13 Anyone who does not know God is simply foolish. Such people look at the good things around them and still fail to see the living God. They have studied the things he made, but they have not recognized the one who made them.2 Instead, they suppose that the gods who rule the world are fire or wind or storm or the circling stars or rushing water or the heavenly bodies.3 People were so delighted with the beauty of these things that they thought they must be gods, but they should have realized that these things have a master and that he is much greater than all of them, for he is the creator of beauty, and he created them.4 Since people are amazed at the power of these things, and how they behave, they ought to learn from them that their maker is far more powerful.5 When we realize how vast and beautiful the creation is, we are learning about the Creator at the same time.
6 But maybe we are too harsh with these people. After all, they may have really wanted to find God, but couldn't.7 Surrounded by God's works, they keep on looking at them, until they are finally convinced that because the things they see are so beautiful, they must be gods.8 But still, these people really have no excuse.9 If they had enough intelligence to speculate about the nature of the universe, why did they never find the Lord of all things?
The Foolishness of Idolatry
10 But the most miserable people of all are those who rest their hopes on lifeless things, who worship things that have been made by human hands—images of animals artistically made from gold and silver, or some useless stone carved by someone years ago.11 A skilled woodworker may saw down some suitable tree, carefully strip off the bark, and then, with skillful craftsmanship, make from it an object that will serve some useful purpose.12 He will take the leftover pieces and use them as firewood to cook a meal that he can sit down to and enjoy.13 But among that scrap wood he may take one piece that isn't good for anything—maybe it's crooked and full of knots—and carefully carve it in his leisure time, using spare moments to shape it into the crude image of a person,14 or maybe of some worthless animal. He paints it all over with red, covering up every flaw in the work.15 Then he prepares a suitable place in the wall for it and fastens it in place with iron nails.16 He is careful to keep it from falling, because he knows it is only an idol and needs help; it cannot help itself.17 But he is not ashamed to pray to this lifeless thing about his marriage, his children, and his possessions.18 It is weak, but he prays to it for health. It is dead, but he prays to it for life. It has no experience, but he prays to it for help. It cannot walk, but he prays to it for a successful journey.19 Its hands have no power, but he asks it to help him—in business, in making money, and in his work.
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