Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to
Hideyoshi, a Japanese warlord who ruled over Japan in the late 1500s, commissioned a
colossal statue of Buddha for a shrine in Kyoto. It took 50,000 men five years to build,
but the work had scarcely been completed when the earthquake of 1596 brought the roof of
the shrine crashing down and wrecked the statue. In a rage Hideyoshi shot an arrow at the
fallen colossus. "I put you here at great expense," he shouted, "and you
can't even look after your own temple."
Today in the Word, MBI, August, 1991, p. 23.
God often allows the ungodly to amass great wealth--to their destruction. But if you
are one with whom God is dealing and if you put the pursuit of riches (or anything else)
before service to Christ, God may take away those riches (and other things) until you turn
to Him. Some years ago Donald Grey Barnhouse was counseling a young woman on the sidewalk
in front of Tenth Presbyterian Church following an evening service. She said she was a
Christian and that she wanted to follow Christ. But she wanted to be famous too. She
wanted to pursue a stage career in New York. "After I have made it in the theater,
I'll follow Christ completely," she said. Barnhouse took a key out of his pocket and
scratched a mark on a postal box standing on the corner. "That is what God will let
you do," he said. "God will let you scratch the surface of success. He will let
you get close enough to the top to know what it is, but He will never let you have it,
because He will never let one of His children have anything rather than Himself."
later he met the girl again, and she confessed that this had indeed been her life story.
She had dabbled in the stage. Once her picture had been in a national magazine. But she
had never quite made it. She told Barnhouse, "I can't tell you how many times in my
discouragement I have closed my eyes and seen you scratching on that postal box with your
key. God let me scratch the edges, but He gave me nothing in place of Himself."
J.M. Boice, Christ's Call To Discipleship, Moody, 1986, p.
In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen retells a tale from ancient India: Four
royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers
met to reveal what they had learned.
"I have mastered a science," said the first, "by which I can take but a
bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it."
"I," said the second, "know how to grow that creature's skin and hair if
there is flesh on its bones."
The third said, "I am able to create its limbs if I have flesh, the skin, and the
"And I," concluded the fourth, "know how to give life to that creature
if its form is complete."
Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate
their specialities. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion's. One added
flesh to the bone, the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching
limbs, and the fourth gave the lion life. Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and
jumped on his creators. He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.
We too have the capacity to create what can devour us. Goals and dreams can consume us.
Possessions and property can turn and destroy us--unless we first seek God's kingdom and
righteousness, and allow Him to breathe into what we make of life.
Commentary and Devotional
Though we do not face a pantheon of false gods like the Israelites did, we face
pressures from a pantheon of false values--materialism, love of leisure, sensuality,
worship of self, security, and many others. The second commandment deals with idols. This
may be something that most of us can't relate to--unless we include life goals that
revolve around something other than God Himself. What is the object of our affections, our
efforts, and our attention? Where does the majority of our time go? On what do we spend
the greatest amount of our resources?
Today in the Word, June 14, 1989.
What other gods could we have besides the Lord? Plenty. For Israel there were the
Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony,
drunkenness, and ritual prostitution. For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels,
and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god: self), and the other enslaving trio,
Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as "The lust of the
flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). Football, the
Firm, and Family are also gods for some. Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for
anything that anyone allows to run his life becomes his god and the claimants for this
prerogative are legion. In the matter of life's basic loyalty, temptation is a many-headed
James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers,
Today's idols are more in the self than on the shelf.
Goudzwaard's three basic Biblical rules:
1. Every person is serving god(s) in his life.
2. Every person is transformed into an image of his god.
3. Mankind creates and forms a structure of society in its own image.
That for which I would give anything and accept nothing in exchange is the most
important thing in my life. Whatever that is is my god (cf. Isa. 44:6-20).