21 Sep Dismantling our Idols
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word, “idol?” A small statue of an animal or other object used for worship? Or perhaps a famous person who is greatly admired comes to mind—a teen heartthrob or movie star. Before the smashing success of the television show American Idol, “idol” was not a word that was very common in everyday conversation. But, without a doubt, idolatry is alive and well in all of us, whether we name it as such or not.
Since June, here at Calvary we have been working our way through the book of Exodus in a summer (now turned autumn) sermon series. Exodus is the story of Moses and the children of Israel’s liberation from Egypt’s Pharaoh. There are many twists and turns throughout the narrative, as any great drama will have. It is a riveting story, but far beyond the Hollywood-worthy plot and characters and action, the story is astounding in its ability to speak directly to our lives today.
Take, for example, Sunday’s story about the golden calf. In a relatively short period of time, about 4 months or so, God had saved the Hebrews’ backsides over and over again. God delivered them from slavery, gave them safe passage when they were trapped at the Red Sea, provided food and water in the arid, inhospitable desert, blessed them with outstanding leadership, and pledged divine faithfulness by enacting a covenant with them. The people, always fickle at best, responded by alternating between gratitude and complaint, worship and worry, promising loyalty and succumbing to fear. Their impatience led to their most egregious failing of all—demanding an idol before which they could bow in adulation. As onlookers watching this debacle unfold, we can’t help but wonder, after all God has done for them, how could they turn their backs so quickly and betray God?
Modern day idolatry happens when, like the Israelites of old, we fail to acknowledge the gifts of God. We take a lot for granted—health, opportunities, the capacity to learn, safety, relationships, innate talents—which causes us to be self-congratulatory rather than grateful for what we have and what we accomplish. Lacking gratitude, our focus becomes self-centered and demanding, with our primary concern being what we need or want. The ego ends up being the god we serve, without realizing what a deceitful and dominating taskmaster the “Big I” really is.
The ego tells us that winning Mom’s approval will fix everything. It won’t. The ego tells us that rebelling is the way to “be our own person.” It isn’t. The ego tells us that finally having that degree, that award, that income will mean we are a success, and we’ll be content. It’s a lie. The ego promises us that if we can fit into the jeans we wore in high school, our relationships will improve. Please.
But, we buy into it, the whole enchilada. We chase accolades, admiration, power and the trappings of success and once we believe that our happiness depends on them, we are in the clutches of our ego-driven idols. We are no more free than the Hebrews toiling under the desert sun making bricks for Pharaoh. If we could spray paint our insecurities, fears, envy and pride gold, maybe we would be startled enough by the sight to get more honest about where our real values and loyalties lie.
Confronting and dismantling our idols is hard work. It can be scary, painful, and horrifying to face the truth about myself which is why a loving, safe, supportive community is essential for spiritual maturity. We are stronger and wiser together, as we hold one another accountable and encourage one another to choose gratitude, faith and worship of God over all the pretenders that try to persuade us differently.
Yours for the Kingdom,