“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.” Jonah 2:8-9
The sermon this Sunday really made me think. Steve is preaching a series on the Ten Commandments and this Sunday he spoke on the second commandment – “you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” Steve talked about the children of Israel waiting on Moses at the base of Mt. Sinai, growing impatient with his absence and the silence of God and deciding to fashion an idol to worship. Aaron fashioned the golden calf, built an altar before it, and then announced “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD (Yahweh.)” The people believed they were worshiping the real God as they worshiped before this golden calf fashioned by human hands for their instant gratification.
As I pictured this it dawned on me that there is another clear example of this misdirected devotion in scripture. I believe Judas Iscariot was guilty of this very thing. His devotion to Jesus was full of expectations of who Jesus was and what Jesus would do for him. Scripture makes it clear that Judas was a thief whose hands were often in the money bags in his role as treasurer for the disciples (John 12:6). As time went by and Jesus clearly wasn’t interested in money or fame, Judas became disillusioned and found another avenue to line his pockets as he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. What astounds me is what Judas missed because of his focus on money. He was one of the twelve yet evidently didn’t know and love Jesus enough to benefit from his teaching and friendship. He was one of the twelve – living day in and day out with Jesus – and yet able to avoid a loving intimate relationship to the degree that he could betray his teacher. He lived with the grace that could save him and transform him, but it didn’t touch his soul because he chose the lesser thing. Even after he realized his error and was filled with remorse he still couldn’t see the grace of Jesus and ended by taking his own life. Judas lived with Jesus and yet tried to shape him into what he wanted to see and serve. The real Jesus had so much more to offer Judas if only he had seen and received.
Hebrews 13:5 tells us: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Money is just one idol that can get in the way of my relationship with God. I feel compelled to look at my point of need and carefully assess if I am making an idol god that I expect to meet that need. “Lord – I don’t want to cling to a worthless idol and miss the grace that could be mine. Give me the eyes to truly see you, the heart to truly serve you, and the will to cling to you even through the hard graces that reveal the real me.”