The prophet warns us that idols will be destroyed, false gods dying before the power of God. We easily think “well I don’t believe in Zeus, or Mithras, or any god but one” or “I don’t believe in gods anyway”. But what was worshipped explicitly as gods in ancient times were the powers thought to hold the world in sway. The condemnation of idols was a way the living God called us to recognize that those things society says make the world go round and about which we must build our lives are not so. They are often a smoke blowing in the wind, and if we build our lives around them they will be empty.
In our day, we are told that money makes the world go round. So we sacrifice our integrity, time with our families, friendships, and so much to get that next buck. Yet who at the end of their lives wishes for a few more dollars as much as they wish for connection with those people that matter, and peace with God?
People strive to get ahead, to be top dog, as if that is what life is for. Yet it is lonely on top, and often the fight to get there can cause you to lose sight of the best parts of who you are unless in your journey to success you stay true to what ought to remain in the center, the core, of your life.
The media blasts advertisements suggesting our image, our appearance, or pleasures are the point. But all of these are fleeting and a façade if you do not find deep relationships with others, connection to what matters, and something worth holding onto in life once those images shatter as age, illness, and time cause them to.
It is not that any of these things necessarily can be bad. You can earn money, have important positions, look good, and have the pleasures of life without sacrificing your conscience, your family, your spirituality, and your compassion. Yet when we set these things up as gods, making any one of them more important than the threefold command of Jesus – to love God, to love your neighbor, to love your self – we build a shell of a life that will leave us and others empty. Yet as Jesus promised, if we choose to prioritize the values that make life work – compassion for others, care for those that matter, care for the least of these, that deep connection with meaning and purpose expressed in the deepest spiritualities and expressions of faith – we may find we get what we truly need of these other things the world falsely worships and true and meaningful life as well.