Idolatry can be confusing—not because there’s any doubt as to whether it’s a good thing or not (it’s definitely not), but because the concept is often applied these days to all kinds of actions that don’t obviously have anything to do with making statues and bowing down to them. My family can be an idol. So apparently can my work, my ministry and my devotion to the mighty Sydney Swans.
But when everything can be a potential idol, does the “idolatry” as a concept lose some of its power?
In this episode, we go back to the Bible with Phillip Jensen to discover what idolatry really is, and why it is still a danger to the Christian life today.
Links referred to:
- Our August event: “Why we need Jesus’ help with our sexualities”with Ed Shaw, pastor of Emmanuel Church in Bristol.
- Contact us with your questions for our Q&A episodes.
Runtime: 41:12 min. Subscribe via
Tony Payne: I have to admit sometimes I get confused about the idea of idolatry. I’m not confused about it being wrong; obviously the Bible says that very clearly and often. Making some statue and falling down in front of it and worshipping it—as if it’s a representation of the true God or of any god—I get that that’s not good—not good at all. But when non-statue-type things become idols or available as idols, it all gets a bit fuzzier for me, I have to say. So with my family, for example, I—I love my family, I care for them very much, they’re the most important people in the world to me. But I’m told that my family can become an idol to me, which I think means that I can worship them instead of God.
But how do I know when I’ve done that? Is a certain amount of devotion to my family okay? When does my family become an idol? And is idolatry the best way to talk about the challenge of loving my family but not loving them more than God?
I can’t help but feeling the whole category of idolatry has become a bit fuzzy and broad, and that we fling the word around all over the place these days without really being clear about what idolatry really is and why the Bible regards it as so evil.
Well, to understand and see idolatry more clearly, that’s our task on this episode of the Centre for Christian Living podcast.
TP: Hello, I’m Tony Payne, and welcome to this episode of the Centre for Christian Living podcast, coming to you from Moore College in Sydney, Australia. In this episode, as in all our episodes, we seek to bring biblical ethics to everyday issues—that is, to take the theology of the Scriptures and apply them to the various circumstances and situations that we face as Christians in this modern world.
And today we come to look at the topic of idolatry—of what idolatry really is and why it’s a continuing danger and threat for Christians today as it was for God’s people in the Old Testament and, indeed, as it was for the New Testament Christians, who are warned very gravely and soberly and quite often to flee idolatry.
We’ll get to idolatry shortly, but before we do that, I want to tell you about our next Centre for Christian Living event. This podcast is not all that we do; we also put on regular events to deal with different topics or aspects of the Christian life and to bring biblical ethics to bear upon them.
And on August 21st, we’re putting on a special event in partnership with our friends at Liberty Christian Ministries, featuring Ed Shaw. The topic of the evening is “Why we need Jesus’ help with our sexualities”. Now, Ed Shaw is a well known speaker and author. He’s from the UK—from Emmanuel Church in Bristol. Ed is someone who himself experiences same-sex attraction, and is committed to the biblical teaching of fidelity and heterosexual marriage and—and celibacy in being a single person who is same-sex attracted. And at this evening that Liberty Christian Ministries is also sponsoring, Ed will be speaking about his experience in dealing with these issues. And he’ll be attempting to show us how obedience to Jesus is ultimately the only way to experience life to the full, and that when the Bible’s teaching on these issues—particularly on same-sex attraction and homosexuality—when it seems quite unreasonable to us or even implausible to us as contemporary people, it’s not so much because of what the Bible itself teaches, but because of the missteps that our own society and, indeed, the church has taken in their understanding of the Christian life.
This is a really important topic. It’s one that many people in our churches—especially younger people—are really grappling with. It will be a great opportunity to bring people along and listen and talk and discuss together how to deal with and understand this issue more Christianly and more theologically.
