People are drawn to symbols like sticky goo is drawn to every stinking doorknob in my house.
Symbols are objects that represent or picture a real thing. It’s the billboard advertising the juicy McRib.
Substance is the actual thing the symbol represents. The Substance is the McRib the sign pictured.
There is no way any thinking person would be enraptured by the sign and take the billboard home and never eat an actual McRib. That would just be plain dumb.
Yet this is what Christianity, and most other religions, do.
Christians fixate on the bread and cup of communion and make that the whole thing. They take it to get sins forgiven, or convince themselves they are saved, or any number of other things and never get to the reality of the crucified Christ behind it.
Christians fixate on baptism and make the symbol the whole thing. We get baptized to prove we are saved, to show others how saved we are, and we rejoice in our wetness and never see that this is a picture of being raised up with Christ.
It seems we would learn this if we read our Bibles. The Old Testament had many symbols–priests, sacrifices, temple, circumcision, etc. These were shadows, types, and pictures of heavenly reality. Many of these were given to help people understand Christ.
Instead, Israel fixated on the symbols. “We know we are God’s people because we are circumcised.” They missed the whole issue of the male that would come from the loins of Abram’s descendants to save them.
People are wired to value symbols over substance. We think it means something that the pledge of allegiance says “under God.” We rejoice that ten commandment plaques were put up in a courtroom. We get bugged when “In God we trust” might get removed from our currency.
To me, all these are examples of symbolism over substance. They really don’t mean anything. Words, if nothing else, are symbols. The word “McRib” is not an actual McRib. It’s the symbol of a McRib.
Yet how often we get sucked into symbols and completely miss the substance? This is where religion kills. This is what happens when we get entangled in the affairs of the world and get choked out by worldly lusts and the deceitfulness of riches.
It’s all fake! Read Ecclesiastes! (It’s in the OT, by the way.) Smoke and mirrors. A vapor that vanishes.
There aint nothing in all of Creation you should value more than the Creator. Nothing should even come close to competing. Don’t worship the symbol over the substance. Learn from Israel’s mistakes.