Our society applauds the rich religious diversity found throughout the world. I know this because the satellite dish on the roof of my house keeps receiving signals from National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and a host of other programs daring me to explore the world around me. I love a good dare, so I watch the TV. I watch bizarre religious festivals that pay homage to strange deities. I see people put themselves in self-induced trances and perform all kinds of painful rituals on themselves to prove their devotion to an idol that can neither see nor hear. Everyone in the surrounding villages comes out to see the “devoted ones.” In my neighborhood, we call those kinds of people “show-offs.”
How many of us look disdainfully at the crass idolatry and polytheism of Hinduism or other Eastern religions? Without question, Christians ought to hate that which God hates (Ex. 20:4; Isa. 42:8). Yet our problem is not our disdain for idolatry in the world; it is our lack of disdain for the idolatry in us.
John Calvin has correctly observed that the hearts of fallen sinners are by nature idol factories. But the factories do not close with our rebirth. In fact, that which we produce becomes more refined. Gone are the crass statues or idols of materialism, power, and position. Now the new and improved idols appear more biblically sculpted. One of the more popular models has a semblance of sovereignty, but it will not exercise it over people.
There are many idols to choose from, each with its own unique combination of biblical traits, yet each one bears the stamp of the factory that made it. Each of them rob God of His glory.
But there are other ways to rob God of His glory. Psalm 115 implores us to give glory where it belongs. It is God who protects and provides for His people. He is our strength and shield (vv. 9–11). We therefore ought not to think of ourselves as self-sufficient. He gives blessing to all who fear Him regardless of class (v. 13). Our careers, positions, or good reputations are the results, not the cause, of God’s blessing on our lives.
God created us to bring Him glory and honor. If we would dare explore the Scriptures in humility, remembering Calvin’s insight, then we can echo the words of the Psalmist, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Ps. 115:1).