During my past week’s blog readings I came across a post calling for America to repent her idolatry so that the wrath that is predicted to fall on our nations because we are such a disappointment to God will not fall. We all have read similar posts before. Often they condemn the sin of abortion or some kind of sexual immorality and most of the time they are focused on the world outside the church walls. Sure they are generally addressed to the people who one would expect to see sitting in the pews on Sunday morning but their greatest sin, at least from the sounds of the posts, is not being more in-your-face with the world outside.
Whenever I read these kinds of blogs I wonder how the writer got to where he or she is in life. What combination of experiences caused that writer to become so angry or afraid or love lost? It is a thought full of assumptions and the situation might not actually be that he or she feels particularly angry or afraid. But I wonder, because when I read the Bible I just do not see God’s wrath and vengeance as the response to mankind’s sin. God does not come across to me as cruel or merciless. Rather those are human attitudes from a place of sinful self-centeredness that we in the Church all too often ascribe to the god we serve. No wonder those on the outside are not even bothering to look inside these days.
My second thought, at least after reading this particular post, was to ask, “If God isn’t asking the Church to get in the face of the rest of the world, what might His concern be?” The more I thought about the passages in the Bible where God said anything about idolatry I realized they were addressed to His chosen people, the ones to whom He was in process of revealing Himself, the ones who best understood His provision, His love. In fact, I could not think of one single time when God addressed the rest of the world or instructed His people to go tell the heathens to repent of their idolatry. Instead, His concern was for His own people. He did not want them to rely on idols. Rather he wanted them to trust in Him.
And, God’s warning to His Church is not about the idolatry of the world. (Which is not the same as saying worldly idols are okay). The world’s idolatry is merely an example God uses to show His people how fruitless such obsessions are. While back in the day people literally worshiped statues made of wood, stone, or precious metals today most of our idol worship is more subtle. Yet we still worship idols for the same reason–to get a specific result. When people used to sacrifice animals to the god of the harvest they expected their crops to have a high yield. If that did not happen the people concluded something must not have been done correctly or was not done enough or something else was done too much. The people then made another sacrifice as an act of repentance so next season the crops would produce.
Perhaps the world does worship money, position, and power. And, worldly people may sacrifice families, personal integrity, and health in order to get the things they worship. But are those idols really any worse than the god-idols we create for ourselves? When we follow a ritual of tithing, prayer, Bible reading, or quiet time with the hope of pleasing God and receiving His blessing in return, when we only listen to certain music, read certain books, and watch certain movies so as not to waken God’s judgment, have we not in essence made an idol out of God?
If the only reason we do what we do is to get what we want can the relationship we have really be called a marriage? Are we, the Church, a bride responding to our lover? Or do we treat God like a Sugar-Daddy we can manipulate with our praise and prayer filled performances? Praise and prayer are not bad in and of themselves. In the context of a marriage they are adoration, encouragement, and communication. In the context of a marriage they are what get us through the worse, the poorer, and the sickness and help us enjoy the better, richer, and health. But if we expect specific results because of our praises and prayers they have become idol manipulation and we are guilty of idol worship because we have turned God into a carved statue.
If God is warning His people about idol worship, as the post that got me thinking about all this indicated, I believe this is His message: You do not have to find another lover (money, position, power) to be guilty of worshiping idols. You just have to treat the lover you have like a Sugar-Daddy.