19 Apr Confronting Our Idols And Idleness
The pandemic tears down our idols.
1) Idols cannot save.
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to crush all the leading idols of mankind. Businesses that used to be deemed infallible are going down, such as the oil and aviation industries. Seemingly strong and developed countries are also scrambling to contain the virus. We trust in medical science, yet it offers no cure for the novel coronavirus; we worship wise human leaders and experts, yet they are helpless in the face of one very contagious virus; we run after money as if it is the treasure of our lives, yet one virus collapses the global economy. No wise man, no medical solution, no government policy, no amount of money can fully stamp out this virus, not to mention solving the more severe problem of human sin. COVID-19 has exposed and smashed many of our idols. False gods give us false hopes. Idols can neither save nor satisfy, but they only disappoint.
2) Warnings against idolatry.
The Bible has long warned us against trusting in idols other than the only true God. <Habakkuk 1:11> mentions that people are guilty when their god is their own strength. <Colossians 3:5> also tells us,
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
<1 Corinthians 8> 4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that
“An idol is nothing at all in the world”
and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
Jesus also warned, “You cannot serve both God and money.” <Matthew 6:24>
3) Therefore, the pandemic is good reminder for us to turn from our idols and seek God earnestly.
In practising idolatry, we not only have a depreciated view of God, but we also have an overestimated view of ourselves and other creation. However, the current crisis and the failure of any idol to turn it around, simply reminds us that our only true treasure and salvation is Jesus Christ. God also promised, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” <2 Chronicles 7:13-14>
So dear brothers and sisters, since the pandemic has made it clear that idols are useless, let us turn our full attention to our God and ask Him to tear down any remaining idols in our hearts. As we turn back to God, we will find mercy for ourselves and our land.
Beware about succumbing to idleness during the pandemic.
But as the pandemic silences the empty promises of idols, it also creates another challenge. COVID-19 not just takes away our idols, but it also takes away our normal routine. With the safe distancing measures, closure of workplaces, schools, churches and many public places, movement restrictions, and lockdowns, we can no longer be engaged in our usual activities. Perhaps one good thing the pandemic has brought us is more time. No doubt, some could be busier having to home-school their children or those in the healthcare sector would be doubly busy. However, for most people, the prohibition to socialise face-to-face or visit public places will compel them to more time at home. And more time at home can be good or bad, depending on how that extra time is spent. If time is freed up from distractions of the world and its idols and spent on drawing closer to God, then that extra time is a blessing. However, if the extra time results in idleness, then it is something we have to guard against.
1) “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
Now, being idle is not just defined by inactivity or doing nothing. But idleness also can mean being purposeless, that is, even if the person is doing something, what he is engaged in is something meaningless. In fact, idleness is also a form of laziness. In the Bible, God clearly disapproves of idleness.
<2 Thessalonians 3> 11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
<1 Timothy 5> 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.
We see that idleness provides opportunities for the devil to enter. Here, the Bible says that idle people are disruptive and busybodies. They are not only lazy and unproductive, but they also distract those who want to do the will of God. For example, when those who want to live out God’s purpose see an idle person watching TV the whole day, they may also lose their drive to live meaningfully. An idle person may also irritate a diligent person who is working hard but not receiving any help from the idle loafer. When we are idle, we not only harm ourselves but also others. Unhealthy boredom leads us to sins, and just giving in a little to idleness can give it room to consume us totally.
2) Thus, we must pray that we “never tire of doing what is good”.
The opposite of idleness is working hard. Here, the Bible encourages us to never grow weary of doing good. The “good” here can be something good in general or doing good unto others. Particularly in this pandemic, there are many people who need our help, emotionally, spiritually, financially and practically. Instead of wasting time in mindless entertainment or secretly being happy that we now have more time to laze around at home, I believe God will be pleased if we use this time to reach out to others. “Doing good” also includes fulfilling our existing God-given responsibilities well, to take care of our children, elderly parents, church brethren, household chores, job duties, etc.
The moment we grow weary of doing good, then we leave room for idleness and the devil to enter. Yes, it is not easy to find the motivation to keep doing good, especially when the constraints in the pandemic provide good excuses for us to say, “We have no choice, but we can’t work as much now, we can’t meet the person to show concern now, etc.” However, if we are sincere in doing good, we will find creative ways to work around the constraints and still do the will of God. Let us find strength in God’s words, telling us,
“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” <1 Corinthians 15:58>
Brothers and sisters, the pandemic tears down our idols, and we are also cautioned against being idle when the world slows down because of COVID-19. May God help us to resist both the idols and idleness in our lives!