Idols

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Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. Exodus 20:22

We were in Siem Reap, Cambodia visiting a museum that contained a thousand statues of Buddha of every imaginable size and make. I asked my grandson if he found them interesting, and his response: “No, it was boring. They are all statues of the same guy.”

Most in the western world don’t worship statues. Instead, we often worship other things, often unconsciously.

I remember the first group I led in Bible Study Fellowship. We studied Genesis. It was at a time when my Biblical knowledge was pretty skimpy as a new Christian.

The topic of idols came up in Genesis 31 when Rachel stole Laban’s household idols. When it came to the personal application of the passage, one of my group asked the question: “What are idols?”

My answer was that an idol was anything that you place ahead of your relationship with God. It could be anything: money, work, family, sports, or “even Duck’s Unlimited.”

Not sure why I added the latter. Afterwards, one of my group came up to me. He was a friend of mine who was known for being an outdoorsman and he loved to fish and hunt. He looked at me sheepishly and said: “You didn’t have to say Ducks Unlimited.”

Point taken.  But we can unconsciously have idols that we don’t realize. For me, it was my work. I was a workaholic at times, something that Solomon described in Ecclesiastes 4:8.

My work crowded out my roles as a husband and parent at times. I was always too busy.  Looking back, I regret that I my faith experience didn’t occur earlier in my life because I feel like I had a lot of missed opportunities.

I rationalized that if I was successful in my professional career, I would earn enough money so that I could enjoy life. As it turns out, I did taste wealth for a brief time only to lose all of it in an economic downturn in the late 1980’s. The lesson?  I learned that being rich was overrated and not worth chasing.

Family may be the idol that gets in the way. Just spend time on the sidelines of any kids soccer game and observe the behavior of the parents. Some of it is pretty unbelievable where parents go over the top and behave badly.

Those parents are vicariously living life through their child, and truly “lose it” when something goes wrong on the field.

The typical Christian, when asked, will say that their priorities are God first, family second and friends.  Sometimes their actions don’t match up, and in many cases, there is an unseen “idol” that interferes with those articulated priorities.

So, what’s your idol?  Have you thought about that, or ever examined what is so important in your life that it crowds out your relationship with God or your family?  Have you ever discussed your priorities with another and let them give you feedback?

When I meet with young men, I often ask  what really drives them and what they are passionate about. Sometimes I get good responses; sometimes not.

Some mentees are at a stage where they are trying to develop a vision for their life and then act on it. The vision is often tied to what they see as their purpose in life.  Once that purpose is identified, the next step is to see what is holding them back.

Put another way, what is the “junk in the trunk”? Or, “junk in the boot” in Africa”? It may be an addiction. It might be overcoming past wrong turn in life. Often, it may be that they have idols that they are chasing unconsciously.

Admittedly, I don’t know of anyone who ever had worshipped Duck’s Unlimited as an idol in their life. But, it can happen, almost without any real conscious effort. Our humanity permits us to rationalize all kinds of stuff.

The challenge here is that it is easy to “get out in front of our headlights” when it comes to idols. I love that expression, because it gives a word picture of how off course we can be when it comes to holding stuff or things out as important when, in fact, they aren’t.

The next generation needs guidance in this area. We all do, for that matter.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor is in a great position to help a mentee evaluate his or her  priorities and desires to make sure they align with what God wants them to become. It may be the most valuable input you can provide.

FURTHER RESOURCES:  Dr. Jolene Erlacher has recently published a book worth reading entitled “The Daniel Generation: Leadership in an Ungodly Culture” available at Amazon.  This is a sequel to her book titled “Millennials in Ministry.”

WORSHIP:   Listen to Michael W. Smith sing “There is None Like You” reminding us that God is the only true God.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com.

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