Lectionary Commentaries for July 28, 2019
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 11:1-13

Brian Peterson

This passage begins with what is surely one of the most familiar parts of the New Testament, though perhaps in its less familiar form: Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.

Though the preacher might be tempted to make a frontal assault on that monumental portion of the text, there may be wisdom in approaching the prayer itself by exploring more directly the teachings about prayer which follow it. Those verses provide a path both less traveled and less defended against challenge and surprise.

The parable that follows the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11 is humorous, and potentially problematic. In an ancient culture without instantaneous communication and without all-night grocery stores, is it not difficult to imagine being surprised by the arrival of an unexpected guest and caught without the supplies needed for even basic hospitality. More surprising, however, is the picture of abandoning all concern for decorum and personal dignity and trying to rouse the sleeping neighbor to help. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

But just what is this parable supposed to communicate about God, and us, and prayer? A crucial element in answering this is how to understand verse 8, which contains two particular points of ambiguity. The first is the meaning of the Greek word anaideia, and the second is whether “his” refers to the petitioner or the sleeper in the parable. The Greek word in question is not common, used only here and in Sirach 25:22 within the Greek Bible. The word does not actually mean “persistence,” and it seems that the translators have imported that idea from verses 9-10, and under the influence of Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). Serious theological problems arise from the NRSV translation, and by addressing this parable the preacher can explore some common and problematic understandings of prayer.

First, the “persistence” reading of the parable may imply that God is reluctant, unaware, and needing to be roused by our prayers before God will do anything. It may imply that prayer is the means by which we harass God until God finally submits to doing what we want. “But the notion that, repeatedly, we must bang on the doors of heaven if we are to catch God’s attention is hardly an appropriate theology of prayer.”1

The better option for translating the Greek word anaideia would be “shamelessness,” or a lack of sensitivity to what is proper, a willful lack of concern about acquiring public shame. This is clearly the meaning of the term in Sirach 25:22, where it is placed in parallel with “disgrace.”

The question then becomes whose “shamelessness” is the reason for the sleeper to get up and give what is requested. Is the petitioner shameless for begging in the middle of the night, or would the sleeper be shameless for not getting up to help? Either is possible, and either still seems fraught with theological trouble. If the former, then the parable calls us to be “shameless” in our approach to God, which hardly seems better than treating the parable as a lesson about our persistence. In the end, do we really want to trust in the character of our prayers, whether persistent or shameless?

If the shamelessness is, instead, attached to the sleeper, what does that say about God? Is this what “hallowed be your name” really means — that God will act only out of potential shame if the prayer is ignored?

Walter Liefeld makes a helpful suggestion about this parable and its dynamic of shame.2 The petitioner indeed acts with shameless disregard of his neighbor (and perhaps of the other neighbors who will witness this midnight disturbance), but the focus quickly shifts to the one in bed. Though the petitioner acts in a shameful way, his neighbor deals with the shame in a way that will bring honor to them both. Perhaps this is a better way to view what “hallowed by your name” means: God will act to honor God’s name even when we act in dishonorable ways.

As Jesus’ parables have a way of doing, this one will force the hearer to make some decisions about how to understand it, and thus how to imagine God’s activity. How we understand verse 8 in particular will determine (or perhaps be determined by) whether we think our actions and attitudes are the key to prayer, or whether prayer is based instead on God’s goodness. The latter is where verses 11-13 point us. Notice that this day’s reading begins and ends with talking about God as “Father.” For all the difficulties this gendered language carries, it is a term of intimate care. Any viable theology of prayer must begin with the God who in loving relationship with us prompts our prayers from the start.

It will not do to think that prayer works either because we continue to hound God about something or because we are so shameless in our asking. We are not the key that makes prayer “work.” If we keep asking, seeking, and knocking, it is only because God has done so first, and continues to do so. We need to hear this parable in concert with verses 9-13, which make clear that God is good, and that God is eager to give not simply the good things that we might ask for. The closing promise of the Spirit is a shock to any assumptions that we can use prayer to get the material prosperity that our culture idolizes. This is what the petition that “your kingdom come” leads to — a people who receive the Spirit, and are sent out as agents of the coming kingdom. Here, what they receive is not all their wishes (thanks be to God!), or even “good things” (as in Matthew 7:11), but the Spirit of the kingdom.


