Naming Our Idols – Romans 1:18-24
November 5, 2019 by Rev. Dr. Steve Locke
Idols are an extension of ourselves. They are created from our desires, fears and hopes of being satisfied. They also provide a source of identity, shaping who we are.
But while these are created powers we worship and we give ourselves to, hoping that they will provide satisfaction and freedom, they are at the same time limiting, as well. They do not deliver, neither do they provide freedom. Idols want to control us, not free us. Their creation, while hopeful in nature, are the most restrictive realities of our life.
Take for instance, our homes. It is the one idol that we share, in which many of us give our whole lives to maintaining, through buying things, cleaning, remodeling, etc, to make it more comfortable, or to make it a showcase for others to elicit praise. All of us know that if we give our whole selves to this, we limit our lives for other things. We find ourselves being less spontaneous for the impulses of God, through faith. By pouring money into this idol we limit our capabilities to help others, or to give to God. Idols want to be number one. They want it because we want it. We created and infused them with the power over our well-being.
An idol is anything we put in the number one position in our life, over God. When we do this, that is exchange the creature for the Creator (the one who is invisible and all powerful) as Paul says, we endanger our well-being and the possibility of disrupting the purpose of God. The hope of becoming filled with the Spirit, forgetting ourselves and claiming only God, becomes an impossible task unless we are willing to put God first again in our lives.
When politics or ideologies become our idol, we are in danger of losing our moral direction. We are in danger of exchanging our spiritual truth for an ideology that may stand counter to the truth of the Word of God.
Ideologies rarely spring-forth the spirituality of Jesus; instead they demand that we abandon our spiritual journey for the sake of a momentary flirtation with security and self-fulfillment. We need look no further than Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s. Christians gave up their spiritual freedom and love for Jesus’ teaching for an imposter who turned the teaching of Jesus into a rallying cry of hate. All for the sake of security and the greatness of a nation.
Idols long to be worshiped and obeyed. Through this experience we learn that we become what we worship. If money is our idol, then we become greedy and selfish to the things that money can offer us. It is not just that we are diverted from following Jesus by our idols, but that we become what they are. Worshiping money is greed and greed can turn us from the freedom of God and makes us a slave to the money we desire. In other words, it makes us greedy.
Finally, idols, these days, act as a substitute for God. Money is definitely a rival or substitute for God. Even Jesus warns his disciples, “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” There is only room in our hearts for one God that we would give everything to.
A lot of this transference of loyalty has to do with each how these idols make us feel. It feels good to have money and be able to experience a bit of freedom. But when this attachment of money becomes an obsession, and a priority, we lose the possibility of offering it God. We must keep it for ourselves. Once that flirtation completes itself in loyalty, we have just made a turn toward become un-free, and becoming detached from the purpose of God.
Being excited about giving to others is one way we stay attached to Jesus. Giving is a freedom, that when experienced becomes a driving force toward goodness and love to others. Giving gets us out of our self-centeredness, which when we stay too long their can deceive us that we are actually creating a rich life for ourselves. But without giving to God and others, life is empty and void of the joy that can set us free. It reduces our capacity and desire to give to the building of the church.