"Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good”
Jeremiah 10:5 NIV.
Try to think of the last time you saw a scarecrow in a field? Not on a front porch with hay bales and pumpkins, but in a field, scaring crows. It seems scarecrows have been largely reassigned as seasonal décor, transferred from the front lines of the crop war to the front porches of suburban homes. The demotion is a direct result of poor performance.
A scarecrow is like a surrogate farmer, erected in a field to guard the crop when the farmer is away. Deceptively similar in appearance to its flesh and bone counterpart, it is intended as a deterrent for dim-witted pests. The crows (and other critters) will be scared away by the protective guardian.
But crows are highly intelligent. They can make and use simple tools to get food. They can quickly adapt to new challenges. They can learn from one another. This innate intelligence hinders the long-term effectiveness of lifeless scarecrows. They may work initially, but with time crows will test the scarecrow, gradually coming closer and closer to assess the danger. This inspection will reveal that the scarecrow is harmless. Soon they will resume pillaging crops, undeterred by the impotent protector. Other garden eaters will notice the crow’s brazen disregard of the humanlike figure and sense the lack of danger. Before long, it becomes a free-for-all. The stiff outstretched arms become a perch from which to launch their aerial plundering.
The crow is able to reveal the true nature of the impotent protector. Its limbs hang lifeless and its mouth is silent. It is dependent on a pole to keep it erect. Its work amounts to idle passivity. It is an illusion of substance. In truth it can do no harm…or good. It can do nothing but hang limp from a stand.
Such are the idols Israel’s neighbors. Jeremiah warns them not to mimic these nations. But the rebuke carries across the generations into our own day. It's a suitable depiction of the contemporary idols that we trust in place of God. They are surrogates that may, for a time, hold pests at bay.
You may, for example, place your confidence in a steady paycheck because it offers a feeling of security, at least on the surface. You trust in that weekly deposit to meet your needs for food, clothing, and shelter. But your misplaced confidence is shaken by an unexpected expense, a down turn in the economy, a round of layoffs at your company. What you thought to be of substance turns out to be full of hay.
Or maybe it is a relational idol, depending on a marriage, a family, or a friendship to bear the load of personal worth. Your value is determined by your role as husband, mother, or friend. All these relationships bear the image of their creator, a relationally triune God who would sacrifice all to restore relationship with his beloved bride. But these relationships buckle under the weight. Hay stuffed arms are not designed to bear this burden. You are demanding too much of these reflections. Only one relationship can hold up under that weight.
Instead of a surrogate, you are invited to trust the true farmer, whose work is not idle passivity, but mighty protection. He will feed you like the birds and clothe you like the flowers. He will cultivate your life toward fruitfulness. Let him reveal the idols of your heart. Let him help you to renounce them. Allow him to be your true farmer, cultivating your soul.
I recently had an article accepted for publication by Weavings. They've invited me to guest blog and asked if they could use some of my old blog posts on their blog. The first one was posted this past week here.