It’s likely to be a fairly full room in the Marcus Loane Hall at Moore College on August 21st, so don’t delay in booking tickets. You can do that by going to ccl.moore.edu.au. Follow the links and reserve your tickets to be there in person on August 21st, or to join the livestream. And I—I know already that several churches are organising livestreams for that evening to gather people together to hear Ed Shaw speak and to discuss the content together. It’s a great way to deal with this—raise this issue and talk it through as a fellowship—as a Christian community. So take advantage of that as well. And all the details about the livestream and how you register for the livestream are also available there at ccl.moore.edu.au.
But let’s get to our topic for today and our guest for today—a return guest: Phillip Jensen, who needs very little introduction. He’s one of Australia’s best known Bible preachers. He now works for Two Ways Ministries in which he encourages the next generation of Christians to be committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to make him known.
And I started by asking Phillip about the foundational prohibition of idolatry in the Bible—that is, the second commandment. What does the second of the Ten Commandments tell us about what an idol is, and why making and worshipping idols is so wrong?
PJ: Well, one of the fundamental things about the second commandment is that it is the second commandment. I think a lot of the problem today comes from people confusing or conflating—is that the word?—the two commandments—first and second commandments.
The Roman Catholic church does it officially and—and it divides the tenth commandment on coveting into two. But actually it’s the first two cov—commandments which are—are different and need to be different.
The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods but me”. And that is what you’re talking about in terms of “Are my children my god?” Whereas the second commandment is “You’re not to make any statues or any images and you’re not to bow down to them and you’re not to serve them”. That’s idolatry: idolatry is the making and serving of images of God. And so, that’s a different thing than having other gods. That’s a—it—it can be the representation of a false god, or it can be the false representation of the true and living God. But it’s the representation that is wrong: you mustn’t make it. And you mustn’t bow down and serve it. Whereas, “You shall have no other gods but me” is a different commandment.
TP: So idolatry is not just the worship of a false god—
PJ: No! No.
TP: —a god that’s not true. It’s the making of a representation of a false god.
PJ: Yes, that’s also wrong. [Laughter]
TP: And that’s what the second commandment—actually, the second commandment is addressing not so much the making of the representation of a false or other god. Is it more represent—is it more attacking the making of a representation of God himself?
PJ: Well, of—of God himself, because whatever the person is representing as the Baals, etcetera, was their perception of the true and living God, which is a false present—rep—it’s—Baal’s not the God. So it’s the—it’s the participating with the supernatural by means of images. And so, in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul talks about us—the demons use idolatry. That is, idols are lies, and the devil is the father of all the lies. And so, although we know there is no God but one, yet to participate in idolatry opens you up to the worship—to the worship of—of demons and the involvement of demons in your life.
The golden calf’s a classic. In the golden calf event, which is the kind of model of all idolatry—in the golden calf event, it was a worship—it was a celebration of YHWH. “These were the gods that brought you out of Egypt.” They weren’t even sure how many gods brought them out of Egypt! But “These are the gods that bought you out of”—wasn’t the gods who were the fertility gods or the Canaanite gods or—or Molech; it was the gods who brought them out of Egypt. And so, Aaron says, “Let’s have a celebration to YHWH!” So the golden calf was a representation, and therefore a total misrepresentation, of YHWH. All representation—all images—are always misrepresentations of YHWH when they aim to be representations of gods or YHWH.
TP: What’s so wrong about visually representing YHWH?
PJ: Well, firstly, he tells us not to do it. That, in a sense, should be the end of the story. But God’s commands usually have reasons behind them. And this one’s fairly clearly reasons: it’s because when we imagine God visually, we’re always misrepresenting God. The statue, for example, classically, is im—doesn’t move, it doesn’t think, it doesn’t talk, it doesn’t reason, it doesn’t control. The essence of God are all those things: God speaks, he controls, he moves. He’s not essentially visual; he is essentially sovereign. But you can’t actually capture the sovereignty in the idol, because the image always fails to be in any way sovereign. We—we have to move the idol around. We have to flatten the base to make sure it doesn’t rock and fall over. I mean, the birds drop on them and the—and the dogs lift their legs on them, so un-sovereign are the gods. So they don’t represent the living, active, speaking, controlling sovereign Lord of all creation; they misrepresent everything that is of the essence of how God reveals himself, while representing things that he says never to reveal himself as.
