That’s cute, isn’t it? Clever, even. Or, perhaps it’s just cheesy. The title of this blog post, I mean. A quippy little catch-phrase to get your attention and draw you in – to make you think that reading this article might be a worthwhile use of your next four minutes. I’m sure it’s not original, but I have no distinct thought of the place or person from which or from whom I am stealing it. And it probably wasn’t original with them, either.
Now look at that opening paragraph – a little bit of self-awareness mixed with a dash of self-deprecation thrown in for good measure – to try and make myself a bit more “real” and “relatable” to you. What do the kids call it these days? Oh, yes … authenticity.
So was my introduction genuine, or was it just all ploy? A pursuit of your affirmation and respect, your accolades and your recognition?
Because the temptation is as real for me as it is for you.
A wannabe god
Last weekend Pastor James said, “Somewhere right now in your life, waiting in the wings, is a wannabe god, a created thing that wants to take the place of the Creator in your life.” Well, for me, that god isn’t usually waiting in the wings … it’s taking the spotlight at centre stage. If I’m being honest, I’m hopeful that you’ll like me just a little bit more after reading this post than when you started. That I will have written something provocative and meaningful and maybe even a bit transformative. And that will endear me to you. You’ll think more highly of me. You’ll want to share this article and encourage others to read it.
And that scenario plays itself out in countless ways every day for me: I carefully consider my response to a colleague. I craft a Facebook post that puts on display the best parts of my life. I judiciously decide to which emails or texts or voicemails I’m going to respond. At our weekend worship services, I hope that people appreciate the time and effort it took to construct, recruit, rehearse and present a worship experience that is thoughtful, thematic, and infused with rich musicality. I hope people like my singing. I hope I lead well. I hope that I experience God’s power and presence in extraordinary, supernatural ways (see previous blog post In Pursuit of a New “Normal” ).
I wish that wasn’t the case. And in my best moments, it isn’t. In my best moments, I’m oblivious to myself and I’m truly focused on loving the Lord and/or loving others. In my best moments, I’m giving myself away in true self-sacrifice without regard for my well-being or the elevation of my ego. In my best moments, I am worshiping the one true God. But in lots of other moments – far more than I care to admit – I am worshiping another god. The age-old insidious counterfeit god. The vacuous one who thinks it knows best, who demands everything and offers nothing. The idol in the mirror. You know … the one that starts with “I.”
A culture of idol-worship
Two summers ago, I took a trip to Bali, Indonesia. I was amazed at the blatant and ubiquitous idolatry that dominates the island culture, and the heavy burden it imposes upon the people. Daily offerings of fresh flowers, food, and money are piled up in front of altars at most homes and businesses – “wasted” on their gods of stone. They spend lots of money and many hours of their time each day preparing these offerings for the altars (which they spent lots of money to purchase). I was aghast to discover that many families will starve their children in order to afford the offerings that are required to appease their idols.
But it’s not really that different here in the West. Serving the idol of Self carries its own heavy price, in the same currencies of time and money. Most of us don’t think twice about spending $3-$5 on a beverage every day (which extrapolates to $25-$35 a week, $100-150 a month, $1200-$1500 a year) – not because we need it, but because the “I” god wants it. And how many of us aren’t spending daily time alone with God or taking a weekly Sabbath rest because we’re spending too much time binge-watching Netflix or working extra shifts to be able to afford that extra something? I’m taking my motorcycle in to the shop this week to get new tires put on. It’s going to cost me nearly $400. Do I need them? Is the motorcycle my only means of transportation? Well, no – I own a car and a minivan, too. And don’t even get me started on the thousands of dollars I’m spending on braces so that my daughter’s teeth are straight. Read that again. So that my daughter’s teeth are straight. We don’t think about it because our culture has normalized it, but in my more reflective moments, I wonder – are these actually “idol offerings” in Western disguise? How many of my so-called “normal expenditures” would truly pass the worship litmus test of James 1:27?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
But hey – I did give one of those intersection-median-walking panhandlers about $1.80 in change today. That’s good, right? Right?!?
So, did you like the post? I hope you did. And if so, I hope you’ll share it. And I’m so sorry about that …
See you on the weekend,
Written by Pastor David Klob