Today's reading is the 10 commandments, but I wanted to focus on one specifically, “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.” Another time idols are mentioned is Leviticus 19: “Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves.”
Out of curiosity, I googled “idol” and the first result was the TV show, American Idol. Other sites it offered me had to do with celebrities as well. I found that pretty interesting. In America we turn celebrities into idols and the purpose of the show, American Idol, is to create a new idol every year. We may not have paid much attention to the name before, but it takes on a new meaning when you think of it in the biblical term.
So many of us idolize celebrities—whether they are actors, singers, athletes... We follow their lives, we watch all their games, movies, shows, we have all their music...we want to dress like them, we want to meet them, we buy the products they endorse. Has anyone ever met a celebrity? It's true, you get star struck... but aren't they just a person like you or I?
Why do we make idols out of them? What is it about them that attracts us to them? What is it about them that we want to be more like? Is it something godly? Or is it something superficial?
The next result google had for me was the dictionary, and the definition of “idol” according to dictionary.com is:
An image used as an object of worship.
A false god.
One that is adored, often blindly or excessively.
Something visible but without substance.
After I read this list, it sounded like celebrities but it also sounds like a number of other things in our lives.
I thought of this commandment when I came to the realization that I idolize my cell phone. I heard in a sermon, “God is closer to you than your Droid or iphone.” That stuck with me. At first I thought it was humorous, but then I couldn’t quite get it out of my head.
Soon after I heard that sermon, I got a nail in my tire
so I had to go to PepBoys to get it fixed.
On the way there, I realized I forgot my cell phone, but I figured this would be a quick fix...I could go a half hour without my phone. When I got there the service guy told me it would be a two hour wait. Immediately I thought, do I really want to wait around for two hours without my phone? So I said to the guy, “I left my cell phone at home, I’m going to go get it and then I’ll come back.”
Now two hours really isn’t that bad of a wait, especially when the pepboys is in a shopping center. But I hate being without my phone that much that I drove back home—with a nail in my tire--- to go get my phone.
That’s when I realized that I was a bit too attached to my metal idol.
God is always with us, God is closer to us than our cell phones, so shouldn’t we be intentional about being as close to God as we are to our cell phones, or whatever it is you may idolize? Now I try to be intentional about spending time with God through prayer, or noticing the presence of God, but it’s not quite the same. I can go two hours without thinking about God and not notice, but I can’t go two hours without my cell phone without noticing.
It's easy to get sucked into the American way of life of always being busy, always checking e-mail, facebook, always being available to people and not being able to sit in silence, and sit with God. How hard is it for many of us to sit without any distractions?
We've gotten so wrapped up in this way of life that we've lost sight of what's important. We've forgotten as a society how important it is to take a Sabbath, to spend time with God, to sit in silence with our own thoughts, to have a meal with family without a cell phone or ipad distracting us, to simply spend time with real people in real time.
This way of life that we've gotten caught up in is not as trustworthy, beneficial or reliable as God's way of life.
Technology is not reliable. God is much more reliable. Remember all the Y2K madness? Everyone was freaking out over what was going to happen if the computers crashed. We’ve built our lives around computers so much so that we depend on them and don’t know what to do without them.
Their absence causes us anxiety. But do we feel the same about God? Does the absence of prayer cause us anxiety? Think of what the world would be like if everyone instead built their lives around loving one another and depending on God.
God’s love for us doesn’t break. We can't drop God's mercy in the toilet. God's grace can’t get a virus and crash and God surely does not run out of batteries at the end of the day. God always takes our calls, God sent us the greatest text message there is: The Bible, and Google may not have all the answers, but God does.
So I thought: Why do I idolize my cell phone? Why do I need it all the time? Are the things I'm reading or playing on there worth my precious time? Our time is a precious gift from God. It is nice to relax and watch a funny video or play a game here and there, but when it's consuming our lives, we are not being good stewards of our time.
I know I keep talking about cell phones, but you can apply this to whatever may be consuming your time. Watching TV is another way Americans spend a lot of their time.
Lent is approaching and people are often looking for ways to “give something up.” I've never liked giving something up for no reason. I like to improve my spiritual practices and if I'm giving something up in the process, so be it. A technology fast would be something beneficial to give up in Lent if we replace the time we spent on technology by spending it praying, reading the Bible, volunteering, talking or visiting with people, going for walks and enjoying the beauty that God created. We don't have to give up technology completely, but we could take one hour of our day when we would have been on the computer or watching TV and used it for improving our relationship with God.
It is easy to get consumed in the American lifestyle of making idols of things and people. But Jesus came to show us a different way to live. To take us out of the culture of the land and show us God's way. In this upcoming season of Lent, let's unplug. Let's go inward. Let's spend time in the quiet, listening for the whispers of God. Looking for the beauty in the small wonders all around us, meditating and discerning where God wants us to go and wants us to do. But most importantly, just simply enjoying being in God's presence without any distractions.