WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OUR IDOLS ARE TAKEN AWAY?

By David Dann

Prior to unleashing the final plague on Egypt leading up to the exodus, God spoke to the Israelites through Moses, saying, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord” (Ex. 12:12). Shortly after this, Moses’ father-in-law recognized the plagues as a demonstration of the worthlessness and impotence of the idols worshiped by the Egyptians in comparison to the true God of heaven, saying, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them” (18:11).

The plagues served to destroy any confidence one may have had in the idols of Egypt. What about the “idols” that are often viewed with such devotion today? While we may not actively worship statues representing false gods as did the ancient Egyptians, idolatry comes in many forms. Please consider how the current circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have taken away many of our modern “idols.”

1.Sports. Many forms of athletic competition are not sinful in and of themselves. In fact the apostle Paul employed sports imagery in order to illustrate the life of a faithful Christian (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:5) and even referred to himself as one who had “finished the race” (4:7). However, sports in our culture are often elevated to a status of slavish devotion and athletes are viewed with worshipful admiration. But what happens when the stadiums, arenas, and ballparks are suddenly empty, and the athletes are sidelined indefinitely? Now is a good time to reevaluate our relationship with sports and star athletes. When tempted by the devil, Jesus said, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve'” (Matt. 4:10).

  1. Entertainment. The inspired wise man spoke of being entertained, saying, “I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure’; but surely, this also was vanity…I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds” (Eccl. 2:1, 8). Entertainment, movie stars, and musicians occupy a place of devotion in the hearts of so many in our society. But what happens when the theaters are suddenly closed, the concert venues are vacant, and the studios are shut down? Now is a good time to reevaluate our relationship with the entertainment industry and its stars. The apostle Paul warns against those who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4).
  2. Wealth. Money is necessary in order to provide for our own (1 Tim. 5:8), to help those in need (Eph. 4:28), and to further the cause of Christ (2 Cor. 9:6-7). At the same time, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). Earthly riches often occupy the place of devotion that should be reserved for God in the hearts of so many in our culture. But what happens when large portions of the economy are shut down, the stock market is devalued, and jobs and sources of income are lost? Now is a good time to reevaluate our relationship with money. Paul warns, “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:5).

Conclusion. King David praised God, saying, “I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing praises to You” (Psa. 138:1). Likewise, John exhorted his fellow Christians, saying, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21). We need to be constantly reminded that the true God of heaven deserves the devotion of each one’s whole heart and that He alone deserves to occupy the place of reverence, praise, and worshipful adoration in our lives. How are we making use of this time in which our idols have been taken away? 

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