“Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.”– Isaiah 2:8
It took me years after being a Christian to truly understand and own how idols play out in my life and intersect with my faith. I had a limited picture of idols being golden figures on a shelf, with candles encircling them, and incense burning beside them, and with people kneeling before them as they ask for things like rain for their fields. The idea of idols being personal was a new concept for me. I had not considered that idols could live within me, not just be amongst me—that idolatry is not always about worshiping other spiritual gods but can be about worshiping personal gods, made by our own hands, to bring us glory.
In Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods, he defines an idol as “an extremely sophisticated idea, integrating intellectual, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual categories. There are personal idols, such as romantic love and family; or money, power, and achievement; or access to particular social circles; or the emotional dependence of others in you; or health, fitness, and physical beauty. Many look to these things for hope, meaning, and fulfillment that only God can provide.” Ultimately, Keller goes on to say that idols are “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”
When I first read this definition of idols, I was immediately ushered into clarity and conviction, as I can name not just one idol in my heart, but multiple. I would dare to say that there are often kingdoms of idols residing in my heart, as I often look outside of God for happiness and wholeness.
There is something that seems to drive a desire within me to hustle for my happiness and wholeness, instead of simply letting it graciously rest upon me in Christ Jesus. And idols, oh, they make their homes in thinking like that.
The truth is, idols divide our hearts, fracture them, and ultimately break them.
The truth is, idols divide our hearts, fracture them, and ultimately break them. They are not designed to make our hearts whole, but instead are designed to make our hearts sick and weary. Idols divide our hearts from our faith and our true hope. And in the cracks, they even cast doubt upon how whole our hearts can ever really be, even in God. Idols make our hearts unavailable to God. Over time we can forget that our idols only fit within our hands, but we were made to fit within His.
We end up settling for a life that is limited to our hands instead of the unlimitedness of existing in His.
Any idols we have, any happiness we create for ourselves, and any wholeness we try to attain without God, end up being a paper-mache version of all that we were created to have, be and live within in Christ Jesus. Idols are created; they do not create. As a result, we end up settling into a lesser form, a lesser call, and a lesser love. We end up settling on being disciples of paper-mache gods. We end up settling for a life that is limited to our hands instead of the unlimitedness of existing in His.
We have two choices in light of this: we can live for what we want or live for what we were created for. The second choice will only be easy to make when our hearts are convinced that Jesus is the love of our life and the only One worthy of our worship.
This week, seek how idolatry could be intersecting your life and faith, and ultimately pursue laying your idols down so your heart can be available to follow God.