(Prayer note: In the past I asked you to pray for my brother, Chuck, who has myeloma, cancer of the blood. He was being tested for getting a bone marrow transplant and found out his myeloma count is still too high. He has to continue chemo. Please pray the Lord uses the chemo so that he can progress to getting the transplant. Thank you.)

Stephen describes the fourth aspect of idol formation, verse 41, “And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.”

We are just like those Israelites. We would rather have something impotent yet evident, instead of something powerful yet unknown. They could control, it seemed, a “god” which was a known entity. A calf they could see seemed safe. But Jehovah God is unpredictable. He wasn’t safe. He didn’t perform. And so they felt secure having a physical object where they could then offer a sacrifice and also “rejoice in the works of their hands.”

The calf was an object of their creation and their contribution. They had contributed their jewelry and other valuable metals to its creation. What they valued was in that calf.

How do we sacrifice to our own idols and rejoice in the works of our own hands? Don’t we contribute and create our own images and reputations as reflective idols of ourselves? For instance, what do you value being seen as? Do you value being seen as self-controlled? Loving? Easy going? Organized? Correct? Wise?

I value being seen as magnanimous and compassionate. I have “created” and “contributed” to this image of an idol by at times choosing to be that way with the hope that someone will notice. I offer a sacrifice to my idol when I’m feeling good that my efforts to be friendly stand out, especially to someone not well regarded.

I remember the day long ago that I was talking with a woman who was thought of as a kind of “irregular” person. We were in a group of Christians and I felt good about myself that I was reaching out to a needy person. I was sacrificing to the idol of my image when one of the men of the group came up to us. He took over the conversation and I don’t remember how, but in effect, dismissed me to leave.

Later in the evening, he came up to me and said something like, “I knew you’d want to get away from her.”

Only being in a group (after all, I had to keep up appearances), prevented me from yelling at him. But in a heated voice, I said something like, “I didn’t need your help. I was doing just fine.” I think I said some other angry things also.

He stared at me in amazement. He was completely caught off guard by my anger. In embarrassment he excused himself and turned away.

My reaction felt totally reasonable at the time but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you why I was so bothered by his actions. Only after I became exposed to understanding my motives did I know why his “rescue” made me so angry.

He had removed my opportunity to sacrifice to my idol and “rejoice in the works of my hands.” He was indicating through “rescuing” me that I wasn’t really being the magnanimous and compassionate person I wanted to be seen as. He was saying I didn’t really want to be talking to her, thus removing the value of my sacrifice. And I was mad because he had blocked my ability to be seen a certain way.

Knowing what I know now, and since I’ve been working on destroying this idol in my life, I believe I would have reacted differently in that situation today. And I’m grateful for that. But looking back I can see how insidious my idol was. I’m tempted to sacrifice to that idol even today.

Do you get upset when your opportunity to be seen a certain way is spoiled? Or maybe you withdraw from a relationship because your “preferred image” isn’t being acknowledged?

These are hard questions. But they go to the core of how even we Christians can have idols in our lives.