We know that “an idol has no real existence” (1 Corinthians 8:4). Paul, while addressing an immediate problem related to Christian liberty, simultaneously addresses a vital overarching point regarding idolatry. Idols are nothing; they are not just false gods, they are no gods at all. Of course the material, physical stuff from which the idol is made is real, but the god it represents does not exist. There is no need to fear idol gods, and there is certainly no reason to worship them.
When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name” (Luke 11:2). It is doubtless true that the Lord’s Prayer is routinely abused around the globe every day, mouthed by people who neither think about its meaning, nor would mean it even if they did. This is why Martin Luther referred to the Lord’s Prayer as “the greatest martyr on earth.” It is, as it were, butchered by thoughtless, soulless prayer on a daily basis. However, the other extreme, into which many evangelicals today have fallen (and it’s just as bad) is this: we have largely neglected it!
In honor of the Academy Awards, the Hollywood Reporter some time ago revealed the surprising places stars store their statues after finally winning them. One star stores his in the refrigerator, another in the bottom of a closet gathering dust. Tom Hanks’ two best actor statues? He says, “They are on the family trophy shelf, next to the soccer trophies. I think the World’s Greatest Mom trophy from Mother’s Day is up there as well.”
“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). It seems as Paul writes his first letter to the church at Corinth, that the Corinthians were taking Paul’s own words — his principle of freedom in Christ specifically — and twisting it to their own sinful purposes. The problem was that some were quoting Paul regarding the freedom we have in Christ, but ignoring the balancing truth of what grace sets us free to do:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). How much do your worldly friends really love you? Movie or music stars you look up to? The employer who wants you to devote your life to climbing the corporate ladder? The cars, gadgets, carpet, or designer outfits you spend so much time dreaming about or delighting in?
My beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Idols have a way of disappointing those who trust them. Because only God is God, everyone and anything that we put before God will fail us. Nothing and no one is as strong and faithful and good as God.