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Idolatry Then & Now Conclusion

Chapter 2: Idolatry Then & Now Part 15 (conclusion)

In Chapter 1, My Corporate Idolatry, I shared the story of the day I recognized that idolatry lives on in the 21st century.  The realization started with skepticism.  I initially though “isn’t idolatry statue worship, and didn’t that go away thousands of years ago?”  Idolatry is much more, and in this final installment of Chapter 2  how often Idolatry has periodicly come to dominate the very institutions that arose to combat it.

According to the book of Jeremiah, God ordered the destruction of the First Temple (aka Solomon’s Temple) because the Israelites had fallen into idolatry.  In the following passage, from Jeremiah Chapter 7, notice the behaviors associated with idolatry.

4 Don’t trust the lies that some people say. They say, “This is the Temple of the LORD.”  [The commentary explains that many people in Jerusalem thought the Lord would always protect the city no matter what, so it didn’t matter how evil they were.]   5 If you change your lives and do good things, I will let you live in this place. You must be fair to each other. 6 You must be fair to strangers. You must help widows and orphans. Don’t kill innocent people! And don’t follow other gods, because they will only ruin your lives8 “‘But you are trusting lies that are worthless. 9 Will you steal and murder? Will you commit adultery? Will you falsely accuse other people? Will you worship the false god Baal and follow other gods that you have not known? 10 If you commit these sins, do you think that you can stand before me in this house … and say, “We are safe,” just so you can do all these terrible things?”

The lesson for me is that any institution can fall into idolatry.  And Jeremiah 10:31 explains why. “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.”  In other words, the priestly hierarchy and leaders are preaching a different set of values than what God teaches.  (Which we summarized by the Golden Rule earlier in the chapter.)  Chapter 5 further elaborates:

5:26 For wicked men are found in My people; they lie in wait as a trap bites; they station an ambush, they catch people.

5:27 As a cage is full, so are their houses full of deceit; therefore, they have become great and they have become rich.

This dynamic seems to happen over and over again throughout history.  In my opinion, the rise of Christianity ~500 years was in part a reaction against the corruption/idolatry of the Second Temple.  And 1,500 years after that, Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation as a reaction against the corruption/idolatry of the Catholic Hierarchy.  And in his widely popular YouTube Video Why I Hate Religion and But Love Jesus, poet Jefferson Bethke advocates a direct connection to Jesus, bypassing religion because religions sometimes advocate views that he finds counter to Jesus’ central, people-first teachings.

What institutions influence your life?  Do they encourage people-first values?

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