Idols

3 Aug

It is easy for me to sit in judgment of the fools in the Bible who would create a stone statue and then literally bow at its figurative feet to express worship. It’s not so easy when someone shows me how I spend countless hours admiring my work on a spreadsheet that I find particularly helpful for the task I want to accomplish. Just because my idols are more sensible to today’s society does not make them any less problematic. In fact, I would venture to say that there are quite a few idols that our culture not only accepts, but rather pushes on us.

Recently, a friend was talking to me about the idol of retirement. Let me assert that rest is beneficial. We are commanded to rest, and God himself took a day of rest after creating the world in six days. I, also, don’t think it is bad to retire from what you do for a living. In fact, it can be a tremendous asset if you decide to use your extra time for distinct kingdom purposes. Nevertheless, I think too many of us focus on this retirement as if we are entitled to not have to work.

Many people today idolize their own sense of fairness or rightness. Quoting Richard Phillips from his book, Many will say that something is unthinkable for God to do, when it is the very thing He says he does in Scripture. Why are we so hesitant to believe or carry out that which is in Scripture? Well, there may be a variety of reasons, but it often just boils down to the fact that there is something that we idolize more than pleasing God.

Whether your idol is our political system, your own political candidates, money, fame, rest, reputation, or anything else, it can become problematic. I believe most people who care about this are willing to accept this statement. The problem comes in spotting our idols. I go about my world so blind to the fact that things are constantly blocking me from accomplishing what I could or should. I am a wonderful idol-maker. I can idolize something trivial without even realizing it. This is why sometimes, I thank the Lord for my enemies. I recently had someone who I don’t believe is my friend point out something on which I made a mistake. I am thankful for that insight into my life (though I could do without the questionable intentions and blow-back after I apologize, but I digress) wherever I can get it.

I think one of idols we have in this culture is wimpy friendships. One of the reasons I need my enemies to tell me some things is because my friends are often either blinded by the same weakness or don’t want to ruffle my feathers. This idol unfortunately leads to many of us being “thin-skinned” or unable to deal with even the smallest corrections. My intern this summer told me one of the things he liked about me was that I was “thick” skinned. I believe I am not really, it’s just that our culture creates people who are offended so easily that by comparison.

In the last 48 hours, I’ve spoken with people who are offended by the words a wide receiver made, a bad court decision, and the food that we are allowed to buy in this country. I don’t like any of those things, but I think the problem could be that we are making politically correct or acceptable speech an idol, or we make an idol out of American political structure, or we make an idol out of our food. All of these are things that we should care about as citizens and humans occupying the planet, but lest we forget, our sufficiency comes only from Christ.

Similarly, our salvation only comes from Christ. If we think we can save the world through sanitized speech, political involvement, or diet; we overstep the reality of what we can do. We are only able to effect real change with the life-changing gift of Christ. This is why I love a verse in my current memorization chapter—”I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Paul was able to not make someone else’s conversion an idol, but rather just love and minister to them. And, that, is something I want, right after I get back from my day trip where I took three separate internet devices to make sure I could check email.

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