We may not bow down to golden cows, but there are still idols all around us.
If you’ve ever read through the Old Testament, you’ll notice there seems to be one particular sin that God’s people are either committing or in danger of committing - idolatry.
- The first two commandments specifically address it, but by the time God has finished writing these commandments on stone, the Israelites had begun worshipping a golden cow.
- The success of their entrance into the Promised Land depended on their willingness to resist worshipping foreign gods.
- Even King Solomon, in all his wisdom, couldn’t resist worshipping the pagan gods of his many lovers, which ultimately lead to widespread idolatry throughout the entire nation and culminated in its eventual destruction and exile.
But for a sin that gets so much air time in the Old Testament, it often seems quite irrelevant to us today.
Are we, with our enlightened, western, scientific, rational, smartphone-enhanced, 21st century minds, still facing the same temptation to worship idols?
Quite simply, yes.
Idolatory is not about superstitiously sacrificing to silver statues or bowing to bronzed bovines.
Rather, it’s about the drawing of our heart’s highest affections away from the God who has created us, and giving those affections to something or someone else.
And in the same way that Jesus says that we can commit adultery not only in our actions, but also in our hearts and minds, we can worship idols not only by bowing down to statues but also by giving our highest thoughts and affections to something other than God.
What are your idols?
We can turn anything into an idol—we can give our highest affection and worship to anyone or anything. It could be a person or relationship, a job or career, a car, house, social standing, children, circle of friends, sex, sexual orientation, money, possessions, pets, lifestyle … the list is endless. All of these we can set up as false lovers and idols in our lives.
Interestingly, many of these things are not, in and of themselves, bad. They’re actually often good things, which can make our own idols difficult to spot. So the question we must ask ourselves is...
‘What do I worship—what in my life has my highest affection? What are the false lovers I am giving myself to?’
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller provides a series of questions that can help to identify the idols in our lives. Here are few:
- What am I living for? What are my hopes and dreams?
- What do I wake up and go to sleep thinking about? Where does my mind naturally go? What do you daydream about?
- Whose opinion matters most? If I’m unsure about what to do in any given situation, whose opinion comes to mind?
- What gives your life meaning? How do you define yourself?
- What do I do to escape? When life gets tough, what do I find my comfort, safety, rescue and pleasure in? It could be work, video games, the silent treatment, hiding in a book, fantasizing, etc.
- What do I talk about the most?
- What do I spend my money on?
- What am I most afraid of losing? What do I worry about most?
Ultimately, we give our affections to other things and people instead of God because at some level we believe they give us the deeper idols of power, approval, comfort or security. In my next post, I’ll address this more deeply and will talk about how Jesus smashes these idols in our lives so that we are free to make him the sole object of our worship, receiving our highest affections.