Thursday, December 14, 2006

21st Century Idols


I was reading in Isaiah the other day and came across these verses: "Those who trust in idols, who say to images, 'You are our gods,' will be turned back in utter shame . . . "
The prophet then talks about those who take a tree and use part of it for a fire and part to make an idol: "From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, 'Save me, you are my god.' . . .
No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, 'Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?' He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, 'Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?" . . .
(Isaiah, selections from chapters 42-46).
Now--it's not my intention to offend, but something really struck me this morning as I read the paper. At the bottom of the front page of the Tampa Tribune was an article titled, "As Home Sales Fall, St. Joseph Sales Rise." It included a photo of a St. Joseph statue, with a prayer to St. Joseph in a side bar. This is an excerpt from the prayer: "St. Joseph, I am going to place you in a difficult position, with your head in darkness . . . and you will suffer as our Lord suffered until this house/property is sold . . . Amen."
The article was about the slow in real estate sales and the corresponding rise in "St. Joseph sales kits"--the ritual? You bury the statue on the property and recite the above prayer every day in order to sell your house.
I'd heard of this before, but I don't think I'd ever read the prayer . . . which struck me more as an incantation. How--and why--should treating a plastic statue of St. Joseph in a cruel and vindictive manner result in answered prayer? And how is this a prayer at all?
Prayer is asking God to answer your request, and most people who pray acknowledge that God may have other plans--he is not at our beck and call. We are his servants, not the other way around.
I was simply amazed at how many people are willing to place their faith in a statue instead of in God. Isn't that what idolatry is?
I can hear you now--"what could it hurt? I'm not really worshipping St. Joseph. I just see it as a harmless thing to do." Then why do it?
Scripture clearly states that God detests idolatry. He doesn't need help to answer your prayers--even if he answers no. (And if he's answering "no," are you going to a different "authority" for a "yes" answer?)
Frankly, I'm more accustomed to seeing "modern" people worship/trust in education, humanism, astrology, mysticism, or their own intellect instead of God. Contemporary idols--and there are lots of 'em-- are usually of the intangible variety.
Please don't say I'm being anti-(insert the name of group here). I know that all kinds of people buy these statues and hope that they'll work. This willingness to place faith in something other than God is not confined to any particular group or denomination.
Why not wait on God? Maybe some people would rather trust a statue because God may not want to grant them their desires. How like children we are! If one parent doesn't give us what we want, when we want it, we run to someone else.
But God alone is God, and he alone is worthy of our trust and worship. As John writes, "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:20-21).
~~Angie

9 comments:

Dana said...

Great post! I don't worship plastic statues of people myself but I do wonder what intangible idols I bow down to when I don't "get my way". Very thought-provoking today...

BJ said...

Great post, Angie. Really brings home the truth that *anything*--or *anyone*--can take on the identity of an idol if it becomes the object of our faith and worship rather than God.

And for those who ask "what can it hurt?"--it seems the worst kind of hurt: it betrays God and deceives the soul.

BJ

Ane Mulligan said...

Amen to that, Angie. I've seen those in teh paper myself, and they make the hair on my neck stand up!

Nick said...

Hmmm. There might be the germ of an interesting novel or short story in this idea.

Nick

Cheryl Klarich said...

Ravi Zacharias was saying on the radio how children have an infinite capacity for belief. How important is it then to teach them "true truth"? I mean, what about the "jolly old elf"?? Is there a difference between teaching Santa Clause or plasic idols? Just wondering...

Angela said...

I wrestled with the Santa Claus question when my children were small. I wanted to encourage imagination, but I didn't want to encourage false belief. So I told them that sometimes it was fun to pretend in Santa Claus, so that's what we were doing . . . pretending.

Angie

Anonymous said...

I am posting anonymously because I know this is a touchy subject, but I have long since believed that Catholicism is nothing more than a glorified cult. Praying to dead people? Making idols of the dead people?

Nat said...

What's there to apologise about, Angie? I don't think God ever says "Now I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but you are not to worship anything/one but me." What's the first (and second) commandment?

Shauna said...

"I don't think I'd ever read the prayer . . . which struck me more as an incantation"

I agree. My first thought when I read it was that it seemed like a form of witchcraft.