A seventeenth-century, Puritan minister wrote, “If we think of our soul as a house, there are idols set up in every room.” That is a stark thought. We as 21st Century Christians could easily convince ourselves that idol worship is a thing of our distant and dark past. Obviously, if I visited your home today, I would be hard pressed to find images or altars where worship of false gods takes place. As we inventory the Ten Commandments and ask ourselves how we are doing, the command to “have no other gods before Me” would receive an A+. “I may get many things wrong,” we think, “but I don’t worship false gods.”
But… we do.
Our idols are not always obvious to us or to others. There are, what author and pastor, Tim Keller has called “deep idols.” We have not self-diagnosed enough if we simply think that money may be an idol in our life. That is the “surface idol;” the idol that is obvious. Your bank account calls that out for you. But money can be an idol even if you don’t have any. The surface idol is “mammon” or “riches.” The deep idol is your reliance upon money for an understanding of who you are. The deep idol may be your need for control, for success, for approval of others, for comfort, for security. If we are leaning on having money (surface idol) for the sake of achieving these other goals (deep idol), then we are idolaters. Our “golden calf” may not be an object we bow before as the ancient Israelites did in the Book of Exodus. It may, however, be an object we bow before on payday as we wrestle with who gets the firstfruits in our life.
This is something we must rigorously self-diagnose. Idols hide from us. They become so entrenched in our lives that we don’t even notice them, like paint peeling on a wall we pass by every day.
But what we must understand is that the “God who sees” everything, sees the idol. He sees the struggle in our hearts as our worship that should be for Him alone is divided… sometimes many times over. “You cannot serve God and mammon,” Jesus warned us.
And yet… how often we try.
FOR MEDITATION: So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Colossians 3:5 NLT
FOR REFLECTION: What are the “deep idols” that hinder your worship of the One True God?