21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.Romans 1: 21-23
Ha! Birds and reptiles. The silly Romans worshipped birds and reptiles. It’s a good thing we evolved past that point, right? Am I right? We’d never make idols out of birds and reptiles–heck I’m scared of snakes!
Nope, verse 23 is completely out of touch with our society–out of touch with our 21st Century, God-fearing Christians (yee-haw!). In fact, we really are wise, and certainly not fools, so probably, verse 22 doesn’t even apply to us. Isn’t this great!?
The above two paragraphs may sound a little off, but really I truly don’t believe the Apostle Paul would use the same wording if he were writing a letter to 21st Century Americans.
He might instead say about us,
“Although they claimed to be far wiser than those who came 200 years before them–much less 2000 years before them–they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a quarterback, a point guard, or a political candidate, images made to play on Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.”
I think you know what I’m getting at, and of course the list above is not comprehensive. But our devotion to idols over God is nearly comprehensive. I was recently listening to a sermon, and the preacher stopped to ask, when your mind is clear, and you wander off into daydreams, what do you think about? What do you take comfort in? That is your .religion. That is what you worship. You are what you love, to put it in the words of another Christian commentator.
This is as common today as it was for the Romans 2000 years ago. And it’s just as deadly. I’m not trying to get on my high horse either. Believe me, when I close my eyes and allow my mind to wander–assuming it’s not clouded by the idol of anxiety–then it often drifts off to any number of things like golf, money, politics, football. And sometimes much less innocent topics.
But here’s the problem if we focus on these things–if we worship these things, then we are offering our lives to these things. We are placing our trust for a cure in these things. A cure for what? Our worries, our lack of happiness our despair, our self-loathing, our hatred, ou human condition. And what does it all stem from? One sickness: Death. We want and we need the cure for death, because we are so keenly aware of it. And it’s one of the only universal truths that nearly everyone agrees on: We’re going to die. We going to fall off the edge of the waterfall eventually, and we spend our entire lives clawing helplessly to get to dry ground or drowning out the impending doom with cheap pleasures. Death is coming, and no amount of golf, or football or politics, or money or sex or power or Netflix or Tinder or food or ANYTHING is going to save us from that terrible fate, because they too will one day be swept away, literally consumed by the sun as it expands to eat earth and everything in it–or when Jesus comes back with a triumphant shout.
If we exchange the glory of the immortal God for anything on this earth, then we’re giving up on the antidote to all of our ailments–the cure for the cancer of our souls.
Look, I enjoy many things of this world. And Jesus did too! It’s good to enjoy things in this world. But it’s not ok to place our trust in them, to look for a cure in them. All they can do is numb our symptoms. Jesus Christ himself will cure the cause of our symptoms.