False gods many: wood, stone, electronic.


The displacement of God as the sole aim of our allegiance is at the heart of all idolatry; The ten commandments start with these admonitions. “Thou shall have no other gods before me, you shall not make for yourself an idol.”

The weight of the world’s problems rest on this sad truth–all humans are idolatrous. Every generation prefers to define itself as unique, yet each repeats the idolatry of past generations offering only the appearance of ingenuity by clothing theirs in new garb.

George Bernard Shaw observed, “The savage bows down to idols of wood and stone, the civilized man to idols of flesh and blood. ” John Calvin concurred, “every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols.” Just a few years ago Pope John Paul II warned, ” The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish” and actress Meg Ryan bemoaned, “It would be really great if people would realize that stars are only people with the same weaknesses and flaws, not immaculate idols.”

Our age offers no new idols nor does it offer new paths to their temples. My reading in Deuteronomy Chapter 13 this morning describes three common people who distract us from the proper worship of God.

The first is the prophet or religious leader and interestingly at first glance the most effective religious leader in wayward paths is the one with some earned credibility. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them, 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

The second false guide is a family member, trusted, loved and respected. “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods,which neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him¢â‚¬¦”

And the third likely source to mislead us is “worthless” fellows. Even in those early days humans were at times willing to cast their lot with superficial, mindless wastrels. “12 If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to dwell there, 13 that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known¢â‚¬¦”

Prior to electronic media the foolish gained access to the wise only by gaining entrance through a physical door. Today they enter our homes electronically in more vehicles than ever, more persistently and frequently than ever before in history.

The wonderful thing about human self-delusion (he says ironically), is our uncanny ability to see the applicability of truth for another life and not our own. Mention idolatry and I conjure up images of primitives gathered round a god of wood or stone. Mention religious leaders misleading people and a wild eyed, “health wealth” televangelist with bouffant hair springs to mind.

Tolkien understood the nuance of sin and idolatry and among his most memorable and tragic insightful lines in the Lord the Rings is Gollum’s sad whispered utterance “precious¢â‚¬¦my precious.” It was Frodo’s awareness of his vulnerability that qualified him to transport “precious” to destruction.

You and I are prone to worship false idols, make no mistake about it; whether we are aware enough to assure their daily destruction will be proved over time. In the words of Zero 7, ‘The Waiting Line,’ ” everyone’s saying different things to me, different things to me”; religious leader, family the mindless.

“You shall worship the Lord God and only God shall you serve.”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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