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Monday, August 17, 2009

Covetousness - American Idolatry

The other day I pulled into a restaurant parking lot. There, parked off by itself was a brand new Dodge Challenger – black with red stripes. All I could do was make a few guttural, primordial grunts. Honestly I sounded a bit like Tim Taylor from the old TV show, Home Improvement. I took a picture with my phone and sent it to my son, who had a very similar reaction. Muscle cars are a visual and auditory pleasure that my sons and I share. We love to look at them. We love to hear the roar of their engines – especially if they have a good exhaust system. We would love to drive them – but we don’t get the chance, so we must look from afar. We have a running joke at home: “Dad could never own a muscle car because he would worship it.” Of course it is not that I would go out into the driveway and bow down and pray to it – “Oh muscle car, help me through this day.” That would be silly.

What is not silly, however, is the extent of our American covetousness. Colossians 3:5 tells us that covetousness is nothing short of idolatry. Maybe we don’t bow down to and pray to our idols, but we worship them nonetheless. To worship something doesn’t mean to bow down and pray to it. To worship something means to ascribe to it worth, but we are to worship only the Lord our God. God alone has true value. God alone is truly worthy. Obviously, everything has some intrinsic worth - at least in human terms - so how do we distinguish between appropriately valuing something for its intrinsic worth and worshipping it.

We worship something when we give it greater worth than it deserves. God is to be first in our life, but we put so many things before God. Our careers, our family, our possessions - they all find places of worship in our lives that are inappropriate.

We also worship something, however, when we covet it. Covetousness is nothing more than greed, and greed is idolatry because it is placing greater worth and greater desire on something than it deserves. As a county, we have become greedy. We hold tightly to our possessions. We work diligently for greater possessions. Enough is never enough. Richer is better. The winner is the one who dies with the most toys. How sad, because none of the things to which we ascribe worth can ever make us happy. Romans 1:25 says that we worship and serve the created rather than the creator. This is so true. We are servants to our debt and our materialism. We won’t admit it to ourselves, but we place greater value – and greater dependence - on our wealth than on our creator. We say that we are being good stewards or that we are simply being wise by preparing for the future. The truth, however, is revealed when our wealth is challenged.

How would you respond to God if he asked you to give up everything you owned? But He wouldn’t do that, you declare! Really? Do we really know what God may ask of us? What if God wanted your house? Would you give it to him? What if God wanted your job? Would you give it to him? What if God wanted your credit rating? Would you give it to him? What if God wanted your 401k? Would you give it to him?

They are just things, right… or are they something more than that? Our goals? Our security? Our safety?

God alone gives us the ability to enjoy things. God alone can provide for our needs. God alone is worthy of our worship. Maybe it is time we tore down our idols