By education and training Paul was a Pharisee, steeped in Jewish religion and culture. The great Shema of Israel, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deut 6:4) was the central rallying cry of Jewish belief and practice. For all the long centuries since Abraham it was monotheism, as much as anything, that set them apart from other nations. To such a man as Paul, raised in that culture, the very sight of so many idols would be upsetting.
And what about me, raised in a modern American culture? Plurality, diversity, tolerance, respect for other cultures, these are considered the enlightened mindset here. Does it bother me that so many false gods are worshipped in our society? I’m not talking about literal idols only, although there are certainly some idols in the Hindu temple near our neighborhood. I’m talking about the false gods of money, sex, food, power, pride, leisure and fame. If these don’t bother me like the Athenian idols bothered Paul, maybe it is because they form too much a part of my own thinking and values. Maybe I am prone to pause daily at their shrines and give my heart for a moment to them.
Lord, so many of these false gods still hold an appeal to me. Help me to recognize when I have transferred my affections or my trust from you to these idols that are worshipped by so many. Teach me to walk in your ways and live only for you. My heart is yours and I will not give it to another.