When the prophets in the Old Testament of the Christian scriptures spoke to the people of Israel, what they spoke always pointed towards God. The prophet Jeremiah spoke against those who were false in their proclamations. False prophets have a tendency to sooth those who listen, but the consequence of this is idolatry. Simply stated, idolatry is anything that takes the focus from God.
Scripture provides warnings that are uncomfortable, but are so, that readers might be jostled into awareness that might not have been if never given the warning. God’s prophets are often unpopular because they tell us that how we act and how we treat one another is against the very nature of God and we are to stop those things. It’s a hard pill to swallow. We want to feel good, we want to believe what we think is what God thinks, or we want to take the easy way — to affirm ourselves rather than living lives of scriptural integrity.
From the very beginning, YHWH’s covenant with Israel was a different way to live compared to their neighbors. God requires us to love and to care for one another. We are to support and assist every human, not only those who look like you or think like you or worship like you. God doesn’t leave the weak, the violated, or the wounded behind. We will though, if it gets us something bigger and better than our neighbors…and then we call it a blessing from God.
Our relationship to God is not authenticated through the “blessing of” having things, or about minimalism and not having things as proof of devotion and holiness. The mere focus on things — whether lacking or having — is idolatry. The shadow side of a spirituality that displays itself as things or pleasant feeling emotions portrays a fickle and arbitrary God. When people experience unpleasant emotions, contend with physical and mental illness, experience adverse events (unemployment, rape, or unexpected death of a loved one) God is testing, punishing, or proving how unfaithful they are. Good feelings do not equal feeling God. Material possessions, employment, relationships themselves are simply life. This is the foundation that we live and move and are afforded the opportunity to live out the word of God.
We are challenged to take our relationship to God seriously. God is not our private possession — the magic box that gives us pretty things and an easy life. Rather, it is us that attends to the Creator of the Universe. It is this relationship that we have with the Divine that is in play today. We are challenged to move away from the shallow expression of spirituality that is magical thinking and good feelings and move into a relationship with the Power Source that created life. This relationship isn’t fickle or based on good feelings; rather it co-creates the kingdom of Heaven on Earth the same way it is established already in Heaven. It is this kingdom that we are challenged to live in today. Where the power of God influences our actions and our decisions with how we use our resources.