How to know you have an idol

Clayton King

On my bookshelves in my study in our basement, you will find objects from my travels around the world.  Aside from the books that line those shelves, there are a few items that tell interesting stories: a wooden Massai warrior from Kenya, a Boba Fett action figure (unopened in the box), an olive wood carving of the Last Supper from Israel.  

These are the kinds of images we think of when we read stories from the Old Testament about worshipping idols. We see golden calves and stone images that God forbid Israel to make or to worship. But idols are more than trinkets and doo-dads, and they certainly didn't disappear after the Old Testament. They still exist today and they wield much more power than lifeless, inanimate trinkets placed on altars in temples.

What's an Idol?

An idol is any person, position or pursuit that captures too much of your affection or attention.This could include your job, your college major, your income, your physical appearance, your favorite TV show, or your time on Facebook.  Students can turn their friends into idols. Parents can turn their kids into idols. Pastors can turn their ministry into idols.  

An idol is a good thing that becomes a god to you.  

And remember this; an idol is almost never a bad thing that you become obsessed over. An idol is a good thing that becomes a god to you.  

How to Know You Have an Idol

Idolatry creeps in where the worship of Jesus ends. When I allow anything or anyone to take the highest place of priority or importance in my life besides Jesus, I find myself slipping unnoticed into the dangerous territory of giving too much of my attention and affection to something that isn't worthy of it.

A verse that helps me fight my tendency toward idolatry is 1 John 5:21, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." 

It's so simple and straightforward that it seems absurd. But there's a hidden secret embedded in John's closing remark to his brothers and sisters in the first-century church.  

When we know, understand, and remember that we are God's dear children, we will rest in His unconditional love, realizing that no other person, position or pursuit could satisfy our deep longing for joy that only comes from being in a relationship with our Father. The closer we are to Jesus, the easier it is to keep ourselves from idols.

You don't keep yourself from idols by trying harder. Instead, you become so intoxicated with the grace of God that you're too consumed with His beauty to notice any other god.

Do you struggle with idolatry? How do you fight it?

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