Is it possible to have idols and worship God?

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I once had the pleasure of having dinner with an environmental scientist. I asked him how he got into that field, and he was a Christian who had fallen in love with God’s creation and wanted to dedicate his life to studying it.

We must have talked for more than an hour about preserving biodiversity. After dinner, I walked with him out to the parking lot to say goodbye. As he was unlocking his car, I said, “wait a minute, don’t you care about air pollution?” He replied, “Yes, of course, as a father I am particularly concerned about the effect it could have on my children and grandchildren.”

I had to point out, “But you are driving a diesel car!” This got him all in a huff and he started stumbling on about improved gas mileage. He knew there was a contradiction between his beliefs and the car he was driving, but somehow he has kept driving that diesel car as long as I have known him.

This conflict between belief and behavior isn’t at all unusual – in fact, we see it in God’s own people again and again. In Exodus 32, verses 1-5, the people ask Aaron to make an idol, as Moses has gone up the mountain to talk to God. Aaron gives in and makes a golden calf. But notice he doesn’t stop there. He builds an altar to God in front of the calf.

He tried to let the people worship both God and the calf at the same time! Of course, this didn’t sit well with God, as it contradicted worship of both Him and an idol.

All too often, we try to put some aspect of our lives on equal footing with God. Yes, we go to church and pray, but it really focused on getting ahead at work or on getting a date.

How do we square this with the fact that God demands that we put Him above all? The fact is, we can’t, and just as God wouldn’t like His altar being placed next to a golden calf, he also won’t tolerate us putting our own desires on the same level as His.

However, as the story of the golden calf
This shows us, people are always looking for leadership. God has said, make me your leader! We know we must follow him, but sometimes, as we felt disconnected from God, we look for leadership in other places.

It’s important that we stay on track for God, and one way we do that is by surrounding ourselves with leaders who are dedicated to God’s path. Aaron did not stay on God’s path, but led God’s people astray when they asked him to.

When we choose our leaders, we must be sure that they will not make Aaron’s mistake — and that we will not make that mistake when people look to us for leadership. Prayer: Lord, we are constantly being tempted to stray away from your path.

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