When I was a boy of 10 or 11, I whiled away the summer playing Home Run Derby with my best pal, Doug. We played with a whiffle ball. In Home Run Derby, your hit either goes for a home run (wherever you agree to set the boundary) or it is an out. If it can be caught, whether in or over the line, it is an out. We would spend hours playing in the gravel parking lot behind the church.
Doug was always the Chicago Cubs. He knew the whole lineup, batting averages, and uniform numbers. He would call out that information as he advanced to the place. I was enamored with the Baltimore Orioles, equally possessed of all critical stats and information. If you wonder why a boy in Indiana would be fixated on a team from Baltimore, let me tell you. Boog Powell. That’s right, Boog Powell. Boog was the first baseman for the Orioles. He was a big left-handed power hitter.
The way I figured it, his name was Powell and mine was Howell, which was close enough for me. He was hefty and I was a chunky kid. He was left-handed and I was left-handed. He played first base and I did, too. He hit the long ball and I was the home run leader on my little league team.
Anytime the Orioles played, I watched him with eagle eyes. I loved Boog Powell. Boog would spin his bat around when the pitcher was getting ready to throw—so I started doing that in my games. Boog would spit just so, and I modeled my spitting prowess after him. Boog would grab himself in an unmentionable place when at the plate, and I did that, too—at least one time, until my mother told me never to do that again.
You see, I was proof of a very important lesson. What you worship is what you become. It says in Jeremiah, chapter 2:
This is what the Lord says:
“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.—Jeremiah 2:5
Jeremiah knew we had better think hard about our idols. The good ones—they are great! But the worthless ones, well, they make us worthless.
I knew someone once who was so tied up into money that I couldn’t take a car ride without him estimating the value of each and every nice home we saw. Some people would see a house and think of families. He saw a house and thought of money. Everything he saw and touched was in relationship to its financial worth. One day, when he lost most of his assets, he didn’t know who he was anymore. What you worship is what you become.
One of the first responsibilities of being a Chrisian is to stop idolizing money and the things if offers. Wisdom tells us that once we become these things, we will eventually become a hollowed-out shell of a person, who withers when our idol withers—and all idols but the Lord will wither. Put Christ at the center. Put your resources in service of that, not the other way around. That way, when it matters most, Christ will recognize himself in us, and we will know our eternity.
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Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana