Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Getting rid of Idols

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What idols are in your life? Do you recognize them all? Here, we can all use an “illumination.” For idols are many — and very sneaky, as well as entrenched: seemingly normal. Very often, we justify them.

There are idols of self: ego, vanity, selfishness. (Do you put your interests above those of others — in ways large or small?) There is materialism. Do you idolize money — thinking about it more than you think about God? There is carnality. This means lust and anything else of the flesh (including overeating). “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry,” says Colossians 3:3.

There are political idols. There are sports idols. There are Hollywood idols (they even call them that).

The greatest modern idol may be at the very center of her home: the wide-eye sibylline screen of the television. This confers “magic” on those who appear on it. Never mind movies!

And of course the gadets that, ironically, start with “I”: iPhones, iPad, iPods, as well as other brands; there is Facebook and blogs (“mirror, mirror, on the wall…”). How much time do we devote to all that versus the Bible, spiritual readings, and prayer?

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these,” Paul said in Galatians (5:19-21). “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Psalm 125 tells us: “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!” It’s idolatry that causes many sins to pass down through the family tree, “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 ,” states Exodus 20: 1-8. 

Many things are idols that we don’t think of that way. “The customs of the peoples are vanity,” says Jeremiah 10, for example. We can even make an idol out of religious practices, when we are more devoted to a practice or devotion than we are directly engaged with the Lord. Anything that blocks our view of Him is: an idol.

Heed this: “Presumption is as iniquity and idolatry,” says 1 Samuel 15.

Presumption (according to the dictionary) is:

“Brazenness, audacityboldness, audaciousness, temerityarrogance.

“All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self,” noted one writer. “We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self. This brand of modern idolatry takes various forms.

“First, we worship at the altar of materialism which feeds our need to build our egos through the acquisition of more ‘stuff.’ Our homes are filled with all manner of possessions. We build bigger and bigger houses with more closets and storage space in order to house all the things we buy, much of which we haven’t even paid for yet. Most of our stuff has ‘planned obsolescence’ built into it, making it useless in no time, and so we consign it to the garage or other storage space. Then we rush out to buy the newest item, garment or gadget and the whole process starts over. This insatiable desire for more, better, and newer stuff is nothing more than covetousness.”

“Second, we worship at the altar of our own pride and ego. This often takes the form of obsession with careers and jobs.

“Third, we idolize mankind through naturalism and the power of science. We cling to the illusion that we are lords of our world and build our self-esteem to godlike proportions.

“Finally, and perhaps most destructively, we worship at the altar of self-aggrandizement or the fulfillment of the self to the exclusion of all others and their needs and desires. This manifests itself in self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, and food.”

The most dangerous form of idolatry: the occult (from astrology and fortunetelling to channeling).

Idolatry.

Many forms.

Many dangers.

“Where is it in my life (oh dear Holy Spirit)?”

A prayer for the newly dawned year of 2018…

Michael Brown

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