November 8, 2020

Salt & Light Online

A current connection to each week's session

Not Such Happy Campers
Exodus 32:1-8

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This study of Exodus 32 shows God’s people growing impatient and confused. Moses goes up the mountain to meet God, and his return is “delayed.” The Israelites do not trust that Moses will ever return, so they ask Aaron to make some other gods to lead them. Aaron collects everyone’s earrings, melts the gold, and molds them into a calf. The people worship and sacrifice on the altar before the golden calf, saying these gods brought them out of Egypt.

We too are living through a time of impatience and confusion. We want this pandemic to be over and the way forward to be clear. On top of that anxiety, we in the United States have just experienced a polarizing election season. We are impatient for these tensions to end. We are eager for clarity about our leadership.

An election in a pandemic multiplies layers of uncertainty. I am writing this just days before the US elections, so I do not yet know the winner or even whether the winner will be known. But one thing we do know. This election season was not only emotionally and spiritually costly—it was financially costly. Nearly $14 billion was spent on influencing our presidential and congressional choices. No election in US history has come close to the cost of this one. It is nearly double the cost of the election four years ago.[1] Was it worth it? Can you imagine how else that money could have been spent?

No other country comes close to spending this amount on elections. In Canada, the parties have a spending limit on campaign costs. The cost of Canada’s general election in 2019 was under $509 million.[2]

Americans spend money on elections, hoping to influence the outcome for the good. But it could be argued that as a nation our relationship with money is idolatrous. What we spend money on reveals what we worship. We’ve spent a record-shattering amount of money to influence who will lead us.

The Exodus 32 account of who was the leader in Israel’s time of impatience and confusion seems deliberately ambiguous. I love the ambiguity about who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses says to the Lord, “You brought [them] out” (v. 11); the Lord says to Moses, “You brought [them] out” (v. 7); and the Israelites say at first, “Moses brought [us] out” (v. 1); but in front of their golden calf they say, “These gods brought [us] out” (v. 4).

  • What do our choices of how we spend money, time, and attention reveal about our gods?
  • How does our spending affect our impatience and confusion?

1. Fredreka Schouten, “The 2020 Election Battle for the White House and Congress Poised to Hit Record-Shattering $14 Billion", CNN, October 28, 2020.
2. “Estimated Cost of the 43rd General Election,” Elections Canada.

—Gwen Groff,

© 2020

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Gwen Groff is pastor of Bethany Mennonite Church in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. She lives in Plymouth, Vermont, with her husband and intermittently with her adult children.

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