When I started to take photography as a serious avenue of my creative expression I found I had one reoccurring pitfall that usually required a visual readjustment to the way I was seeing things. I didn’t question my talent or ability. I questioned my gear. Yes, simply put I suffered from “camera envy”. I had my little Powershot A560 and I noticed that other photographers had the best DSLRs on the market. Comparing what you have to what you don’t have, and wishing you had it, happens in every aspect of life. But I find it is most obvious in photography when it comes to equipment or talent. It shows itself in questions like, “What kind of camera do you have?” or wistful commentaries like, “I’d be a better photographer if I had one of those cameras”.
Jealousy is an all too familiar human characteristic. But God? We are absolutely certain He is never jealous! And yet He says Jealous is His name in Ex. 20:4-6. However an important question must be asked, “Is the Lord’s jealousy the same as ours?” There is a vast difference between the kind of jealousy we experience and the kind of jealousy God expresses in His character. Our jealousy usually stems from something that we perceive we lack. God’s jealousy is rooted in His relationship with His people. Therefore it is important to recognize that God’s jealousy is associated with commands against idolatry (Ex. 20:4-6; 34:11-17) and especially idols that divided their loyalty to Him.
God’s jealousy is best understood in the context of Ex. 34:14 which makes mention of “altars, sacred stones, and Asherah poles”. The Israelites were told to utterly destroy them. Our culture tends to look at commands like this and call them extreme. But it is not difficult to see how this command might apply to us as well. I think it is our human nature to believe we can balance our cultural influences and selfish desires with God’s commands. For example we may think we can watch violence or sexual behavior in a movie or on TV and not be influenced by it. We may think that it’s ok to fantasize about another person because no one else will be inside our head when we do- who will know? No harm done! However, addiction to pornography is just as rampant in the church as it is outside the church. And “Christian” marriages fail as rapidly as non-Christian ones. So, are we really balancing the two? It seems the culture has a heavier influence on us than we want to admit. Jesus warned His followers in Mt. 6:19-24 and Lk. 16:10-13 that “you cannot serve two masters”. God is Jealous because He knows our hearts are easily deceived and once deceived, divided. We stray after “false gods” as easily as the Israelites did so rather than judge them too harshly by saying, “Why didn’t they get it?!”, we should carefully examine our own level of loyalty using them as an example.
So, is it extreme to “cut down the idols” in our own lives- yes. But it might be necessary (Js. 4:1-10)! The context dictates that the Lord might be asking us to do this in order to demonstrate our loyalty and love for Him. While it may appear to be an extremely difficult task, we have help- the Spirit who dwells in us desires to make us more like Christ- whose loyalty ultimately led Him to the cross. Paul stated he could “do all things through Christ” (Phil. 4:13) and Jesus promised to send us a Helper (Jn. 14:16-26- especially vv. 16 and 26). The task of “house cleaning” in order to be faithful to the Lord is not easy, but it is not impossible. (Rom. 8:10-11, 26; 2 Cor. 5:14-18; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6, 9-11; Heb. 13:20-21).
There is a well-known quote throughout the world of photography which goes “The best camera is the one that’s with you”. It is attributed to Chase Jarvis who used it as a title for a book he wrote about “the intersection of art and popular culture” which featured images he took with his I-phone. He had no idea what a host of inspiration this short phrase would unleash. Some have dismissed it as glib noting the underlying truth that a camera, no matter how simple or complex, will not help someone who’s just not good at taking pictures. But many have recognized it as a great reminder that whether they have the latest Nikon or a cell phone camera, it is the eyes that see the shot and the photographer who takes it, not the camera. It is one thing to wish for a better camera but a healthy reality check reminds me that camera envy will not improve my skill as a photographer. In the realm of photography, faith and the art of seeing if my eyes are being turned by equipment and gear, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the role it plays in my life- both creatively and spiritually because it may have become an idol.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre