By Not Known
Idols are ever-present in human affairs, but they take many forms.
Jeremiah and others mock the folly of hand making an earthly object then worshipping it. As he says, the idols are like scarecrows in a melon patch – there is nothing to be scared of, for they can do neither good nor harm (Jer 10:5). That’s something to ponder as we see plenty of old-fashioned idols around us in Hungry Ghost month. The problem with this kind of idolatry is the attempt to render the immortal and invisible in mortal and visible form.
Greed gives an extra dimension to idolatry (Col 3:5). Consider greed for pleasure (hedonism) or possessions (materialism). Both these idols are well-represented in our local pantheon. In both cases the object of greed becomes a God-substitute. This is an underlying problem with all idolatry. God is pushed from his place as the object of our worship, dependence, centre of our life, source of truth and values.
There is yet another form of idolatry which is the idolatry of people. We first idealise someone into a flawless being and then we make them an idol. In our eyes they can solve every problem and do no wrong. Their every move is photographed and their every word is fawned on.
This may be a sporting or entertainment identity, or someone who is famous for nothing more than being famous. Or maybe we idealise and idolise our beloved. All this takes a more sinister form if the human idol is an influential leader. This idolatry can happen to a Christian leader, be they a pope or a persuasive pastor, and it even happened to Paul (Acts 14:11-15). It can also happen to statesmen when they set themselves up against the Lord of heaven (Dan 5:22). This happened to the all-conquering Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar who reigned around the time of Jeremiah (Dan 4-5).
A moment’s reflection exposes the folly of this. The celebrity, religious leader or statesman is just a person. They may have remarkable ability, discipline, strategic focus, vision and drive but they trim their toenails like the rest of us, will grow old and die, will make mistakes and will sometimes be wrong. They are mortal, finite and fallible. Further, our idolisation may inflate their hubris and hasten their decline – as happened with Nebuchadnezzar.
Let us remember who our God is and what he has done, then resolve that we will have no other god alongside or before him and make no idols of him or anything and anyone else (Ex 20:1-6).