FINDING JOY IN AFFLICTION
A blog series on navigating through the challenges of life with purpose
The Difficulty of Idolatry
I want to start off by asking you a simple yet thought-provoking question. Is there anything in your life that you idolize? Idolatry means that we worship something over God. Something can be a person, a place, an image, or a possession. We see in the Old Testament that idols were mostly other gods or items that could be worshipped instead of the one true God. But what about in the here and now –what do you worship? Or maybe asked a little differently, is there anything in your life that is more important than God?
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.” Exodus 20:3-5
Here we see a portion of the 10 commandments. Isn’t it interesting that the first and second commandments teach us to not put anything before God? No other god, no image, no item, no person, –NOTHING. We shall have nothing before God. There are more examples of idolatry in the Bible than I could possibly cover. They exist all the way from the beginning of the Old Testament through much of the New Testament. I read these accounts and I am baffled that someone could witness firsthand the power of God and then turn their worship to a statue. I am shocked that the gratitude for the mercy they were shown is so quickly forgotten at the first sign of earthly loss or confusion. I’m saddened when I read that a man who walked with Jesus would betray Him for pieces of silver.
“Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.” Mark 14:10-11
Judas was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. Just sit on that for a minute. This man walked with Jesus, was taught by Jesus, and was called by Jesus, Imagine being in the inner circle with Jesus and the other 11 disciples. You witnessed the greatness of the Son of God with your very own eyes, yet you find something that means more to you than what you had learned and been taught. That something was 30 pieces of silver. He betrayed God for something tangible. And while it was tangible on this earth, that money would offer very little fulfillment but an unimaginable amount of guilt for Judas. I can’t even fathom an action like the one of Judas. How could one do such a thing as this? Maybe Judas wasn’t aware of what would be done to Jesus or maybe he had a change of heart because we see that Judas tried to give back the money, but it was too late. Judas had a god before God and the result of this was that Judas ended his own life. What he thought would bring fulfillment over Christ actually brought death.
“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.” Psalm 135:15-18
I read these verses and I’m astounded and sickened at Judas’s actions. I believe if we were there, we would never have traded Jesus for money or anything for that matter. Or would we? We tend to view Judas’ actions as if they are on a different playing field. But they aren’t. Though I may not deal with carved images or things of this such, what about the place where I find my sense of security? Is it found in tangible things or possessions or is it found in the truth that I am a child of God and that eternity with Jesus is waiting on me at the end of my life here? Or is my purpose and my reason found in working to accommodate a lifestyle here? Maybe better explained by the “YOLO or you only live once” mindset that tells us to fit as many good, self-fulfilling things and moments into our lives as possible. It tells us to make the most of every day, but not because we desire to grow God’s Kingdom, instead you simply focus on growing our own. We may not deceive or choose thirty pieces of silver over God, but what about our time, our talents, our hobbies, our spouse, our children, our family, our friends, our passions, our work, etc., etc., etc? The truth is that nothing is wrong with any of those things at all –until they are in the wrong order. They are all great things to enjoy during our life here. Thirty pieces of silver wasn’t a sin, the sin derived from the deceitful selfishness of a man who preferred something over God.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Let us revisit the question we started with –is there anything in your life that you idolize? Or let me ask it this way. Is there anything that you find more valuable than God and His plan for your life? Is there anything that you would not give up if He asked you to? Are you living with the YOLO mindset or living your best life with no sense of urgency to evaluate what is in your number one spot? And while all of us could say with certainty that we would not send Jesus Christ to be delivered over to death over a few measly pieces of silver, we show our lack of trust and faith in Him when we put other things before Him.
God has given us so many gifts to enjoy while on this earth. I would tell you that I am so thankful and blessed that God gave me a husband to love and enjoy this life with, but friends as much as I treasure him, He doesn’t get to sit in the number one spot of my life. The happiness I have found in raising children is like nothing I can compare it to. Because of their life here, I get to be a mom and it’s so wonderful. But as much as I love those kiddos, they do not hold the number one spot. I am so thankful for my work, my friends, my home, my hobbies, and so on, but they should never get to sit at the head of the line. Do you know why? Because that place is reserved for God alone. The fact is that when we are obedient to that position in our life that He should be, he enables us the understanding to place everything that falls underneath Him in its proper place. You shall have no other gods before Him.
Today I want to challenge you to evaluate your life, your hopes, your desires, and your priorities. Is God first? Do you prefer anything over Him? Would you obediently give it all up if He asked you to do so? If you find that you have placed other things in the spot that only belongs to the Creator of the world, I encourage you today to pray and ask that God would reveal to you anything that you have placed before Him or anything that you depend on more than you do Him. Pray that once He reveals that to you, He would then give you the strength, wisdom, and discernment to reprioritize.
Our Bible Reading plan this week will give us a look at the results of put other things before God.
If you have questions or things that you don't understand, please email them to me and I will add them to the Q&A section. I can't promise you that I will have all of the answers, but I can promise I will do my best to find them if I don't have them.
Growing in God
Would you like a tool to encourage your growth in God? Check out my newly released 12-month spiritual disciplines book/journal. This journal will give you a brief understanding of 8 tangible spiritual disciplines as well as give you a space to implement these disciplines into your daily walk with God.