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Simplifying Idolatry, Exodus 20:4-5

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Buddy is sticking out his tongue because he’s uncomfortable with having his picture taken. (I’m disappointed in my new phone’s camera but wasn’t willing to pay $700+ for a new phone when a $200 phone does everything I need–except take great photos!)

I sometimes feel uncomfortable with some discussions in the Christian community. In my opinion, at times well-meaning Christians make Christianity too difficult and discourage sincere people. The latest focus in sermons and articles appears to be idolatry. It seems, basically, anything a person really likes is being defined as idolatry. As a result, I think people–including myself–are becoming too preoccupied with self-examination and sin-focused, rather than being Christ-focused and rejoicing in His goodness. It’s hard to be a happy, joyful Christian who attracts miserable unbelievers to your religion when you’re gloomy and self-obsessesed, perpetually worrying if this or that activity, object, pet, or person is an idol.

Now, I have no desire to deny the seriousness of sin. God takes idolatry very seriously.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,…”–Exodus 20:4-5a

But I believe the following is a much simpler and workable definition of idolatry:

Anything that, or anyone who, causes you to disobey God.

For example, a pop singer takes heroine so young people start taking drugs because it’s cool. No. God says our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and is a gift, being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). That singer has become an idol.

Your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance asks you to have sex with them and you say OK, knowing that God forbids extramarital sex (Hebrews 13:4). That person has become an idol to you.

You purchase a sporty red convertible, taking on enormous monthly payments and new debt, potentially straining your marriage and reducing your ability to tithe or give to those in need, knowing that your current automobile works just fine and you could live with it, but you lusted after a new car. You have made that car (or your desire for status) your idol.

A friend lures you into gossiping about a coworker or slandering someone because you care more about the opinion of that friend rather than about the potential harm you’re doing to the person you are slandering or gossiping about. You’ve made that relationship an idol.

You don’t compliment people at work or nominate them for awards because you don’t want them to look good to management and potentially jeopardize your own chance for a promotion. Your job, or your own ego, has become an idol because you aren’t trusting God to provide for your needs or to elevate you in His proper timing.

You watch an awards show because it showcases your favorite performer, knowing that there will be overtly sexual performances and profane lyrics–you’ve made entertainment an idol.

I’m pretty sure you’ve gotten the idea that I’m trying to get across. I believe this definition of idolatry as “anything that, or anyone who, causes you to disobey God” is easy to understand and takes less self-indulgent introspection to identify.

Most of God’s commands are pretty clear in the Bible.

I hope this helps simplify your Christian walk.

God bless you.

 

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Lingering: Genesis 3:1-2

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Our area received nearly 7 inches of beautiful snow Sunday evening, while many local areas received almost a foot. Oddly, it snowed all day Sunday but didn’t start to stick to the ground till after dark. Buddy tried to walk around the edges of the snow in our backyard to find a place for “relief”. Finally, he had to trot through the snow, but he didn’t linger in the frigid cold but kept moving.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he (the serpent) said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?'” And the woman said to the serpent…”

Often, when I buy something I don’t need it’s because I linger too long looking at it. If I’d merely glanced and moved on, I wouldn’t have spent money on something I really didn’t need. But if I stop and gaze–whether on the Internet, an email I should’ve deleted, a catalog I should’ve tossed, a store’s window or display stand I should’ve continued walking by–then I’m far more likely to give into temptation and pull out the credit card or check book.

Eve apparently wasn’t surprised that the serpent spoke to her, so she must’ve had at least a prior encounter with the snake. The problem was, when the serpent questioned what God had commanded her, she stopped to continue the conversation. But Satan was the most crafty of all creatures. Once Eve lingered to speak, she was halfway toward questioning God’s good intentions toward her and losing the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life. If she had run away, Satan would’ve been denied that particular opportunity to tempt her to destroy her intimate relationship with God.

So the moral is: Don’t linger unless you really want to buy the goods that are being offered. Something I need to remind myself of more often.