So Jeroboam set up idols, and led the people into sin. That’s just about the most rotten thing one person can do to another. My seminary professor used to say that leading another person into sin was worse than murdering them in cold blood, because murdering them could only end their life on earth, but leading them into sin could end their life in heaven. This is why the catechism teaches us that leading someone into sin is a violation of the fifth commandment.
I think that sometimes, reading the books of Kings, you almost feel like you need to take a shower. Beginning with the adulterous murder committed by David, every king was worse than the one before him. And Jeroboam picks it up in today’s extremely ugly episode, which, when we think about it, echoes the sin of Aaron in the desert, when he gave in to the people’s desire for a calf of gold.
Jeroboam’s sin didn’t stop at just a couple of idols though. He created priests who would carry out the religion he invented. He created a whole system of worship that absolved him of responsibility to the God who created him, the God who led the people to safety in the promised land, the God who exalted him to the position of king. But, as we well know, there is no way to run from God. Unfortunately, that wasn’t such good news for Jeroboam and his house.
So I think the lessons here are strong enough. First, worship God and worship God alone. Put nothing and no one ahead of him. And second, love others enough not to lead them into sin or cause them scandal. When it comes down to it, it comes down to the basic of all moral rules: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. As Jesus would say in the Gospel: that is the law and the prophets.