When Gifts Become Gods

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Romans 1:25

We like to think of idolatry as an Old Testament sin. After all, most of us don’t set up altars and statues of foreign gods in our living rooms. We proudly display crosses and plaques engraved with Scripture. We place Bibles on our coffee tables. By all appearances, we worship and serve the Lord!

But idolatry involves much more than graven images. It occurs every time something other than God rises to claim the worship and obedience of our hearts—like my need to be right that I shared with you last week. Inadvertently serving that need interfered with my ability to fully serve the Lord.

That’s idolatry, dear one, plain and simple.

Can you think of anything you have exalted to God’s rightful place in your heart? Something you “serve” that keeps you from living out God’s plan?

Our idols can be any number of things, ranging from addictions to relationships. Even comfort can be an idol.  We often refuse to follow Jesus into anything that makes us uncomfortable; we serve the promise of comfort instead of obeying God.

Let’s face it. Most of the time, the things we serve that pull us away from God aren’t things we’d obviously recognize as sin.  Sometimes they’re good things—even wonderful things—things God Himself gave us.

Beloved, sometimes we exalt and serve the gifts that come from His hand.

The Israelites did that when they made their famous golden calf. Do you know where they got the gold they used? Exodus 12:35-36 tells us:

The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

I find the thought a little unsettling.

Israel used God’s own gift to them—a blessing He provided for them through His deliverance—to construct a god to replace Him.

What’s more, God had other intentions for that gold. It was supposed to build the articles for the tabernacle that would house His presence.

These people had witnessed God’s power through the plagues in Egypt and had seen Him descend in pillars of cloud and fire. They crossed the Red Sea on dry land and then watched the waters God had parted for them collapse and consume their enemies.

But they hadn’t seen any sign of Him for a couple of weeks while Moses met with Him on the mountain, so they thought it would be a good idea to abandon their Deliverer and come up with some new gods.

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.”  So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.  He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” Exodus 32:2-4

Jeremiah 2:11 comes to mind.

Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.

Indeed. How like humanity to exchange the Glory God meant for them—His power, presence and protection—for something man himself designed. Something that holds no power at all, whose only value comes from the fact that originally, it came from God.

And why did they do it? Apparently God took too long.

I can’t help but think of Abraham and Sarah. They found themselves trapped by this kind of idolatry when God’s blessed gift of a son became the idol they served.

God gave them the beautiful gift through a prophecy. He told them He would give them a son through whom He would bless the world. And they received God’s gift with joyful faith!

But then God took too long. So instead of waiting on God and trusting His timing to fulfill His promise, they began to serve the gift itself.

Sarah took matters into her own hands, giving her maidservant to her husband in marriage so they could conceive the son. And they did. But from the moment of that conception, misery followed. They had wandered from God’s purpose to bring about their own. Sadly, they discovered their idolatry also brought painful consequences.

Dear one, you and I often take God’s gifts to us and fashion them into gods. 

We naturally tend to worship and serve the gifts God gives us rather than worshiping the Giver through the gift.

I almost did that very thing with this ministry. I hadn’t intended to, but once God gave me His vision for Kelley Latta Ministries, I felt responsible to somehow make it happen. I put pressure on myself to establish it and grow it. God simply wanted me to rest in His plan and follow Him to its completion. Instead, I almost ran ahead of His timing.

I found myself tempted to serve the gift at the expense of the Giver.

Has God given you a gift, beloved, that you have unwittingly served as a god? Perhaps a relationship, a job, a child—even a talent that was meant to serve Him?

Serving our idols will not only weary us; it will also diminish the blessing God meant to provide through the gift. Just look at Abraham. The child born through his union with the maidservant became the enemy of the child of promise.

Dear one, serving anything other than God sets us on a destructive path. Let’s ask the Lord to show us every idol demanding the worship and service of our hearts. Rejecting them as gods and exalting God’s purpose alone allows us to fully receive the blessings God intended through them. They become gifts without bondage or consequences, gifts that remain good and perfect.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Are you ready to receive?

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