Greek Mythology had a god or goddess for just about everything. The Romans also had many gods and although their names were different, their deities had much in common with the Greek gods. The early Jews frequently fell into the practice of worshiping false gods too. The sad reality is that most Christians also worship many false gods. How many do you worship? It may be more than you think. Please read more.
Polytheism is the worship of, or belief in, multiple deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, each with their own rituals. Worshiping these man made gods is idolatry.
In 2 Kings 17:5-17 we discover that idolatry was widespread in Israel. We read this: “They did evil things that provoked the LORD, and served idols, although the LORD had told them: You must not do this”.
There was a time when I read these Biblical stories about idol worship, and they surprised and confused me. I wondered how the ancient Jews could experience something as miraculous as manna or the parting of the sea only to turn right around and worship idols again.
One definition of idolatry is the worship of a physical object as a god. Yet another definition of idolatry is the extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone. This second definition is more to today’s point, and it should challenge all of us to look inward. What things do we have too much admiration for?
I now realize that all of us are prone to do exactly what those ancient Jews did. Many of us are practicing Polytheism. We too worship many false gods, and therefore, we are committing idolatry. Let me explain.
Some theologians believe there is only one sin. That sin is idolatry. They believe all other sins are merely symptoms of idolatry. Let’s examine three gods that we might be worshiping.
Mammon was the Syrian god of riches and wealth. Many people put too much emphasis on the accumulation of wealth. Jesus tells us we can’t serve both God and Mammon. Do our actions reflect a love of money?
Mars was the ancient Roman god of war. Today we find war and conflict everywhere. It exists in our homes, in politics, between countries, in our society as a whole and even in our churches. Do we cheer when a prisoner is put to death or a foreign enemy is killed by a drone? Have we wished ill will towards someone? Do we always have to be right in an argument? Perhaps we’re worshiping Mars.
Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty and fertility. Her twins were Eros, the god of erotic love and Himeros, the god of sexual desire. We can’t watch a movie, turn on the news, or look at social media without being bombarded with sex. It is everywhere. Pornography is rampant. Are we among the many Christians who are kneeling at the feet of Aphrodite and her twins?
Worshiping wooden, golden, or stone images might be a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still bowing to idols. Coveting our neighbor’s goods is a symptom of idolatry. Anytime we “can’t live without something,” like a newer house or car or some expensive recreational toy we are worshiping at the wrong altar. If we trust in something more than we trust in God or seek earthly things for our source of peace and contentment we engage in idolatry. Idolatry and polytheism didn’t disappear in ancient times; they just appear in different ways now.
In Exodus 20:2-3, we read “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me.” Jesus added emphasis in Matthew 22:37 when He said this, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
One of the funniest stories in the Bible is found in 1 Kings 18:25-39. When the prophets of Baal dance around their altar, nothing happens. Elijah taunts the worshipers of Baal by suggesting that their god is either too busy doing his business, or maybe on a journey or perhaps asleep and must be awakened. What false gods are we dancing around?
In 1 Corinthians 10: 7-14, Paul admonished the people not to become idolaters like their ancestors had. In Joshua 24:14-15 we read “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your ancestors served.” Joshua concludes by saying, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
To overcome idolatry we need to begin to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Let’s ask ourselves these questions. Do our actions and words convey a sense of polytheism? Are there false gods in our life that need to be removed? Are we and our households prepared to only serve our one Lord?
Heavenly Father, you and your Son Jesus and Your Holy Spirit are one Triune God. Help me to rid myself of all idols and false gods. I choose to serve you and you alone. Amen.
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Save the date. Mark your calendars on December 6-8, 2019. I will be leading a 3 day Advent retreat. It will be held at the Catholic Retreat Center in Hickory, NC. More details to follow soon. I hope to see you there.