Recently I’ve been reading through and teaching parts of the Old Testament. It’s easy to throw our Old Testament ancestors under the bus. Bowing down to a golden calf and sacrificing to goat idols (Leviticus 17)? I can waste a solid ten minutes watching cute goat videos or hanging out with them at our county fair, but sacrifices?
Our Old Testament friends burned things to show their allegiance to something. We sacrifice a bit differently. Jesus clearly showed in the account of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:40-42) that one thing, spending time with him, is the most important part of our day. And yet, how often doesn’t that get pushed aside?
An idol is anything that keeps us from that one thing needed. For Martha it was the busyness of feeding and cleaning and entertaining a crowd. I get that. Whether it was ten years ago with four small kids or now with older kids and their friends, I know what it is to cook and clean until I’m dead tired. “I’ll read the Bible tomorrow,” is an easy enough habit to get into.
I used to carry a mini Bible in my purse. It was perfect for pulling out if I had five or ten minutes while waiting for children to get out of a sports practice or while waiting at an appointment. That Bible sits at home now, replaced by my phone. And while I have, even in the last few days, opened my phone for the sole purpose of spending time in the Word, most of the time when I get on my phone I get lost in emails and notifications. Before I know it, I’m browsing social media.
Surely we are well versed in filling our days with everything but the one thing needed. Anything, even the good things, that keep us from studying God’s Word, worship, or seeking him in prayer, can become our idols. Entertainment of any variety, pets, chores, the multitude of activities with our kids, cuddling with a spouse, scrapbooking, restoring a house, exercising . . . really there’s no end to the way we can whittle away time. And as we whittle away our time apart from the Word, our faith whittles too. Worldly ideas gain credence, God’s Word fades in memory, and we mix good-sounding worldly ideas with God’s grace to form our own version of Christianity.
If God’s Word has been pushed out of your life, it’s time to deal with the idols. It’s time to set time aside, turn things off, let something go, and give God his rightful place in our day and in our hearts. And as you do, he’ll meet you and fill you with all the things you’re craving. Who doesn’t want more love, joy, or peace? How often don’t we talk of our lack of patience or a world becoming increasingly unkind? Don’t you want goodness, gentleness, faithfulness sprinkled in your words and actions? Who doesn’t need a fuller measure of self-control? Those things aren’t elusive. They are the fruit, the by-product, of spending time with God.
If we’re not careful, our idols will entertain us to death. They will seduce us and pull us from better things. God tells us to deny the world, pick up our cross, and follow him. He is worthy of our admiration, our time, and allegiance. Let’s make this the year our schedule reflects it.