It may sound anachronistic to talk about gods and idols in 21st-century Canada. Yet everyone believes in something, puts trust somewhere, is devoted to someone or something which gives security and hope.
Everyone faces a persistent danger in allowing people to become gods (celebrities, authority figures, parents – anyone) or turning things into idols (devices, dogma, institutions – anything imparting security or status). These can affect us at the deepest levels of our hearts and minds, where our worship begins.
It is vital that we understand our culture’s gods and idols because they confront us unsolicited. We may even admire them, own or use the same things, employ the same ideas and concepts from narratives, ideologies or philosophies others have constructed to make sense of the world.
This can create confusion to both observers and users. It can also lead Christ-followers onto a crooked path, a slow yielding to the gods and idols rather than a countercultural movement challenging the gods and idols.
In a culture that oozes celebrity worship and material wealth for identity formation, how are we to be different when it comes to our sources of self-worth, esteem and respect? In a society whose trust is placed in technology provide for needs – what the technology can do it must deliver – are we as believers compromising in our hearts toward techno-idolatry as life and meaning rather than toward God?
Idolatry is taking something from God’s creation and worshipping it. The psalmist rightly says, "Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them" (Psalm 115:8 ESV). The spiritual principle is to be aware that hearts and minds can become conformed to the dictates of the god or idol unaware.
It is vital that we understand our culture’s gods and idols because they confront us unsolicited.
When God is "the Lord our God" and we walk in His name (Micah 4:5), we can stand in the Spirit with courage to face the gods and idols of this world – dethroning the significance they may claim to have. We approach these gods and idols with great caution; putting them to the test and not God (Matthew 4:1–17).
And, we can exercise self-control when the devil comes knocking with invalidating, minimizing half-truths that foster chaos in our relationships with God or among others. The danger of putting anyone or anything in the place of God was articulated at Mount Sinai and wrestled out by Jesus who shows us the way – with freedom we choose daily to turn from these things and turn to God as Lord (Luke 4:1–14).
By God’s mercy and compassion, this Lord, YHWH who initiated a covenant relationship with His people, holds up His end of that sacred covenant. He continues to love His people and not give up on them. God calls humanity back to giving people and things the places God intended for them.
God meets wounded worshippers who are transformed by the renewing of mind and heart through the process of Scripture reading, prayer, praise, surrender and enabling by the Holy Spirit who guides in God’s perfect ways. Walking with deep peace and great contentment, we worship in the transformed and ever-renewing commitment to His ways and not those of the gods or idols (Romans 12).
If we find love, significance and security in another person and not the Lord our God, then we put on others a burden they are not meant to carry. If it’s a thing we are looking to in order to ease the burdens of life, then we take on burdens we were not meant to carry by maintaining that thing, be it property, work or other sources of pleasure.
Our faith makes understanding the Lord of lords, our God above all gods, an essential matter for living a life honouring to God (1 Timothy 6:15, Psalm 135).
Jesus, when asked who was His neighbour, spoke into the freedom we have and brought meaning to the other eight commandments (Exodus 20:1–17). When God is our Lord, we enjoy the freedom to set boundaries and keep them while meeting the genuine needs of self-care and of others. In doing so, we will joyfully honour God and others by keeping the sacred life-giving directives of the covenant He designed for us.
This truth sets us free to bear witness to our calling. Our priorities and plans will put people and things in their proper places, so God alone is worshipped, served and glorified. Our capacity to love in this way is walking the straight path in which blessings flow from this Lord, our God.