I’ve always had a hard time getting my head around the concept of idolatry. In the Old Testament idols are a simple concept; idols are images or statues made with human hands that were worshiped as God. But what about idolatry today? I know that people in tribal religions still worship statues or images. But what is idolatry to me? What is idolatry in the western world?
The standard evangelical answer to this questions is this: An idol is anything that you place before God.
I can buy that. It makes sense. But if that is true, if an idol is ANYTHING that you place before God, then we are not taking the concept of idolatry nearly seriously enough. A lot of modern evangelicals like to say that things like drug abuse, alcoholism, and porn addiction are idolatry. Though I think that this is true, I can’t help but think that we aren’t going deep enough. Those things are obvious. There are lots of things that we place before God that don’t fall into the classic “addiction” category.
So, think about it… What are you placing before God? What do you think about more than you think about God? What do you spend most of your time, money, and attention on?
I’ve always found that offering to go first is a good conversation starter… so here is a list of things that I have (at some point in my life… some of them still today) worshiped with my undivided attention:
- Worry about money
Notice that politics and creativity made my list. We think that having a healthy political appetite is good. We think that striving for creativity is good. Just like everything else that is created by God, these things are inherently good. It is the sin on the earth that has caused them to become idols to us. Because they are inherently good, those two things have been intertwined into the moral fabric of our communities so deeply that we don’t even realize that they are idols. We can excuse away our addiction to watching 24-hour cable news and constantly reading political blogs. We can excuse our addiction to the arrogance that our creative tastes creates. However, when it comes down to it, we are spending all of our time thinking about these man-made things and forgetting the relationship that we have with our LORD who created us.
Your kids can be an idol. Your body image can be an idol. Your volunteering at a homeless shelter can be an idol. Your theology can be an idol.
Don’t let things that are good an healthy get out of hand and take over your life.