They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it. —Exodus 32:8
The thing about idols is that those worshiping them do not think they are idols—they believe they are the real thing. We might wonder how in the world the Israelites convinced themselves that the golden calf was their god. Then again, people outside of our culture might wonder how we have let ourselves get sucked into worshiping the things we do: wealth accumulation, workaholism, personal achievement, professional sports, “perfect” parenting, “perfect” bodies, etc.
Although idolatry seems like a thing of the past—something primitive people did—it is alive and well today, in different forms than molten statues. Whatever we turn to for stimulation or escape from boredom, longing, suffering, or any other form of discomfort has the potential to become an idol if we turn to it instead of God. This doesn’t mean that if we enjoy a glass of wine to help unwind at the end of a stressful day that alcohol has become our idol/saviour.
The question is, where does my mind turn when I need comfort or escape?
Does it turn to God and the life-giving things God offers us (healthy relationships, beauty, simplicity, nature), or does it turn to something that makes me less able to be present to myself and to others?
What do you turn to when you are feeling restless, empty, bored, or otherwise unfulfilled?
Does that person, place, or thing replace God in any way?