  1. David Buttrick, Speaking Parables (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000), 186.
  2. Walter Liefeld, “Parables on Prayer (Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-14),” in The Challenge of Jesus’ Parables, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 251.

First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 18:20-32

Valerie Bridgeman

This week’s text continues the story from the three visitors under the Oaks of Mamre.

But the lectionary text skips Sarah’s laughing at the notion that at her age she would have a child, especially since she “ceased to be … after the manner of women,” i.e., she is post-menopausal and presumably unable to have a child (verses 11-14). We miss the three “men” (angels? Theophany-in-three-beings?) turning toward Sodom and Abraham being a good host and accompanying them to set them in the right direction (verse 16). We actually miss the set-up for this week’s text – that is, God’s internal dialogue on whether to tell Abraham what is about to happen.

If we are reading carefully, we don’t know whether “the Lord” is one of the “men,” or is external to this gathering of creaturely beings, including Abraham. We have to acknowledge, if we are honest, that this part of the text is mysterious and odd, like much of the Abraham/Sarah cycle. Abraham MUST know, because he has been “chosen” (verse 19) and he will need to charge his children (yet unborn) and his household (including enslaved or indentured servants) to “keep the way of the Lord” by doing righteousness and justice. What is about to happen, in the internal dialogue of the deity, then, is tied to righteousness and justice. So Abraham must know because apparently Sodom (and Gomorrah) will become an object lesson on what is NOT righteousness or justice. But the preacher who would preach this text must hold that coming tension.

This setup is important as we come to God telling Abraham the “why” of God’s decision.

May I be honest? I am always queasy when “people are going to die” is the answer to “a great outcry against” anyone because of their “grave sin” becomes the reason for death and destruction, even when the actor is God. And we have become inured to divine violence in the text, until and unless someone, in the name of God, decides to bomb, shoot, knife, or otherwise maim whole groups of people “in God’s name.”

That’s the challenge with this text. It is easy to say, “but it’s God.” And yet we live in cultures where we resist text and subtext of divine actions that kill even the people we hate.

Perhaps Abraham’s call to act righteously and with justice is an antidote to what might be divine capriciousness. I am aware that preachers probably can’t call God “capricious,” but preachers should be aware that there may be some people sitting before them who are thinking it’s capricious and may need permission to examine what it means to believe God is inscrutable for no good reason, from their perspective. And is it actually capricious? Does even God grieve what might, in the divine realm, seem to be a necessary loss (some might say evil)?

Abraham’s belief that he is kin to God in righteousness and justice might be reflected in his question in 18:25: “Shall not the judge of all the earth act justly?” It emboldens him to have a conversation with God. He prays.

In addition, listeners might recoil at the notion that God can be bargained with. But there is ample evidence that the deity considers ending all human life form, then relents, or considers a different way. And perhaps it is that history of the mystery of God that makes Abraham ask “will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked” (verse 23).

So the bargaining begins, starting with 50 and going down to 10. My friend, poet Jaha Zainabu wrongly identifies the bargainer as Lot, but her point for this story makes a lot of sense: God had been willing to bargain; why stop at ten?1 I would also add that surely God knows whether even Lot manages to meet the criteria of “righteous and just.” Is killing the unjust the only way, since as Zainabu notes, “I might have been among the sinners had you met me on any random day.”

I suppose that’s at the heart of the challenge this text provides. How do we make allowances for human sin, human collective communal sin, human failings, humanity fraught with the possibility of change and growth? In this text, honestly, preachers may need to bring in Genesis 19 and Ezekiel 16:49, where the sin of Sodom is explained (over against historical interpretations that have led us to connect this episode with sexual sin, especially homosexuality — but that discussion may be well beyond the scope of your sermon).

The preacher will need to know that such thoughts are just on the edge of the people’s mind, even if she decides not to go to that edge.

This text will force preachers to struggle with the radical free will nature of what it means for God to be God. There are places in the Hebrew Bible that tell us God “relents” from decisions sometimes, even as God is free to behave as God chooses (see Joel 2:3, where God’s holding back is put in context of the recurring confession that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love. See also, Exodus 34:6 and Numbers 14:18). The contradictory or multivalent nature of God leaves us with the query: “Who knows what God will do?”

