An odd story in Genesis revolves around Jacob leaving his relative Laban. Jacob has a large family now, at least 12 sons and assorted daughters, with two wives and two concubines. (Just because it’s in there doesn’t mean God approves.) Anyway, as they’re leaving, one of Jacob’s wives, Rachel, decides to grab her father’s idols for the road. I am still not entirely sure why, but she does, and hides them under the saddle on which she sat. Laban discovers the missing idols and becomes furious, shouting at Jacob. Jacob, frustrated, allows Laban to search all of his belongings. When Laban arrives at his daughter sitting on her animal, she uses her period as an excuse to avoid the search. Laban buys this excuse and forgives Jacob, reluctantly.
Now, aside from watching yet another woman get the upper hand on a man in Scripture, this story is one of many where God’s people are oddly enticed by the physical nature of idols. Even the name Israel can be taken to mean “God wrestles with” his people in order to bring them around to the proper relationship with Him. And, yet, despite all of the wrestling, we struggle with idols even today.
Moving over to Exodus, we notice a strange word that we see in the Exodus story that is often translated serve or service. It can also mean slavery, and in some cases worship. God commands Moses to go and retrieve His people so that they might return to the mountain and “serve” Him… or in another sense, so that they might “worship” Him. To serve something, to spend time on it, or, rather, to make time for something is to assign it priority. It’s ok to have priorities, such as: taking care of family, taking care of our bodies and minds, or spending time caring for the poor and those in need. These are good priorities. Even things like building, making, creating can be good priorities. The issue comes in the form of the command, “You shall not have any other gods before me.” When other concerns begin to take precedence over God, we need to begin asking ourselves whether or not we have begun collecting idols.
As someone who has spent time in the past collecting my own little cupboard of idols, I can say the process takes remarkably little effort and can often surprise me. I will realize, to my own dismay, that my mental and time cabinet looks suspiciously full, and when I open it up, I cannot seem to find God’s share of that space. Those are not particularly proud moments and require some repentance and clean-up on my own part.
Bringing this back to family, we are commanded by God to use every available moment to model following Him. (Deut 6:4-9) What kind of model do we show the children in our lives with the way we spend our time? Do other things crowd out prayer, Bible reading, sharing God’s blessings? Are their a glut of activities and a lack of rest or worship?
As parents and role models, we have an obligation to model a worshipful life. And, really, we will model worship whether we mean to or not, the biggest question is which God or gods are being worshiped. So as you go about your week, planning your schedules, is their intentional time spent with God? Does your schedule preach the gospel that Jesus is King? Can your kids understand who God is by the way your time is spent?