In our last post ‘When God Is Not Enough’ we explored the dangers of placing God on the side when He wants to be in the centre. In the context of the prodigal son we see the danger that lurks in our dreams and desires when they don’t include or need God.
In Acts 17:28 the Apostle Paul is preaching Christ in Athens, a city steeped in mythology and tradition. Sharing his God-story to anyone who would lend an ear, the apostle has caught the attention of the educated, philosophers known as the Epicurean. Lovers of the high-life, pleasure seekers who indulge in anything and everything, the problem is Paul is preaching a radical idea that conflicts with their world view. Athens worship idols, gods of carvings and totems, statues that stand tall but empty.
Paul introduces them to the ‘…God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples.’ Acts 17:25
Have you ever considered the idols you’ve built along the way that don’t have room for God to live in? Those temples made by human hands, our hands that capture too much of our interest, affections and time. What’s worse is we can often mistake these ventures and our efforts as good and maybe just maybe it is, but it’s not God.
The apostle makes an interesting observation when he calls to the people of Athens stating “I see that in every way you are very religious…”, and here lies the problem. We do a lot of things that are religious but not Christian. I’m fond of a quote from Christian author and pastor, Timothy Keller who wrote “Religious people find God useful, Christians find God beautiful.”
The truth is Paul’s warning to the people of Athens serves as a cautionary tale for you and me. A reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in things that don’t really matter. Sometimes the things we chase are not worth holding.
In a recent blog on the Daily Nudge, writer Karl Faase referenced a study on materialism; the pursuit of stuff doesn’t actually make us happier, in fact it has the opposite effect. To quote directly, the study found “that those focused on materialism have a greater risk of depression, physical irritations, drug abuse and poor personal relationships.”
All those idols that those very religious people built in Athens can sometimes reflect the same idols we build today.
When God is not in our centre but is pushed to our sideline we usually make the same mistakes of the prodigal — when God is not enough we build idols chasing things that leave us feeling empty.
Is it any wonder that Paul preached “In Him, we live, and move and have our existence.” Not an idol to build but the one true God to worship!