Guarding What’s Dead

Their ways are futile and foolish. They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol. They decorate it with gold and silver and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails so it won’t fall over. Their gods are like helpless scarecrows in a cucumber field! They cannot speak, and they need to be carried because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of such gods, for they can neither harm you nor do you any good.

Jeremiah 10:3-5

Idolatry is a funny thing. It seems like one of the easiest things to avoid because no one likes to bow down to something inanimate, something that, deep down, that person knows is a created thing that cannot save or provide any hope of safety. It is such an obviously foolish pursuit that no one expects to fall into this sin.

The sad story is that we do it all the time without realizing it. No one follows something if they truly believe or know that thing to be false. Idolatry starts small. Usually, it starts with something simple. A pastime maybe.

Go back to the day of carved idols. I can picture a woodcutter or a stone mason who messes around with various carvings. The person carves these things in order to make a living a survive. Some of them the artisan keeps as prizes, cherishing them. Eventually, people start to realize the skill of this master craftsman, giving praise as the statues get better and better. The quality of the work and the prices continue to rise.

Before long, the artisan has invested all the time and resources available. It’s suddenly not so unlikely that this craftsman might start worshiping a created thing. After all, no one can shut up about the latest creation – a perfect caricature layered with gold. It looks almost alive. The gold even makes it look like a god. The artisan gets so caught up in the compliments and the beauty of the work worship becomes natural.

Before long, such idolatry became natural not only to the craftsman but to those around as well.

The same thing happens for us today when it comes to idolatry. It usually starts out as something simple, good even. There’s a thing which we enjoy; it helps us relax. It may be a job, a pastime, or a relationship. After a while, the thing becomes a fetish. We don’t leave it alone. We sacrifice for it. We make time for it. Take time, thoughts, and action away from other things – other more important things.

Idolatry is a sneaky sin. It is usually only loud to those on the outside looking in. It’s an obvious thing only to those who are witnessing the idolatry. Unfortunately, it is not so clear for those participating.

So, it becomes a question that we must always ask ourselves. We always need to be mindful of the things we do and why we do them. If we aren’t, then we may eventually find ourselves sacrificing our lives to a lifeless statue.

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