The Modern Idols that Tempt Us

September 30, 2019

“When people say, ”I know God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself,“ they mean that they have failed an idol, whose approval is more important than God’s” (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters).

Perhaps the greatest sin in the Bible is idolatry. Idolatry is worshipping anything that isn’t God. The first two commandments deal specifically with idolatry. Exodus 20:3-4 says, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image (an idol) in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” The people in the Bible struggled with the common idea that if one god was good, many gods were better. And so they would buy or make gods of gold, silver, stone, and wood representing the gods of fertility, harvest, rain, moon, sun, and all the other aspects of nature.

Today we are much more sophisticated. We don’t have idols. Or do we? J.I. Packer offers this insightful description of the idols that seduce us. He writes, “What other gods could we have besides the Lord? Plenty. There are the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god: self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as ‘The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life’ (1 John 2:16). Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some.” (Your Father Loves You by J. I. Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986).

We even take our blessings and turned them into idols. Our family means so much to us, but if we elevate our love of our family above our love for God then we turn our family into an idol. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Where your heart is there your treasure is” (Luke 14:26). He was talking about how families can become a powerful idol in the faith journey of people. For some, families can provide the greatest barrier to faith.

Money is probably the most seductive idol of our time, but this was true in Jesus’ day as well. He taught, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that he wants our complete devotion. He wants our total love. Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).” He wants our soul. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25).” He wants us to look for His hand at work in our lives all the time. Paul writes, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 5:16- 18).” He wants us to live our lives for Him. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).”

What are the idols that tempt you to worship them? What is the objects of your affection, efforts, and attention that captivate your passions, focus, and attention? What can you do to overcome those temptations? Where does the majority of your time go? On what do you spend the greatest amount of your resources? Have you turned to God for strength against those idols? Do you have someone in your life you trust that can help hold you accountable? God desires our focused devotion. We will better live out the perfect plan He has for our lives the more we are able to worship and adore Him above all other gods and idols.