Do you find it odd the second commandment is to not make an idol? The first, I am the Lord your God, have no other gods but me, makes sense. But the second, make no idols, makes God sound jealous and a bit insecure. After all, if we follow the first command, then why would we need the second?
Let’s face it, humans like to make idols. When the New Testament was being written, there were many idols for many gods. The people would put their faith into hand-made idols one – some for healing, others for abundant crops, some for fertility and so on. As people learned about Jesus, they wanted to bring their idols along; but, they were told to abandon them. A study of Egyptian history shows a cavalcade of idols and statues of both earthly and heavenly gods. The framers of the Constitution knew human nature so they prohibited kings and the idolization of the President. George Washington, who could have won a third presidential election, declined to run because some wanted to make him King.
I went to a college founded by the Order of St. Benedict. Starting in the early sixth century, Benedict’s rule of life has two major parts: letting go of earthly belongings and living a life of prayer and labor. My favorite professor, Fr. Killian, is an avid runner. At least once a year, his family would send him a new pair of running shoes. He would take the Nike box, hand it to his Abbot and say, “This is an offering for our community.” The Abbot would inspect the contents and say, “The community is best served by your wearing these so that you may run with Jesus.” The monks lived an idealized, not an idolized, life. Jesus gave Benedict the idea that one can live in harmony with nature, God, and humanity by rejecting consumeristic impulses, doing labor for God, and praying often. They lived into St. Peter’s blessing, May grace and peace by yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2) The fewer possessions, the more peace and grace they had.
I want to tell you that because I have purchased nothing new for thirty-two days, and have turned away from McDonalds, Starbucks (except once), and other food establishments that advertise, I have grace and peace in abundance. But that’s not true. I am unsettled because I have discovered other idols in my heart. My phone needs rebooting/cache cleaning daily now. I am counting the days until Easter so I can buy a new one. I looked at used models, which, by my own Lenten rule, I could buy today. Yet, here are my idols – I feel like I deserve a new phone. I have lived for three years with a used Note 4 and it’s time for something nice for myself. … because I deserve it. And I “deserve a break today” at McDonalds. And I deserve Starbucks. My idol is the “I Deserve” syndrome. It’s like I have erected a statue in my heart called iDeserve. It’s insatiable. The idol whispers, “Come on, you work hard, you’re self-less, you deserve this.” The truth is I am a servant of the Lord and servants don’t deserve special thanks for doing what they are supposed to do. (Luke 17:9)
I am starting to turn away from the iDeserve idol and know that God will meet our every need out of the riches of God’s glory that is found in Jesus. (Phil 4:19) As a result of the identifying and turning away, I have received an abundance of God’s grace. I have an abundance of peace with the knowledge that I don’t get what I deserve because of my sin; instead, I receive God’s love. My prayer is that you be filled with God’s grace and peace in abundance this Lenten season.