Idolatry and Grumbling Are More Closely Related Than You Might Think

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warns his Christian readers to not be idolaters (v. 7) and not to grumble (v. 10) in the same breath.  At first glance, these probably don’t seem like related sins.  But if we zoom in on the context, Paul is clear: you grumble because you are an idolater.

The story of the Israelites, Paul says, was written for us as an example (vv. 6, 11).  The Israelites did little right as they made their way through the wilderness.  Their perspective was limited.  Their hearts were not inclined toward God.  They constantly looked to creation instead of Creator — which is, in essence, idolatry.  Instead of looking to their future Messiah, they participated in pagan festivals (Ex. 32:6).  Instead of seeking pleasure in God, they sought pleasure in sexual relationships with Gentile women (Num. 25:1, 9).  Instead of looking to Christ as their sustenance, they complained about the manna and lack of water (Num. 21:5).  Instead of praising God for being delivered from slavery, they grumbled about wandering around in the desert (Num. 14:2).

Created things were never meant to satisfy our hearts and longings.  Created things, from the beginning, were meant to point us toward the Creator, who gives us life, breath, and everything (Acts 17:25).  If we worship idols (anything other than God), we will always grumble because they will always let us down.  Whether that idol is a sexual partner, food or drink, the American dream, or anything else you can think of, it will let you down.  And when you get let down, you will grumble.  I see it in my life — even in the smallest details.  When I put my hope in people, I get let down.  When I put my hope in organization or situations running smoothly, I get let down.  When I put my hope in my own merits and talents, I get let down.  When I put my hope in anything other than the person and work of Jesus, I am disappointed.  But praise be to God that Jesus will never let us be disappointed (Rom. 10:11).

Let’s look to Jesus.  If we do, our perspective will change.  We will be able to honestly rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in every circumstance (1 Thes. 5:16-18).  If we seek Christ, our hearts will find true satisfaction.  Creation was never meant to provide that.

Truly our hearts are restless until they rest in You.
– Augustine

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