TP: Hence the satire of the idolatry in places like Isaiah 45—
PJ: Yeah, Isaiah and Psalms—is it 45, 44?
TP: 44, something like that.
PJ: And—and the Psalms make fun of the idols, you know. One piece of timber you burn to warm yourself; another piece of timber you use to cook your meal, and then another piece of timber you carve into an idol and fall down in front of it. I mean, it’s stupid!
But it does more than that. You see, there is an image of God, but the image of God is humanity: we are made in the image of God. And ultimately, it’s the Lord Jesus Christ, ’cause he is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). And so, whenever we make an image, we are not only being foolish, we’re not only blaspheming God, because we’re mispresenting him, we’re also failing to accept humanity for our divine image-bearing, and rejecting Jesus as theimage of the invisible God. There’s nothing good in the Bible about making images for us to bow down and worship.
TP: This is presumably why in the Protestant Reformed tradition, there’s been such an opposition to idols—to images—to representations of God or of Jesus.
PJ: Well, it’s not only the Protestants, but of course the early Christians. Demetrius complained in Ephesus in Acts 19 about Paul putting him out of business as a silversmith. Demetrius today would make a lot of money out of Christians’ idolatry! But that was clearly not the case in the first century.
Likewise, the early Christians were known as atheists, because when their churches were … when—when people went and looked at their churches or looked at their houses, they couldn’t find any statues. So it was assumed they didn’t have any gods. We have the true and living God of all the world, but because we don’t make statues, people who are idolaters by nature, can’t see that we have a God. So it’s not just the Reformation got rid of much of the idolatry of—that had grown up over medievalism, but the New Testament and the early church—the first centuries of the church—were adamantly anti-image-building.
TP: Do you think the preponderance of idolatry in nearly every world religion and in every, if I can put it, secular religion in the non-religious religions that—that are more common these days in the West, do you think they’re almost always irredeemably visual in that sense—in that they—they search for an answer in what can be seen rather than in what is—God has revealed?
PJ: Yeah, well there are—it’s not irredeemable because of God, of course. Those religions are, yes. The only ones that have any contest against idolatry are Judaism and Islam. But even within Judaism and Islam, the—the pattern of idolatry can be seen. The—well, even in the way in which they handle their books—the Koran and the TaNaKh—the—the reverence with which they hold the book itself, rather than the meaning of the words that are written on the book.
And so, I remember some years ago, they were going to—New South Wales Uni was going to have a Bible frisbee competition as an Orientation Week kind of send-up of Christians, and so I offered to provide old Bibles for them so that they could do it, which they were astonished and astounded and didn’t quite know what to do with this suggestion. And then I said, “What’s more wicked, if you like it, I’m sure I could get some Korans and you could do it with the Korans as well.” And it was at that point, it was cancelled. [Laughter]
You see, while I don’t like frisbeeing any book, because I have that bibliophile’s kind of attitude towards books that I was taught as a child, the Bible book itself is neither here nor there; it’s the message that is contained in the book that is everything. Whereas, the Muslim can’t leave the Koran on the floor. It must have no book sitting on top of it. And it would have created mayhem if they’d—
TP: —done a Koran frisbee competition!
PJ: —frisbee competition!
TP: Ultimate frisbee!
PJ: And so, even the book that tells you not to have idols can become an idol.
TP: I’m sure some people listening to this podcast will be thinking, “Well, what about things like wearing a cross or Christian jewellery or that kind of Christian symbolism that we might use—not only on our bodies, but in our churches?
PJ: Yes, I’m against the making of anything that is religious imagery. It’s not that I’m against imagery itself; one of my favourite places in the world is the National Portrait Gallery in London—especially as it costs nothing to go in. But it combines history, it combines art, and it combines people, because they’re portraits of people, and a really good artistic portrait of somebody is a very—it’s very clever, I think. It’s beautiful. It’s very interesting.
