Food for (Anti-) Idol Thought

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE communications coordinator.

Dear friends,

I have never really thought of myself as an idol worshipper. But I am one.

Just to be clear, I don’t have any graven images* that I am aware of, and I haven’t asked any friends or family members to make one for me. You won’t find me bowing before a gold-plated ox, ram, or calf.

But I am an idol worshipper. And not just one idol, either.

Those who have met me know that I am not what you would call “tiny.” I could tell you that I have always struggled with my weight, and that would be true. But what I really struggle with is the idolatry of personal comfort. Food makes me feel good and I like to feel good. More accurately, I go to food to feel good and to cover over feeling bad. The list of things I feel bad about is a long and, frankly, tedious one. We don’t have enough time or space for me to go into all of the things I turn away from by turning to food.

Please don’t misunderstand me — food is a good thing. In fact, it’s very good (but we don’t have enough time or space for me to go into detail about how good it is, either). I suspect most of those reading this article experience it in the way it was intended, as nourishment and as a pleasurable experience in our daily lives. Nothing wrong with that, and no reason for guilt or shame (I am not a fan of shame, by the way).

But just as when Eve took the apple and saw “that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” I look at food and see it as a solution to – or at least a temporary balm for – many of my problems, both real and imagined.

Now you, being kind and full of compassion, might say, “Jim, you are being too hard on yourself. Yes, you would benefit from losing a few (hundred) pounds, but it’s not like you are praying to food or asking it to rescue you from your enemies, right?”

Well, no, I haven’t constructed any altars to fast foods, or written a liturgy of praise for pizzas, but I know (all too well) that I go to food for a kind of comfort that I should be finding in my daily walk with God. It is, I confess, a choice I make even when I am completely aware I am doing it.

More to the point, I choose it – repeatedly, again and again, over and over – rather than developing a spiritual practice or habit of going to God in those times.

We have just completed our time as a congregation in Romans 12, and I’ve been reminded how one of my favorite passages in all of scripture is Romans 12:1-2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.

It is my deep desire to offer my body in this way and receive the gift of knowing God’s will — and I am confident I would be the one getting the better end of the deal.

One of the benefits of my job as communications coordinator here at FPCE is that I get to hear the sermons before anyone else. This week, Senior Pastor Raymond Hylton is bringing a teaching from Exodus 32:1-14 which he has entitled “Designing your personal god.”

It is powerful, challenging, and something I desperately needed to hear. Hearing it has convicted me, and for that I am grateful, though not without some measure of concern that I am not up to the task of repentance.

I mentioned earlier that I am not a fan of shame. Shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Shame drives us inward, causing us to dwell upon ourselves and our actions. It is, by definition, self-centered, and so, in my opinion, unprofitable.

Conviction, by contrast, is “the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth.” Sign me up! I want to live in the Truth (as I suspect you do, or you probably wouldn’t have kept reading this far).

My conviction is that I am, indeed, an idol worshipper. I have many areas to work on, but my focus now is to turn away (repent) from my worship of food as a source of comfort and escape, and turn toward God instead.

The Scriptures are a testimony to:  a) God’s unchanging character, and b) God’s faithfulness to restore those who repent. I’m counting on it.

If you are an idol worshipper, like me, I encourage you to tune in on Sunday at 10 a.m. to our worship service and, as part of it, Pastor Ray’s sermon. It is the first in a short series from the Old Testament we’re calling “Lessons from the Wilderness.” As a longtime fellow wanderer, I am looking forward to all God has in store for us.

Don’t forget our Diaper Drive which takes place on Saturday in the church parking lot. Details are in today’s eNewsletter and on the FPCE home page.

Stay safe!

Jim Teague
FPCE communications coordinator
jteague@firstpresevanston.org

*A carved or imprinted idol or representation of a god used as an object of worship.