Thursday, March 7, 2013

2. You Shall Not Make an Idol

The second in a series on The Ten Commandments.....

Most of us would say, "I have no problem obeying the second commandment.  After all, I have never made, owned, or possessed an idol.  I do not have a statue of any kind that I worship or even look at."  That logic is literally true when it comes to what we modern people think that ancient people referred to as idols.  The Israelites were always getting in hot water with Yahweh because they were crafting things that looked very similar to objects that their neighbors used as idols.  Baal was a very popular one in their world.  He often looked like a bull but could take other forms as well.  So, when they looked longingly at the green lush fields of their neighbors, sometimes they began to wonder why the neighbor's fields received rain and their own did not.  They sometimes guessed it had to to with their lack of worship to the correct deity so they would either make or steal an idol and begin to worship it.

That is what is behind the second commandment.  In its purest and most literal meaning, it means that people should not offer worship to an idol that really belongs to Yahweh, God of Israel.  Thus, the reasonable thinking that if we modern people do not bow down before a stone object, then we are obeying this one.

But, you know we are not literal or concrete people.  We may be modern in the way we live but worshiping idols is not limited to giving homage to a stone figure.  Our idols are much more subjective and may or may not be concrete in nature or makeup.  Technically, the definition of an idol is anything that one looks upon as having high importance in life, and to the place that its importance outranks the importance that one gives to one's Higher Power.  (Don't look for that definition in is in my own words.)  So, having an idol in one's life may mean having an expensive car or boat or villa.  Giving worship to an idol may mean spending much of one's time or resources on that idol....constantly washing and waxing that expensive car; taking that boat to the lake every time an opportunity comes to do so; flying to that villa and entertaining friends every spare second one could.  Most of us don't have expensive cars or boats or villas, so we may think we again escape from the clutches of the second commandment but it gets even a bit stickier.

An idol could even be a, not an American Idol, although giving too much attention in one's life to a celebrity could lead to idolatry, those girls who used to scream and faint each time they saw Elvis or The Beatles, may have been idolizing them to the point that their actions were somewhat akin to worship.  One does not have to give one's attention to a celebrity in order to be guilty of idol worship, though.  Giving all of one's attention to another human being you know well could be using them as an idol.  If the attention that one's gives takes the place of worship to God, then the actions could be idolatry.

I have heard the slogan, "You don't have to go to church to be a Christian" far too many times.  Usually it is spoken by someone to does not go to church but wants to use the name "Christian" to identify themselves.  Sometimes the slogan is a convenient excuse to help exonerate the person from their lack of church attendance.  I agree that there are persons who attend churches who may live less than Christ-like lives--I have known a few of them.  However, if people truly are Christians, it just seems to make sense that they would want to be in communion and fellowship with others who are Christians also.  So, going to church is part of the lifestyle that Christian persons have.

That said, giving all of one's attention or time or resources to any person, place, or thing instead of giving it to God borders on idolatry.  Having a proper place for everything we do in life and every person we know in life with our devotion to God at the center of our lives is a well ordered Christian life.  A life that gets skewed in one direction or another so that they give all they can in pursuit of pleasure or in devotion to a person is one that leaves God out of their life.  And a life lived without God and devoted to other pursuits is an idolatrous life.  At least that is what the commandment appears to say to me.  How about to you?  

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