I’m guessing that you don’t have a little wooden figurine in your house to whom you pray and pour out daily drink offerings. Yet, idolatry is one of the main issues in the Bible… so clearly we cannot just say “that doesn’t apply to me” and skip over all those passages. Idolatry is alive and well today, it just looks different in our culture.
“What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?” writes Kyle Idleman in Gods at War.
“Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. … There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.”
It is difficult to see ourselves as idol worshippers. The battle for supremacy is being fought in our hearts, and there are many things that war inside of us to take the place of God, the place of supremacy that only HE can occupy. Potential idols are often good things that are morally neutral, until we elevate them, until we value them above their proper place in our lives.
How do you identify your idols or your potential idols? Idleman proposes asking yourself these seven questions:
1. What disappoints you? When we feel overwhelmed by disappointment, it’s a good sign that something has become far more important to us than it should be. Disproportionate disappointment reveals that we have placed intense hope and longing in something other than God. Have you ever thought that our disappointments are God’s way of reminding us that there are idols in our life that must be dealt with?
2. What do you complain about the most? Ask someone close to you what you complain about the most. What we complain about reveals what really matters to us. Are you whining about your finances, your sex life, how people don’t appreciate you, how your sports team is performing, etc.? Complaining shows what has power over us. Whining is in many ways the opposite of worshipping God.
3. Where do you make financial sacrifices? Take a look at your bank statement and your bills, and pretend you are examining a stranger’s finances to find out what is important to him. Where your money goes shows what god is winning your heart.
4. What worries you? Do you fear a particular loss of your spouse, your kids, or your job? Do you fear ridicule, or being alone? What are your bad dreams about? Whatever it is that wakes you – or keeps you awake – has the potential to be an idol.
5. Where is your sanctuary? To what or to whom do you run when it has been an awful day? What place or person is your rescue and refuge? Is it food, alcohol, exercise, television, novels, movies, porn, video games? Where we run to when we are hurting says a lot about who we are.
6. What infuriates you? Everyone has a hot button or two – something that we say makes us crazy. Do you hate losing a game? Sitting in traffic? Being disrespected? Why does some stranger have so much power over your emotions? What’s the real issue here? Maybe your quick temper reveals the oldest idol of them all – the god of me.
7. What are your dreams? If nightmares are revealing, so are daydreams – the place where we choose for our imagination to go. What dream has a grip on you? Aspirations are fine, but the question is why you aspire to those things.
For me, these questions revealed quite a few potential idols that I might not have been willing to admit previously. They are areas of my life – of my HEART – that I need to watch closely.
It turns out that I am prone to idol worship after all. Thanks, Kyle Idleman, for helping me see that.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23