Faith, Idolatry and Justice

Faith without works is dead. (James 2: 26).

Everyone has some kind of faith—it’s hanging  your heart on something. What do you trust, bank on? What you really believe in can be seen in how you live.

Throughout history, people always have believed in something. They still do. The prophet Isaiah ridiculed people who’d take a log and carve an image of a god at one end, and burn the other end to keep warm. The people were repeatedly giving in to the temptation to worship fertility gods, even to the point of sacrificing their own children, believing this would help their farms or flocks grow. They still sacrifice children, through abortion. Many others worship money, and sacrifice the well-being of marriages and offspring in order to get more of it.

The biblical prophets and writers made clear that having faith in God meant pursuing JUSTICE: defending the oppressed, and caring for the weak, the helpless, the orphans and widows. (Isaiah 1: 17; James 1: 27.)

At the time of Jesus, the Roman government wanted everyone to believe in the State, and the gods of the state, (sometimes the emperor) and if you didn’t, and showed it, they’d nail you to a cross.  In the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church thought of itself as supreme, and during the 200 year long Inquisition you could be burned at the stake if you openly doubted it. And remember, it was the religious leaders who engineered Jesus’ crucifixion, all the while showing off their faith, strutting about with long robes and self-righteous sneers at “sinners” like you and me.

In the Modern era, the god that many believed in was Reason, partly in reaction to the Church’s narrow and dogmatic anti-intellectualism. Yet what is reasonable about a theory that has no clue as to how life, with its tremendous evidences of design, began? How can you have design without a Designer?

But naturalistic, unguided evolution, like all “gods”, has had disastrous effects on society. The “survival of the fittest” has led to me first thinking, hyper competitiveness, and greed. God, who tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, has been dethroned, and this helped pave the way for Hitler and the death of some 50 million people. The worship of the almighty State in the Soviet Union and China had similar effects. When God is dethroned, the State becomes GOD, or a political ideology becomes a supreme being for millions of people, as in the U. S. today.

What people really hang their heart on always has consequences.

Here in the Philippines, what do people really worship? And what is the effect? Take the  taxi owners, who recently pushed through a fare hike: all the extra money is going to them, none to the drivers. I talked with one who works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, just to get by, and only makes 6-700 pesos a day, while the owner’s “boundary” is 1600! Bus companies also rake in millions of pesos, while giving their drivers a pittance, forcing them to work long hours, which is dangerous for everyone.

This is an injustice, the type of thing that the prophets railed against: exploiting the poor, ignoring the plight of the needy. (Isaiah 1, 58, Micah 6:8, James 2: 6, etc.)

But what does it have to do with faith?  Just this: Greed is idolatry, scripture  says.( Colossians 3:5) Money may be the real god of the taxi and bus owners. Like in Russia with the serfs, or in America after the civil war: in both countries millions existed in virtual slavery.

What do people here really worship? Money?  Pleasure? Cell phones? Tablets? Fitting in to some group? “The heart is an idol factory,” the reformer John Calvin wrote. We all worship something, or Someone. Meantime the true God stretches his nail-pierced arms out and says, Here I am, I love you, so come, worship and serve me, your heart’s deepest longing.

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