Many years ago there was a TV program called Dinosaurs; a very funny show about a family of human-like dinosaurs who experienced marriage and child-rearing problems, in-law conflicts, etc. Each episode dealt with one of these issues in a very unique way. The family had two teens and little baby who kept referring to the dad as “not-the-momma,” which humorously indicated the centrality of mom and the irrelevancy of dad at that point in the baby’s life.
When God gave his commandments to Israel, they began with a similar perspective on idolatry (Exodus 20:3). Yahweh was central and all idols were “not-the-god.” This wasn’t ignoring reality; it literally meant that there were no-other-gods. Isaiah 44, 45, 46, repeated a form of the verse “I am the Lord; besides me there is no god.” To my knowledge there is no indication in the whole of Scripture that idolatry was really a competition between the one true God and any other divinity. In fact, Paul actually said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 10 where he acknowledged that idols were nothing. So what was the big deal then about idolatry and why did God seem to be so defensive about it?
Paul continued in 1 Corinthians 10:20, “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God.” The danger of idolatry is that there is a spiritual reality behind the idol which robs God of his glory. Thus, according to Paul, what we eat or drink can ultimately become worship issues. (Paul implied a similar thing in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 when he talked about sex.) This was why Paul had such an expansive view of worship; “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) I think this is so clarifying—whatever I do becomes an altar of sacrifice and praise; a platform for worship. Paul told Timothy “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4, 5) He said a similar thing in 1 Corinthians 10:30.
Giving thanks for our food or drink, or whatever we do, does not make things kosher; just like it does not make wrong actions right. Thanksgiving is not magic; it is worship. Thanksgiving acknowledges God as the Giver as well as expressing our gratitude and obligation to use his gifts properly. This is even true when it comes to our finances. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:17, 18). My wealth is a reminder that it is God who provides for me, and it should deepen my dependency on him and not on his gifts. My wealth also provides an opportunity for me to glorify God by my generosity to others.
Just as all of life is an act of worship to the God who has provided for his creation, so all of these gifts can be used and abused when they replace the Giver. This is where we become idolatrous and begin to worship “not-the-god.” This is where we exchange “the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator…” (Romans 1:25) This is also where we enter into the world of the demonic and expose ourselves to the power behind “not-the-god.” We must understand this if we are to effectively deal with our addictions… more about this next week. Today, however, whatever you eat or drink or however you use your money, may it be as an intentional act of worship.