Modern Day Idols (Part 1)
I’m so glad to be back with you today! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks in the Edwards’ home front, with a cabinet remodel, school, work, kid stuff, and on and on… I hope you’ve benefitted from the last two posts of The Radical Wife e-newsletter written by my friend, Jen Oliver. If you missed it, you can read “Seven Reasons My Marriage Failed,” Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking the links.
Today, I want to share something that has been bouncing around in my head. (Scary, I know!) I’ve been doing some self reflecting based on some stuff I’m learning at school and books I’m reading. As God usually does with me, lessons I’m learning there seem to coincide with what I’m experiencing in life right now. I think this post could have a profound impact on your life if you take the time to let what I’m about to tell you sink in. Not easy to do in this busy day and age, but it will be worth it.
“There’s nothing wrong with putting our focus on the good things in life until they rule our lives.”
I’m talking about idolatry, which is a huge topic. After writing the whole thing, I decided it would be much better if I split this blog post into two separate posts, the first highlighting what idolatry is, and the second on how it is plays out today in our lives as women. I hope you’ll be patient with me and come back next week for the second part! You can always subscribe directly to my blog to have it e-mailed to you, or hit “LIKE” on my Facebook page.
Part 1 – What in the world is idolatry?
I’ll do my best to explain how idolatry is still relevant to you and me, and what it looks like in life today. But first, I need to give you a little background. I fully recognize that the word “idolatry” sounds a little hocus-pocus—a little like witchcraft or some ancient ritual or ceremony. Well, in fact it is! Various forms of idolatry were practiced in ancient times by all sorts of people. It invariably involved chanting, darkness, ritualistic exercises, and ceremonial worship as an attempt to get something in return for meeting the requirements of whatever the particular god or ideal required. The Bible mentions 34 false gods worshipped during ancient history, including false gods, like Baal, Molech, Artemis, and Asherah. Worship to these false gods included terrible things like throwing their first born child into a pit of fire (child sacrifice), or carrying out “imitative magic” through sexual acts with male and female temple prostitutes in return for financial prosperity, rain, or fertility. Sounds crazy, I know, but this was an accepted way of life back then among those who didn’t know Israel’s God, Yahweh.
The Israelites were a people set apart by God, who were commanded to not participate in worship to false gods. It wasn’t just a suggestion to follow if they wanted to—he was deathly serious. Paul warned Christians about this in the New Testament too. Check out Leviticus 26:14-30 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-14. You see, God wasn’t an abstract, impersonal, lifeless “god” to them back in the day. He constantly interacted with them, giving them special attention through divine miracles and appearances, sending prophets to bear messages specific to their situation, and fulfilling prophecies in their presence. He even dwelled among them in their camps! But, after all that, the stubborn Israelites were constantly drawn to following other cultures and their gods, relying on other things than God to provide for their needs, security, fertility, etc. In other words, they practiced idolatry, too. He warned them over and over about their idolatrous ways and what would happen, so they would come back for a little while, but eventually slip back into the practice of the day. They were very fickle. They took up doing the things that the other people groups around them were doing, instead of doing what they knew God wanted. Then when things got bad, they cried out to him, “God help us!” Sound familiar?
The greatest commandment God has ever given to man-kind is this: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He says this both in Deuteronomy 6:5 and again in Matthew 22:37. He also says in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” These verses are pretty clear on what God wants from us—what he expects us to do and not do, and the place he is to be positioned in our lives.
In other words, we’re to follow him wholeheartedly and not let anything take his place as #1.
Given that, we can define an idol as anything or anyone that captures our hearts, minds, and affections more than God. The Puritans called it “inordinate desires,” meaning the things or people we worship, long for, and set our hearts on. Even a good thing, when taken to extremes, can become an idol that destroys. Want proof? Think about a person who fixates on someone they’re attracted to. They end up placing the person of their devotion on a pedestal and ruining any chances they have with him or her. They might even become stalkers and wind up in jail!
Our kids can become idols when we fixate all of our time and energy on them, delighting in their successes and freaking out when they fail. It’s common for parents to actually feel successful themselves if their kids are successful—thus the term, “living vicariously through them.” But what happens if they fail (like they are bound to do)? Does that mean you’re a failure as a parent? Are they utter failures, never to recover? Nope and nope. If our focus is on God, we would know that he does his best work through failure, so a healthy focus would look for God’s best and see it as an opportunity for them to learn something significant.
There are many idols we set up for ourselves, whose presence we are unaware of. A good place to start this week would be to acknowledge that there could be some things taking your focus off of God’s best for you and your family that need to be rooted out and discarded. Start by reading this Scripture and praying through it, writing down anything that comes to mind.
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Next week, we’ll expand on other types of idols and how to further rid them from your life.
– End of Part 1 –
I hope you found this first talk on idolatry interesting. If you did, please feel free to share it with someone you know. Next week, join me for Part 2 to hear my take on how we allow idols and false gods to take up residence in our modern-day lives. You’ll be surprised at what they are—I know I was!