Scripture: Ephesians 5:3, 5
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed…For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Reflection: The Idol of Immorality, Impurity, and Greed
By John Tillman
Paul, in Ephesians 5:3-6, describes three qualities that the church must not allow a “hint” of—immorality, impurity, and greed. (We have a tendency to ignore that greed is in there…)
Why is it, according to Paul, that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the kingdom? “Such a person is an idolater,” Paul says. Modern sophisticates that we are, we have trouble admitting to idolatry. We think of idolaters as foolish primitives staring into the light of a sacrificial fire, not children of the technological age staring into the lights of our devices.
We are correct when we assess idolatry’s primitive nature. Where we are wrong is in thinking that our modernity exempts us from its allure.
This past week many articles were written about the death of Hugh Hefner. There is much for our culture to idolize about him. His story of rising from impoverished roots to become the multi-millionaire-magnate of a publishing empire would be irresistible in our culture even without the added sex appeal.
Hefner was the high-priest of a uniquely American religion of erotica, venerating sex as the chief marker of identity, as the chief goal of individual self expression, and as the ultimate pathway to self-actualization and self-worth. There is nothing holier (worth protecting) in secular culture than sexuality and sexual expression. When it comes to sex, we have all become Cameron Frye.
“She will have given him, what he has built up in his mind as the end-all-be-all of existence.” — Ferris Bueller.
But Paul reveals to us that what is truly at the root of sexual immorality, is exactly the same thing that is at the root of greed—selfishness.
We worship this idol, by making an altar of our own bodies and sacrificing the bodies of others upon it. Yet just as with every other form of idolatry, the benefits we seek at the feet of an idol can only be found in the true God. Carved stone rain gods can’t bring rain, and our photoshopped gods of sexual expression leave us just as dry—alone in a loveless drought.
In the end we must recognize that the reason Paul connected sexual immorality and greed is that the two forms of idolatry are identical. They each are concerned with “getting mine” without regard to what the costs are to other humans.
Reclaiming sexuality as an honoring celebration of God’s image in our physical bodies and as a unique emotional and spiritual union for couples is a difficult, and narrow path. When we walk this path we will be marked as strangers and aliens in a foreign land.
…not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you went home again justified… — Luke 18:13-14
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.