“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
1 Corinthians 10:14
When I was young, I like playing a computer game called “Bandit Kings of Ancient China.” As a king of bandits you have to conquer territories to expand your rule. You will go into war with another king with your bandits leading hundreds of militia. In any battle, you either win or lose. You lose when the enemy annihilates all your armies. Or if you don’t want your armies to be destroyed or your bandit to be captured, you have an option to flee. So, in the game, to flee is to admit that you lose. But that’s not just in that game. In life, we all associate fleeing with losing. Winners will face the battle and stand strong. On the other hands, cowards and losers flee.
However, oddly enough, God does command us to flee from certain things. One of them is sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). The other one is idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14). Does God want us to lose against them? On the contrary. The only way you will have victory against idolatry is to flee from it.
“The only way you will have victory against idolatry is to flee from it.”
The command to ‘flee from idolatry’ is given as part of Apostle Paul’s answer to the Corinthians’ question of whether or not they can eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. In summary, Paul is saying that the meat itself is ok. But don’t eat if it will stumble your brothers and don’t eat if it will hinder the gospel. So, when a host offers you some food at his/her place, you can eat it freely. However, don’t participate in the feast of their idols. Don’t even come near to it. In fact, run away… run far away from it.
It is quite counter intuitive, I know. How can you win if you flee? But if you think about it, it makes sense. For the Corinthians, the idols were real idols, as in statues of gods or goddesses. If you don’t flee from it, what are you going to do with it? Stare at it? Mock it? Make faces in front of it? Throw tomatoes at it? Funnily enough, the more you do them, the more your mind is occupied by it, hence the more you are ‘obsessed’ by it. Whether you realise or not, your life is now under its influence one way or another. Or at the very least, you allow that thing to have some influence on how you spend your life. So, the best way for you to make sure that it does not have any bearing upon your life whatsoever is to actually give it a flick, or in Paul’s term, to flee from it.
Now, of course, in today’s world, especially in western world, the idols are not necessarily the statues of gods or goddesses. The modern idols may include our money, our job, our looks, and even our family. Those are basically good things. But when we elevate them to the place of God, when we organise our lives primarily around them, they have become your idol.
Take for example, money. When it becomes your sole reason for existence, when you organise your life fully around it, when you make it your life goal to accumulate it, when you sacrifice other things for the sake of it, then it has become your idol.
Now, if we want to flee from the idolatry of money, do we flee from money? Of course not. Money in itself is not bad. It is a necessary thing. So, we must distinguish the money from the idolatry of it. Fleeing from idolatry of money means you run away from the desire to elevate money to be your number one thing. You run away from the urge of pursuing money above all things.
However, fleeing from money idolatry is not a complete solution. Why? Well, if you flee from it, if you decides not to give it the sole power to influence your life, like it or not, you have to organise your life around something else. You cannot live your life in a vacuum or status quo. Something has to be the primary driver in your life otherwise life is meaningless and purposeless. This is when the Bible gives us the best answer. Fleeing from idolatry is only half the story. In other parts of the Bible, God also commands us to draw near to God.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
“Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!”
When we draw near to God, we organise our lives around God. Which means, we organise all other good things, including money, talent, time, and career – things when left unchecked can become idols – around God. Not only that would prevent from those things becoming idols, it actually give those things meanings and purpose in our lives. That’s when those things actually become live-giving blessings instead of life-sucking idols. So, in order to win, you have to flee. Yup, that makes sense.
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