I set up this website with the intention of primarily talking about social issues in America. Such a broad subject leads me to think about many different topics. One day as I was pondering what to write about next, it occurred to me that much of what is wrong with our society stems from having false idols. The first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me.” However, you don’t need to be placing another religion’s deity above God in order to be guilty of breaking the first commandment. A “god” can be anything that we place more faith or value in than we do God. Oftentimes, what we value the most is what we think about or are involved in the most. I am going to go through some things we commonly find ourselves trusting in, and valuing, more than the Lord. Some of them might be old-hat, but others may surprise you.
What probably comes to mind first for most people when considering false idols, is money. This is because it truly is quite common for folks to end up idolizing it. It is my belief that most people who idolize money don’t do it intentionally, but rather are sucked into it without realizing what’s going on. The fact of the matter is that you won’t get very far in America without money. You won’t get much food, drink, clothing, or anything else if you don’t have it. This makes the pursuit of money a very natural thing for Americans. Add to that the consumer and throwaway cultures that have developed and the pursuit of money becomes even more important. No longer is it common in our society for people to posses the skill to fix a simple fan or mend a skirt. This means they must have money in order to replace those items when they break or rip, increasing the importance of making money. In our culture, money has become power. With so much thought going into it and so much need being placed upon it, we can easily begin to see why it becomes such a common idol for people, even Christians.
Keep in mind, the following is written by a man with a four year degree and the debt to prove it. Formal education has become a common idol here in America. It seems that everyone and their mother’s dog is preaching the importance of a college degree. Now, I believe that such an educational pursuit is right for some people, but not everyone. I also believe that there is inherent value in educating yourself, whether that be a college degree, certificate program, being self-taught, or an apprenticeship. However, the importance of education should not be placed above the importance of God. After all, our very existence, let alone our education, would be impossible without Him.
A standard way for education to show itself as an idol in someone’s life is through classism. I know, and have known, many people of all ages that loved to peer down their college educated proboscis upon the lowly masses of those who forsook the blessing of another two plus years of homework and 30,000 plus dollars of debt. Valuing formal education to the point of letting it play a role in undervaluing those who did not pursue it, is strongly indicative of letting formal education become an idol.
I like being outdoors, the plants and creatures are all fun and interesting to observe. My life is certainly richer for being able to spy rabbit tracks in the snow, watch a finch at my bird feeder, or watch the trees sway in the breeze. Yet, I must be careful that I do not come to value the creation more than the Creator. What is more impressive than a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis and turning into a butterfly? The mind that conceived such a thing. As a fan of nature shows I have heard many scientists and nature enthusiasts talk about how awe-inspiring various aspects of our physical world are. Many of them dedicate their lives to the study of nature in some fashion. However, it seems to me that few of them relate what they find amazing about nature back to God. Our physical world and the creatures that inhabit it alongside us are simply creations from God designed to inspire thought, study, and appreciation. Nature is one of the ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to us, but it is not a god itself. Therefore, we need to be cautious that we do not miss the forest for the trees.
I hope you found this short list interesting and thought-provoking. I tried not to delve too deeply into the topics because I feared getting bogged down in them. Each one of them is certainly capable of being expanded upon and dissected. Hopefully I was able to provide some food for thought.