Have you ever watched the 1939 blockbuster movie, Gone with the Wind? There is a scene in that movie which illustrates the pain idolatry brings to God’s heart. And when I speak of idolatry, I’m talking about anything upon which we shower the love, trust, and praise which rightfully belongs to God.
Gone with the Wind focuses on the tempestuous relationship between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. Rhett has pursued Scarlett throughout the first half of the movie, but she always rebuffs his advances.
Why? In Scarlett’s mind Rhett—though handsome and rich—is a crude and crass sort of fellow. He’s a gambler, hard drinker, and has killed men in duels.
Yet Rhett is hopelessly infatuated with Scarlett—and sees something of himself in her. In Scarlett is an unladylike wildness and passion that appeals to him. Of course, Scarlett always tries to maintain the image of a true lady. She would “just die” is she knew how accurate Rhett’s assessment of her really was.
Scarlett’s affections, however, are wasted on a man who she can never have—Ashley Wilkes. Ashley is the polar opposite of Rhett. He’s a true gentleman. But he is completely incompatible with Scarlett. He seeks tenderness and gentleness in a woman, something Scarlett is short in supply of. In reality, Scarlett is in love with a false image of Ashley. She doesn’t understand him or herself. Tragically, she doesn’t come to grips with this until it’s too late.
Necessity or Love
Well, Scarlett finally consents to marry Rhett Butler. But it’s more out of necessity than love. She needs Rhett’s wealth to help save her father’s estate. They marry and seem to have a happy relationship. But then a baby comes along. And when Scarlett sees that her girlish figure has turned matronly, she realizes she’s too deep into her relationship with Rhett, to ever have hope of being with Ashley. Secretly, Scarlett has kept a photograph of Ashley. She takes it from her drawer and peers into the face she’s loved since a girl and fantasizes about what life would be like with Ashley— if only things had gone differently.
Just then Rhett enters her bedroom. He comes up behind her and embraces her. In response to his affection, Scarlett blurts out, “Rhett, I don’t want to have any more children.” At first Rhett thinks she’s actually talking about kids. Then she clarifies the matter. She doesn’t want to be intimate with him anymore. She doesn’t want his love, his kisses, or even his touch. Then Rhett sees why. Ashley’s picture is still on her dresser—staring Rhett in the face. Poor, childish Scarlett is in love with an image of a man she can never have. She’d rather keep her fantasy of life with Ashley, than to enjoy the love and blessings of a living-breathing husband who really cares about her. She showers love on something that doesn’t really exist and neglects something wonderful that does. This is idolatry.
Throughout the Bible the prophets confronted Israel for lavishing upon idols all that they withheld from God. In fact, Israel exhibited a zeal for these false gods which they never displayed for the true and living God who had delivered them from Egypt. They baked cakes for Ishtar the Canaanite “queen of heaven.” They engaged in orgies before images of Ba’al, the god who supposedly ushered in the fruitful seasons. They even sacrificed their own children to Molech, the pagan god of Ammon.
Perhaps Israel thought they were simply being pragmatic. “Let’s not offend the gods around us, but seek their favor. Oh, we’ll pay homage to the LORD as well. We’ll play it safe and please all the gods.”
But there are no other gods and the One who does exist is jealous for our love and devotion. In case we haven’t realized it yet, marriage is an exclusive relationship. It only works when both partners are devoted completely to each other. Therefore neither husband nor wife carries with them pictures of old girlfriends or boyfriends. They don’t fantasize about life with someone else, someone better, or someone prettier or more handsome.
Only Serve One Master
And our relationship with Jesus is every bit as exclusive. He told us that no one can serve two masters. The believer should never ignore Christ while he or she focuses their attention on every other pursuit in life. And what are all those pursuits, anyway? Aren’t they all things destined to
perish, things that are fading, and things that will never bring joy or satisfaction? They are false gods.
Christ alone is deserving of such devotion and love. No day should ever go by that we keep Jesus waiting in line, behind every other activity before we finally get around giving Him a moment of our time.
Must we be strong-armed into loving the One who left His throne in glory to endure a life of suffering for us? Then to be painfully executed in our place for the crimes we’ve committed? Then to endure God’s eternal judgments and wrath on our behalf—so that God could henceforth lavish His love upon us? And now ever lives to plead for us before the Father in heaven? Hasn’t He done enough to merit our love and devotion?
Throw away all other gods. They’ve done nothing for you, nor will they ever. Spew them from your heart. Place Jesus Christ front and center of your life. Make Him Lord of all.
Dear Lord Jesus, I am Yours and Yours alone. Please accept me, please forgive me, please save me. You alone have loved me from all eternity and always will love me. I give myself to You. Please open my eyes to Your deep love for me—and may I never betray that love. Amen.