Feel-Good Religion

Bible Reading: Judges 17; 18

"In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (17:6).

After Micah's mother recovered some silver she thought had been stolen, she decided to "solemnly consecrate" it to the Lord, but she did so in a manner that was detestable to the Lord -- by giving it to her son to use for making idols. Micah proudly added them to his household collection of idols. Then he hired a Levite to be his personal priest, saying, "Now I know that the Lord will be good to me" (17:13). When the Danites stopped at Micah's house on their way to attack the city of Laish, they stole Micah's idols and ephod, and bribed his priest into coming with them. All of Micah's religious articles and his personal priest were like good luck charms to him. Without them, he felt he had nothing (18:24). But the Danites wanted the good luck charms for themselves, to guarantee success and good fortune. When they settled into their new town, they set up the idols in the house of the Lord.

This is a sad commentary on the lives of the Israelites during this time. It appears that their faith had been watered down to include parts of their forefathers' faith, parts of the Canaanites' religion, and whatever else they decided to believe in. They created their own version of religion, based on their own personal life experiences instead of the word of God. "Everyone did as he saw fit" (17:6).

Sometimes we treat God like a good luck charm. We think that if we do just enough good things, he'll make our lives easy and happy. We come to him with our wish list and expect him to grant our requests. If he withholds something on the list, especially if it's something we think is really important, we feel that he is unfair, unloving, or angry with us. We go to church and do good things to feel good about ourselves and to earn brownie points with God. We believe the parts of the Bible that make us feel good, and dismiss anything that makes us feel uncomfortable. What we know of the Bible consists of what we've heard at church, from the media, from various conversations, etc., rather than from our own personal study. We create our own feel-good religion, and expect God to be like jolly old St. Nicolas. In fact, sometimes we believe in him about as much as we believe in Santa Claus. He's a nice concept, and we want our young children to believe in him, but we feel he's not very close to reality and has little to do with our day-to-day, month-to-month experiences. We spend time with God on Sunday mornings and pray at meal times and bedtime, but seldom think of him or talk to him otherwise. We may wear a cross around our neck and hang religious pictures or sayings on our walls, but do we really know the Jesus they symbolize? Or are we "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim. 3:4-5)?

Lord, I want to know you like a dear, personal friend. I want to know YOU, not just ABOUT you. I want to be aware of your presence and converse with you freely throughout each moment of my day. I will diligently seek your wisdom and become familiar with your words, so that they might guide me and sustain me. I will love you and continue to believe in your love for me, even when I don't understand your ways. I will wrestle with you over the things I find difficult to accept until you fill my heart with peace. I will lay my heart bare before you and accept your counsel. I desire to know your heart, oh God. Show me who you REALLY are, not just who I WANT you to be. Change my heart to be more like yours. Do with my life as YOU see fit.