I’m not against images per se; it’s the images that are made for worship. It is the images that connect us to God that I’m opposed to, and should be opposed to. And so, the crucifix is—is just wrong. The—to take the body of Jesus off the crucifix and just have the cross doesn’t seem to me to make any difference at all. It’s the same kind of thing. I—I don’t like two dimensional statues in terms of stained glass windows. It’s the same thing. Am I against stained glass? No! Am I against stained glass windows? No. But a stained glass windows that image God or the disciples or history or—that are going to be put in a building where people falsely are being invited to come and worship, I think inevitably leads you into miscommunication about the nature of our relationship with God. Faith comes from hearing the word of God, and the Bible’s emphasis is much more on hearing than ever seeing.
TP: Well, back to idolatry and how it threatens us—and in particular, how things like greed can be idolatry. Back to that in just a moment.
But first, I’d just like to encourage you if you’re enjoying this podcast and, indeed, some of the other podcasts that we’ve been putting out recently, please spread the word and tell your friends. I know all podcasters do this same line: “Please rate and review our podcast on the iTunes store, because it helps it to become more visible” and so on and so forth. That is indeed an excellent thing to do. And thank you for the many people who’ve given us such lovely review and five-star ratings on the iTunes store.
But more simply and often more straightforwardly, you can just share this podcast by sharing a link to it with your friends on Facebook or via email. Do that. Don’t let the word stop with you. If you hear something helpful or encouraging, pass it on, because that’s the Christian life: it’s about loving other people and sharing good things with them for their benefit. So if you’re finding this podcast useful, don’t let it stop with you; share with a friend.
But let’s get back to idolatry. Now, idolatry, we’ve seen so far, has to do with images—with making or serving something visual that represents God. And the reason that the Bible is so consistently against idolatry is that faith in God in the Scriptures comes from hearing his word, not from seeing him.
But what about where idolatry is used more metaphorically? For example, the talk about greed or covetousness, as it is in the New Testament. I asked Phillip why is greed idolatry?
PJ: Okay, well, backtrack a bit first on the words. That is, in the Old Testament, to talk of people’s idols was to talk of their gods, and to talk of their gods, well, their gods were always represented by idols. So the confusion between the first two commandments can be seen in the language, ’cause a shortcut way of saying their gods is to talk of their idols. Sometimes, though, it—like in that passage in Isaiah 44 or Psalm—was 115—it’s explicitly about the statue—it’s the very statuous nature of the thing that we’re talking about. Other times, it’s just a shorthand way of talking of the gods.
But in the Old Testament in Isaiah 14 and then in the New Testament twice—Colossians and Ephesians—the language of idolatry is used metaphorically. Metaphors are very powerful. You know more about this than I do, Tony, but metaphors are very powerful ways of shorthand communicating something. If you’re in a world that knows idolatry is profoundly evil, because it’s the second of the Ten Commandments that you are held to obey, and because you’ve lived in a world where the nation has been destroyed because of their idolatry and you take seriously the commandment, which actually says, “It’s iniquity to have idolatry” and that God is jealous and will punish to the third and fourth generation, because if you live in a world that is truly anti-idolatrous, then the metaphor on idolatry is very powerful.
It’s like we now today think pedophilia is really evil. To use pedophilia metaphorically, right, will immediately arouse people’s attention that this is—now, twice, it said, “Covetousness is idolatry”—both in the context of a list of sinfulness, which includes sexual immorality. It’s because idolatry is connected in the Old Testament and the New Testament both with covetousness, materialism and sexual immorality. So in 1 Corinthians 10, when we’re told to flee from idolatry—very strong command—we’re given a list of events that happened in the Exodus, which involved idolatry. And all of them involve the sexual immorality of—of the play.
But they’re also caught up with the fertility nature of the idolatries of Canaan, because the fertility religions of the Canaanites were like cargo cults: you want gods to bless you—bless your crops—bless your family—they—and so you engaged in this kind of religious idolatrous practice. So “rising up to play” and to dance and to be involved in an orgy in—connected to increasing your prosperity, it was prosperity religion—sexual immorality religion.
