The Japanese call it karoshi–“death by overwork”– and it’s estimated to cause 1,000 deaths in Japan per year, nearly 5% of that country’s stroke and heart attack deaths in employees under age 60 according to WebMD. Other “respectable” addictions include the dependence on pain killers, television, food, computers, technology, video games, FaceBook, Twitter, spending, even exercise.
But whether respectable or not, our addictions point to a deeper issue that has plagued humanity for thousands of years.
Please join us as we discuss what our respectable additions say about us in our daily Bible conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Jeremiah 10:1-11:23. Over and over we read in the prophetic books about the futility of worshipping idols. “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good” (Jeremiah 10:5). Our modern-day idols fare little better (more on that just below).
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
An overarching theme in the Old Testament prophetic books is God’s criticism of Israel’s idolatry. In fact, in Rule #1 of the 10 Commandments God says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). God wasn’t content with any competitors for the affection of his people. Most amazing to me is that the Israelites in Moses’ day witnessed some pretty awesome acts of God:
- They watched Egypt suffer through nine plagues while none of them affected the Israelites.
- Through Moses, God parted the Red Sea and the people crossed on dry land.
- God provided manna and quail for the Israelites to eat and water to drink in the middle of the desert.
- A cloud by day and a fire by night led them across the wilderness.
Yet while Moses received the Law from God on Mt. Sinai, the people were throwing a raucous party replete with orgies and idol worship. So, God waited for an entire generation to die in the wilderness before starting over with his people as they entered the Promised Land.
Nevertheless, the people struggled with idols. Over and over again.
Fast forward 800 years to Jeremiah’s day and the same problem persisted. Israel continued to place their trust in idols carved from wood and stone.
So what ever happened to idolatry?
It exchanged objects of worship but the practices remain the same even to this day. It seems to me that the core of idol worship consists of anything that prevents us from completely relying on God.
It’s no mistake that Paul reminded his Colossian readers that their true employer was Jesus (Colossians 3:23–24). Our paycheck may come through our employer, but God is our ultimate provider.
But when I think about it, isn’t that what an addiction is?
Years ago, the Israelites offered child sacrifices to brutal gods like Molech in order to manipulate their god into granting their request. Today, we sacrifice our families for our jobs and a bigger income (the idol that tempts me most). Instead of engaging in a quick fling with a temple prostitute, we try to stuff the God-shaped hole in our hearts with addictive behavior. Or, we throw an extra dollar or two (or Rand, for our South African friends) into the offering in hopes that God will multiply it and make us rich.
Yet all of these practices betray the central problem: we don’t trust that God is enough. Our addictions try to convince us that God isn’t enough, that other alternatives exist.
The New Testament word for relying on God is faith—and without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Do you want to be a man or woman of faith? Do you want to eliminate the idols from your life? Then take inventory of anything that prevents you from completely relying on God.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- In your opinion, what modern-day idols vie for people’s allegiance?
- What modern-day idols vie for YOUR allegiance?
- To what extent is God more than enough for you?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.