What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! ~Habakkuk 2:18.
Idolatry is the rejection of the True and Living God, replacing him with false gods. In some cultures throughout the history of the world, idol worship is easy to see. Like Habakkuk described, many have taken pieces of nature—wood, rock, jewels, etc.—and have shaped them into various images with their own hands only to then bow down and worship what they have made. It’s foolish to worship a statue that does not speak and was carved by one’s own hands.
In our western culture, idolatry can be harder to spot. Many of us are “enlightened” beyond the use of figurines on mantles. Yet idols still exist. An idol is simply that which commands our affections and we desire more than God himself.
For some this is wealth and the collection of things. Others have something that they find themselves desiring, so they grow greedy and covet until it’s theirs by any means. Paul even called those who covet idolaters in Ephesians 5:5. For others family, recreation, or sports take a priority over God and his ways. For others, still, they pin their hope for happiness and a better or more secure life on men and women running for elected office.
Some have even made Jesus into an idol. That statement on its surface might sound shocking—after all we believe that Jesus is God the Son and is properly due our worship. Yet, some want the language of Christianity without the teachings of scripture. They want Jesus, but they reject as myth the things he said or did that offend or challenge or force them to change. They turn Jesus into a caricature fashioned after their own image, their own desires and beliefs; and they reject Jesus as the Bible speaks about him. Their Jesus is a different Jesus.
Instead of embracing idols, we are to reject them. God calls us to lay aside our speechless false gods and instead to come silently (reverently and humbly) before him (Habakkuk 2:20). So how do we identify our idols that we may instead embrace God for all that he is and does?
Kyle Idleman in his book Gods at War offers some good diagnostic questions. They follow with brief commentary:
What disappoints you? What are the things in life that rob us from having true joy in Christ? What things other than God are we looking to for lasting happiness?
What do you complain about most? What draws so much of our time and/or affections that we feel incomplete or lacking without? What do others do that irritate us too much?
Where do you make financial sacrifices? We spend money on the things we need and the things we want. What so drives our desires that we are willing to budget, save, and spend for it, sometimes even sacrificing those things we actually do need?
What worries you? Where are your greatest fears? What do you spend time thinking most about and most fear losing?
What is your sanctuary? Where do you run when you’re hurting, scared, or feel helpless? What or who do you trust in to keep you safe?
What infuriates you? What sets you off the most if you don’t get your way?
What are your dreams? What do you desire most? What thoughts or ideas give you the greatest hope or satisfaction in life?
Many good things can turn into idols if they receive improper due in regard to our emotions, hopes, and fears. There’s nothing wrong with having or wanting, so long as we keep everything in proper perspective under God. Jesus alone is the greatest treasure. God alone is our greatest hope. Don’t let the idols of your heart lead you away from him.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.