Question: Does our culture have idols?
Acts 17:15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
Paul observed the city of Athens to be given over to idols, and his spirit was provoked/troubled/distressed. An idol is an object that represents a god that one believes can be trusted and should be worshipped.
My pastor friend from India says Indians are given over to idols. But here in America I see very few idols. A Chinese restaurant may have one hanging on the wall in the kitchen, or a friend from India may have a small statue on their table. However, for Americans I rarely see an idol like that. Sometimes I may see a Catholic friend put too much trust in a Mary statue or have too much hope in a Saint charm, but in general, I just don’t see many idols in our culture.
However, Colossians 3:5 says covetousness is idolatry. To covet is to have an excessive desire for something, and Colossians says this is idolatry. In other words, the reason we have a strong desire for something is because we put our hope and trust that it will fulfill us, so we give it our devotion which is idolatry. And this trust and devotion can be toward just about anything or anyone.
When you look at idolatry this way, now you can see it in any culture and even within ourselves. To make myself fulfilled and happy, I personally struggle with putting too much hope and desiring too much satisfaction toward my entertainment, toward my retirement fund, toward my home and family, and even toward my wife. So should I forsake these things and forsake these people? The key word in the definition of covet is an “excessive” desire for something. And the key words in the definition of an idol is an object that represents a god that we “trust” and we think deserves our “worship”. So the lesson is do not excessively trust that something or that someone will give us fulfillment.
Can ministry become an idol?
Ministry in its pure form is an overflowing of our relationship with God, and our serving others is an act of worship. However, if we neglect our relationship with God, our ministry becomes a distraction, or we are serving to obtain attention and admiration, then it can become an idol.
The first commandment is “you shall have no other gods before me.” Only in God should we trust for fulfillment, and only he deserves our worship. As another passage in Colossians says, “set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth.” Only the Creator can fulfill his creatures.
Now look around. Look how our culture is so distracted by our idols, so much so, that now we don’t have time nor desire to worship the true God. Is your spirit now like Paul’s spirit, provoked and discourage, because our culture is given over to idols just like Athens?