Golden Calf on Steroids: Inordinate Greed as Idolatry

Leonard Lovett, PhD.

I refused to purchase a 16 oz.  bottle of low grade water for $5.00 at our Convocation as a form of protest against what I perceived to be a form of institutional evil rooted in materialism which is blatant idolatry. I was so thirsty and had offered to purchase three bottles for a Seattle Pastor, his wife and mother-in-law. I tried to challenge the vendor with the fact that Walmart sells better water than yours at $5.00 for 24 16 oz. bottles. He urged me “to go to Walmart because he did not set the prices.” Trust me I couldn’t wait to get to Walmart. Whoever allowed this vendor to do this to the Saints is complicit in this behavior. If making money at the expense of the Saints is your goal “may the eagle on the bills become vultures.” This is only one example of INORDINATE GREED which means excessive undue, unreasonable, unjustifiable, unwarrantable, disproportionate, needless, exorbitant, extreme. I am compelled to raise the difficult moral question. Why are we still in Saint Louis?  Why are we by our presence underwriting a city that took the life of Michael Brown in Ferguson for naught? [see my blog post titledLynching Without Ropes] at (look for public square/marketplace of ideas) Why are we worshipping in the same venue that the now NFL LA Rams left making a statement.?… Did they exercise better judgment than the Church? Just raising moral questions!

Could it not be that the ghost of Michael Brown has formed a league with other unarmed victims of bad shootings and are lurking and roaming the halls of our Convocation asking one question…Why?  (In 1 Samuel 28:5 following Saul was so disturbed he went to a woman with a familiar spirit in Endor to seek help by summoning Samuel from the dead who only gave him more bad news that did not help his depression- and boldly stated “we can come to you but you cannot come to us.”) Why are we by our presence in Saint Louis underwriting institutionalized evil and structural injustice of a tainted criminal Justice system that has allowed law enforcement officers to walk free for using three words in their criminalized killings and defense…” I felt threatened?”

Why are we not in the midst of spiritual and moral warfare opposing a bad unjust system by teaching potential victims of such behavior that the way to slow such perpetrators down is to sue filthy rich powerful police unions…who underwrite and sustain the defense of such perpetrators? When a cop in litigation come to realize that he may be jeopardizing his life pension for a bad shooting he is going to think twice. Is our presence in this broken city about filthy lucre? Bad contracts are broken daily.

While Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Commandments, Aaron was at the base of the Mountain making a golden calf by melting earrings and had a wild party celebrating with sexual immorality all at the behest of impatient people. The golden calf was a fertility god. While modern steroids were not used a faked synthetic god was manufactured. (Anabolic steroids are used illegally today to build muscles and are synthetic variations of the male sex testosterone hormone.)

The worship of anything created as opposed to the worship of the Creator Himself is idolatry. Idolatry posed the greatest challenge and temptation through most of the history of Israel up to the Babylonian Captivity. Abraham’s father served idols (Joshua 24:2).  Idols were made of carved and molded images and made of metal and wood.

God threatened to destroy these spiritual renegades, but at the pleading of Moses spared them.  Their Egyptian captors had worshipped the god Hapi who was represented by the figure of a bull.  King Jeroboam later set up golden calves at Bethel and Dan (I Kings 12:26-33) Later mixing idolatry with worship of the true God represented compromise- (Judges 8:24) Gideon’s ephod was an object of worship. The experience in Exile for Israel became the turning point away from idols.  In the NT Paul admonishes believers to put to death covetousness which is idolatry – Colossians 3:5. Idols can be anything, reputation fame pride and materialism and deeds done in the name of the Lord.

I would rather trust God for my remaining years than to die rejected of God over mammon and filthy lucre. Please allow me to be clear. Having financial resources is not a sin. It becomes satanic when we are lured and trapped by the false security promised at the expense of those who are most vulnerable. Satan leads us to believe that if we can amass enough money and power by whatever means necessary including exploiting God’s people that we will achieve happiness.

If leadership cannot be upfront about the details of what they are doing with financial resources then they should not be doing anything at all. Making contractual deals with business entities may appear cool because you are in control of the narrative, but God forbid when the right persons unrelentingly begin to pursue the paper trail. A great friend recently told me that someone stated, that “evil always purchases a round trip ticket.” That sounded familiar like a secular version of Galatian 6:7 “Be not deceived you cannot make a fool of God.”-JB Phillips translation.

This is the calm of the stir of God’s mercy before the storm of His wrath and judgement on His Church. Paul admonishes us in 1 Timothy 6:9 -1 [LAB]” But people who long to be rich soon begin to do all kinds of wrong things to get money, things that make them evil minded and finally send them to hell itself. For the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 

 C.S. Lewis once stated, “If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us. I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” (C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity –p. 81ff.) I like the observation of Richard Exley that “those who are serious about serving God rather than money know that the real test of allegiance is not how much a person gives, but how much a person keeps.” Beware when leaders start off big charitable concerns (cheer leader offering) with large amounts to bait you into giving and never submit their check…all for personal gain.

Conclusion: “Idolatry does not have to do with plastic pieces on dashboards but with ideological commitments which assign our deep loyalties to matters of vested interest…It is now asserted by many critics of religion that the problem of our time is not atheism but idolatry.” –Walter Brueggemann

Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile

Follow me at the Agora-  (marketplace of ideas) “where truth is spoken and never compromised”—Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

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