Monday, January 27, 2014

Becoming Our Idols
It was review time before proceeding with the morning's lesson.  This was my favorite part of teaching four and five year old Sunday School--seeing what was sticking in their young minds and what was still out of their grasp.  Two months later, I was still getting "Ahaz" or "Ahab" as an answer for "the prophet whose name starts with an A" question.  Apparently, those two kings' evil nature (and buzzing zzzzzz sound at the end of one of their names) made them much more memorable than Amos' uneventful watching after mindless sheep.
After quickly reviewing the past few months' progression through the Old Testament wherein Israel fell away from God who then sent prophet after prophet to warn them to repent and return to Him, I asked my group of ten what I thought was a simple question.  

"What is an idol?"

My youngest son blurted out an answer without raising his hand.  "A rock."

My mouth opened to speak before shutting again.  It wasn't the answer I expected.  My co-teacher and I looked at each other, grinned and shrugged our shoulders with a "yeah....that's right.  But...." We then proceeded to explain again how anything could be an idol.

Still, I couldn't fault my son.  Even Google seems to agree.  Plus, I, too, had grown up believing that idols were fashioned with one's hands, such as a metal statue of Budda or an Egyptian goddess carved of stone.  Even as an adult, I still have to fight against such a definition of the word idol as it is easier to pin down than the truth that anything and everything can become an idol if it takes the place of God in my life.

The "anything-ness" of the definition is too nebulous for the black-and-white mind of a four year old to grasp. And in all honesty, it's that vagueness that still bothers this grown up who would just prefer a simple definition that she could easily follow or not follow, but at least she would be certain of which was which.

The Psalmist writes, 

"The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them." (Ps. 135: 15-18).

While the Psalmist does speak of idols made of silver and gold, the broader definition of idolatry as anything that is placed before God--has the same conclusion--"Those who make them are like them.

In the above passage, we can glean two truths about idols: (1) we craft idols in our lives and (2) we become like our idol.  

First, you and I may not bow before idols of silver or gold, but for every idol we do metaphorically bow to each day, it is crafted by us.  That's the reason something like "exercise" or "eating healthily" or even "sports" can become an idol to some yet not to others--we individually craft that idol in our own lives.  Pride?  Self-centeredness? A love of material things?  Whatever is our idol, we develop it as the ultimate end and choose to serve it, putting it first before God.

Secondly, and more frightening, is the knowledge that whatever our idol is, we become like as well.

In short, we become like what we worship. If I idolize my reputation above all else, could that keep me from ministering to someone God puts in my path?  If I worship the pursuit of the American Dream, could that leave me for not enough time for other ministry opportunities God would have me be apart of?

The Psalmist is clear--if I worship and idolize anything other than God, then that is what I will become like.  Instead of becoming a living reflection of Jesus, we will reflect something else--our idol--to the world around us.

Paul reminds us of what we will be if our focus is on Christ alone: "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18). 

When we rid our lives of idols, and when our worship is of God alone, we will become like Him.  Anything else, and we're transforming into something unGodly.

This week when you think of idols, remember these two things: To idolize something is to worship it.  To worship it is to become it.

No comments:

Post a Comment