At this point, what the “good news” is from this pericope may lie in putting it in good conversation with the other lectionary texts, and with a larger theological vision of God, without pretending that tension is not present in this text. It’s a good, meaty text for preachers to approach if they are not bent on easy answers. We get to explore what God knows that we do not, and what the “for the good of all over against a few” may mean in divine economy of creation. And struggle with the faith that must emanate from us not knowing some things.



  1. Jaha Zainabu, “Dear Lot,” a poem, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wABJL5pl8tQ.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Hosea 1:2-10

J. Blake Couey

In Hosea 1, God commands the prophet Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman named Gomer, whose unfaithfulness will become a living metaphor for the Israelites’ religious apostasy.

Hosea is further told to give his children symbolic names that communicate God’s displeasure with the people of Israel.

At the end of the chapter, however, those names are reversed to show the restoration of the people to God’s favor. (The lectionary reading only includes part of the reversal, which continues in Hosea 1:11–2:1 in most English Bible translations; the chapter division comes one verse earlier in the Hebrew Bible.) Hosea 2 and 3 also present Hosea’s family life as an analogy for God’s relationship to Israel, although the exact relationship among the three chapters remains debated.

For some readers of the Bible, these chapters tell a deeply moving story about a God whose mercy cannot be exhausted by human unfaithfulness and rejection. For other readers, however, they depict an abusive marriage, with children caught helplessly in the middle, and then horrifically suggest that God behaves similarly when dealing with humans. The preacher who would address this text must exercise great caution and sensitivity.

What about Gomer?

Hosea’s wife is named only once in the text: “Gomer, daughter of Diblaim” (verse 3). Yet many interpreters have constructed elaborate, even lurid backstories for her. It was commonly proposed in twentieth-century commentaries that she was a temple prostitute who had sex with priests of the god Baal as part of a fertility ritual. Not only does this have no basis in the text, but more recent scholarship has widely concluded that temple prostitution was never part of ancient Syro-Palestinian religion in the first place. The Hebrew text of Hosea 1:2 doesn’t even call Gomer a prostitute. “Promiscuous woman” is a more accurate translation than “wife of whoredom.”

The fact is, we learn almost nothing about Gomer in this text—and that’s the problem! As the mother of three children whose symbolic names make them living prophecies, she plays a central role in the story, yet we have no access to her perspective. (In Isaiah 8:1, by contrast, the mother of Isaiah’s child is called a prophet in her own right.) How does Gomer feel about marrying Hosea? How would she respond to the label “promiscuous”? Does she assent to naming her daughter Lo-Ruhamah (“Not-Loved”)? To preach responsibly about Hosea 1, one should acknowledge which voices are heard in this text, and which voices aren’t. This could encourage further reflection on who gets to speak for themselves in our society, and who has their identify defined for them without getting to weigh in.

Hosea 1 employs a literary motif that biblical scholars call the “prophetic marriage metaphor” (see also Isaiah 1; Jeremiah 2-4; Ezekiel 16, 23). This metaphor represents God as a husband and God’s people as an unfaithful wife. It criticizes the worship of other deities as spiritual adultery, while emphasizing God’s mercy in restoring the broken relationship. The metaphor assumes a hierarchical view of marriage, in which the husband has considerable power over the wife.1 As many feminist biblical interpreters observe, it promotes harmful views of women by associating maleness with God and femaleness with sin. In many cases, the metaphor implicitly endorses domestic violence; the cycle of harsh punishment followed by tender reconciliation disturbingly echoes behavior associated with abusive husbands or partners. Such associations aren’t prominent in Hosea 1, but they come to the fore in Hosea 2, which is included in the Year B lectionary cycle. Although the marriage metaphor offers emotionally poignant language for thinking about the divine-human relationship, contemporary interpreters should consider what different metaphors might better help us imagine God’s love and mercy.

