Idols Today

Little children, guard yourselves from idols! (1 John 5:21).

This verse is an odd way to end a book of the Bible. 

Sorry, the great Apostle John, about challenging your literary skills. But what were you thinking? In 1 John, you discuss the great themes of love, power, and living victoriously. I think you should have ended with a great blessing for peace, and prosperity. But idols? What is that all about? And why are you calling me a child?

For years, I had the above thought every time that I read 1 John.  

Recently, I’ve begun to consider this “… guard yourselves from idols” a prophetic warning for those living today. The Apostle John’s writings were the last written in the New Testament, and all of them, especially Revelation, have a prophetic edge for teaching and encouraging future generations of followers.

What are the idols we serve today?  

They aren’t wood or stone but just as deceiving and worthless. Slow down and read this sentence a few times:  Idols are what we turn to in difficult times. 

There are three current idols that I hear often in conversations today:

I believe in science.  We live our lives blessed by technology. I trust my car to start in the morning, its surround video mirrors to help me park, and I often use its warning system of “You idiot, there is a car in the next lane; don’t change lanes.”

But science as our hope? Can science describe ultimate meaning and give eternal hope?  

There is science and a philosophy of science. I heard on media this week, “Current science now suggests…” How many debates lately on the conclusions of changing science?

My God is unchangeable.

Oxford professor John Lennox summarizes the thinking of science as an idol in his book, Can Science Explain Everything?

If I can summarize science’s position, it is this:

Science is an unstoppable force for human development that will deliver answers to our many questions about the universe, and solve many, if not all, of our human problems: disease, energy, pollution, poverty. At some stage in the future, science will be able to explain everything and answer all our needs.

I believe in politics.  How quickly this idol has replaced discussions of worship and spiritual growth in churches! 

Yes, we should rejoice that we can participate in our government. I speak from recent conversations with Christians in Myanmar and Belarus – our country is still blessed with freedom. 

But to debate, argue, and fight over politics – is that politics as an idol? You need to decide the motives in your heart.

I love Psalm 103:19:

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.

I believe in money.  Nobody claims to be a materialist. But I’ve noticed that even those who give the most money, are often the most penurious. 

Ask yourself, “Do I worry about money?” Does that fear keep you from tithes, offerings and giving to the poor?

In 1994, I encountered an older brother in St. Petersburg, Russia. As we began discussing how we should trust in the Lord, he told me…

I saved my entire life to have 20 thousand Rubles upon which to retire. The Russian government recently devalued the Ruble by 20 thousand and I now have 20 dollars in my savings.

I asked him, “What are you going to do?” He answered, “Live like I always have – by trusting the Lord.”

I read qualitative and quantitative scientific studies constantly. I’m learning to enjoy political debates – especially with my wife and older daughter who now research and discuss controversial topics. And, my son, who remembers everything, pointing out the statistical errors in all our thinking.

I worry too much about money. To overcome my penurious side (I know the second time that I have used this word – look it up!), I ask the Lord to give me burdens for those who have needs, and that I would give what He asks me to give.

If you want a giving burden, I coach a pastor in Nigeria who needs $500 to finish construction on his church building.

Okay, Apostle John, I think that I know why you concluded 1 John with “… guard yourselves from idols.” I pray that I stop being childish and worship God alone!