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Can We Turn Comfort Into an Idol?March 16, 2022
God hates idolatry. He makes that clear in the First Commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:4-5a). We are familiar with common idols we Americans struggle with like money, possessions, power, family, careers, education, drugs, and alcohol, just to name a few. Over the last ten years I have seen a new idol become dominant in our affluent American lives. I called it the idol of comfort.
I have been sounding the alarm to be aware of this idol of comfort whenever I get the chance. In my own mind I knew exactly what I was talking about. But most people did not seem to understand what I was talking about. Recently a young investment businessman disagreed with me. He shared that his company’s purpose included the desire for his clients to come to a place of financial comfort and he didn’t think that was a bad thing! We went back and forth in a healthy debate until he asked me to define comfort.
I said, “Comfort is first a gift from God, but people elevate it into an end in itself, and worship the idea and experience of being comfortable.” We quickly agreed that comfort was a gift from God. He shared that when people attain a place of financial comfort it opens doors to let them live their lives more fully. If you are hungry, you spend your time seeking food. If you are cold, you spend your time seeking shelter. Once you have food and shelter, then you can spend your time sharpening your God-given skills. If people strive for comfort, then spend the fruits of their success in sin that’s the problem. Comfort opens the door to opportunity. If you waste that opportunity on selfish and sinful behavior, you are wasting the gift of comfort.
When one looks up the word comfort in the Bible it appears seventy-one times. We are to look to God for comfort and look to one another to give and receive comfort. God wants us to experience His gift of comfort and cherish how much He comforts us during the trials and tragedies of our lives. We read in I Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” That is certainly not a picture of comfort that is idolatrous!
I think I Timothy 6:10 holds the key to understanding this new idol we modern people can struggle with. We read, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Money is not evil, in and of itself. God gives us everything we have and when we use it to His glory money is a powerful tool to advance God’s kingdom. In the same way, comfort is a gift from God, but the love of comfort can lead us into the idolatry of comfort, and the evil that comes from idolatry. In verse 11 Paul tells Timothy how to keep money, and for our purposes today, keep comfort from becoming evil in our lives. He writes, “But you, O man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.”
The love of comfort becomes our desire to get to a place in life where we can provide for all our needs so we don’t need anyone else, and deceive ourselves into believing we don’t need God. Having achieved this place, we desire to stay in our comfort zone, avoiding people we don’t like or who may have needs that challenge us, keeping our distance from people who may desire us to be involved in their lives emotionally, or being a part of the different communities that desire us to be a part of their mission (like a church or community mission), and choosing instead those things that don’t challenge us like screens or hobbies.
What do you think of my distinction between comfort as a gift from God and the love of comfort? Does the love of comfort seem seductive to you? Do you find yourself spending more time in comfortable places than trying to grow as a person? Life is hard and it is not always fair. I can 100% guarantee everyone reading this is going to encounter hard and unfair times in your life. If you are comfortable now, then this is a good time to seek to go deeper in your faith.