I have been pondering on the phrase “plastic Jesus” lately and how it relates to us today. We use the term “plastic” today sometimes in reference to people that we consider to be “fake” or not genuine and real. The literal definition of plastic is any synthetic material that can be shaped when soft and then hardened. Plastic is a material that is capable of being molded or of receiving form.
I believe that the literal definition is a metaphorical picture of the “jesus” that many people serve. Rather than surrendering to the real genuine Jesus of the Bible, many prefer to form and mold their own image of a “jesus” made up of their own ideas, reasonings, lifestyles, etc. A “jesus” they have shaped and formed to fit their religion apart from the true Gospel of the true Jesus.
From early on in Scripture we see that people desire to depart from the real God and serve a “plastic” god. One they have molded and formed themselves and many times even in their own likeness. We see this with the children of Israel who turned from the Lord to serve “plastic” gods that were made, formed, and fashioned by themselves in the following passage:
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:1-3 NIV)
Now it is important to clarify who was guilty of serving “plastic” gods. It was covenant people and not mere pagans. It was those delivered from Egypt by God. We must take this to heart and as a warning knowing that we too can fall prey to serving a “plastic god”–that which we fashion and form ourselves and worship in place of God himself.
Notice too that while Moses was receiving divine revelation from the real God, the children of Israel were occupied with their own god. We will either serve the real God (who imparts spiritual truth) or be content with “polished Christianity” void of spiritual truth. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians actually made reference to this very situation and warns us to not be like them (see 1 Cor.10:6-11). Remember also the commandment “You shall have no other God’s before me.” God goes on to warn us of forming our own gods and/or idols after another image (see Ex.20:2-5).
Paul mentions in his letter to Timothy those who “have a form of godliness but deny its power” (2 Tim.3:5) Hmmm… he mentions them having a “form” of godliness. The word “form” means having the external appearance of; the shape of a thing or person. Could it be that these are individuals that claim to be “Christian” in some regards but are merely possessing a plastic form of Christianity — that which is superficial and merely surface level? This was the very thing that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for. They looked the part on the outside but failed to cultivate it inwardly. Jesus even called them “white washed tombs” (Matt.23:25-28). This “form of godliness” Paul mentions is a religion that they have fashioned and formed including another “Jesus” to go along with their other “Christianity”. Like the Pharisees, they may even look good on the outside but are empty and filthy on the inside, because the god they serve is a poor replica (molded Jesus) of the genuine Christ. Paul said:
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (2 Cor. 11:2-4 NIV)
There are two things I would like to expound on in this verse. First of all, Paul mentions being sincere. In studying this word I have come to learn that in its origin it literally means “without wax.” That is very interesting to me especially in light of this idea of a plastic Jesus or plastic Christianity.
Let me explain: in biblical times there were many who sold clay pots for a living. Due to the handling of many at the market place and just day-to-day hustle and bustle, some pots would become cracked, chipped, scraped, etc. Many dishonest people who sold pots would “wax over” their cracks, chips, and scrapes with a wax coating giving it the appearance/form of wholeness and beauty, when in reality the pots were in horrible shape and time would tell as the wax disappeared and the cracks, chips, and scrapes would begin to show up. Because of this problem, honest potters would advertise their product as sincere (without wax).
In other words, it did not just look the part but was indeed a beautiful, and genuine pot.
Having understood the meaning of “sincere” brings a whole new meaning and understanding to me when I see the countless Scriptures that deal with us being sincere with both God and others. To put it in today’s terms, we are literally being told in Scripture not to be “plastic”–appearing to be something we are not. In the same way we are not to serve a custom-fabricated Jesus we have just made to fit us and our ways of life.
Secondly, Paul mentions “another Jesus” and “another gospel.” I cannot help but think to myself and ask; how many people have received “another Jesus” and “another gospel” that has been formed and fashioned by people and not God? I am reminded of Jesus Himself asking his disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” He then brings it closer to home and asks them “What about you, who do you say that I am?” (see Matt.16:13-15). On another account Jesus asked the Pharisees “What do you think about the Messiah?” (Matt.22:42)
I want to leave you with that very thought and ask you:
Who is Jesus to you?
Is your idea of Jesus in line with the Scripture?
Do you serve the real Jesus or have you settled for a plastic Jesus?