“They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” —Exodus 32:8
It’s easy for us to identify the idolatry of the Israelites when they begin worshipping the statue of a calf they created by melting down precious metals. Still, it’s a lot harder to identify idolatry in our own lives. Lenten fasts are an excellent tool for self-examination in this realm. Fasting asks us to evaluate what our values and priorities are. When we fast from over-eating, buying non-essentials, or technology use, or we fast from judging others or workaholism, it reveals what we have allowed to become our idols: food, material consumption, productivity, etc. Even more telling may be those things we can’t imagine fasting from.
Just because we don’t have a statue in front of us doesn’t mean we’re free from idolatry. (Although watching how many hours my neighbors spend babying their sports car suggests that golden calves are still around in different forms today.) As you think about what you are fasting from, consider if it has unconsciously become an idol for you. Does the time, attention, and energy you give to it detract from living with humility, mercy, and justice? This doesn’t mean that if you enjoy a glass of wine to help unwind at the end of a stressful day that alcohol has necessarily become your idol/savior. The question is, where does your mind turn when you need comfort or escape? Does it turn to God and the life-giving things God offers us (healthy relationships, beauty, simplicity, nature), or does it turn to something that makes you less able to be present to yourself and others?
For Action: Look around at your possessions, what you wear, and what you use regularly. Do any of them implicitly deny your Christian faith and its values? Choose one thing to fast from using or wearing for the rest of Lent—and then give it away.
To Pray: God, open my eyes to how I worship things other than you. Draw my mind and heart back to you as the source of all that is good.