War crimes at Jezreel

The names of Gomer’s last two children, Lo-Ruhamah (“Not-Loved”) and Lo-Ammi (“Not-My-People”), articulate God’s rejection of Israel for worshiping other deities. But the name of her first child, Jezreel, has a different offense in view. It commemorates the place where a military official named Jehu usurped the throne of Israel by assassinating members of the previous ruling family and slaughtering their descendants (see 2 Kings 9-10). Set nearly a century later, during the reign of Jehu’s great-grandson Jeroboam II, Hosea 1:4 threatens that “the house of Jehu” will be held accountable for “the blood of Jezreel.” Later readers would have associated this prophecy both with the end of Jehu’s dynasty, when Jeroboam’s son Zechariah was assassinated, and with the conquest of Israel by Assyria a few decades later.

Hosea’s critique of Jehu’s political violence is especially striking because, according to 2 Kings, it was sanctioned by God and authorized by the prophet Elisha. The coup ended the state-sponsored Baal worship introduced by Ahab and Jezebel, and it avenged their murder of Naboth, which also took place at Jezreel (see 1 Kings 21). Given the antipathy toward Baal worship expressed throughout the book of Hosea, one might have expected its editors to view Jehu’s actions positively. Instead, they unequivocally condemn the bloodshed with which his dynasty began. The ends don’t always justify the means!

As acts of religious and political violence increase in our own time, these texts offer an opportunity to reflect upon the complex relationship between violence and justice. Hosea 1 claims that God condemns indiscriminate violence, even when it’s in the service of an otherwise just cause. On the other hand, 2 Kings reminds us that, in an imperfect world, justice can sometimes only be (partially) achieved by violence. And both texts recognize that acts of violence continue to have profound societal effects decades or even centuries after they were committed. For the preacher who wishes to avoid some of the more ethically problematic aspects of the marriage metaphor, this topic offers another direction for preaching and teaching about Hosea 1.


  1. Julia O’Brien, Challenging Prophetic Metaphor: Theology and Ideology in the Prophets (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2008), 31-48.


Commentary on Psalm 138

Vanessa Lovelace

The composer of Psalm 138 teaches us that the proper response to the Lord’s deliverance is gratitude.

Can you recall those times when our elders taught us what we were supposed to say at certain times? For example, they would urge, “What do you say?” when someone gave you something or did something nice. Of course, “Thank you” is the appropriate response. We see this sentiment demonstrated in Psalm 138, where the psalmist delivers a song of thanksgiving for having been rescued by God from danger.

Psalms as poetic divine-human discourse

The book of Psalms is often regarded as a hymn book, however it actually contains a variety of literature, to include hymns, prayers, litanies, and meditations. Not only is the book comprised of several genres, but there are also various types of psalms, which are recognizable by certain shared features. The most common types are identified as prayers of lament and hymns. These can be individual or communal in form. There are also specific types of songs, which vary among scholars but are generally categorized as hymns or songs of praise, songs of thanksgiving, royal psalms, and wisdom poems. Regardless of the types of psalms, perhaps what is most important to understand about the collection is their significance in the worship life of ancient Israel. The psalms express the divine-human relationship in poetry and should be regarded as, “poetic discourse between Israel and God, who is said to hear and answer.”1 This confidence in God’s listening and answering is evident in Psalm 138.

Psalm 138 begins with the superscription or title “Of David.”2 There are 73 psalms attributed to King David in the Old Testament. Davidic authorship of the psalms has both internal support within the book such as Psalm 72, which concludes with “The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended” (NRSV) and externally, as in the lament ascribed to him in 2 Samuel 1:17–27. Given that David was recognized as a musician and composer of psalms, a tradition arose claiming that David composed the entire book. However, despite the association of certain psalms with personal events in David’s life, the superscriptions appear to have been added subsequent to the composition of the psalms. Therefore, the authorship of the individual psalms is likely unknown. This does not mean that David could not have composed any of the psalms. Nevertheless, the psalms were composed and collected over centuries, to include some attributed to David that were written after his death.

A heartfelt song of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance

Psalm 138 falls under an individual hymn or song of thanksgiving (see also Psalms 18; 30; 32; 40:1–10; 66:13–20; 92; 116; 118; 138). Although the psalmist sings praises to the Lord, the community is not commanded to do the same, thus distinguishing the song of thanksgiving from a song of praise. We can also discern from the first three verses that this is an individual psalm by the string of first-person singular verbs: I give you thanks (Psalm 138:1, 2); I sing your praise (138:1); I bow down (138:2); I called (138:3). What also distinguishes Psalm 138 as a song of thanksgiving from other types is the psalmist’s expression of gratitude in response to God’s deliverance from any number of trials or tribulations. For example, it might be rescue from danger, healing from sickness, or deliverance from enemies.

