When you think of the word "idol," what comes to mind? A golden statue? Something you're supposed to bow down to? American idol?
While those things may be a traditional definition of an idol, let me stretch you a little. Because very few of us will ever actually bow down to a metal carving, and even fewer of us will win American idol, we tend to think that idolatry is something that other people deal with. But not us. We're enlightened, progressive, and advanced. That's a problem for them, not us.
Hang on there, Kelly Clarkson.
Let me redefine what an idol is: Anything, or anyone, we put our treasure in.
Idols aren't all bad things. In fact, they could be good things. But they start in the heart. They start with a passion for that thing, or that person, above God. These desires become a substitute, a cheap substitute at that, for the love of God. Here are just a few examples of things that can grow into becoming an idol:
- Boyfriend / Girlfriend
- Our possessions
- Our physical appearance
- Our skills
- Our career
- Our finances
- Our family
The danger in elevating the worth of these to the level of an idol is that they can all be taken away in a moment. Don't place your hope in something you can't keep.
I can only imagine some of you hold on to your fitness prowess tightly. But who's to say you won't lose that next year? Or next month? Or in the next hour?
So how do you know if something is becoming an idol? Ask yourself this question: How would I respond right now if it were taken from me?
While you're answering that question, here are six ways to tell if something is becoming an idol for you:
- You fall asleep thinking about it.
- You wake up thinking about it.
- The thought of losing it terrifies you. It gives you heart palpitations and makes you break out into a cold sweat.
- You did lose it for a season and spiraled into depression and anxiety.
- It comes between you and something you know is good.
- You find yourself more irritable when you have less of it.
Now there's only one answer to idolatry. The Apostle Paul told us what it is, over 2000 years ago: "because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!" (Romans 1:25)
Did you catch that? Paul urges us to worship the Creator rather than the created. Only the Creator can truly fulfill. Only the Creator can eternally satisfy. Only the Creator will last forever. Don't worship the gifts... Worship the Gift-Giver!