“Keep Yourselves from Idols”

People are incurably religious. When they exclude God from their lives, they will make a substitute god out of something. They find something within creation which they inflate so it functions as their god. It can be a person, an object, a property, an activity, an institution, an idea, an image, a hope, a pleasure, change, status, fitness, etc. Idols are not just in pagan temples. They control the hearts and lives of people today.

Three authors have recently warned us of the present danger of idolatry. Selections will be quoted from their works.

Timothy Keller, in Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters, defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. . . . Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life”

“God was saying that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.”

“A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving ‘face’ and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry. . . . An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, than I’ll feel significant and secure.’ There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters (New York: Dutton, 2009). Continue reading