The Object Lesson – Monopoly Money
Offer to buy something of great value. A cell phone. A car. A house. Tell your audience that money is no object, you are loaded and came ready to pay cash. A million dollars for their Ford F150? You will buy it. Ten million for their duplex? You are all in.
After negotiating the price, it is time for the reveal. You are willing to buy everything you agreed upon, but you are going to pay with monopoly money (or some other form of play money). It says right there on the front its worth five million dollars, that should cover any expenses right? Of course not. This money is fake. It might claim to have value, but it really has none. It can’t pay any bills or buy any groceries. It is false just like the things we choose to worship. It has no real value.
The Bible Connection – One True God
Just as your money was fake, a lot of people spend their time worshipping gods that are fake. Humans are hardwired to worship something. We are designed to recognize something that is greater than ourselves, and honor that something. In the process, we hope this something (whatever we worship) will be able to make our lives better. We believe it will protect us, satisfy us, and watch over us. The problem arises when we start worshipping something other than God.
The Bible repeatedly warns about the dangers of worshipping anything other than Yahweh (God’s name in the Bible). The first two commandments God gives involve false worship. When the prophets are trying to call the people back to God, they are often fighting against the lure of idolatry. Many times God compares himself to a husband who has been cheated on by his wife. God’s people have been unfaithful and found something else to worship.
God is constantly reminding us that these false gods aren’t real and have no real power. Listen to how David describes them in Psalms 135:16-18:
The idols of the nations are of silver and gold, made by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear; indeed, there is no breath in their mouths.
In other words, they might look real, but they are not. They cannot help. They cannot satisfy. They cannot bring peace or joy. You can give them as much of yourself as you want, but they will not protect you, provide for you, or meet your needs. They are not real.
In the Bible it was easy to identify idol worship because it literally involved bowing down before a golden calf or a wooden statue. It’s harder today. Today we worship things like success. We give our time and energy to climbing the ladder of accomplishment. We keep hoping if we win the next award, get the next raise, build a big enough house, or achieve enough goals we will finally feel joy and contentment. Sometimes we worship at the altar of acceptance. We want people to like us. We craft tweets and filter photos so we get more positive attention. We keep hoping if enough people like us (or a carefully filtered version of us), we will feel loved.
We worship the god of politics, the god of self, or even the god of pleasure. It’s different for each one of us, but the result is the same. False gods are like fake money. No matter how much they look like the real thing, they have no real value. They can’t actually help us.
There are a lot of scriptures that speak about the nature of idol worship, but here are a few you could use to further your study if you wanted.
The first two commands in the ten commandments involve idol worship. God forbids his people from worshipping anything or anyone but Him.
Similar to Psalm 135, the author here points out just how useless the idols really are. They can’t see, talk, hear, or walk. They are powerless.
Although it can be difficult to unpack, these three chapters give an elaborate illustration of how God feels about idol worship. He is a jealous husband whose wife keeps cheating on Him despite the love he has shown.
Elijah has a showdown with the prophets of Baal to show just how great his God really is. Baal cannot do anything despite the chants and cries of his priests. Yahweh, Elijah’s God, does answer his prayer by sending fire, and then rain. This is a story of God showing superiority to any and all false gods.
This simple verse urges us to flee from idolatry.