NIV, and this is one of those times. Put into English, it comes out as, “These things all deal with stuff that perishes with use, and are based on human commands and teachings.” It may seem like a very small difference, but it gave me an “Aha!” moment. It all comes back to what is temporal and what is eternal. For example, food is by definition consumable; that’s its whole purpose. You don’t put a “perfect apple pie” in a museum, even if it is a work of art. Paul goes on in the next chapter to talk about specifics of how we should live, but here he is putting some perspective on it all. We are called to be good stewards of everything at our disposal, particularly including our bodies, which means we need to be aware of what is healthy and what is not. However, obsession with food in any way is a distraction from the important things of life. Likewise, we need to be very careful we aren’t being trapped by “human commands and teachings,” as opposed to what God says. There are various religious groups that follow all sorts of rules that have no basis in Scripture, and those rules can ultimately be very destructive. A good case in point is the prohibition of marriage for Catholic clergy. We are hearing a good bit about some of the tragic fallout from that even recently. As a person with the gift of singleness, Paul did think that had advantages, talking about it in 1 Corinthians 7, but few people are so gifted. To Timothy, he lists “forbidding marriage” (1 Timothy 4:1-3) as something taught by demons! God knows how He made us, and all of our appetites are originally good, so we need to be careful that they are channeled and used as God intends, for blessing rather than for destruction.
I have certainly experienced this myself, as I’m sure we all have. God had me get married at 20 because He knew what danger I’d be in if I didn’t, and that relationship has been a great blessing in the 50 years since. Likewise, He has given me a great appreciation for all kinds of food, but has guided and guarded me in my intake so that I’m not the size of a small car. Actually, as good a cook as my wife is, that’s downright miraculous! With Thanksgiving (we have a 25 lb. turkey for the church dinner) and Christmas coming up I will need to be careful, but that’s not a matter of eternal consequence. As a pastor I caution people in dealing with their appetites, but I steer away from “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.” I don’t want things like that clouding the really important issues of loving God and loving our neighbors.
Father, thank You for how down-to-earth the Bible is. Thank You that it doesn’t dress anyone up, but presents people in all their human weaknesses. Help me respond to my own humanity, and that of those to whom I minister, as You desire, so that Your purposes may be fulfilled in Your holiness for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!