This is part two of the Idols series. You can read part one here.
“We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
These are the words of a Russian author and anti-communist activist who was born 56 years before I was. We should have nothing in common. But his words move me deeply because they are true, and that’s what truth tends to do.
I am no stranger to chasing cheap things. I’ve been around that block a few times. Pursuing possessions, positions, and popularity like they are full time jobs.
The only problem is those jobs don’t pay very well. In fact, they ask you to pay a high price, and the benefits are nil.
I used to be a card-carrying materialist with an emotional addiction to other people’s approval. And it was all at my own expense, and certainly did no one else any good.
Am I alone? Have you ever chased after something that in the end felt like trying to grab hold of the air in your fists?
How could it be that we are willing to sacrifice that which is most precious to worship at the feet of a golden calf?
Here’s what I mean.
In Exodus 32, the people of Israel demanded that Aaron make “gods” for them. Moses, their valiant leader, was taking a sabbatical, and the people got impatient, saying “make us gods who will go before us.” (Exodus 32:1). They were desperate for someone (or something) to follow. So they offered up their precious gold jewelry so that Aaron could shape it into a shiny golden cow for them to worship.
Ironically, once the new god was made, they did’t follow it anywhere. The Bible says they “offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (Exodus 32:6).
They worshipped and they partied. But they stayed put. They had sold their souls to a fake cow and threw a big party for themselves. But it was all for naught. This false god didn’t help them make any progress. it didn’t “go before” them, it just sat there while they mindlessly danced around it, celebrating something that would do them no good.
And this is still our plight today?
We are grasping for tiny false gods to meet the God-sized needs in our souls.
In my experience, the human soul’s deep yearning for God boils down to three needs:
We offer up our time, our money, our talents, indeed our whole selves for the chance at one or more of these needs being met.
Young people throw themselves headlong into romantic relationships that don’t stand a chance. Ambitious people pay thousands to pack into hotel ballrooms and hear a charismatic business guru tell them how to they too can make millions. Religious people water down the Gospel because they’d rather people accept them than to accept Christ.
We want to be loved. We wanted to be led. We want to be lauded.
We’re all looking for a god. Whether we know it or not. Whether we like it or not. We are searching for the One who created us, sustains us, and sees us. And when we can’t find Him in the midst of our graveyard of idols, we frantically melt down our proverbial jewelry and fashion ourselves a golden calf.
We shape celebrities into gods. We make our bank accounts into gods. We turn little tech toys and other future garage sale junk into gods. We dance around them and celebrate their surfacy charm, only to be let down when they don’t love us back, lead us anywhere, or laud us for the sacrifices we make for them.
We realize the hard way that dead things make lousy gods. Because, naturally, they are dead.
And eventually, we become just like them. That’s the price we pay for chasing cheap things.
God warns us of this great pitfall of serving idols in Psalm 115.
“Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. “ -Psalm 115:8
Idols are lifeless, and they suck the breath of life right out of you.
Beware of the tiny little lifeless things you worship.
The tricky thing about idols is that they never announce themselves as such. You have to hunt them down and snuff them out of the crevices of your heart on purpose.
If you are unsure if you constructed any idols in your life, you might begin by answering a few simple questions:
- What do I spend my money on?
- What do I spend my free time doing?
- What do I post about on social media?
- What do I do to be comforted?
Wherever the answer isn’t Christ-centered, that’s a good place to start asking if there is an idol lurking in your life. I suggest writing down your answers. If you’re serious, even make a chart of some sort so that you can have a visual image of these things. It can be eye-opening. But it’s better to live life with a full view of yourself than to pay the high cost of chasing after what is cheap.