The idea of the "Golden Cow" comes from the story of the Exodus as told in the Bible. After Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive a direct word from the LORD, the people of Israel are left at the bottom of the mountain. Up until this point, the Hebrews have seen the Red Sea split, received manna from heaven, and other miracles orchestrated directly by the hand of God. In chapter 32 however, they rebel against the very God who had brought them out of bondage and carried them through the desert. Aaron, the brother of Moses, calls for the people to bring their gold and makes a golden cow out of the melted gold. This was quickly put down by Moses who had the cow melted and crushed to powder and put in water, and then made the people drink it.
Over the course of history many things have been placed on the altar rightly occupied by the Lord. These are not always so obvious as a statue made of gold, but rather may be internal matters or private obsessions and idols. The point is that it always follows a cycle.
The cycle begins with something that makes you happy, which causes you to love it, loving it then causes you to desire it, desire causes dependence, dependence causes this to become first in our hearts, and whatever is first in our hearts is what we worship.
I want to suggest that the latest golden cow is not even something that can be seen, though it does take on an appearance in a white cup with a sleeve on it. The newest golden cow is community. The first thing you're going to think is that I was going to bash Starbucks. Well, I will, but not directly. They are a good company to work for with great benefits and flexible hours. I will however be taking them to task because they are creating a generation of people who are naive and blinded by the fact that they are seeking community and satisfaction from a cup of hot water, sugar, and milk. One of Starbucks' goals is to create the idea of a "Third Place" where one can go and find community and connect. Christians who find their sense of community and connection outside of the church and settle for manufactured community are running the risk of becoming idolaters. The golden cow of our day is the idea that a cup can give you community and you can find your satisfaction in that. Starbucks has made a fortune off the basic human desire to relate with other people, and has taken the fact that we all crave community with other people and turned it into marketing genius.
One of the reasons why I think they attract so many Christians is because I think the Church (universal) has failed as a worldwide institution to adequately give community. We have become a Church of programs, initiatives, vision statements, growth strategies, and catchy slogans so that have lost sight that one of the principal functions of the Church is community. Now there are many local congregations who have succeeded at this, and I feel like I am part of such a congregation.
The point of this blog is not to bash Starbucks or their product, which I think overall is a good product. The thing I want to do with this post is to call for Christians everywhere to find their community not in a cup but in the Christ. Our community should be based on Jesus Christ and the salvation that we have together in Him. This, not a latte, should be the driving force for us to find community with one another. There are many golden cows out there vying for our attention, love, and adoration, and many others are very indirect in their approach. The goal of Satan is not to get you to sacrifice a goat on an altar, it is to get you to replace Jesus Christ with something else in your heart. Whatever you love more than Jesus Christ is an idol, and I hope we never get to the point where we love a cup of coffee more than Him.