July 29, 2015

Trashing Our Trophies

In an article about a local man I wrote, “John has trophy room full of stuffed animals, accolades and organizational pins representing his endeavors and volunteerism.” John appreciated the article, however he emailed me with one minor error. John good naturedly wrote, “You “stuff” a turkey and “mount” a trophy.” I really do feel bad that I unintentionally demeaned John’s trophies by relegating them to teddy bear status. Spiritually speaking God does something similar to all of man’s trophies. “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame” (Isa 44:9 NIV).

1 comment:

Steve Corey said...


-----Poor guy. You’re response probably leaves him pining with Rodney Dangerfield. I’ve always found it interesting, and a bit dismaying, that to Christians, anything anyone else treasures much is an idol. Football and cars have gotten a lot of my attention. They’ve been accused. But the idol I never hear accursed is tithing.
-----I guess a good definition of “idol” might be handy. This is where one would be tempted to turn to the dictionary. But when your interest concerns something so shaping to your eternal destiny as idolatry would be, would it be wise to rely on the secular viewpoint of a vulgar dictionary? To avoid sending Merriam and Webster to pine with John and Rodney, we’d better at least peek into it. “1: a representation or symbol of an object of worship.” Also, “4: an object of extreme devotion [a movie idol].” Well, ok. Maybe mounted beasts, football, and cars are idols according to a dictionary. But is that what the Bible means by “idols”.
-----A lot of people are sure it does. To some of them, if you enjoy dinner too much you’re practicing idolatry. Others put on drab cloths, usually a pair of white bobby socks, a prayer cap, and run around town thinking everyone else is embroiled in idolatry, not noticing their own extreme devotion to Jane Plain. Funny how much more malleable accusations are than actualities. So what is the Bible’s actual concept of idolatry?
-----The RSV Old Testament presents one-hundred-fifteen uses of “idol“, “idolatry”, “idolater”, etc. The context of every usage makes it clear that the reference was to actual, carved, or molten objects worshipped as representations of God, that act, or those worshippers. The New Testament is a bit less clear. But only a bit. Of the twenty-eight times this word or its correlates is there used, eighteen unambiguously mean the same as they mean in the Old Testament. Eight are of “idolatry” or “idolaters” being listed with other vile acts or actors as “don‘t do’s” or “don‘t be‘s“. I think that being written in those days when idolatry was a giant, cultural component which the New Testament was dealing with head on, there is no reason to not presume actual worship of objects is what it meant. But, because certainty is not supplied by the context of just being in a list, let’s say these eight instances are ambiguous as to whether the authors meant actual idolatry, or metaphorical idolatry. Two instances the word is used in the New Testament, which also is to say two instances the word is used in the entire Bible, the context clearly supplies “covetousness” as what is meant…well…because those two instances outright say covetousness is idolatry.
-----I hardly think John coveted his trophy room, though he might covet trophies. I didn’t covet my 1957 Ford convertible, though I could have coveted Mustangs my entire life. To covet is an inordinate desire for what belongs to another. John and I both owned the objects of our desires.
-----That inordinate desire is what bends “idolatry” back into the worship of objects. Worship is an interesting concept. When it comes to idolatry, the Bible uses the word to mean what we are to do to God. The reason we are to do it to God is because we are shaped by what we worship. Those who worshipped idols were shaped by their concepts of those idols. Those who covet are shaped by their inordinate desires for what they covet.
-----You might have been right about John. Maybe he was shaped by his trophy room. We won’t know until we know John. I dearly loved my ’57 convertible. But my life was changing not too many years after I bought it. I sold it. I guess it wasn’t an idol after all. And Mustangs are art-work for me. To be looked at by me and admired only. Not wanted, because I don‘t have the means or needs. God I want, because I do have the means in Christ, and the need. So He shapes me.

Love you all,
Steve Corey