Economists look back over the last year or so reporting that, in addition to Covid, it has been a unique financial year in other ways. For example, have you heard of Doge Coin? It is a cryptocurrency, a digital form of money, which I don’t have the time or knowledge to try to explain. There are many cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin is probably the most famous, but Doge Coin this past year skyrocketed in valued, gaining something like 24000%, then losing half that. Still, it made some people millionaires.
Then there were NFTs, which stands for Non Fungible Token. Also based on digital platforms, whoever owns the NFT of a picture or video or other digital media is the owner. Like cryptocurrency, NFTs can be difficult to understand. Yet people are selling NFTs for thousands and thousands of dollars.
Then there was GameStop. The video game store was doing very poorly, until supporters started buying its stock like crazy, and GameStop’s valuation went through the roof.
Then there was the New Jersey sandwich shop, Your Home Town Deli. The previous two years it did $36000 in sales, but on the stock market it was valued at over $100 million. How could this be? It led to a deep dive in complex investing, shell companies, and foreign investors seeking to cash in on manipulating the system.
All of these stories illustrate people hungering for wealth. Take cryptocurrency for example. If a person would have bought Doge Coin when it first came out, they would have seen their investment multiply exponentially. That promise of get-rich-quick is as old as time, and still plays on our hearts, doesn’t it?
We can be enamored with the promise of financial freedom, of debts gone, of bills paid, of new clothes, homes, cars, gadgets and vacations. We can convince ourselves into believing that if we just had enough money, life would be so much better.
Though I am the one saying this, don’t for a second believe that I am not preaching to myself. I can long for more money. I can dream that my dissertation will get published as a book, and I’ll become a best-selling author, and my wife and I will be financially independent for the rest of our lives.
What I am really longing for? Peace. Security. Stability. I can spend a lot of time thinking that it is money that will bring what I hope and dream for.
What I wonder is if this is actually economic idolatry.
Please hear me that I am not just talking about rich people. Can rich people have economic idolatry. Of course. But what about people with less money, or no money? Can they have economic idolatry? Yes. And because this is a sermon to Christians, is it possible that there is economic idolatry in the church? Yes.
What, then, do we do about this?
I suggest that our continuing study through Ezekiel’s life and ministry will help. A major focus of the Old Testament book of Ezekiel involves God, through Ezekiel, calling out the people of Israel for their idolatry. Last week we looked at religious idolatry. This week we’ll see how Israel committed the sin of economic idolatry, how we can too, and most importantly, what we can do about it.
So open up a Bible or Bible app, turn to Ezekiel 7, and read verse 1.
This chapter starts with a phrase that is standard for the prophets, “The word of the Lord came to me…” What word of the Lord? What we are going to learn is that this next word or message from God to Ezekiel is in a very different method from what we have studied so far. To this point, God has asked Ezekiel to perform a variety of bizarre skits. Now in chapter 7, God gives Ezekiel what appears to be standard prophetic preaching, just words. There is no vision, no skit. Ezekiel just hears the word of the Lord, and that is what God wants him to proclaim.
In fact, we will see that this prophetic message in Ezekiel chapter 7 is not only the stereotypical prophetic method, but also the stereotypical prophet message. Look at verse 2, where we read that the word from the Lord is, “The end has come!”
Now you know where those street corner preachers get their message from. Ezekiel 7. It reminds me of the guys with the megaphones shouting that the end is near. Or maybe they’re holding signs with “The end is near!” painted on it. Might be a big sign on a sign post, or those placards that have a front and a back sign that they wear over their shoulders and walk around. That way they can display the signs saying, “The end has come!” and yell into a megaphone at the same time.
Normally those prophets of doom and gloom are talking about the end of the world. Maybe they are referring to Jesus coming again. Maybe the battle of Armageddon which is described in the book of Revelation. Or they could be suggesting some other kind of massive upheaval like a world war. What “end” is God talking about? And what will happen at this end?
Check back to the next post, as we’ll find out!