“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col. 2:20-23).
The prohibitionist streak that is so attractive to many Christians is a religious streak. And we must come to understand that this religious streak goes as deep as the flesh does. There is a kind of religious duty that is of the flesh, for the flesh, and by the flesh.
We do not have to reconstruct the particular rationale for the prohibitions that the Colossians were having to deal with. What we have to do is simply recognize that there is something like this out there in the world, in the religious world, and in the religious heart. There are certain practices which will have the appearance of wisdom for Christians, but which are of no value in actually dealing with the flesh. This is because this kind of ascetism does not mortify the flesh — it is the flesh. This is why anyone serious about the Christian life will want to guard himself against falling into this particular kind of trap. The traps that have the appearance of wisdom are the camouflaged ones. This means they are the ones to watch out for. There is this kind of trap? What should I watch for?
In the coming verses, in chapter three of Colossians, the apostle will be urging them to their real duties of mortification. But what he wants them to put to death are those deeds related to “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). If you are wondering anything like “whatever could he mean?” you might start by swearing off all movies that are anything like the last twenty movies you watched.
This is why all hipster mortifications are so lame. The apostle saith nothing whatever about carbon footprints, shade grown coffee, ethical chickens, corporate farming — all that moral earnestness being wasted with such prodigal abandon! Did you know that we are just 5% of the world’s population, and yet we still consume 62% of the world’s priggishness?