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Chapter 10 - False gods
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: - Colossians 3:5
The tenth commandment has a list of things we are not to covet (lust after). One could add that the seventh and eighth commandments (adultery and stealing) also include coveting. In Colossians coveting is equated to idolatry (commandments one and two). One can make a case that at least half of the ten commandments relate to wrongful desires of the heart.
While most people think of some stone statue or primitive tribal ritual as idolatry. What is often less appreciated is how often we in the modern world practice idolatry and do not even recognize it as such. For example, many consider getting a good education and securing a favorable position in life to be responsible. However, if one considers the fear of failing in school or losing one’s job, one may begin to measure the degree to which we see these activities as that in which we trust over the trust we have in our Savior.
One measure of the deceitfulness of riches can be the more sure offer of security we see in them as opposed to what we perceive God can offer.
And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. - Luke 12:29-30
What God offers often seems to be ephemeral and insubstantial especially when contrasted with what appears to be the concrete, immediate, and tangible results that can be achieved with riches.
In a similar way to that of some ancient people who placed their children in a fire to obtain from the god Molech a favorable harvest, we can see in abortion and birth control, public education, and cable TV opportunities to both reduce the burden of children and obtain a more comfortable life for ourselves. We may think ourselves distant and even superior to the primitive people of the nation of Israel, yet we should ask ourselves if we have not also gone after strange gods?
But mingled themselves with the nations, And learned their works, And served their idols, Which became a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons, And shed innocent blood, Even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, Whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood. - Psalm 106:35-38
We may not think of the everyday activities in which we participate, our way of thinking, or the actions we take as being particularly idolatrous. However, we need to consider all that we say, do, and think that is apart from God.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. - Galatians 5:14
To understand biblical love, the type of love that Jesus showed for us when he died for our sins, we should consider the biblical definition of love;
Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Essentially love consists of selflessness. God is love and calls us to show love. This is very alien to the course of the world. To the extent we seek after self, we draw ourselves further away from God. It is self that is at the heart of covetousness and greed. But beyond that, it is reflective of a lack of trust in God and a heightened trust in self.
But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. - Matthew 6:33
Equating covetousness with idolatry gets to the core of why riches are deceitful. Love serves God by setting aside self. Covetousness reflects a hunger to feed self. Love is giving and being full, covetousness is consuming and never being satisfied. All life is from God, especially eternal life. Riches, like idolatry, deceive us that we are independent from God and free from any restriction.
The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. - Isaiah 44:13-17
Trusting in a carved piece of wood to save us is as foolish as trusting in a savings account, one’ social position, government support, or even health. They can all vanish in a moment and none last into eternity. Like the carpenter, we make 'gods' of all the various things we think will save us. We are better advised to give up all our deceptions and trust in false 'gods'.
But Jehovah is the true God; he is the living God, and an everlasting King: at his wrath the earth trembleth, and the nations are not able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens.- Jeremiah 10:10-11
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