When you come, then, in the New Testament, that Paul really wants to communicate to Christians that, not only is sexual immorality wrong, but covetousness is wrong. He does it with this profound—very stark kind of metaphor by saying, “Which is idolatry?” And so he’s trying to help you see not that you are now worshipping another god, but that you’re worshipping God falsely. The prosperity religion is a profoundly false religion. It is anti-Christian. It’s not just a kind of, “Well, we’re against sexual immorality and we’re against theft and we don’t like child abuse and we’re against domestic violence, but a little bit of materialism, well, we’re—that’s neither here nor there”. No, materialism is one of the things most commonly attacked in the Scriptures, and to bring out the profound evil of covetousness Paul draws attention to it by connecting it to the thing that every person who’s a Christian in the first century would know: it’s idolatry. See, when the Christians became Christians in Thessalonica, they turned from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven. And when the Christians in Ephesus became Christians, they burnt all their old religious bric-a-brac stuff, and put the Demetrius out of business. So to connect covetousness in with that, which they have repented of so profoundly, is to make covetous really evil.
TP: Does it have to do with the fact that coveting involves the eyes—that it involves seeing and wanting something?
PJ:Yes, I’m sure it has. You see it in the—the phrase “the evil eye”. [Laughter] I was raised in a family that made fun of the evil eye. But it’s not a fun thing; it’s very common in cultures around about us: many of our migrant people coming from Greece, for example, will talk about the evil eye and people putting evil eye upon children, and you’ll sometimes even see little children with little badges which have got an eye on them which bounces the evil eye back to the person who casts an evil eye on them.
But when you look at English translations of our Bible, there is no reference to the evil eye. However, when you look at the Hebrew and Greek, it’s there several times. I—I think given the misunderstanding of the evil eye, our translators are right for covering it over. But what was the evil eye that they’re talking about? Well, the evil eye in the Book of Proverbs, for example, is the stingy eye—the person who lacks generosity—the person who guards their own possessions and will not give to those who are in need. It’s directly connected to stinginess. The good eye is called “the single eye”, which, again, our translations can’t cope with and so they—they make it—they—they try and help us.
TP: This is Matthew chapter 6, isn’t it.
PJ: Well, Matthew 6 is a classic of it, where Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body” and then he goes on to say, “If your eye is healthy—”
TP: That is—
PJ: “—that it’ll be light—”
PJ: “—and if your eye is unhealthy, then you’ll be in darkness”. But the word “healthy” is “single” and “unhealthy” is “evil”. So when the “single” eye—if your eye is single—that is, if it’s sincere—if it’s generous—the single simple eye is a generous eye—is—one has one intention: that is, it is set upon the kingdom of God and is righteousness, because it knows all other things will be added unto them, as the same passage goes on. And—
TP: It serves God rather than Mammon.
PJ: It serves God rather than Mammon—Mammon! That’s right. We’re single-eyed people. But the opposite of the single eye is the evil eye.
TP: The stingy—
PJ: The stingy, mean person, because they’re after money all the time. Now, both sexual immorality and coveting are connected with visuals. That—that’s—they’re not connected with thinking and reasoning; they’re connecting with seeing and taking. And so, the nature of Christian understanding is very different to the nature of the world’s understanding.
Herbert Butterfield was the professor of history at Cambridge University in the middle of the twentieth century, and he—he was a history—one of the first real professors of the history of science, was his particular interest. But he was of Christian persuasion. And he wrote of the difference between the idolatry, visual participation with the gods in the temples, and the covenant nature of a God who doesn’t appear, but speaks and calls upon you to learn and to think and to understand. So two methods of accessing God—the two methods of living—are dramatically radically different.
And we are the people of the ear who listen to what God has to say, not the people of the eye who enter into the visuals that we can see and participate in. They’re—they’re two different ways of thinking.
