Living Lesson: Have We Made an Idol of God?
By: Christopher Wiles
I know it sounds absurd. You've lived your whole life going to church, saying your prayers, tithing your income, and staying away from things your preacher told you were taboo. Basically, you've tried to be a good soldier in the Lord's army and you know that serving a man-made image is idolatry. How could you fall into Satan's trap of idol worship?
In our Wednesday Evening adult Bible Class study we've made great progress through the first ten chapters of Deuteronomy. Yet one theme that is frequently a revisited bump in our road is idolatry, the chasing of false gods (Deut 5:8). Why would Moses keep repeating the dangers of idolatry to a people who had been in such close contact with God? Could we be guilty of idolatry today? I think some of the issues at the heart of idolatry in the Bible are the same that "Christians" struggle with today. Use these following two idolatrous ideas as an initial litmus test as to whether or not you have idolized the Father, the Son, or the Spirit.
The Gimme god - This mindset occurs when someone uses God as a means to an end. Think back to the Old Testament conversations on idolatry. In order to become fertile, people would worship a fertility god (Deut16:21). In order to receive rain, they would worship a rain god (Jer 14:22). Safe passage was sought by worshipping the god of seas and victory on the battlefield only came through prayer to a god of war. Is this notion so far off from today? Do you know anyone who prays to God primarily when they want something? Removal of a disease, safety in travel, and blessings to win the local lottery have been the subjects of the primary prayer life for a lot of people. Making our God as a means to an end is refashioning the Almighty Creator into a Santa Clause idol, the Gimme god. Do we specialize in idolatry today?
The Personalized god - I believe that God is THE personal God, knowing the number of hairs on our head (Lk 12:7) and loving us deeply (Rmns 8:37-39). Yet I am concerned with our conversation about Him when we say things such as, "Well, MY God would never do something like that," or "I just can't believe in a God like that." I don't believe these conversations will pass muster for legitimate theological arguments. Today, we get to personalize everything. From your meal at McDonald's "hold the onion," to the color of your car, "Can you get it in red?" we get the option to choose the size, color, and shape of just about everything in life. You can even get personalized Coke bottles with your name on them. Our culture is well adept at changing God when it says, "I don't like that Jesus said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.' (Matthew 19:9) Thus we change the definitions of marriage to fit what we like. If we are picking and choosing scripture to accept, we may be guilty of shifting from the Personal God to a personalized God.
Like the followers of God in Deuteronomy, there may be some who today believe themselves to be very good in their church attendance, regular prayers, and dedicated tithing. Yet, they may have turned from the Almighty God, who is in control and to be obeyed, into a personalized God who obeys our whims and wishes. If you think you may have fallen prey to Christian idolatry in America, the good news is that you can believe in the unchanging God of the Bible (Mal 3:6), to seek Him (Matt 6:33), serve Him (1 Sam12:24), and worship Him as He is (Ex20:5). He is faithful, not to change to conform to you, but to change you for the better to conform to Him. (Rom 8:29)