“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, and there is no breath in their mouths. Those who make them and all who trust them shall become like them.” – Psalm 135:15-17
“Papa?” I hear my seven-year-old calling curiously from upstairs, where we’re supposed to be playing Legos. I had told him I’d be right back, and I meant it when I said it, but I glance at the clock on my phone and realize that that was like fifteen minutes ago. I’ve been hiding in the bathroom all this time, scrolling through Facebook. I’m hiding in the bathroom because, you see, I am a Good Parent and I know that Bad Parents stare at their screens all day, while their children watch them watching their screens, and so learn from their parents’ Bad Examples. Therefore, to set a Good Example, I hide in the bathroom to stare at my screen so my son won’t see me do it. Instead, he will simply wonder why I’ve ditched him. Because, as I said, I am a Good Parent.
The Bible’s full of warnings against worshiping idols, but Psalm 135 names the scariest of all the reasons: you become like what you worship. Worshipers of statues, the psalmist says, become silent, unhearing, unseeing. By just about any definition of “idol,” my phone is one, and by just about any definition of “worship,” I am one of its most devoted worshipers. If the psalmist is right, then I am in very real danger, alone here in the bathroom, of becoming like this sleek little god in my hand: loud with nothing to say, flashy with no beauty, outraged with no action, funny with no compassion, promising with no fulfillment. Id without superego. Form without substance. All heat and no light.
“Papa, what are you doing?” he yells from upstairs. And because even I can sometimes manage to hear the word of the living God in the voice of the prophet, I dash my idol against the stones* and head upstairs to try to be present, aware, loving, deep, and real, like the One whom I’d actually rather be worshiping.
*aka “put it in airplane mode”
God, save me from becoming click bait. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.