We were reading the story of Elijah last night (in 1 Kings 18) where he challenges the prophets of Baal to call down fire from heaven to consume their sacrifice. This story always amuses me, with the way Elijah goads them on and then seems to show off by not only preparing his sacrifice but then dousing it with barrels of water and having God consume it to prove his point. It's also fun to think of the prophets of Baal leaping upon their altar and trying to call out to this "god" that won't answer while Elijah is telling them to try harder because their god might be busy or sleeping. Sometimes it's easy to see the humor in the situation and pass over the modern day application of what Elijah was saying to the people.
When Elijah asks "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" we should very well be asking ourselves the same thing. Most of us think that we're safe from this sin because no one worships Baal anymore. We wouldn't be caught dead bowing down to some little statue in our house.
But when we put the things of the world, or even ourselves, before God.. we are worshipping idols. They become our Baal. Whether it's being more concerned with getting the latest and greatest gadgets or thinking that we know so much that we don't need to ask God for input (or we refuse to listen to His counsel), or having to wear certain clothes or drive a great car, or own a big house with only the nicest furnishings, or have hobbies that consume our thoughts and time... if any of these takes our hearts, minds and energy away from God they become our idols.
It's so easy to be distracted by these modern day idols. It's fun to have nice things and to enjoy technology and comfort and fun pasttimes. But too often we spend so much of our time and effort acquiring these things that we neglect our duties to God and our fellowmen. We put ourselves and what we want above those things that God would really have us focus on. When we put large amounts of our income into trying to look good, instead of trying to DO and BE good, it shows that our hearts are set upon the things of the world. When we are more worried with how other people perceive us than how God sees us, the world has become our idol. We might as well bow down and pray to the god of "stuff."
I think it's good to keep "things" in perspective. For example...
Will that new cell phone help you stay in touch with God? Will it keep you connected with His word?
Will that nice house and furnishings help you comfort those who mourn, or help someone who is lost to be found?
Will all your education and knowledge bring you salvation? Can your experience and learning overcome death?
Can that shiny car take you on the path to eternal life? Will it bring others to Christ?
Will your designer clothes better enable you to go serve the poor and the lonely? Will they see Christ ON you, or IN you?
Will your hobby help someone feel the spirit of God? Will it feed the hungry or clothe the naked?
Don't get me wrong.... I'm not saying that nice things are bad or that we shouldn't enjoy the newest toys and stuff. But I think they have their place and too often we put them in a higher position in our lives than we put God and His service.
If what we have really does help us serve God better, for example, if your cell phone is used to call the lonely and lift their spirits, if your nice car is used to give rides to church or to deliver food, if your nice home is opened to share fellowship with those who need it... then the "things" in your life are probably in their proper position. But we need to be careful and ever vigilant. We need to remind ourselves that "the Lord, he is the God" and all the other "stuff" of this earth is just that- of the earth. It won't go with us when we die and it can't bring us salvation, eternal life, or forgiveness. Only the Lord, the true and living God, can do that.
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)