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Not Only Americans’ Idol

23 January, 2010

I have been pondering lately about television.  First off, I am not condemning anyone in this post, only myself for allowing everything but television (including this blog) to become an idol in the absence of a television.  But nonetheless, I have been pondering how much television has become an idol all over the world.

What got me thinking about this?  Well first of all, I have lived in a house without at TV (with exception of the 2.5 month stay at my parents house) for almost 2 years now.  It is much easier to see the negative (and positive) effects of something when you do without it for a while.  Also, over the past 2 weeks here in Kinshasa, D.R. Congo, I have been asked by at least 3 people, “Why don’t you have a TV?” in a tone that was not inquisitive, but shocked.

This article put out by the Gallup poll shows some very interesting, and yet completely believable data.  Those people that have televisions are happier than those without.  So lets do a little bit of interpretation of data.

I.  That could mean that people with money are happier than people without it.
II.  That could mean that people are seeking satisfaction in material things.
III.  That could mean that people are seeking satisfaction in being virtually social.
IV.  That could mean that people are seeking and finding satisfaction in being anti-social.
V.  That could mean that gaining information through reading and talking socially is becoming obsolete.

Another article, put out by the International Energy Agency (IEA) states that, “already there are nearly 2 billion television sets in use, with an average of over 1.3 sets in each home having access to electricity.”  That article was posted in May 2009, over 6 months ago.  Here in Kinshasa, there are thousands of families who struggle to put food in their children’s stomachs, and yet they have a TV to watch as they go to sleep hungry.

I know that attacking television as an idol has been done before, and is not received well by believers or non-believers alike.  I just want to introduce the idea.  I am not trying to convince anyone that he is being idolatrous when he turns on the TV.  But it is something to think about.

So what is a Biblical model of idolatry?

Exodus 20 (better known as the Ten Commandments) says 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.  Then God says, “for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.”  At the end of the Ten Commandments idolatry is warned against again, “Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold…If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.”

Leviticus 19 says, “Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the LORD your God.”

In Numbers 33 the LORD commands destruction of a non-Israelite land because of their idol worship.

Deuteronomy 4 says it is bowing down and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.  Moses then goes on to warn the Israelite people of what punishment waits them if they turn to idols instead of the LORD.  The whole book of Deuteronomy contains warnings against idol worship.

The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles all give warnings and examples of the hopelessness of worshiping idols made of metal or carved images.

In Psalm 31 David says, “I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the LORD.”

Isaiah says the peoples’ “land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.” Later, he gives and example of a man with wood, “Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, ‘Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.’  From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships.  He prays to it and says, ‘Save me; you are my god.'”

There are hundreds of warnings against idols made in the image of created things in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Zechariah, the prophets of God to Israel.

The book of Acts recounts Paul’s voyages to many lands that worshiped idols, and Paul being first distressed by their idol worship, and then telling them the good news of Jesus Christ, of His death burial and resurrection and the faith available through grace.  The faith that makes all idols worthless and powerless.

The New Testament is full of warnings to converted Gentiles and Israelites (who should have known already) against eating food sacrificed to idols.  Could entertainment be considered food?  Could entertainment on television be considered food sacrificed to idols?

Colossians 3 gives what appears to be a new definition to idolatry.  I think it is not a new definition, just an expansion of the heart-condition of idolatry. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”  Do we see sexual immorality on television?  Impurity?  Lust?  Evil desires? Greed?

Praise the Lord that there is hope!  In Christ Jesus we (most of us being Gentiles who would certainly be worshiping idols if not for hearing the good news of Christ) have been given the good news of redemption in Christ.  Because Jesus, being God, came to earth as a man and fulfilled the Law that God had given men, and he took the wrath of God against all idolatry on Himself, and rose again, we can be forgiven of our idolatry.  I Thessalonians 1 gives us an example of that: “they tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”

Peter tells us of what our life should look like after we have departed from idolatry:  “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.  For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.  But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

John pleads with us as dear children to abstain from the idols that we have been replaced by the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

That brings us to the oft quoted Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”  Note:  It is not only liars that have a place in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

So can television be an idol?

One Comment leave one →
  1. mom permalink
    23 January, 2010 17:41

    Your words are so true and especially your thoughts at the start of the blog. ANYTHING is an idol that sqeezes out God’s voice in our lives. When we fill our lives with “noise”, God’s voice (even though like thunder in a quiet spirit) is completely drowned out. This state (unable/uninterested in hearing God’s voice) is indeed is a fiery lake of burning sulfur.

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