By Julie Bruce
Idols. Carved or molded statutes. People bowing down. People calling out to them. The Israelites had a big problem with worshipping idols. Just about every nation around them worshipped a god but not the One true God. They spent years in slavery in Egypt and idol worship was all around them. However, when God brought them out of Egypt, he told them, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Yet time and time again, they returned to worshipping idols.
What about us today? Do we still worship idols? To answer that, let’s first understand what idolatry is. Webster’s Dictionary defines idolatry as 1) the worship of a physical objet as a god or 2) immoderate attachment or devotion to something. Anything or anyone that we become so attached to that we give it a higher priority than we do God becomes an idol in our life, but yet that doesn’t quite complete the definition. In Exodus 20:3 the command reads, “You shall have no other gods before me.” What God was saying is that we are to have no other gods other than Him. He is to be our ONLY God. If we bring anything or anyone else into God’s space in our heart, we make that thing or that person an idol. Perhaps it’s our children or a hobby. A career. Money. Our social life. Maybe even a ministry that God has called us to that has turned into an idol. Not all idols are bad things. For example, sleep is a good thing and we need sleep. Recently, my mother watched the evening news and she told me about a story where current research shows that people who do not get seven hours of sleep a night are at a much higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Sleep is definitely a good thing! However, when I choose to stay in bed and sleep in late on Sunday morning instead of going to church, I have just put sleeping at a higher priority than God. The time I should have devoted to worshipping Him, I gave to my comfy pillows and warm blankets. So, even good things can become idols–if we let them.
A very common idol found in today’s world is materialism. We are more concerned with keep up with the neighbors and making sure we have the nicer house, the fancier car, the name brand clothes, and the expensive purses. When I was teaching school, I had students that came every day without a lunch and without money to buy lunch but they would come wearing a different pair of the most expensive tennis shoes available. We go into debt beyond the means of our income, charge credit cards to the max and then turn around and get a new card so we can keep on charging. Eventually become so stressed out trying to pay for the mass of things we’ve accumulated until we are bickering with our spouse, snapping at our kids and having to take a part-time job on the weekends that keeps us out of church. On top of that, we are not tithing because there is nothing left to give to God. We’ve spent all we had, plus some of what we don’t have just to get that next thing we just thought we had to have.
Another idol in today’s world is our jobs. We work 60 or more hours a day, come home and ignore our families. Our marriage relationship looks more like two people living in the same home who don’t even know each other. Our children suffer and without proper parenting end up looking for meaning and love from their friends, drugs, alcohol, or sex. Some end up in legal trouble and then we wonder where we went wrong. After all, we gave them the best of everything….except for the best of us. If working five days a week isn’t enough, we’ll work seven days and church won’t even get a second thought. How much we work isn’t the only way our jobs can be an idol. Climbing up the corporate ladder is also an idol. We’ll bend over and do whatever the job demands to get that next promotion…even if it keeps us from God or if it goes against the teachings of God’s Word.
Ultimately, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, idolatry is about self. We put our wants, desires, felt needs, dreams, and aspirations before God. They interfere with us spending time daily studying the Bible and praying. They become what we think about, spend money on, and devote our time to while neglecting our relationship with God. So how do you know if you have allowed something to become an idol? Here are some questions to ask yourself?
- Where do I spend the most of my time?
- Where do I spend the most of my money?
- What prohibits me from having a daily time of Bible study and prayer?
- What is keeping me from having a thriving, growing, intimate relationship with God?
- What keeps me from regular attendance at church?
- Take a look at your calendar or wherever you record your activities. What dominates your calendar?
Now that you have identified some idols in your life, how do you get rid of them? Well, the answer isn’t necessarily to get rid of them. After all, if your spouse or children have become an idol, you don’t just toss them out. Instead, you must learn to love God more. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.” Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This, my dear friend, is the answer to overcoming idolatry. Nothing else in life will satisfy you more. Nothing else will give you true joy. Nothing else will give you peace in times of trouble. We were created for a purpose….to bring God honor and glory. Will you surrender your idols and allow God to be your ONLY God?