The Real American Idol

While America is still the greatest and most blessed nation on earth an increasing number are beginning to wonder if our priorities are misguided. Our current administration, and in fact a large percentage of Americans, believe that a strong economy should be this nation’s top priority. Such thinking is not new. Preparing for the 1992 presidential election democratic strategist James Carville initiated the slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid!” That strategy propelled Bill Clinton into office and ousted George Bush senior from office after one term. Immediately after the horrendous attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, then president George W. Bush stated that the strength and resiliency of the American people would be measured by how quickly the stock market would be up and running. America has made economic prowess her idol.

The Bible has much to say about idols, other gods, and money. Firstly, the first two commandments specifically address the issues of other gods and idols. The Hebrew word for idol translates as deficient, worthless, vain, and/or empty. There is God and then there are gods. They must be differentiated.

“For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.”
Psalm 96:4-5

“But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’”
Jeremiah 10:10-11

Thus gods and idols are inseparable and are defined as vanity or emptiness. Likewise God and wisdom are inseparable.

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence…Counsel is mine…By me kings reign and rulers decree justice…I traverse the way of righteousness…The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way…I have been established from everlasting…For blessed are those who keep my ways…For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the LORD…”
Proverbs 8:12-36

One may, therefore, choose gods and idols or God and wisdom, but not both. They are not compatible.

Now let’s inject the subject of the economy, or money.

Solomon addressed the issue in his writings.

“For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, but the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.”
Ecclesiastes 7:12

The Hebrew word for defense translates to protection. Solomon says that a person can choose to rely on money or wisdom and then he proclaims the superiority of wisdom. He then gives a more detailed example of relying on money.

“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child…Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks. A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry; but money answers everything.”
Ecclesiastes 10:16-19

In this satirical example Solomon states than an immature ruler believes that more money, i.e. revenue or taxes can cover the consequences of an inept administration.

The issues of idols and money are also addressed in the New Testament.

“…keep yourselves from idols.”
I John 5:21

The Greek for idols translates into a false god or an imaginary deity whether or not intended as a representative of the true God. So not unlike the Old Testament, idols and false gods are to be avoided. They are not compatible with God and wisdom. Jesus voiced that concept of incompatibility.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Matthew 6:24

The Apostle Paul when writing to Timothy also warned about idolizing money:

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
I Timothy 6:10

There are some very basic Biblical tests to see if we as a nation are pursuing fiscal policies that will be blessed by God.

“…if you carefully obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe with care all these commandments…the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations but you shall not borrow…”
Deuteronomy 15:5-6

“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God…The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.”
Deuteronomy 28:1, 12

America, like Israel, may choose obedience or disobedience.

“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments…The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head and you shall be the tail.”
Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44

At the present time the United States is indebted in the amount of $1.5 trillion to just China and Japan. It appears as if we are pursuing gods and idols instead of God and wisdom.

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