This week, something happened at work that made me take down all my personal pictures down- by my choice. It was an anger thing, and didn't reflect well on me at first. But as I calmed down, I began to see that it was a good thing. It taught me a lesson on insidious pride I would not have caught otherwise. And then this morning, Dennis Miller taught me that it just might have to do with idolatry as well.
He taught a lesson that included an incident in his church's past. Shortly after he became established- dare I say, comfortable?- he had them take a Cross down from the sanctuary. He wanted worship and God to be the focus, not a decoration however significant. At least one member of his church told him, "If you take that Cross down, I don't know if I can worship here." He told them, "That is idolatry."
A good friend once told me, "I can worship from my fishing boat." And that's the way it should be- place shouldn't be what you worship, just where. But we try to look for the familiar- a crucifix, a stained glass window, a statue of a saint. And that can lead us into bad places, as our own comfort level with the "object of focus" grows bit by bit. Remember when the Israelites angered God in the desert, and He sent snakes to kill them? Moses cried out for them, and God had him make a bronze serpent on a pole, that whoever looked at it might be saved from the venom. This was a foreshadowing of Christ; the serpent on the pole was Jesus, become sin for our sake, on the Cross to remove that sin. But they got comfortable with lugging it around even after the snakes, until hundreds of years later...
2Ki 18:4 He (Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).
It had become an idol. Something it was never meant to be. Now this name Nehushtan isn't really a name- the ESV struggled in the translation. When I switch to the YLT, you see who really named it- and what he called it:
2Ki 18:4 he (again, Hezekiah) hath turned aside the high places, and broken in pieces the standing-pillars, and cut down the shrine, and beaten down the brazen serpent that Moses made, for unto these days were the sons of Israel making perfume to it, and he calleth it `a piece of brass.'
Or, as we might say, a hunk of junk.
Here are two of my favorite pictures that I took down. Were they idols? No, that they were not. But what they did was make me comfortable in my work space. Made me feel, in a small sense, at home. Gave me joy and encouragement. But... they also began to give me a sense of "pride of place"- a sense that got big enough that I got mad about something I really shouldn't have been more than #smh about. I felt violated in a place where I had no right to feel so.
It was after I gave the anger to God, and began to try and calm down- about 24 hours later, to my shame- that I remembered the words of Jesus...
Luk 17:7 `But, who is he of you--having a servant ploughing or feeding--who, to him having come in out of the field, will say, Having come near, recline at meat?
Luk 17:8 but will not rather say to him, Prepare what I may sup, and having girded thyself about, minister to me, till I eat and drink, and after these things thou shalt eat and drink?
Luk 17:9 Hath he favour to that servant because he did the things directed? I think not.
Luk 17:10 `So also ye, when ye may have done all the things directed you, say--We are unprofitable servants, because that which we owed to do--we have done.'
And that was exactly the attitude I was losing by being surrounded by the trappings of home.
One thing I am trying to remember and teach is, "God won't change the situation. He WILL change your attitude about it." Because God isn't trying to give us a perfect world, He's trying to prepare us for Paradise. I was trying to change my situation- albeit in what should have been a fairly innocent way- and my attempt was guiding my attitude, not God.
Do you have something that spells "comfort" to you? A picture at work, a song when you're sad, a place you go or thing you do when it all builds up? I'm not saying take it down, throw it out, it's evil evil evil!!! I'm saying, are you taking God with you when you go to it? Because the plain, undecorated, unobvious backside of an idol is STILL an idol.