Dad, I Want to Tell You About My Idols
As I sat on the front porch taking in the warm summer-like evening with one of my boys the conversation turned to my Sunday morning exposition. “Dad, I want to talk to you about my idols – I have identified two – and I want to talk to you about them.” The morning exposition included a parting salvo to “keep yourself from idols” (I John 5:21). “Wow” – I thought. “I hope he doesn’t ask me about my idols. I’m not sure I could be that honest.”
Timothy Keller is the Lead Pastor of one of America’s most dynamic congregations in New York City – where he is successfully reaching well-educated “postmoderns” with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his book Counterfeit Gods, Keller observes that the lure of idolatry is just as real today as it was in the first century. He defines idolatry this way:
What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give."
- Keller, Counterfiet Gods
As such – though we may not be surrounded with images of Baal, Diana, or Buddha, idolatry is all around us. Money, success, sports, pleasure, fun, family, food, drink, sex – all of them have become idols. Don’t misunderstand me – these are all good things – in fact, they are gifts from God’s hand. But just as ancient people carved stone and wood into images of false gods, many have taken the gifts God has given them and carved them into idols. The scriptures constantly call us to enjoy the gift but worship only the GIVER (I Timothy 6:17). As Augustine reminds us:
“For there is indeed beauty in physical objects; in gold, in silver, in all things. But in striving after these things, we must not depart from you, or stray from the path of your law. Even the life we live here has its own charm . . . but all such things may be occasions for sin, when we incline towards them more than we ought. It is true that these lesser things have their delight, but none like my God, the maker of all things." (Augustine, Confessions)
We must be careful about taking the gifts God has given us and carving them into idols. Let us enjoy them – and then give praise to him! Let us enjoy them – but worship only HIM. As Keller says:
“The way forward is to discern the idols of our hearts and our culture. But that will not be enough. The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the True One." (Keller, Counterfeit Gods)
Let me suggest a very simple way to begin. Stop – at least once a week – and make worship a priority. If you find that hard to do it is probably because you are being lured by idolatry. The next step may actually be to talk to someone about the idols of your heart – get them out there and share them with a friend. I’m still working up the courage to talk with my son about the idols that tempt me.