So Neil Postman in the 1980s produced a fascinating book called Amusing Ourselves to Death in which he showed the—the difference of the visuals that were dominating—at that time, television was the dominating thing—and pointed out that the content in television is minimal. It’s an entertainment. You’ve got this wonderful tool that you think you’ll be able to educate people by, but all you can ever do is entertain people by.
And you look on television stations: we’ve got more television stations now than ever, and less actual education than ever. It’s just childish entertainment. The best we come up with is sport, because it’s a live entertainment, otherwise we try and have phoney faux entertainments of—of live t—real live situations. People marrying the—for the first time they’ve met and all this nonsense. Because it’s just trivia. That is, the visual does not lead you to think. It’s the Word that leads you to think, and Christianity is the thinking way of relating to God, because God has created us in his image.
TP: It seems to me also related to the great contrast New Testament draws between living by faith and living by sight.
TP: —that the Christian life is fundamentally a life of hearing a word, a promise, a gospel, and trusting it—committing oneself to it. It’s not a matter of seeing anything; it’s not something we—
PJ: No. It’s—that’s precisely what it’s about. It’s how we come to faith: faith comes from hearing the word of God, and that’s how we go on living—not by sight, but by faith. Of course, you’ve got to understand faith correctly: at that point, it means “trust”, “relying”, “depending” upon God. Because I trust God, I trust his word. Because I trust his word, I trust him. If I trust God and his word, I look forward in hopeful expectation for the fulfillment of the promises he’s made. I rejoice in what he’s told me about himself. And I obey what he is told me to do. That—that’s a normal trusting relationship.
If I trust my mother or my father, I will do those things. As she promises me things, I look forward to them. As she speaks to me and shows me things, I rejoice in them. As she commands me to do things, I do them. I’m—I’m clearly speaking not as a teenager, but as an old man. But in theory, that’s what trusting your mother means. Well, of course you trust your mother! She loves you and cares for you—provides for you and fulfills—and she’s found to be trustworthy in her promises.
If your mother’s not trustworthy, you learn not to trust her. But what we learn for those of us who care to read and obey the word of God is God is thoroughly trustworthy: he fulfills his promises. And he does explain to us the world that he has made. And his commands are a joy to obey.
TP: So how as Christians should we think about idolatry now? If we’ve clarified not only literally what idolatry is—the making of images or representations of God—were they even of the true God and how—and how iniquitous that is, but also that it—it represents metaphorically the lust of the eyes—the—the opposite—the opposite of the ear of faith.
TP: What does it mean for our Christian life now, do you think?
PJ: Well, first and foremost, we get rid of all religious bric-a-brac. Secondly, though, we grab hold of the importance of the ear and of thinking—of reading and hearing God’s word and basing our way of relating to him and to each other upon the hearing of God’s word. Sadly in churches these days—I may just go to the wrong ones—but in churches as I travel these days, there’s less and less Bible reading. There’s more and more of the entertainment value out front. There’s bigger screens and there’s more lively bands and there’s—the choir used to parade out the front. Now the band parades out the front. Whereas the essence is the music, not the performance that is taking place. We keep slipping back into different visualisations, rather than be concerned about hearing what God has to say. And so, putting our lives more into the reading of the Bible as home or at church and the like.
But thirdly, there’s this slippage, I think, into turning the metaphor into the reality that confuses the first two commandments by talking about the idols of the heart. The phrase comes out of Ezekiel 14—it’s there in the Bible and—but—and—I understand it’s Calvin who said that “the heart is the—the idol maker—the manufacturer of idols”—
TP: “A great—a great factory of idols”!
PJ: “A factory of idols”, you see. And much as I love Calvin and I—it—it’s turning—it’s turning again a metaphor into a literalism. And people are no longer talking about sin in their—sin in terms of rebellion against God, but they psychologise their sin in terms of the idols of the heart, which lead to that kind of problem that you had earlier on: are my children now become an idol of my heart, and how—how much do I love them and not love them and still have God?
