The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.
What is he saying here? First, that God is the Maker and not the one who was made. God was not created by man; he is the One who makes man and everything else that exists in all the universe. He is the originator of all things.
We have not moved very far from ancient idolatry. In the ancient world, they took a piece of gold or silver or wood and carved or formed an idol, thus worshipping the works of men’s hands. Today we don’t use images, but we still see men worshipping themselves, projected to infinite proportions. Man simply thinks of himself, projects this into infinity, and worships that. That is his god. That is exactly what idolatry did. Paul points out that this is not in line with reality. God is not the projection of man; God is greater than man. God originated man. Everything that exists came from his hands. He is the Maker, and not the made.
Second, God is the giver, and does not have any needs himself. God is not looking for anything from man, as idolatry and paganism taught. People had to bring gifts to the gods, they had to do things for their gods, to propitiate them and sacrifice to them, and bring them all kinds of things. People today are still doing the same. The gods of people today still make demands upon them. Do not think that we are free from idolatry, for if a god is that which is the most important thing in your life, that to which you give your time and effort and energy, that which occupies the primary place of importance to you, the thing you live for, then men have many gods even today. Money is a god for some. Fame is a god to others. Your children can be your gods. You yourself can be your own god; you can worship yourself. I am appalled at the number of people today who worship America and enthrone it as the highest value in life, the thing for which they would give their lives, the only thing worth living for. These are the false gods that people everywhere worship. They make continual demands upon us. They do nothing for us, but we must work for them.
Paul cancels all this out. He says the real God is one who gives, who pours out. He does not need anything from you. He does not live in temples made by man. I am sure he must have pointed to the Parthenon as he said that, for it was regarded as the home of Athena, the goddess for whom the city was named. God does not live in places like that, he said, but he is the one who made you and everything about you, and there is nothing you can give him that he needs. He is, rather, giving himself continually to you.
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Father, I know how I have tried to satisfy the emptiness within with some lesser concept than you. I can never do so and am therefore rendered restless and unhappy, never finding what I am looking for. I pray that this great message may have its effect on me as it did on Athens, and that our darkened society will be set free from its bondage to materialism and made to be what you intended us to be.
Are we willing to honestly evaluate and courageously confront, and name, our personal idols? Do we see our idols as affronts to the presence and power of Christ in us and through us? Are we sacrificing our time, our very lives, to those idols — lives purchased and legitimately owned by Christ who died for us?