And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
Let me ask you… is it more impressive that Jesus forgave the man’s sins or gave him the ability to walk? If you’re a Christian, you know the “correct” answer is that he forgave the man’s sins. However, the paralyzed man was brought to Jesus to be healed of his physical ailments and not to be forgiven of his sins. We ourselves would be upset if Jesus didn’t heal our ability to walk. If Jesus only healed the man’s legs, at first he would be ecstatic, but it would only take a month or two before he felt the same eternal longings he felt before, leading him to turn to something else to fill that emptiness.
We all have things we think we need more than Jesus: this is called idolatry. An idol is literally anything you worship other than God. Sometimes I believe that if only I had a husband, my life would be perfect. Obviously this is false, but there are times when I let that be the driving force in my life, and not Jesus. The second most important commandment God asks of us in Exodus 20 is to have no other God before him, yet we mess that up every day. God tells us not to have idols because he knew we will!
I once heard a sermon by the Austin Stone Church pastor Matt Carter that acknowledges we all struggle with idols. He says idols aren’t things like working, money, or drinking -- those are all symptoms of something bigger. Instead, he believes there to be 4 main root idols in which all sins originate from: comfort, power, approval, and control. Essentially he’s saying all things we long for fall into one of these 4 categories. When we crave Whataburger or an afternoon of binge-watching Netflix, we are longing for (1) comfort. When we get mad when our accomplishments aren’t recognized at work/school, we are longing for (2) power. When we are upset when we aren’t invited to a party we are longing for (3) approval. When we don’t like deviating from our set schedule, we are longing for (4) control. There are many other ways in which idols rear their ugly heads in our lives, these are just some common examples.
I think recognizing them is the first step toward repentance. I personally struggle with letting the approval of others come before my desire for God’s approval. And after a long day, I want to be comforted by being alone and watching “Friends” instead of resting in the presence of Jesus. Idols can even be good things, like exercising or saving money, but those things shouldn’t be what we live for, God should be. God should always be first in our lives. Wherever you are today, run to Jesus. He may or may not fix your present circumstances, but he will fulfill the deepest longings of your soul.
Written by Alexa
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.