In Psalm 138, the psalmist does not specify the peril. At this point, the emphasis is on the psalmist’s confidence that when called upon God responded by providing him or her with the strength to overcome their ordeal (138:3).3 Thus, given that the danger has passed, the psalmist can publicly attest the Lord’s steadfast love or kindness (Heb. khesed) and faithfulness or fidelity (138:2) exemplified by having been protected from harm. Yet, in Psalm 138 the psalmist gives witness “before the gods” (138:1) or divine assembly gathered around God’s heavenly throne perhaps to express the magnitude of the deliverance.

The psalmist shifts the focus from an individual thanksgiving to the praises of the Lord by the kings of the earth. Why should the earth’s kings praise Israel’s God? First, they do so because of what they have heard from God’s own mouth (Psalm 138:4). Although the psalmist does not reveal what God is said to have spoken, this likely refers back to Psalm 138:2 where God’s name and word or promises to Israel have been exalted. Second, they sing God’s praises because they recognize God’s greatness and glory (138:5). Yet, the reader might be surprised to read next that the one who is above all other rulers in heaven or on earth and praised by the kings of the nations would consider those held in low stead with such high regard. Those in high places should take note that the Lord who sits high does not keep company with the arrogant (138:6).

The psalmist returns to extolling his or her confidence in God’s presence and protection while surrounded by those who pose a threat (Psalm 138:7). This should encourage us to have this type of trust in God’s steadfast love for us based on God’s promises. The psalmist gives testimony to having been rescued by God with an outstretched hand. The psalmist ends the song with a petition to God to continue to protect him or her according to God’s purpose for the psalmist. Thus, we are offered an example of what we should do in response to God’s deliverance — give thanks with a grateful heart. But we really don’t need a reason to thank God, do we? Give thanks!



  1. Toni Craven and Walter Harrelson, “The Psalms,” in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, ed. Walter Harrelson (Nashville: Abingdon, 2003), 749.
  2. The Hebrew preposition le could be translated “to,” “of,” or “for.” Thus, it might mean “for David” rather than “of David.”
  3. Given that women could be singers and musicians at this time, it is appropriate to use the pronouns “her or him” when referring to the psalmist. For a detailed treatment, see Joel LeMon’s endnote on his 2019 commentary on Psalm 16.

Second Reading

Commentary on Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19]

Lois Malcolm

The third in a four-part series on Colossians, this text addresses a controversy among the Colossians. Some are judging others for not following certain dogmatic ideas and self-abasing practices.

In response, the writer urges his readers to be rooted in the Messiah, in whom the “entire fullness of deity dwells bodily.” Since they too have “come to fullness” in this Messiah — having been baptized into his crucifixion and resurrection — they need not be “dogmatized” by any self-appointed “authorities and rulers” who seek to undermine their faith.

Live in the Messiah, in whom the fullness of deity dwells bodily

The writer begins by urging his readers to continue walking — that is, living their lives — in the Messiah (Colossians 2:6). The word for “walking” (peripateite) has profound baptismal resonance. As a way of life, baptism enacts our palpable unity with the Messiah, who as God’s Wisdom empowers us to “walk” in the way of righteousness and live in alignment with paths of justice (Proverbs 8:20; see Romans 6:4).

Be “rooted” in the Messiah, the writer implores, “built up” in him, “established in the faith,” and “overflowing with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7) — just as you were taught “in all wisdom” (Colossians 1:28). These appeals pertain not to specific behaviors but to an awareness of the “Messiah in you” (Colossians 1:27).

Beware of anyone who would cage you with deceptive philosophies that only denude your experience of life’s fullness and value — whether based on human tradition or ideas about the universe. The writer here is not attacking “philosophy” per se, but rather beliefs and practices (which in this case are clearly spiritual and religious) that are not rooted in the Messiah, the divine Wisdom who permeates the cosmos (see Colossians 1:15-17).

