Editor’s note: All of the responses were strong, but Jennie’s and Tara’s were especially so. With Jennie’s permission, I’m posting hers as a model. Her response is tight, with a theme introduced right up top, with specific examples given, and with references both to the text and to Stott’s commentary.
In the second part of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, God’s wrath against mankind is discussed and analyzed; Paul establishes that those who suppress the truth about God, ignore God’s revelation, or pervert God’s glory will feel or be the object of this wrath. Specifically, this perversion of God’s glory refers to when one serves someone or something other than the Creator. One of the Ten Commandments is that “you shall have no other Gods before me;” in other words, we should not worship anything other than God or allow anything to keep us from worshipping God.
Today, however, our lives are full of idols that have allowed for worship directed at things other than God. Paul remarks in 1:25 that we exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and in The Message of the Romans, John R.W. Stott explains that we transferred our worship from the Creator to his created things. Some of these created things – these idols – are inanimate objects, like cars, jobs, and money; others are people who we look up to, like athletes and celebrities; still others are psychological or emotional things, like drugs, hate, and love. We place these idols at levels of great importance, and in a way, we really do worship them. When it comes to these modern idols, many Christians refuse to recognize them as such. But these idols have come to dominate one’s life so much that in many cases they have replaced or displaced the time and attention once spent in worship – whether in prayer, through Bible study, or in church attendance.
So how, exactly, do these modern idols come into being? It seems most logical that idols came into being to fill a void. When people first become involved with and then begin to worship an idol, the activity begins innocently enough. This activity, diversion, and attention are usually not anything that will cause pain or result in annoyance, but rather is something that makes one feel good. It is a means of escape from the less desirable aspects of life, and it is a search for the more pleasurable and fulfilling aspects of life, or so the deception suggests.
Take, for example, why alcoholic beverages are sometimes called “Spirits.” Wouldn’t it make sense that alcohol is being used to fill the void of spirituality, or to numb a person to the fact that his or her faith is weak or absent? Or, take a celebrity who seemingly has everything: more money than is possibly spendable, worldwide travel at the snap of a finger, the finest clothes on earth, mansions and toys galore – the idols of millions. How, then, does such a person turn to drugs and die in induced overdoses? Perhaps drugs are their idol, used to fill that spiritual void in a way that material things cannot.
It seems that mankind has a desire to worship something – anything – to fill this void that is undoubtedly within us all. Add time and tolerance to that need and before you know it, what one did or looked up to for pleasure has become almost an obsession. In other words, an idol has been created, nurtured, and developed into something comparable to that of God. Paul reminds us that God is supposed to be ever praised, and that this is the reason why Christians are either incapable of or adamantly against recognizing idols as idols. They simply cannot comprehend that something can be placed so high in one’s life that it becomes comparable to God’s relevance and holiness. We do not necessarily seek to idolize something, but the fact remains that we all do in one way or another.