I grew up in the church and was heavily involved in all of the programs and activities. I showed up on time for Sunday school, read Luke 2 in the Christmas program, and went to GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) every Wednesday night.
I don’t remember everything that I learned in that church’s basement Sunday school room on Wednesday evenings, yet I’ll never forget on of the first time that I learned about the Pharisees. Our GEMS counselor read us a story of how from one of the gospels about these people insisted they were doing what was right according to the law, but they still weren’t living the way that God had told them. They were selfish and ignored the needs of the oppressed, lonely sick, and poor.
It was obvious to my ten-year-old brain that the Pharisees were clearly the bad guys. Thankfully, I had a wonderfully wise teacher who corrected my misjudgment. She said “Yes, what the Pharisees did was wrong, but it is important to remember that we are just like them. Even now, it’s easy to think ‘I’m so much better than the Pharisees,’ but as soon as we think that way, we are acting just like they did.” Oh no; was I one of the bad guys too?
I feel that today’s passages has the same punch-in-the-gut feeling for me. Both Isaiah 44 as well as Psalm 89 talk about how God is the only one worthy to be worshipped – no other idol can compare. “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.”1 We know this to be true in our hearts, but our lives don’t always act that way.
Isaiah 44:9-11 in the VOICE translation says “But whoever does make an idol is not improved or enriched. On the contrary, their passing fancies contribute nothing of value or purpose. Those who look on at such misplaced attention don’t understand what they’re seeing, and the idol-makers will end up embarrassed at best. It’s easy to say, ‘What pathetic idiocy! Who would do such a thing—make gods that are by definition worthless?’ The people who worship them will be shamed and humiliated. After all, people made those gods. Yet it happens all the time.'”
Who would do such a thing? How come those people just can’t pull it together? “Yet it happens all the time.” I idolize my bank account, my Instagram, my wardrobe, my car, my relationships, my jobs, how many “likes” and “shares” my posts get . . . the list goes on and on. My heart desires so many things that are “by definition worthless.” I know with my mind and say with my mouth that I want Christ to come first, but my actions show otherwise.
One of my favorite songs that I find myself coming back to over and over again says:
Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol2
Perhaps today is a day to reset. Take time to zoom out and realize where your worship lies. What do you love with all your heart? What can’t you stop thinking about? Now is not the time to worry about the Pharisees in your life; take time today to realize what you idolize. Lay it at the foot of the cross. “Teach me your way, O Lord that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.”3