Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. —Colossians 2:20-23
Interesting thing about this is that (today, anyway), Paul’s examples aren’t things only of the world, but also of religion (Jewish, Muslim, New Age, etc.). People of the world today, instead of saying “don’t” touch…today they say “do” touch, and accept everything. And if you refrain from any of the world’s options, then you must be some religious freak or something. However, as Paul is saying, such are not only worldly/religious stuff, but stuff taught by others who have no concern for Godly behaviors, especially when it comes to why. For though some may be good spiritual disciplines, they won’t get you any closer to holiness or God (the action part itself, that is).
If you’ll watch the news during certain religious holidays, you may notice the harsh (and pointless) ways that many will treat their bodies, with hopes of showing their devotion to God, and holiness to people. For example, Shiite Muslims will literally beat themselves until they bleed, and often even past that. They think that if they do so, they’ll prove to Allah that they’re worthy of favor from him. Another example is Good Friday in the Philippines, where annually, it’s actually common practice for some people to carry a heavy, wooden cross some ways, with a whole crowd behind them, and to have themselves literally crucified – nailed to a cross by his wrists and ankles, as a personal promise to God. And in doing so, they also receive praises from others, which actually puffs them up. Then you have Catholic Priests who would often kneel, walk on their knees from the church entrance to the altar, praying the rosary, as a spiritual discipline. “Look how holy they are!” But for each of these examples, Jesus says that they have received their reward (from people), but not from God. And Paul says, “No! You don’t need to do that because Christ freed you from your sins, that which condemned you!” In other words, what they’re doing to themselves, thinking it’s an act of spiritual discipline, is actually just harsh treatments to their bodies, pointless and meaningless to God, for they’re “based on merely human commands and teachings”.