We often think of idolatry as primitive people bowing down to statues. While this at times is true, it’s not the entire meaning. Webster’s dictionary defines idolatry as “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.”
I find it interesting that every human being has at least one thing in common: We all, in one way or another, are deeply involved in “worship”. Think about this for a minute. Is there anyone that doesn’t have something that drives their life?
Our passions and desires can be wrapped up in many things: a relationship, our work, a hobby, a sports team, a GPA, our home, our reputation, a particular cause, or popularity. We may be so engulfed in a mindset of pride or revenge, for example, or obsessed with a memory or a goal. These can be idols, too. Even a drug addict on the street lives for something – another hit.
It is no surprise that we are bent towards worship. We were created with this built-in capacity to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7), and to love [Him] with all [our] heart, soul, strength, and mind. (Luke 10:27).
This being the case, idolatry is anything that takes the place of God in our hearts. When we make anything above God in our lives (which we can so easily do by default), we are living for them/it and not for God.
In fact, Romans 1:21-25 says it this way when speaking of man’s fallen nature:
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
The problem with that is that if something happens to our idol, we are paralyzed. If our idol is work, and we are fired, then what? If we find self-worth in beauty, what happens when it fades? If we hang on to pride, what do we do if it’s threatened? Our idols can’t deliver. They only demand constant energy to maintain and guard. Even the good things in life, like our family and friends, can be idols if we depend on them to sustain our well-being. As a Sunday school teacher of mine used to say, “Let’s not put upon anyone the burden of being God to us. It’s not fair to them.”
How can you identify what may be idols in your life? I found a checklist taken from Grace Online Library that has helped me search my heart:
12 Questions to Identify Your Idols
Taken from David Powlison’s list of questions (plus one bonus) in “Seeing with New Eyes”.
- What do I worry about most?
- What, if I failed or lost it, would cause me to feel that I did not even want to live?
- What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?
- What do I do to cope? What are my release valves? What do I do to feel better?
- What preoccupies me? What do I daydream about?
- What makes me feel the most self-worth? Of what am I the proudest? For what do I want to be known?
- What do I lead with in conversations?
- Early on what do I want to make sure that people know about me?
- What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?
- What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?
- What is my hope for the future?
- What do you blog, tweet or post the most about on social networks?