But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3
Should Be Led Astray – Diphtheria used to be one of the leading causes of death in children. Thanks to vaccines, that is no longer the case. When someone is infected, the bacteria form a false membrane in the throat, ultimately preventing the victim from breathing. It’s a slow and terrible death. We need to think about that image when we read this word in Paul’s letter. To describe the condition of being led away from the truth, Paul uses the Greek word phtheiro. It doesn’t mean just to lead astray. It means to make rotten, to corrupt. It is diphtheria of the mind. And it’s lethal.
How can someone contract spiritual diphtheria? According to Paul, the disease first attacks through craftiness. Of course, what Paul has in mind is the Hebrew word ‘arum (see August 10 – Genesis 3:1). We know that this word is connected with disordered existence. As clever as the serpent might have been, his objective was to bring about chaos. He has been after that goal ever since. So, Paul is not telling us that we need “simple” faith, as though anything complicated or complex is somehow not spiritual. What Paul suggests is that the message of Yeshua is ordered. It is consistent, coherent and comprehensive. There are no loose ends, no rabbit trails, no secret mysteries. God laid out the plan clearly and in great depth. The plan is directional, operational and organized. When you are confronted by teaching that leads off on some tangent, or that requires you to ignore some part of God’s Word, or that brings in lots of other opinions, be careful. You just might die from asphyxiation.
Please notice that there is no suggestion here that faith must avoid serious thought. Often we wax nostalgic about simple faith. We would love to have a faith so pure and clean that it moves mountains. But don’t be fooled. If Yeshua memorized the Scriptures (like all serious and devout first-century Jews), you can be assured that he spent considerable time developing a deep and vibrant intellectual faith. Of course, His actions were aligned with that understanding. That’s why it was simple and pure, but it wasn’t simplistic. Yes, we need that child-like trust that allows unwavering dependence on the Father, but none of God’s Words are only surface deep. In fact, if we never go beneath the skin, we won’t build the kind of spiritual resistance we need when craftiness shows itself.
This translation adds the word “devotion” in the final thought. By adding the idea of devotion, the translation shifts from outward compliance to the order of God’s government to inner assurance of care and comfort. This is a mistake – and a potential trap. My inner experience of God’s blessing depends on my behavioral alignment with His instructions. If I want God’s order in my life, it will take more than feeling good about Him. It will take obedience, something that Eve lacked. Let’s be careful. One way that we can contract spiritual diphtheria is by chasing the good feelings of religious experience without the necessary, required behavioral changes. I don’t care if you liked the sermon on Sunday. I want to know how it will change your behavior on Monday. If it doesn’t, it will lead to disordered living and you’ll get sick.
Topical Index: Faith