Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Idol Pleasures

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

-- Psalm 37:4

Some call it the 5th Food Group -- an edible delight that (at least for a few people) satisfies more than any balanced meal or healthy snack.

It’s chocolate.

Each year, the world consumes more than 1 million tons of the processed confection. And annual chocolate consumption in the United States adds up to 12 pounds per person. That’s a lot of Hershey’s Kisses and Baby Ruth bars!

For many people, chocolate – and food in general – is one of life’s little pleasures. But what would it be like if we were stuck eating the same thing day after day? Or much worse, what if we faced daily hunger or even starvation. Or what if we took this blessing for granted?

The simple pleasures of life are just a few of God’s wonderful gifts. But when we overindulge in them, waste or otherwise abuse them, it becomes a real problem. Think about a child inspecting the chocolate abundance reaped from an evening of intense trick-or-treating. The first and second bags of peanut M&Ms are delicious. But a high price must be paid after consuming six or seven Mr. Goodbars followed by a sticky candied apple.

The same holds true with any God-made thing or pleasure; if we pervert it, even a God-thing can become a destructive, enslaving idol with ensuing consequences. In such cases, the gift has become more important than the Giver.

An idol doesn’t have to be a literal golden calf like the Israelites worshipped in Old Testament times. Instead, it’s anything that means more to us than following God and His ways. It’s too bad that pleasure is one of God’s gifts that we often idolize. For more than 40 years, the media’s message is that if it feels good, we should do it. And society has largely taken the bait. Watch almost any popular television show or movie these days and you’ll see destructive behaviors and lifestyles that God expressly condemns. Adultery and other illicit relationships, for example, are no longer considered scandalous. They’re “private” situations where no one ever gets hurt (right?). But if Christ-followers dare to say otherwise, they are likely to be scolded as being intolerant, bigoted or narrow-minded. After all, what does the Bible have to do with living in 21st Century America?

In fact, God’s Word shows us that things never change when it comes to illicit relationships and the destruction they render (Ask King David about Bathsheba!). And just as our ancestors did centuries ago, we today are too willing to turn our heads and accept and justify our behaviors: all clear signs that the pleasures in question have become idols. What’s worse is that we then resist choosing between the idols and God. We might say that we want God in our lives. But we also want Him to make room and share the thrones of our hearts.

This is totally unacceptable to God. He holds a jealous love for each of His children and wants only the best for us. Sharing therefore isn’t an option. So to fully acknowledge His love, we must destroy the false idols that hold us back from worshipping Him. It’s when we change our priorities and focus on God that we find true pleasure – a pleasure that’s both lasting and real.

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