“22 But Judah did evil in the eyes of Yahweh, and they annoyed him more than their fathers did with their sins that they had committed. 23 They also built for themselves high places and stone pillars and sacred poles on every high hill and under every green tree.” (1Kgs 14)
Do Americans have idols? I know we have the teevee show. The irony of that is thicker than Dr. Moriarty winking at Sherlock. But do we have idols? I know the vast majority of us claim to believe in God and a large number still count themselves as Christians.
But what do we worship? Really?
“21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasoning, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God with the likeness of an image of mortal human beings and birds and quadrupeds and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to immorality, that their bodies would be dishonored among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God with a lie, and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed for eternity. Amen.” (Rom 1)
Some have made the connection between addiction and idol worship. If the worship of idols is the worship of demons (Deut 32, Rev 9) and the goal of demons is our utter destruction (Job, Luke 22, 1Pet 5) then how easy it is to see among the possessed? Those who have been absorbed by what they once controlled. Those who are mastered by a created thing, alcohol, drugs, sex, fame, greed, a hopeless relationship until it obliterates every last vestige of their humanity. Like a train wreck in slow motion we can watch in horror as they come undone, piece by obvious piece. But did these people really worship alcohol? Did they really worship money? Or was that only the means by which they worshiped? Was that only the ceremony in the temple of their god?
In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the devils muse how in days of old, they went around in more or less their true forms. They could reveal their existence to man, maybe lie about their intentions but more or less play in plain sight. But now, Screwtape chuckles, the greatest trick Satan ever played was convincing man he doesn’t exist. The industrial revolution and the age of enlightenment killed not only God but Satan too. There is no evil, only diseases to be cured. Hitler and Stalin and Mao and serial killers are just sick. There’s something wrong with them, a chemical imbalance perhaps. Poor upbringing. A traumatic childhood. Maybe they were bullied. There is no sin, only undesirable behaviors and emotional conditions to be treated. The gang rape in India is only a sign of societal deficiencies. The men involved were poorly educated in the value of womanhood and the sanctity of human life.
But if humans are so good by nature, why do we need so much education in basic human principles of decency and respect? Why does all of our post apocalyptic fiction show men reverting to animals? Why are we less disposed to do what is right when no one is watching? Why does a crowd become a mob? Why do ordinary people in mobs commit violence and theft? Why do the strong prey upon the weak? Why do women and children need protecting at all?
Demons may hide. Sin may lurk invisible for long periods. But idols, idols want a position of prominence. Idols want to be worshiped. Our idols are hidden in the best place to hide. Plain sight.
What was the first sin? Who was the first sinner?
“12 How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of dawn!
You are cut down to the ground, conqueror of nations!
13 And you yourself said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise up my throne above the stars of God;
and I will sit on the mountain of assembly
on the summit of Zaphon;
14 I will ascend to the high places of the clouds,
I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Is 14)
Lucifer was the first one to close his fist and shake it at God. To declare himself Satan, the Adversary. The first one among creation to quit worshiping his Creator, to stop saying “Thy Will be done,” and first dare to utter, “My will be done!” He declared himself “God” and as such he wanted to be worshiped. Worshipers being in short supply and he not having the knack of creating, he became a thief and stole God’s worshipers, God’s children. Just as God made us in His image Satan corrupted us to fit his own.
“4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die. 5 For God knows that on the day you both eat from it, then your eyes will be opened and you both shall be like gods, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise, then she took from its fruit and she ate.” (Gen 3) When She saw. When it delighted Her eyes. It would make Her wise. She decided. She took. She ate. She gave it to her husband to make him like Her.
A Christian who has taken the next step, who has seen that not only is addiction an idol and idols demonic, will soon see they are addicted to sin itself. They may not have the all consuming fire of alcoholism or greed destroying their lives but they see the little fires scattered here and there, a sharp tongue, impatience, people pleasing, religion. If they make a point of trying to stamp these out, they will soon make it a career. For these are not separate fires. They are fumaroles.
Beneath the surface lies a magma pit waiting to erupt….