“I worship idols.” Now there’s a sentence I never thought I would utter. Yet, it’s true–I do. It’s probably true for all of us most of the time. I’m not suggesting that I have little statues I bow down to, or good luck charms in my pocket. I love Jesus, and I live for him. But all the same, there are so many things I inadvertently choose to put before God.
And that’s what idols are. Those things we give allegiance and priority to, that we turn to first instead of God. The things that preoccupy our thoughts. The Bible warns us not to make idols of our money, the works of our hands, or angels, just to name a few. And even though those things should be easy enough to recognize, they still manage to sneak into our lives before we realize it.
On top of that, there are so many other things which are even more sneaky (sneakier?) that end up becoming our idols. Chances are, what I’m going to share next might already be at the top of your list, like they are on mine.
Curious? Read on.
Idol #1: Obsessing About Our Weight or Body Image
On the one side, we can make eating and drinking an idol. Remember the seven deadly sins? Well, there’s old-fashioned gluttony: overindulgent, greedy, excessive eating and drinking. Not caring enough about the consequences to our bodies, our health, or even our families, we just consume without reasonable limits. We eat and drink to fill emotional voids, to numb feelings, to distract ourselves from pain. We run to it first, because food doesn’t say no. For most of us, it’s always available, always within reach. Convenient.
And before we know it, we have not only lifted up food as an idol, but we also have become its slave. So many of us live in bondage because of this, trapped inside a body we hate. We hate our outsides, then we hate what’s inside that causes us to overeat. Now we’re experiencing emotional pain, and we end up turning back to food to quell it. It’s an awful, vicious cycle.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those of us that worry obsessively about our weight and body image. Let me just make it personal right here and say that this is me. Several years ago I went on a diet (mostly to support my husband, who was trying to lose weight) and I lost almost 20 pounds. I was pretty darn ecstatic about how I looked, even though I had never given my weight much thought before. A couple years later, when I put that weight back on, I became completely obsessed with getting back to the size I thought I was happiest and most ‘acceptable.’
True story. And it’s wearing me out, taking over my thoughts…keeping me in bondage. Then the Lord pointed out to me that this is what idolatry looks like. This is what idolatry does to us.
So I asked him (a little afraid of the answer), “What other things have I been making into idols?”
Idol #2: Focusing on Our Problems
Now, I don’t worship my problems–not by a long shot. But I know exactly what the Lord was getting at: I give them power. I give them authority. And more than anything, I have allowed them (in their sneaky, dirty, seductive way) to captivate my focus. I answer to them instead of speaking the truth of God to them. This is not to say that our problems disappear when we put God first. Very few of them actually do. But there’s a world of difference between going to God’s alter to lay down our problems, and asking God to approach the alter we’ve constructed to them. Though he is compassionate and merciful beyond our imagination, I doubt he is going to reinforce our behavior by taking away the issues we’ve elevated above God himself.
Is it hot in here, or is it just me?
Alright, moving on…
Idol #3: The Relentless Pursuit of Healing or Victory
I’m a little nervous about calling this one out. It may be a little controversial, but hang with me and just let it be food for thought.
Simply stated, it’s very much like pursuing the gift instead of the giver. I think that many of us within the evangelical church have learned to operate this way, especially lately. Like with our problems, praying for healing can become our primary focus and the main object of our pursuit. This is especially true (and sneaky) when we are legitimately pressing in for a breakthrough. It’s not that the pursuit is wrong (it isn’t, it’s biblical), but when our hope is in the manifestation of our healing, breakthrough, or victory, it really isn’t in God. It’s in what we want. The outcome of our prayers.
And if or when it doesn’t happen, where does that lead? Anger, confusion, disappointment with God?
We may think we need to try harder or find the key to unlocking our breakthrough. But God is not a cool, detached Father, sitting back and waiting for us to hit upon the magic formula to move his hand. Often, there are more important things he wants us to learn in those dark places. Things we could not learn any other way. So that is not to say don’t pursue healing or a breakthrough, but rather, don’t let it become the sole object of your desire and keep you in bondage.
Well, that’s enough for now. Hopefully this has you thinking about what might be your top three. And if you know what they are, what do you do now?
Knowledge is Power
Once the Lord has awakened our awareness about idols in our lives, we are responsible for tearing them down. But we are not left to accomplish this alone. God will help us dismantle them, and he will grow in us an increasing dissatisfaction for turning to those things instead of him. We just need to come to him, confess the idols we’ve made, and ask for his forgiveness and his help. Though it’s too early for me to cry, “Victory!” in destroying my own idols, I can tell you that my train of thoughts concerning those things has come to a screeching halt as soon as I remember what I’ve done.
And remembering–mindfulness–is key to much of our spiritual growth. All of this is so critical to recognize and forsake if our aim is to grow closer to the Father and to walk in greater measures of freedom and wholeness.
We can actually expect to discover that idols have sneaked (snuck?) into our lives…but once we recognize they’re there, we simply cannot allow them to stay.