American Idol

Lou Lotz

READ : Exodus 20:4-6

You shall not make for yourself an idol. (v. 4)

I visited a home in Africa and saw, on a shelf, an array of hand-carved deities. My host explained how he bathed his gods with sacred oil, dressed them with flowers, and fed them, symbolically, with sacrifices. There is a word for this – idolatry.

We may not have hand-carved deities on the shelf in the living room, but we can be every bit as idolatrous. Idolatry, said theologian Paul Tillich, is bestowing ultimate faith in that which is not ultimate. Idolatry is placing our trust in that which cannot save us. Whenever we invest our ultimate trust in things, objects, or people who cannot satisfy our deepest need, that thing, object, or person becomes to us an idol.

Think, for example, of the trust we place in money – little rectangular slips of paper bearing the images of presidents. These slips of paper cannot forgive your sins. They cannot save your soul. The images of presidents, like those hand-carved deities, have mouths, but they cannot speak. They have eyes, but cannot see; ears, but cannot hear. They cannot carry you anywhere; you have to carry them. But think of the faith we invest in those little slips of paper. How foolish to invest such trust in gods we must carry, rather than in the God who carries us.


Forgive my idolatry, O God.