When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. —Exodus 32:1-4
When we hear the word idol, we think of things like statues and golden calves and we say to ourselves, “I don’t have any idols.”
But the truth is, of course, that idols can take all shapes and sizes and can be all sorts of things.
Whatever takes the place of God in our lives or pushes God to the side is an idol for us.
One look at our society today, and it is not too hard to spot our modern-day idols:
TV shows, our smartphones, the internet, social media, movies, video games, pop culture gossip, food, clothes, cars, our intellect, our abilities and skills, our jobs, our houses, our personal possessions, our social calendars, superstars, the desire to have fun, the need to be popular, the want to be first.
The list could go on.
When I think of what causes me to turn to idols, it is the same cause that the Israelites had in the wilderness: They did not trust God enough. They got impatient for God to do something to help them, and when they didn’t feel like God was doing it quick enough, they took matters into their own hands and crafted a calf from their own belongings.
What calves are you crafting lately, and why?
So much of life comes down to trust and we must as Christians put all our trust in God’s hands, not our own.
When we craft calves for ourselves, we are saying, “We don’t trust you anymore, God.”
And when we turn over our destiny to the things of this world, we have only disaster to look forward to.
Everything on this earth will cease to exist someday, and all that we will have is God.
So do a good hard idolatry inventory and cast aside all that takes your focus off of the one true God.
As the Bible says,
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever. —Isaiah 40:8
And never forget that Christ went to the cross to take away all our idolatrous ways and bring us back to God. The shadow of that cross is what keeps idols at bay to this very day.
For more insight into this topic, I highly recommend one of my favorite books Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols by Madeleine L’Engle.