The bible regularly condemns idolatry, yet many Christians do not think it is an issue in the 21st century. Cape Town contains no shrines to Baal, Molech, Artemis or Caesar. How are we to understand idolatry?
In Acts 17 Paul visits one of the cultural centres of the known world with its unparalleled architecture, art and philosophy. Rather than being over-awed by the Athens’ beauty, Paul is provoked to anger by the fact that the city is submerged in idols.
Anger, by the way, is a very Christian emotion as God and Jesus were provoked to anger by the golden calf and the phony worship in Jerusalem’s temple. Ephesians 4:26 tells us to be angry (at the things God is angry with), but not to sin in that anger.
If Paul had walked around our city, he would have the same reaction. Here are some of our idols that are worshipped as gods:
The money god
We have built magnificent alters to this god for when he finally visits our country in June/ July. We call the alters “stadiums” and believe that when this great god comes to bless our country all will be well. All gods (even false ones) demand sacrifice, and we have sacrificed the basic needs of the poor.
The sex god
The alters are called Teasers and Mavericks. This god is also worshipped in hundreds of brothels, hotel rooms and private studies on the internet. Men sacrifice their families, and their emotional and physical health.
The children god
In DSM4 a new mental disorder is diagnosed: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Young people are growing up thinking there are god and life revolves around them. Being a celebrity is a major goal of most teenagers. The biggest cause of this disorder is parents over-praising their offspring and always giving them what they want. Parents bring gifts of Playstation and iphones and the child god blesses them with a few hours of peace. Parents sacrifice the long term good of all involved.
The lifestyle god
Work is the alter of this god, and the great hope is lifestyle maintenance. This god demands a big house, two new cars, fashionable clothes and children at snobby schools. We sacrifice family relationship and spiritual growth as there is little time for either.
The comfort god
Comfort and wellbeing of devotees are this god’s great promise. This god may demand that followers move to a “safe” country to be better worshipped. Devotees are happy to sacrifice a good church, extended family, support structures and their Christian witness. Devotees are prone to ignore Acts 17:26 that says the true God has determined the exact places where we should live.
Other miscellaneous gods
Of course, there is the wife god, the husband god, the fame god, the status god, the sport god, the beer god, the TV god, the food god (his name is DEFY), the recreation god and the my possessions god, to name a few.
We, like Paul, should be provoked to anger at these false gods in our city and in our own hearts. Our city is indeed submerged with idols and needs to be confronted with the one true God – Jesus – who is creator, sustainer, ruler, father and judge.
ps. Lets support Bafana without putting our hope and confidence the FIFA world cup to transform and revive our country!