Beware of Idols
by Darna Bedwell Gutter
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Idols, idols everywhere. There are entire faiths that revolve around idols. Buddhism, Hinduism -- letís just get to the point, as far as faiths are concerned, anything ending in -Ė"ism" -- is more than likely based upon idolatrous practices. As Christians we must be careful not to exalt people or things beyond what is healthy to our own conscience toward God.
WHY DO PEOPLE SEEK IDOLS?
As with the children of Israel, they sought to make an idol, the golden calf, thinking it would fill their emptiness, their own lack of faith. Without Moses they didnít know within themselves how to chose the right way. After all they were a people whose minds had been snared by slavery for generations. They needed a leader, a shepherd. So again they sought to enslave themselves with this idol, not recognizing the dangerous outcome.
The worldís system thrives on idolatry. It creates idols of people and calls them "movie stars". And we the masses are often mesmerized by the constant attention, conspired through publicity, given to these mere mortals. When one dies, they find others to take their places. Its gotten so bad now, that they donít even let the dead oneís die in peace. No they continue to market the memory of those so-called "legends". However their marketing would be futile without the idol worshippers.
For me a legend is someone who made a difference in the world. Someone who made an impact that changed how we view each other and the world around us. Someone like Martin Luther King or even Gandhi. So whatís with movie stars but someone who wants to believe the world revolves around them. But who can they save? If you send them fan mail, will they even answer it? Let alone extend to you a helping hand when you are in need. These are just the selfish, self-centered. Granted they may have some talent, but in most cases it usually benefits no one but themselves mostly.
Growing up I had my share of heartthrobs on the screen. As a young teen, there was that Cassidy guy who sang with his family on a sitcom. I can hardly remember his first name. Then of course everybody loves Elvis, notice I didnít say loved. *But my mother could put everyone else to shame when it came to Elvis. It rather came as a shock to us but upon his death, it was as though something triggered within her.
Bless her soul; she began to collect all his movies and albums. She began to pay homage to Graceland every year. There was an 8 x 10 glossy photo of Elvis at motherís bedside. My motherís husband still shared this bed with her. But like the children of Israel, mother was looking for something to fill her discontentment which happened to be an alcoholic spouse.
At some point she met and became close friends with Elvisí former maid Nancy. Then together they collaborated on a book. Mother said the title came to her in a dream one night. "The Maid, the Man and the Fan". My mother died in 1999. Recently I saw where Nancy was selling the books for more than a hundred dollars on the Internet.
Oh well just an example of how much energy we can put into idols, motivated by what seems to be missing in our lives. My mother was not the only one; Elvis had many fans that followed him beyond the grave. I donít believe he gets any joy at all from that. It probably grieves him deeply, as much as people making careers of imitating him. Now that's taking idolatry to another level.
Take a look at the sports world. Again you find people who may have aspired to the top of their game, but you have thousands of people going to wildly cheer them on while they make fortunes. Often they are exposed to have very little integrity and character beyond the playing fields. And the same goes for movie stars.
And yet these arenas of idols are an ongoing practice in most countries. There are, of course others who make careers that revolve around these idolatrous institutions. But what in fact makes them idols is the amount of attention and money you are willing to devote to them.
Sure we love our children, but where do you cross the line of idolizing them? I can answer that question for you with some precision. Itís when you expect everyone else to worship them as you do. There are few things more sickening to me because Iíve seen more than my share of this attitude as a piano teacher.
Most parents who yield to making idols of these little monsters usually have no signs of God at all in their lives. Thus, they are in need of something to worship. I call them little monsters because that is what they become. They come to understand the power they are invoking over their parents and in turn they too expect all adults to submit to their will.
This is most tragic for the children who are not to blame; they themselves are the victims. I can usually sense gratitude in those whose attitudes Iíve managed to bridle to some degree. But many of these poor children are destined to go through life seeking to be worshipped. That in itself is the nature of the beast, is it not?
I have revised this article to include an epidemic that is spreading like wildfire across this beautiful nation America. With the Indian Nation's efforts to successfully open casinos across the country, gambling has become an idolatrous epidemic. But it is being passed off as entertainment and recreation.
This is a very dangerous pass-time. People are fast becoming addicted. The casinos have replaced the old fashion night clubs with big name entertainment, drinking, smokers are welcome and even world-class food. And most are open 24/7.
Allow me to caution you, throwing money away is not entertainment or recreation, it is gambling. And if you find yourself frequenting these establishments on a regular basis, then it is idolatry. Any addiction is idolatry, be it drinking, smoking, drugs, sex or whatever. Anything you become attached to that is harmful, has replaced God in your life and is an idol.
GOD IS FAITHFUL
Life has become a balancing act. Only the Lord Our God is able to help us balance our lives well enough to recognize when we are falling short. If something is missing in our lives, we must know to fill it with God else there is the danger of creating depravity. The hunger of depravity requires the filth of the world. Idolatry is no less filthy than a cigarette or an addiction to drugs. It creates a destructive pattern that can rob you of joy, peace and even love.
True, not everyone is fanatical about sports and movie stars. But there are less obvious idols. And being more difficult to recognize are far more dangerous. We live in an age when computerized games are fast becoming idols in our lives. The highly acceptable television has long been an idol to many.
But the question must be asked how much time, energy and money do you allow these things to take up in your life. Many may be bordering on idolatry unaware. Although it is a highly accepted pass time in most cultures, we must give account of our time and energy to the Lord Our God. We must endeavor to be as good a steward of time and energy as of money. Iíve only touched on the obvious ones. Take time to examine and apply these questions to your own lives. If you donít have God, it is likely youíre worshipping something else. So beware of idols.
*I mean no dishonor to my mother in sharing her personal struggle with idolatry. Those who have fanatically followed Elvis beyond death are undeniably idol worshippers to the extent of being a cult. So I believe there are many like her who might benefit from hearing about it. It was unfortunate for us that I could not be more persuasive at that time of her life.
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Excellent article! Unfortunately, there's a fine line between admiring someone as a musician, preacher, etc., and idolizing them. God help us to steer clear of the thin ice of idolatry!
Darna -- You are a writer of truth. God warns us in the 1st and 2nd commandment and in the great commandment. There is no relationship with God if we hold an idol before him. People wonder why they can't talk with God. Your writing is bold, complete, and oh, so needed in the church and in the world.
Good piece. Amen.