I heard a quote yesterday (Stewardship Summit in Portland) that an idol is, “something you go to for comfort instead of God.” Where do we seek our comfort, assurance and security? We have a lot of idols in America. Sports is an idol, but we immerse ourselves in sports to connect with a passion that we have lost in our work and marriages. We have sex as an idol, but we are obsessed with sex to satisfy a longing for intimacy that has eluded us in our media saturated culture. We even have food as an idol, but it only provides momentary self-indulgence in a world that always seems to take from us. All of these and more are minor idols, demi-gods in the pantheon of alternative deities.
I believe the great American idol, the siren that sings to us with promises of comfort, security and satisfaction is the economy and the blessings it promises. Financial well-being is the holy grail that drives most Americans on in their daily trudge through life. The quest is marked with promises that always begin with, “When I can afford to…”, “Once I make enough…”, “If only I had a job that paid…” That is the defining characteristic of this deity, it’s promises are always just a “when” or an “if” or a “one-day” away. ALWAYS!
In the face of such cultural idolatry one would think that the church, the people of the one true God, would rise up and proclaim their allegiance in a clear, unequivocal voice.Yet the expression of the collective will of God’s people through the local church has spoken a very different word. Indeed its own congregants bow down to this idol and live in the bondage of its deceptive enticements. Our U.S. currency may display the words “In God We Trust”, but our churches live out the reality that “In money we hope.”
Amid all of the great issues facing us as a nation, a culture and a people,we focus on the idol that promises us the treasure we yearn for. Our latest election reminded us again that no other idol has such a place at the heart of our collective spirit. Not education, not human rights, not poverty, not climate change, not terrorism, not even health care. Bill Clinton was right, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Where do you seek comfort and security in this life? We are preaching through the 23rd Psalm at our church, and last week we were reminded of one of the most powerful proclamations of our single minded devotion to our one and only Provider. “The Lord is my [good] Shepherd. I…have…everything…I…need.” Say it to yourself right now. Say it again. Every time you say it you will feel the weight of false devotion lift from your shoulders. Say it again, and again. Say it when you watch television commercials, when you begin to envy a neighbor’s success, when your kids ask for gadgets they do not need, when your eyes stray to enticements that seem to offer benefits you have long forgotten. Say it as a couple, as a family. Say it out loud together as a church. As you do the chains that define our bondage to the thirst for financial comfort will drop off. We will recommit ourselves to the quest for the water of life, the bread of life, the light of the world. We will seek only the voice of the good shepherd and be satisfied.