Day Twenty-Four: Idols

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

After the devil took Jesus up the mountain and showed Him the magnificence of the earthly kingdoms, he said to Him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). This temptation appears to be one of desperation on the devil’s part.

Just as Jesus would never worship satan, so we can hopefully say the same of every one of Christ’s followers. However, the “reward” the evil one offered is, by worldly standards, an incredible offer. “All these I shall give to you…” Imagine gaining the whole world for yourself. Imagine being the wealthiest person in the world, able to travel anywhere on your own private jet, owning numerous luxury homes, having the ear of presidents and rulers, and able to indulge in the absolute best that this world can offer. If given the opportunity, most people would not hesitate to receive such a gift. But at what cost? 

Just after Jesus reveals to His apostles for the first time that He would suffer and die, He poses this question to them: “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matthew 16:26). Prior to posing that question, Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

The contrast between Jesus’ teaching and satan’s offer is stunning. Worship satan and you will receive all that this world has to offer. Worship Jesus and you will be given a cross, must deny yourself, and lose yourself for Jesus’ sake. Which do you choose?

Though it is unlikely that any serious Christian would ever consider worshiping satan, we do often find ourselves tempted to elevate idols in our lives over and above Jesus’ invitation to embrace the Cross, to suffer, and die. Many times, the evil one’s temptations to us are subtle forms of this full-blown temptation he presented to Jesus. Satan will place various idols before us with the false reward of worldly happiness. Money is the clearest example. The evil one says, “Money will make you happy,” and many people believe that. In contrast, the devil often says, “Making sacrifices in life will make you miserable,” and many believe that also.

The worship of false idols represents a genuine temptation, as these idols can offer immediate rewards. False idols prevalent in today’s world include money, possessions, power, status, physical pleasure, pride, self-focus, adherence to false teachings, as well as an obsession with work, hobbies, social media, or idolizing another person. Each of these might be subtle, in the way that the evil one initially makes them appear appealing, only to gradually lure us away from Christ and the Cross, which call us to sacrificial love.

Ponder those things in your life that stand between you and Jesus’ invitation to take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Him. What are you drawn to that leads you to turn away from sacrificial living and love? What do you idolize more than the Cross? Reject those subtle deceptions and their false promises of happiness, and choose the Cross with our Lord so that you gain the true glory of the riches of Heaven.

My tempted Lord, You rejected satan’s foolish invitation to worship him and to receive all earthly wealth and power in exchange. Too often in life, I choose the easiest, most consoling, and most indulgent path over embracing Your Cross out of love. Help me to see the wisdom in choosing to deny myself and follow after You so that I will share fully in the rewards that You alone promise me, while I reject the passing idols of this world. Jesus, I trust in You.

See also: Day Twenty-Four: 40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

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