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Idolization and Ten Other Sins

A Lenten Message

March 3, 2024

Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods beforeme. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female slave, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”


John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, with the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


The Lenten season is a reminder that we are called to do the work of self-reflection, to examine our lives, and to consider the ways in which we may have erected idols in our lives in defiance of God's will. In Exodus 20:1-17, we are presented with the Ten Commandments, which serve as a reminder of God's expectations for us. Yet, as we look around us, we see that many of us have strayed from these commandments and, in doing so, have erected idols in our lives. The Ten Commandments are the foundational laws given by God to the Hebrew people of Israel to guide them in accordance with His will. These commandments include instructions on worshiping only one true God, not using His name in vain, keeping the Sabbath holy, honoring one’s parents, and not committing murder, adultery, theft, false witness, or coveting our neighbor’s possessions (of which the wife is one). These commandments were meant to help Israel be in harmony with God and with one another while roaming the desert for 40 years.


In the article The Bottom Line, I discussed the 10th commandment about coveting. It is evident through that analysis that we interpret the Ten Commandments differently than God intended them for Israel. We grow as a civilization (as we, I mean, old white men of European descent who owned land). We come to realize that all people are created in the image of God, men and women, no matter our skin color, no matter our economic status, where we are from, or even how we pray… and the world is now perfect, right? (NO, of course not!) Because, like Israel, we take liberties with the Law. We add to it and take away meanings; we let our biases interfere with the spirit in which the Law was intended to suit our current situations and paradigms. I say like Israel because, in John 2:13-22, Jesus enters the temple and finds people buying and selling, turning God’s house of prayer into a marketplace. In response, Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers and drives out the animals, proclaiming, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” This action demonstrates Jesus’s zeal for God’s house, which should be a place of reverence and worship, not a place of greed and selfishness. This is probably the best example of Jesus being angry. This serves as a powerful illustration of the ways in which we can turn even the holiest of places into a place of commerce, where we prioritize material possessions over our spiritual well-being.


There is no better example of this than Wedding Planning. Every little girl dreams of a princess's wedding. Every mother-of-the-bride dreams of giving her little girl the dream wedding. (Every Dad dreads paying for the wedding, but I digress.) If you research the top songs to walk down the aisle to at a wedding, how many of the top two dozen songs do you think are sacred songs in 2024? (ONE – Ave Maria.) We must be brutally honest with ourselves as we reflect on the idols in our lives. We may have placed too much emphasis on our careers, our possessions, or our desire for power and control. Maybe we have become addicted to social media, or we have allowed our relationships to become toxic. Whatever the case may be, we must acknowledge these idols and begin the work of tearing them down. A Wedding ceremony is a sacred event, a covenant not unlike those found in the OT. It is a covenant between two people, but also with God. I am by no means placing blame on the bride or her family. Ministers are to blame as well. Do we defend the sacredness of our church, or do we bend to the will of a family that gives generously to the church? How do we find common ground where we honor God?


I always had one question when the debate about gay marriage was happening. Where is God in this covenant? No matter where you land on the subject (I do not want to tell you what to think; I respect your ability to discern for yourself), I have serious concerns for people who want to walk down the aisle to God bless the broken road. A wedding, like a baptism, is a worship experience first and foremost. We must remember that and consider how our actions relate to God in all that we do. No matter who you are, if your marriage does not also include God, you may be in for a rude awakening. You should head down to the courthouse and elope because the wedding ceremony is ultimately an exceptional worship service.


In our lives today, we often erect idols in defiance of God’s will. These idols can take many forms, such as money, power, success, relationships, or even our egos. When we prioritize these idols over our relationship with God, we are going against His commandments and distancing ourselves from His presence. We often do it not out of malice but out of apathy. We don’t mean to offend God; we don’t think about God. During the Lenten season, we are called to engage in self-reflection and spiritual discernment, examining our hearts and minds to identify the idols that we have allowed to take precedence in our lives. The work of spiritual discernment can be challenging, and we may experience a range of emotions as we confront these idols. This work can be difficult and may stir up feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. However, it is essential for our spiritual growth and transformation. We may feel ashamed, guilty, or angry, but we are not alone in this process. As we navigate these difficult emotions, we can also turn to God in prayer and seek guidance and support from close friends and the faith community, even a pastor. 😁 That’s part of why I do this job. By facing our idols and seeking God’s forgiveness and grace, we can experience healing and restoration in our relationship with Him.


One last thing: as we reflect on these idols, we must also remember the message of hope found in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we are reminded that "No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing, he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it." Through Christ, we can find the strength and resilience to tear down these idols and live a life that is in alignment with God's will. When we confront our idols and seek to align our lives with God’s will, we can also find hope and comfort in the words of Romans 8:1, which says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are offered forgiveness and redemption, no matter how many idols we have erected in our lives. Let us cling to this message of hope and trust in God’s transforming love as we journey through the Lenten season and beyond.


In conclusion, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, It is my most profound, most solemn prayer that you use the Lenten season as an opportunity to do the work of self-reflection, to tear down the idols in your lives, and to find hope in Christ. As you embark on this journey, remember the words of Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God."  May we find peace and comfort in this knowledge, and may we trust in God's faithfulness as we navigate the challenges that lie ahead during Lent. Nothing in the process of discernment is more than you can handle because the Holy Spirit is with you.  


In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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