Modern Idolatry

That which you think on the most is what you worship.

In 2006, after 21 years as an employee, I left my job to go into full-time business. I left a place of comfort and security to venture into the exciting and unknown.

I poured myself into my new venture. I devoured books on business and leadership. I thought about business day and night; it was on my mind when I woke up in the morning and on my mind as I went to sleep. Even after the lights were off, I would lay in bed at night bouncing ideas off Lori.

“Shut it off, Rod,” she would say. “You need to go to sleep.”

Shut it off? I thought. Why? How? When you’re that excited about something, how do you just shut it off?

Could Henry Ford shut it off? Could Thomas Edison? Bill Gates? Steve Jobs?

If you are going to succeed in business, you have to innovate, promote, compete, create.

Constantly.

Isn’t that pretty much the American Business mantra?

In church, I would take copious notes during the pastor’s message. I would write all over the bulletin and most Sundays would have to grab another and write on it. I eventually started bringing a notebook.

People probably thought “Wow, he must be serious about his faith.”

I certainly thought that.

Taking notes during the sermon is a great thing to do—if it is for the right reason.

The truth is that the motive behind my note-taking was how I could apply that teaching to my business, not how I could apply it to my walk with Christ.

The truth is that I was more serious about my business than I was about my faith.

Lori was right. I never shut it off.

One Sunday during church, our pastor said, “That which you think on the most is what you worship.”

My pen stopped dead on the page.

That which you think on the most is what you worship.

I was convicted. In that moment I was forced to come to terms with an undeniable truth: I had an idol.

Business was my idol.

God’s feelings about idolatry are pretty clear. We need look no further than the first two Commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me, and 2) do not worship any graven images.

After giving Moses the Ten Commandments, God reiterated his warning about idols:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. (Exodus 20:23 NIV)

As they are today, gold and silver were of great value in biblical times. Throughout history, gold and silver were often used as money and later as the backing for currencies all around the world.

Essentially, what God was saying to the Israelites is, “Be careful how much you value things of value. Don’t give them your devotion. Don’t let them run your life.”

In today’s world we may not make calves of gold, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have idols.  Idolatry often comes disguised as admirable qualities…hard work, determination, ambition.

The truth remains; if you think about anything—business, hobbies, your health problems, your financial problems, even your spouse and your children—if you think about anything more than you think about God, then YOU HAVE AN IDOL.

The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert. When they finally reached the Promised Land and were about to take possession of it, God had one final message for them. And, what do you suppose he spoke about? What was the last thing God wanted the Israelites to hear prior to giving them a land flowing with milk and honey?

It was this:

If you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol…you will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you. (Deuteronomy 4:25-27 NIV [excerpted])

God isn’t messing around. The result of idolatry is destruction.

The good news is that he is also merciful. Later in Deuteronomy 4 (verses 29-31 NIV), we read:

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.

God is a generous god. He wants to give us gifts. He wants to bless us. But, he is also a jealous God who will not tolerate us having any gods before him.

And, while he detests idolatry, he doesn’t detest us. Though his anger burned intensely, he was always willing to forgive the Israelites.

I urge you to consider what it is you think on the most. Do you have an idol?

If you do, pray to the God of Second Chances and ask for forgiveness. He is faithful, generous, merciful and loving, and will welcome you with open arms.

And, that is good news for you and me.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brbbl

Author Rodney Brandt

Rodney Brandt is passionate about his Christian faith and helping others discover the life God has intended for them.

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