Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever—of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow down to them or worship them.
Have you ever used the phrase, ‘Seeing is believing’ in response to the doubt someone has when you tell them about something that was hard to believe? When our younger son Leif was a toddler, he fell off a daybed while visiting Eric’s parents. Although the little guy seemed to be in pain after the fall, no one took it seriously, as it did not make sense that a child could hurt their self from such a small fall. Additionally, no one could see anything broken on his pudgy little arm. Thankfully, my mother’s intuition kicked in, and I insisted that Leif be taken to the ER. Sure enough, he had broken his wrist in the fall. It took an x-ray (plus my teary exclamation, ‘See, I told you so!’) for the rest of the family to believe that little Leif’s tears meant that he had, indeed, hurt himself!
Humans have a need to see in order to believe. Take, for instance, the Hebrews waiting at the base of Mt. Sinai for Moses to come down from the mountain after God had given them the Ten Commandments. Moses had been on the mountain for forty days, and folk down below were getting antsy for something to happen with this invisible God who had claimed them as the Chosen People. Finally, they recruited Moses’ brother, Aaron, to make for them an image in the form of a golden calf of this unseen God. After all, in order to believe in this God, they needed to see this God, for the custom of their former lives as slaves was to worship the visible, tangible statues of the many gods of Egypt.
After Moses pleads with God not to smite the Hebrews for worshipping a false idol, he loses his own patience, and smashes the tablets containing the Commandments on the ground. Not only that, but he burns the golden calf until it becomes powder, scatters the powder on the water, and forces the unruly Hebrews to drink it. Harrumph!
‘Seeing is believing’. We humans tend to believe something only when we can see it with our own eyes. We often put our faith in—and give credence to—only those things that are tangible. Sadly, this often happens in churches. The Bible may be our sacred text and foundation of our faith, but has been used in the past to support slavery in America, and is still used by some religious institutions to prohibit women and gays from being ordained. The way I see it, in these cases the written word (which is tangible) has taken precedence over the love and grace of God in Christ.
This week, take time to think of other ways in which the Church has worshipped tangible things as false idols, and consequently has hurt God and/or hurt our neighbors. The good news is, just as God continued to be faithful to the Hebrews after the Golden Calf incidence, God will never give up on us, despite our worship of false idols in our lives!