Do we truly know our idols? How can we identify them so they can be put in their proper place?
Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal:
I am the Lord your God.
Idolatry is a big problem in the world and it is ruining people’s lives. I don’t mean the idolatry of old. You know, the bowing down to intricately carved statues or the worshiping of trees and flowers, or moon and stars. I mean an even older kind that has never faded away; a bowing down to something other than God in our hearts. This isn’t just a big problem for those non-Christians. It’s a problem in your life and in mine as well.
Let’s start by defining what idolatry is. Simply put an idol is anything that we exalt to a place that only God should occupy. It can be something bad or good, material or immaterial. An idol can be, quite literally, anything. If you can name it, you can probably find someone who has turned it into an idol. But whatever it is, an idol is always whatever comes first in our lives.
For some their idol is work, for others, it is their possessions. For some it is health or the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, for others, it is family or sports. It can be education, beauty, social standing, a peaceful or comfortable life, a husband or one’s children. The list could go on.
The problem for most is that we are unclear what our idols are. It can be difficult to discover and expose the idols that are lurking in our hearts. I am going to guess that most of you don’t have a giant statue set up in your bedroom that you bow down to each morning. If you did I would tell you, “Haul that thing outside and burn it”! But idols of the heart are really good at hiding. And we are really good at letting them hide.
A good way to begin discovering and exposing your idols is to begin prayerfully asking a few questions of yourself.
- What brings me joy? If it were taken away would I struggle with being joyful? Would I struggle with being mad at God?
- What makes me feel comfortable and safe? How would my life be impacted if those things were no longer in my life?
- What do I obsess over?
- To what am I willing to make real sacrifices?
- Look at the things that make you angry or annoyed, things that make you impatient or fearful. Usually, these emotions are protecting something. What is it? It is quite likely that those things are your idols.
Tim Keller once said,
“Just like a fisherman looking for fish knows to go where the water is rolling, look for your idols at the bottom of your most painful emotions, especially those that never seem to lift and that drive you to do things that you know are wrong … when you ‘pull your emotions up by the root’ as it were, you will often find idols clinging to them.”
As an introvert one of my idols is “alone time”. I think about it a lot and I tend to have this false impression that it will bring me joy, peace, a clear mind, rest, and that it will reset my patience. Sure, everyone needs some time to recharge, but, if I am honest, I am willing to sacrifice a lot to get it and when it is taken away or disturbed my anger can easily flare up and my joy disappears.
Dangers of Idols
Idols are dangerous because we see them as saviors, and as such, we rely on them instead of God. Idols always make big promises but are not capable of delivering on those promises.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
Take some time to prayerfully examine yourself, especially your emotions, and see if you can find any hidden idols, that need to be pull up and destroyed.