“Their idols are like scarecrows
in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
nor is it in them to do good.”
from Jeremiah 10:1-16
The rabbis say that when Abram was young, he snuck into the workshop where his father made idols for sell. Then he took a hammer and smashed all the idols except for one. He put the hammer in the idol’s hands and left. Abram’s father found the mess and called Abram to the workshop to explain what happened. Abram looked at the idol holding the hammer and says, “It’s pretty clear to me what happened. That idol smashed all the others.”
Abram’s father was incredulous. He said, “It’s just an idol, it couldn’t have done this.”
To which Abram replied, “Then why do you worship it?”
It’s easy for us post-moderns to read Jeremiah 10:1-16 and the story above with a bit of superiority. We would never worship an idol! The Ancient Hebrews had to be told how many times to not worship a statue?! But I think these passages still have something to teach us. We may not offer meat and produce to statues we carved out of wood and stone, but how many hours have you spent worrying about what other people think of you? How much anxiety has been caused by wondering if you’re making the right moves, networking with the right people? The god of success and the god of self-image can be just as terrifying of masters as Ba’al and Ashtoreth, and the other Canaanite deities that tempted the Ancient Hebrews.
In his sermon “The Gods Aren’t Angry,” Rob Bell says, “Any ritual, any religious gathering that merely piles on a whole new weight of what you aren’t, what you haven’t, what you aren’t good at, all the ways in which you fall short, any gathering that just piles on all the same old guilt, anxiety, and stress, is not a Christian ritual…. The only proper Christ-centered ritual is one that reminds you, that refreshes you, that awakens you, that opens you up to the God that has made peace with all things through Christ.”
Today, my hope for you is that you can start the long process of taking down your idols. May you see that they need not be feared. May you remember that the Good God of the Universe holds all things in Her hands. May you rest in that when the old gods come knocking, tempting you to worry, tempting you to take their anxiety and stress, tempting you to fall back into old habits. You can trust in the peace and rest that God offers.
by Devin Gardner
Photo credit: Schomberg and Kimpton’s BELIEVE is one of the 185 pieces of Reno’s outdoor public art. The sculpture is located at City Plaza, next to Reno City Hall. Photo by Miguel Arucan, journalism student at UNR.
As you go about your day, keep your eyes open.
What does “Fear” look like to you? Or what does fear keep you from believing is true about yourself, or God, or your community?
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