7/11/16: Useless Things
Upon witnessing the healing of a lame man, the surrounding crowd at Lystra were so astonished that they proclaimed of Paul and Barnabas, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Acts 14:11 (NKJ). The people then did what they were accustomed to doing, they proceeded to grant god-status to the apostles (“And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker” Acts 14:12), and then they made preparations to offer sacrifices to the new gods they had found (see verse 13).
When Paul and Barnabas got wind of what the priest of Zeus was getting ready to do with the people, they immediately moved to stop them. Acts 14:14-15 tells us, “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them’” (NKJ).
The Greek word used here for ‘useless things’ is “mataios” which means empty, profitless, or (specifically) an idol. Different Bible versions translate this Greek word with various English words in this verse. The King James says “vanities,” the NIV uses “worthless things,” the New American Standard says, “vain things,” and The Message gets right down to basics and says “silly god-superstitions.” Any Bible translation you read, the meaning is exactly the same and is clear: the apostles needed the crowd to understand that their dedication to their idol gods was futile, hopeless, ineffectual, and worthless.
How does this apply to us today? We need only a tiny distraction to get our attention off of God as our Source. Let us see something that seems to work – a get rich quick scheme; a new love interest; a too-good-to-be-true, get-in-on-the-ground-floor business opportunity; a quickie debt settlement plot; a supposed miracle drug or cure – you name it, we’re off after it. We name it our god and then we turn to sacrificing our time and money to it.
Today, let’s drop the useless things and follow the admonition of Hebrews 12:1-2, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Stop making gods of what seems to satisfy and let God be the Need-supplier He is so capable of being.
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