So there’s these very poor definitions of idolatry about in terms of anything that diminishes my commitment to—to God. Or anything that replaces my commitment to God. But that’s—that’s talking about other gods. That’s not talking about idolatry. So we’ve—by talking about the idols of the heart all the time, we lose what idolatry is about. We fail to perceive the importance of the ear over the eye. We fail to see the dangers of visualising our Christianity—corporately or individually—and we underestimate the nature of our own personal involvement in sin.
TP: And it seems to me the problem with—with preaching sin as if idolatry is sin—as if the two are basically synonymous—it makes sin into a—an unfortunate choice in the object of my affection, not as a profound rebellion and wickedness in my heart. In other words, I focused on this thing to get my value and I’m worshipping and serving, say, my career. But that’s a—that’s a foolish choice. I—I should have focused on the better thing, which is God, and thatwould get me what I’m really after. And so, sin becomes a psychologically diagnosed poor choice of object, and so repentance becomes choose a better object that’s going to get you further.
PJ: That is a brilliant question. I should do the interview and you should do the answering
TP: It’s my favourite kind of interview, where I pose a question and—
TP: It’s good! Subject just says, “Yes, of course. Brilliant.”
So you’re saying that idolatry is a reality—it’s a reality still, and it’s a reality that’s threatening for Christians that we need to avoid.
PJ: And the big idolatry that—the visual worship of secularist society is materialism. And so, covetousness is indeed as evil as idolatry. And idolatry is evil enough to get Jerusalem destroyed. You know what I mean: idolatry is so iniquitous that that’s the commandment that God says his jealousy will lead to punishment to the third and fourth generation. That—it is—it is the one commandment that tells you about the punishment that’s going to come. And so, it’s that bad, and materialism—covetousness—is the thing that Paul wants to link in as idolatry, because it is so visual.
Advertising. We see advertisements after advertisements after advertisements—that keep on telling us the devil’s lie that our life will be happier, fulfilled, more satisfied if we have this or that or own such and such a possession. We know it’s untrue, but we’re suckers for it. We keep going out and buying. If it didn’t work, then the advertising industry would be out of bus—business. But it works only too well, and so we’ve got to—we’ve got to live by the word of God, listening to him, not by the eyes, to which we are so easily deceived.
We learn from what God says about truth and justice. And we must be more open to what God is saying, and when he spoke, he did not appear in Deuteronomy 4, and he said, “Therefore, don’t look for me in anything visual. Do not present me in anything visual. But teach your children my words.” And when we gather together as a church, we are like the church that gathered at Mount Sinai to hear the word of God. And so, we must listen more to what God has to say and watch less of what the world is trying to tell us.
TP: Well, thanks for joining us for this episode of the Centre for Christian Living podcast. It’s been great having you with us. And I hope you’ve found that conversation as eye-opening, so to speak, and fascinating as I did—not just in clarifying what idolatry is and isn’t, but by really quite profoundly challenging the greed and visually driven covetousness that we still struggle with and especially within western Christianity.
I do also hope that we’ll see some of you at our August 21st event that’s coming up so soon on “How Jesus can help us with our sexualities”. That’s with Ed Shaw. Hope to see some of you there in person, and, of course, via livestream: hop across to our website: that’s ccl.moore.edu.au to register.
And while you’re there, just check out the archive. I was browsing through it the other day, and there really is quite an incredible array of subjects and ideas there to—to draw on for the Christian life—a whole range of different topics drawing on all the different events we’ve been doing over the last many years. There’s video and audio and text. Have a little browse through the treasure trove that is our—our web archive at the Centre for Christian Living website while you’re there. I—I think you’ll find some great stuff.
Of course, as always, if you have any questions—any topics about—that you’d really like us to deal with here at the Centre for Christian Living—do a podcast on or do an event on—or a question that you’d just like us to address in—in one of our Q&A episodes that we have from time to time. Please do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing from you, and thank you to those who keep in touch.
Well, thanks for being with us again today. I’m Tony Payne. ’Bye for now.