Iker Casillas is arguably one of the greatest goalkeepers to have played the game of soccer. In the 2013–2014 playoffs in Spain, Casillas became the first goalkeeper in history not to allow a goal for the entire eight-game tournament. That level of perfection takes constant vigilance. You cannot take your eyes off the game for a moment.
In today’s passage, Paul warned the Colossian church to be on guard, to keep their eyes on the game. Paul was concerned that they would be taken captive by “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (v. 8). Paul didn’t mean that someone would literally imprison them. Rather, his concern was for something far more dangerous. There were false teachers who wanted to entrap the Colossians in ways of thinking and living that were opposed to the gospel they had received. That same threat is certainly true today.
The problem with false teaching is that it “depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (v. 8). This philosophy sounds enticing. It is based on the best human reasoning and is empowered by spiritual forces. But no matter how attractive it may appear, it cannot compare to the message we have heard from Christ.
Paul reminded the church that Jesus is God in the flesh (v. 9). The message about Christ they had received was from a far greater authority than any “human tradition.” Even more, they knew the power of Christ first-hand. Once you have come to know who Jesus is and what He has done, there is no reason to look anywhere else for meaning or purpose in life. Paul exhorted the church as if saying, “Stop looking around to other beliefs and ways of life, everything you need is found in Christ.”
Just like the Colossian church, it is tempting for us to look to human tradition to tell us how to think and what to believe. It can be easy to agree with the surrounding culture that the best life is found by pursuing comfort, ease, and safety. Paul warns us to find our values and priorities by keeping our focus on Christ, not on the world around us.