“The entire fullness of deity dwells bodily” in the Messiah — palpably enfleshed as a ubiquitous and personal presence that saturates reality with truth (Colossians 2:9). Moreover, you yourselves have already “come to fullness in him” (Colossians 2:10a). Thus, since the Messiah, as God’s Wisdom, is the “head” of every “ruler and authority” (Colossians 2:10b), no one — absolutely no one — can have the presumption to think that they can rule or have authority over you!

You have been buried and raised with the Messiah

Baptism signifies how we — literally — “come to fullness” in the Messiah. The writer uses circumcision, the Jewish rite of inclusion into God’s people, to depict the Messiah’s crucifixion and what happens to us when we participate in it through baptism (see Romans 2:28-29; Philemon 3:3).

When crucified with the Messiah in baptism, we “strip off” our old, false selves — like dirty clothes. The “body of flesh” (somatos tes sarkos) we discard is not our physical body (recall that deity dwells bodily in the Messiah and in us). Rather, it refers to all that consumes and corrupts, whether within or around us, serving only capricious desires or the interests of those who seek rule and authority over others — from behaviors and practices to traditions and ideas.

However, when you were buried with the Messiah in baptism, “you were also raised with him through faith in the same power of God, who raised him” (Colossians 2:12; 3:1; Ephesians 2:6). On this point, Colossians and Ephesians, which describe believers as already “raised” from the dead (see Colossians 2:12; 3:1; Ephesians 2:6), differ from Paul’s undisputed letters, which anticipate a future resurrection (Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:22-23; Philemon 3:10-11) — although Romans 6:4 sets as parallel the Messiah’s being “raised from the dead” and our “walking in newness of life.”

The writer goes on to describe how “you were dead in transgression.” His allusion to “the uncircumcision of your flesh” suggests that the Colossians had been Gentile and thus had lived, without the Torah of God, in a state of lawlessness (Colossians 2:13a; see Colossians 1:27).

Yet, he continues, God “made you alive together” with the Messiah, when God “forgave us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:13b). Several scriptural links are presupposed here. The Torah, which brings life, is God’s Wisdom (Sirach 24). Thus, if the Messiah embodies God’s Wisdom for all people, then God works life in all through their participation in the Messiah.

Although the Greek word for “forgive” in 2:13 is charizomai, its use here suggests the biblical meaning of aphesis (used earlier in Colossians 1:13) — being set free from unjust contracts, as in the Jubilee Year when debts were annulled (Luke 4:18; see also Isaiah 61:1). In the Messiah’s crucifixion, God forgave all people, blotting out the entire record of debts against us with its decrees (literally, “dogmas,” dogmazin).

Nailing this record to the cross, God not only disarmed all rulers and authorities that would control us, but also publicly humiliated them in a “triumphal procession” — an ancient Roman victory celebration in which prisoners of war were paraded as an act of triumph (Colossians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 2:14).

Therefore, let no one “dogmatize” you; instead hold fast to the Messiah

Hence, the writer admonishes, “Do not let anyone judge you” (Colossians 2:16). “Do not let anyone disqualify you” (Colossians 2:18). Those who would condemn you on matters related to food, drink, or observing certain festivals — or who insist on self-abasement or paranormal activity — are futilely exaggerating their own self-importance with what, ironically, is merely a “human way of thinking” (Colossians 2:16, 18).

These things are a mere “shadow” of what is to come, in contrast to the “body,” which belongs to the Messiah (Colossians 2:17). Instead, maintain close intimacy with its head — the Messiah, God’s Wisdom — from whom the whole body, supported and held together by all its joints and connecting bonds, grows with a growth that comes only from God (Colossians 2:19).

In the Messiah, you have died to everything in the universe (Colossians 2:20; Galatians 6:14). So why be “dogmatized” (dogmatizesthe) by human precepts and teachings that merely separate you from your bodies and relationships — such as, “Do not make contact, Do not taste, Do not touch”? (Colossians 2:21). With their self-induced piety, self-abasement, and asceticism, these “dogmas” merely appear to speak a “word holding wisdom,” but they are worthless for checking the actual desires and interests that constitute “the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).