Idolatry Economics

0301. Idolatry Economics

Idolatry is a term traditionally associated with the Bible. After all, the First Commandment in Exodus 20:3 (CSB) states, “Do not have other gods beside me.” However, in a God-omitted culture, idolatry takes on a totally different dimension, for without God, nearly everything is an idol. While there have been efforts to revive the presence of God in our culture, it is being met with fierce resistance. And it really has nothing to do with idolatry itself, but the economic support behind it.

Before we analyze our own culture today, we need to examine the beginnings of Christianity in ancient times, known originally as the Way. Christianity was in its infancy as a religion during the height of the Roman empire. During that time, there were many pagan gods and other forms of worship, such as magic. And the industry in these other religions was big business. Many individuals used this worship to generate prosperity and wealth by selling merchandise associated with these forms of worship. If Christianity was just another cult that they could exploit, it probably would have been lumped in with the rest of the industry without a second thought. However, the problem with Christianity was that it was not based on an economy where the goal was profit. Instead, it challenged citizens to think about their hearts, souls, and minds, and the way they wanted to live. Those individuals who saw merit in this new theology no longer had a need to buy material possessions to satisfy the altars of other gods. And this would prove to be a threat to a deeply established institution.

In Acts 19, Paul had been healing the sick and performing exorcisms in Ephesus. The people were so amazed that false prophets, who also claimed to perform the same feats, admitted their false teachings in verses 18-20 (CSB): “And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. In this way the word of the Lord spread and prevailed.” A piece of silver was usually one ounce, so in today’s terms, the value would be close to $1,000,000! But not everybody was ready to roll over to this new religion. In verses 23-41, a silversmith named Demetrius understood how big an economic threat Christianity was to his silver idol making practice. Therefore, he stirred up a protest in Ephesus so great that Paul and his followers were nearly run out of town.

So let us return now to our own secular culture and compare it from the standpoint of economic terms. Hollywood? A billion dollar industry. Sex? A billion dollar industry. Drugs? A billion dollar industry. How about professional, amateur and collegiate sports? A billion dollar industry. Technology? A billion dollar industry. The retail sector? Try a trillion dollar industry. And last but not least, politics and government? Between campaign spending and tax revenue, the largest industry in human history at over $6 trillion, and yet they still run a deficit. One could argue that our economy is a form of idolatry. And any notion to revive the presence of God would be a direct threat to that economy. So is it any wonder that God is a big component of cancel culture?

The problem today is that the headlines seem to be filled with economic turmoil. And after a generation of excess wealth and spending, we could be in for the biggest credit bubble collapse in history. Could it be that a culture based on idolatry end up bankrupting us both economically and spiritually? Ponder that this week.

Scroll to Top