The word just sounds rustic. Ancient.
It brings to mind images of giant golden statues of animals surrounded by people in robes and other period attire. It certainly doesn’t bring to mind much we can relate to in modern society. Just a bunch of people from the biblical days doing peculiar things.
You know what image it brings to God’s mind? Adultery.
Seriously. Over and over in the Bible, Israel’s lack of faithfulness to God is symbolized by a bride’s unfaithfulness to her groom. When Jerusalem “plays the harlot”, we get a taste of how this infidelity feels to God. Read Ezekiel 16 if you want to get a feel for how it hurts Him.
Suddenly, Paul’s inclusion of idolaters (eidōlolatrēs) in his list of sexual sinners in 1 Corinthians 6:9 makes a bit more sense.
Not for Today?
Maybe it makes sense, but it still feels archaic, doesn’t it? Like it’s something civilization set aside long ago as it matured.
I don’t know about you, but my house doesn’t contain any shrines or statues of Baal or carvings of Moloch. I don’t believe I’ve encountered such things in my snooping around friends’ houses either. (Oh, don’t act like you’ve never done it.)
Society has moved on. We can skip this one, right?
Not So Fast
An idol need not be a carving, engraving, or even a tangible thing. Literally anything can become an idol when we elevate it to an unhealthy place in our lives, when we begin to serve it, venerate it, trust it, count on it, and rely on it. There’s a high place in our hearts that God expects to fill alone. Anything less is playing the harlot.
Today, we often idolize our jobs, our families, our technology, and even our spouses.
Sometimes, we can even idolize the good gifts God gives us. We see the Israelites doing this with the bronze snake God had Moses craft in Numbers 21:8-9 to show His protection and miracle-working power to His people. Eventually in 2 Kings 18:4, Israel lost sight of the original intent — pointing back to God — and the bronze snake itself became the thing.
Today, we often do the same thing, idolizing our jobs, our families, our technology, and even our spouses. These are good gifts from God, but we often put these things before the One who gave them to us. Paul touches on two that we still face today.
First, our stomachs or appetites can become idolaters. How often do we go to food for comfort instead of going to God?
A second good-thing-turned-idol addressed by Paul is a big one: money. Greed, materialism, and our consumer culture turn the cogs of modern capitalism. It was no different in the New Testament days. In fact, materialism pervaded the culture so deeply that the Greeks invented a word to personify it as if it were a god itself: mammon. You might recall Jesus mentioning that we can’t serve it alongside God.
There’s a truth to that statement beyond just money; it applies to any idol. We cannot serve two masters. One always trumps the other, even if we switch from one to the other. We must guard against idolatry in our lives because the presence of any idols means the absence of God’s reign in that area of our lives.
So, Paul rightfully points out eidōlolatrēs (eidōlon + latreia) cannot inherit the kingdom. They’re barking up the wrong tree. The idol (eidōlon) they serve (latreia) cannot reliably handle the burdens tendered to their care; only God can. So we keep everything, even the great gifts from above, in its rightful place: beneath the Giver.
If we don’t, we’re no different than the next group of sinners in the verse: moichos or adulterers.
Originally posted 2016-04-22 08:00:41.