Midweek reflection by pastor Shawn:
Lately I’ve been thinking about how we all struggle with idols, myself included. Idols are tricky things, so easily catching the eyes of our hearts. I saw a line in passing (I don’t quite remember where, even) that has been ruminating in my heart this week:
“Your idols don’t love you.”
This is not about boy bands or rockstars. (Although, it is true that John, Paul, George, and Ringo, Justin, JC, Chris, Joey, and Lance, Beyonce, Jimi, Britney, and all the rest don’t really love you. I mean, they don’t even know you.) When I say, “idol”, don’t think of pop culture icons. Think of statues with dead, lifeless eyes.
Ancient idolatry was forthright enough to say it plainly: here is a physical embodiment of the god you seek to meet your needs. When you were uncertain about how you’ll eat in the future, or even today, you could go sort it out with the god responsible for growing crops, Ba'al. If you could make him happy with you and get him on your side, he’d (probably?) help you out. Or when you felt insecure about the large army threatening to attack your nation, you could turn to Anat, a violent war-goddess. Placating her could be the difference between victory and defeat. And so on… for all your needs, you could turn to an idol.
Modern idolatry is much more subtle but no less insidious. We all worship something; no one doesn’t worship. We all have a tendency to turn to idols instead of to the Lord with our needs. One modern idol is control—we feel uncertain, so we try to control our career, our family, our environment, and our bodies. Another is approval—we feel rejected and insecure, so we seek approval with complements, with social media “likes”, and with group identities. Another is comfort—we fear stress and demands, so we seek distraction, convenience, and pleasure.
Just like the ancients, we moderns worship our dead-eyed idols in an attempt to get our deepest needs met. But here’s the thing: your idols don’t love you. You might love it, but it doesn’t love you back. Idols don’t care about you and they don’t keep promises. They don’t think about your well-being, they only think about what they might get out of you. When you worship them and build your life around them, they suck the life out of you and destroy you.
In his ministry, Jesus had a way of calling out people’s idols (ex: Matt. 6:24). Jesus, over and over again, calls us to turn away from worshiping not-god (idols) towards worshiping and following him. Why?
Because your idols don’t love you, but God does. God is genuinely concerned for your well-being. He loves you so deeply he would give himself, his only Son, for you. He wants what’s best for you. He will take care of all of your deepest needs. Seriously.
Idol-worship de-humanizes us. We become what we worship, and worshiping idols make us like them. As the Scripture says about idols, “They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” (Psalm 115:5-8)
Worshiping Jesus secures our humanity. We become like him, the one who was truly and perfectly human. We worship and trust our Father, like he did (see Matt. chs. 5-7).
I know I can’t do this alone. So as a church community, how can we encourage each other to clean out our idols?