The cost of idolatry
Exodus 20: 1-4
1 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.
4 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.
Have you ever dreamt you could travel through time? The world of Moses and the ancient Egyptians seems a long way away from life in 21st century Europe. But just imagine meeting one of the Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea with Moses. We’d have so little in common - our language, our customs, our life experience would all be so different as to make us almost like a different species.
And yet, the core of this passage - “You shall have no other gods before me” - is as important today as it was then and as important as it will be ever. God begins the Ten Commandments by placing himself at the centre of the human experience. All right and wrong hangs off this basic principle - God first, no idols. That’s something our Israelite friend and we would both recognise and, as the Old Testament and our own experience show, it’s also something we both struggle with.
Few of us will be casting golden idols in our sheds these days, but our modern world gives us ample opportunity to find new and seductive idols. Money, career, drugs, sex, status, sport to name but a few are the new idols - the things we place above God when it comes to our time, our money and our devotion. Given the chance, do we sit down for an hour of prayer in the evening, or do we reach for the Netflix controller? I know what my tendency is…
Community rests close to the heart of Christianity because the God we know is one of love and relationships. Our communities work best when God is at the centre, and when we are conscious of our idols and how to put them back in their place. Placing our twenty first century idols before God in our lives affects not just us, but our whole community. Jesus gives us the chance, fresh every day, to orientate our lives towards God and the service of the people around us.
We have the privilege to call you Father and to be called your child.
Help us search our hearts for the idols which displace you in our lives and put them in their proper place.
Strengthen our communities through helping us love you and our neighbour more than we love the seductions of the world.
In the name of Jesus, our friend and saviour. Amen.