“We become what we worship” is the basic insight of G K Beale’s book of the same name. Unfortunately it’s an “academic” book and, like most academic books, suffers from being twice as long and complicated as it ought to be (where have all the brave editors gone?). Part of the book’s complexity results from the author trying to prove his point from the wrong passage (Isaiah 6), when there are a number of others he does refer to that could have formed a much more obvious foundation for his thesis.
But that apart, the main point of the book is deeply insightful, and neatly summed up by Beale in this memorable statement: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.” He argues that we were made to bear the image of another, and that we become the image of what we worship – either our Creator or something in the creation.
Psalm 115 is perhaps the clearest example of this. The focus of the psalm is on the deliberate construction of silver, gold, and other materials into a god to be worshiped (v. 4). The psalmist looks at the statues and sees what looks like a mouth, eyes, ears, nose, hands feet, and chests. But they have no functionality; none of these things are working (vv. 5-7). They don’t speak, see, hear, smell, handle, walk, or even breathe. They can’t speak truth to us, hear our prayers, see our situation, savor our worship, receive our gifts, come to our aid, or impart life.
The impact of this idol on those who worship them? “Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them” (v. 8).
It’s not that these idolators lose their physical senses of speech, sight, etc. Rather, it’s a description of the idolators’ souls and spirits – lifeless and senseless like the idols they worship. They are spiritually dumb, blind, deaf, powerless, and breathless. They’ve become what they worshipped.
“But I don’t worship pieces of metal, wood, or stone.”
No, maybe we’re not “traditional” idolators,” but we may have any number of “non-traditional” idols and the impact of them is exactly the same. We become what we worship:
- If we worship supermodels, we’ll become vain and self-centered.
- If we worship football players, we’ll become aggressive, bombastic, and women-demeaning.
- If we worship actors and singers, we’ll become foul-mouthed, immoral, and sad.
- If we worship corporate America, or the dollar, we’ll become greedy, oppressive, and materialistic
- If we worship academia, the pursuit of degrees, letters, titles, etc., we’ll become proud, arrogant, condescending, and conceited.
BUT, and here’s the huge encouragement from Beale’s book, if we worship Jesus, we’ll become like Him. Worship is the main “tool” God uses to change us into the image of His Son.