Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Idols, Veggie Pizza, & Mules

Last week in my group's Bible study we discussed idolatry and its effects on our lives. When I hear the word idolatry, the first image that emerges from my mind is one of manmade figurines of wood, clay, or metal. I also envision a shrine and people bowing down to worship the idol. While this depiction of idolatry happened countless times in the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, it is not what typically occurs in modern day America. And it still breaks my heart to see images of other people groups/religions bowing down to false gods and goddesses still today.

To be clear, idolatry is defined as "1. the religious worship of idols. 2. excessive or blind adoration, reverence, devotion, etc. Synonyms: obsession, madness, mania." John Piper gives a concise definition, "Treasuring anyone or anything more than Christ is idolatry."

Idolatry can be very easy to spot...a vast collection of sports cars, crying + screaming tweens (and moms!) at a Jonas Bros. concert, or it can be very subtle...like stubbornness. Yes, you read that right. I discovered a convicting gem of a passage in 1 Samuel 15:22-23,
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

I cannot tell you how many times these verses have been brought to my mind in the past week, especially over two slices of veggie pizza. Who knew conviction was an available topping? My husband and I ordered a pizza with half veggie, half BBQ chicken. This was a treat for both of us since normally we order plain ol' pepperoni. I ate my two slices, he ate his four, and I saved my two other slices for the next day's lunch. The next day, my mom picked me up and we went out for lunch. While scarfing down a ginormous Philly cheesesteak, my poor husband calls from home asking if he could have my last two slices of veggie pizza for his lunch. How did the sweet, loving wife respond? [Cue the violins] She said (in her most pathetic, whiny voice), "but those are my slices, and I never get veggie..." My poor husband said, "okay" and that was the end of the phonecall. The following day, while eating my beloved veggie pizza....the oddest thing happened. It no longer tasted good, in fact it felt more like gravel in my mouth (Proverbs 20:17). I suddenly had a clear example of how I had failed to serve him and insist on my own stubborn behalf. How foolish I was! I apologized to my husband and asked his forgiveness for my crummy attitude of selfishness.

Back to the passage, it all begins with our heart and the motives within. Beyond verse 22, we see two similes that compare the sinfulness of rebellion and stubbornness. Frankly, it's the subtle sins within that seem more difficult to identify, control, and conquer. And sometimes, because we can't see them in the way we can like drunkeness or adultery, it is easy to gloss over them and attempt to rationalize them away (veggie pizza, anyone?).

But from these verses, it is clear that rebellion and stubbornness are major offenses to God! By having witchcraft and worshiping idols thrown into that same mix, it really ruffles my feathers. How many times do we excuse rebellious attitudes with "oh, she's just being a teenager!" or "boys will be boys?" Often times, the phrase "stubborn as a mule" comes with a knowing smirk or a frustrated sigh, but never to the equivalent degree of hearing "oh, he's just worshiping idols!" :) That puts some perspective on it!

At least to me, it is a little too ironic that within the verses of 1 Samuel 15:22-23 both submission and stubbornness are juxtaposed. I know I wasn't the best example of submission as a child, and yes, I'm still a work in progress when it comes to my marriage. Come to think of it, submission and stubbornness are really on the same continuum:

Submission (Serving others) <--------Your will--------> Stubbornness (Serving self)

On the far left, you willingly (and hopefully not begrudingly) put your will aside for someone else. But on the far right, you choose not to yield, thereby demanding your will.

Scripture is clear that the appropriate choice is submission (Ephesians 5:21, Colossians 3:18, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 2:13-14, James 4:6-8). As seen in the passage from 1 Samuel, anytime we disobey God, we reap the consequences of disobedience; in this case, Saul was rejected as king.

It's time to remember that obedience and submission have blessings attached. Sometimes immediate, sometimes tangible, most importantly, the smiling approval from God.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Convicting. Thanks.