Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Practical Polytheism: The 10th Command and Idolatry

Most of you don’t have wooden, stone, or otherwise hand crafted idols in your home. This was a major issue in Biblical times and one that still dominates many cultures today. But are we really free from idolatry? 

This past week in our Equipping Hour, we concluded a study of the 10 Commandments. We considered how the NT views the Big Ten and how they should impact us now, particularly as we view ourselves through the lens of the gospel. To use a broad brush, we concluded that the New Testament writers did indeed uphold the 10 Commandments. Ultimately no one has kept them perfectly. That leads us to the One who did keep them, Jesus. In this way, we see the logic of Gal 3.24, the Law has been the tutor to lead us to Christ, the obedient and righteous one. 

So what now? Do we toss out the commandments? Hardly. In fact, the New Testament ups the ante on the 10. We learn that it’s not enough to not commit adultery, we have to put off lust. We aren’t righteous by simply controlling our urge to murder, we are murders by our anger. 

The last of the 10 Commandments is the command to not covet. This one is particularly interesting because it’s part of the fabric of how most of us think. Interestingly, Paul seemed to have a coveting issue. He uses coveting as his example of how the Law exposes sin in Romans 7.7. Then we have a simple but highly profound statement in Colossians 3.5. In a discussion about various sins to “put off,” Paul says to put off “covetousness, which is idolatry.” By linking coveting with idolatry, Paul takes us from the bottom of the original 10 Commandments back to the top, where it all started. When we covet, we are idolaters. Practically, we have "other gods" and have formed our own idols. That’s a serious problem. 

Let’s park here for a moment. For some reason, we seem to be OK with a “little” coveting. We laugh about it, as if it’s really not a big deal. It’s normal, right? But if we identify it as idolatry, then it’s not quite so funny. Imagine I come over to your house and you have a carved idol. You explain, “Yeah, I have this idol, but I don’t worship it, much.” Small idols are still idols. 

Covetousness is notoriously difficult to discern in our own hearts but the Bible is clear that this is not a sin to be taken lightly. Don’t be a practical polytheist who confesses the one true God but then give your worship to idols through the sin of coveting. The reality is we have an will violate this command. We are law breakers and it drives us to the one who never once coveted. Knowing this forgiveness motivates us to identify coveting and confess it for what it truly is, idolatry. 

1 comment:

  1. I recently thought about Col. 3:5 but not long enough to clearly define in my mind the connection between covetousness and idolatry. Your post helped much to do just that!
    "Who will deliver me from this body of sin?" Thanks that He will, but the wait seems long.