Idols

They worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.

~Isaiah 2:8

The ancients fashioned graven images of stone or precious metal and made offerings to them.  They sought in vain blessings from dumb rock.  When we apply this to modern times we typically say our idols are any earthly things which we love more than God, be it cars, clothes, sports, work, video games, the internet.  This misses the point.  What if what the ancients prized to the point of worship was not the physical lump of rock, but rather the fact that they created it?  They exercised power over the elements in an act of raw creation subduing, in essence, the earth itself.  They glory in their own ability to use available tools to create something of perceived beauty and value.  This interpretation is much more broadly applicable to our day because we are ever engaged in creative acts.

Today we have far fancier tools than did our ancient ancestors, and the things we create vary infinitely more.  We can make jewelry, 100 row combines and planters, cars, trucks, cell phones, apps, search engines, artificial neural networks, nanotechnology, and thanks to an explosion in prosperity an endless supply of entertainments like novels, plays, movies, YouTube, X-Box, etc.  The simplistic and anti-materialistic approach to idol worship would be to say that these things are idols.  But there were plenty of things made of stone and gold that were not worshipped anciently.

Idol worship is when we become inordinately pleased with our own work, whether it’s that elegant program we just engineered or constructing an artificial black hole.  We compare our meager acts of creation with those of the Creator.  If, as I believe, all of us have access to an eternal wellspring of creativity and are capable of greatness, then idol worship is when we forget to honor God.  That is idolatry, loving the work of our own hands, “that which our own fingers have made.”  And it is at its core self worship.

We should never forget that great things are created through us more so than by us.  A mother literally brings a new and exquisite creation into this world through her.  She is the conduit through which the ultimate earthly creation is delivered.  If we always remember the source of our meager creations and that they came through us, then we might find ourselves worthy to be the means of true greatness.

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