I admit it. I have a vice. I love to read gossip magazines. I have the People Magazine app. If I’m in a doctor’s office, I don’t mind the wait because it’s the best time to get caught up on whatever gossip mag I may have missed. I promise that’s not the only thing I do with my life. However, I really like reading and learning about other people—what makes them tick, what made them decide to be whatever it is that made them famous, what they were like as kids, etc. Don’t be concerned about me—I love doing the same thing with “real” people, too.
However, one thing you’ll most likely never hear me say is, “I want to be just like insert-public figure-of-your-choice-here…” Why? After all, if I like reading about famous people so much, there must be one or two that I wish I could be like, right? No, there isn’t.
Here’s the thing: it’s one thing to want to learn about people, like who they are and what they do. That’s how we build relationships and learn about loving one another. Where the problem lies is when we go beyond liking or loving, and worshipping *or *idolizing. What’s the difference? Well, the dictionary definition is to admire, revere, or love greatly or excessively.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past few weeks as various news stories report breakups, makeups, affairs, crimes, etc., of famous people, and the reactions that follow. You can turn on just about any news program or talk show, and get an earful of public opinion on things celebrities are doing.
Here’s an older example, but one I think most of us will remember: The OJ trial in 1994. For you “young’uns” out there, OJ Simpson was (arguably) one of the most legendary running backs in the history of the NFL before he was the smiling face in a bunch of different commercials. By all accounts he had a fairly squeaky clean image—that is until he was accused of the murder of his wife and a friend.
People lost their minds over this trial. Debates sparked everywhere, and people were actually in shock. One of OJ’s trial lawyers and his wife divorced because he represented OJ. When the verdict was ready to be handed down, LAPD actually prepared for possible riots. It seems like a bit much, but the fact is, it’s a bit much to place our hopes and dreams on other people. When you put people on pedestals the way we do OJ, or any other public figure, we will absolutely end up being disappointed.
If you need a less extreme example, look at how many people have walked away from their walk in faith altogether because of the indiscretions of a religious leader, such as a pastor or someone in high position of the church. There’s a reason that religious leaders have the place they do, and I don’t mean to discount that. However, our church leaders and administrators are people, too. They are not without sin—just like we aren’t. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true.
Most of us know that God isn’t real thrilled with the worship of other idols—be it a person, animal or statue. In fact, it’s the very first of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) I would think that makes it pretty important. This isn’t the only place in the Word that this appears. If I had more room, I would print them all, but that should tell you just how important God thought it was to impart that so many times.
As much as praise and a pat on the back feel good, you shouldn’t let people put you on a pedestal, either. It’s actually pretty unfair to you, because it places unnecessary pressure to be anything other than what God intended us to be. I admit: this is something I, too, struggle with. Besides, what happens if you make a mistake? Spoiler alert: you will. God will easily forgive you, but people might not. I didn’t realize how important this was until I was getting into the Word for this. I don’t normally quote the Message bible, but I love the way Matthew 23: 8-18 says this:
8* "Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. 9 Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. 10 And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them - Christ. 11 "Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. 12 If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. 13 "I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either. 15 "You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned. 16 "You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, 'If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that's nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that's serious.' 17 What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? 18 And what about this piece of trivia: 'If you shake hands on a promise, that's nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that's serious'? (MSG)
All of this aside, the challenge that I issue to myself and to you today is to search after God the way we search after famous people. Pin your hopes and dreams on Him. Read about Him, learn everything you can about Him, seek after Him such that others look to you to help seek Him out, too (notice I said help, not be). He is without sin and He is love. While you may not understand everything He does at the time, He will bless you more than any person, place or thing ever will. And I promise, you won’t be disappointed.