Have you ever seen a child when they finally get the toy that they’ve been asking for? They get so excited, and after a quick thank-you, their entire world is wrapped up in that one toy. Nothing is more important…until something newer comes along. And while we might laugh when we see this quick turnover happening with kids, we try to ignore it when it happens in our own lives, but instead of toys, it’s status, approval, or influence. When we get so caught up in the things of the world that we take our eyes off of God; we’ve put an idol on the throne of our lives. We’ve turned to God and said, “I see what you did for me, I know that you died so that I could live, but I’d rather spend my life worshiping the things of the world.”
Idolatry is a sneaky sin for most of us because we tend to see it in the Old Testament context. We look at the Israelites in the desert and say to ourselves, “Well, I’m not worshiping a golden calf, so I’m good on that front.” But idolatry isn’t isolated to golden calves and wooden carvings. It’s anything that we put higher than God. That means that when I scroll through social media instead of spending time with the Lord, I’ve made that an idol. When I seek the approval of the people around me instead of finding my worth in the Lord, I’ve made that an idol. When I can quote a tv show line for line, but I can’t even remember two verses of Scripture, I’ve made that an idol. The things in our lives that we put above God may not be as glaringly obvious as a golden calf, but they are just as destructive.
There was a speaker at camp one week when I was in junior high that said something that has stuck with me all these years later. He said that God doesn’t want to be number one in our hearts because that means that we have a number two and three. He doesn’t want to simply be at the top of our list of priorities, He wants to be the list. Because when we have a number two and three, that gives room for us to usurp God from His throne. Now maybe little grade seven Katherina didn’t fully understand what he meant when he said all of that, but twenty-four-year-old Katherina does. Because I’ve seen it play out in my own life, time and again when I’ve had God at the top of my list, but He wasn’t the only thing on it. I began to focus my attention on the lower items on my list because they gave more immediate feedback and reactions than God did, and before I knew it, I had idols stacked on God’s throne left and right.
Idolatry is sneaky and strategic with how it comes into our hearts because it often stems from something good or valuable in our lives. It starts off as a small bloom, but before you know it, your entire garden is taken over with weeds so thick you can’t see the ground. Like all sins, it feels good and right in the moment, but it’ll consume your soul if you let it. To get your garden back, you must rip the weeds out by the roots. Simply plucking the heads off might make it look nicer, but the weeds are continuing to choke the life out of what you’re trying to grow.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “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, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”Exodus 20:2-6 NIV
All throughout the Bible, God instructs His people to not only abstain from building idols but to also tear down the idols in the lands that they conquered. The Lord wanted His people to know in their hearts and minds that He was, is, and will forever be the only God. By demolishing the other nation’s idols, the Israelites were removing temptation from their lives. It probably would’ve been easier on them to leave the idols up and try to ignore them, but the Lord knew their hearts would wander towards them quickly. And He knows that the same is true of our hearts. We’re so prone to straying from the fold of God and seeking after every shiny thing that the world offers. We need to ask God to show us the things in our lives that we have made idols, and with His help, we can begin to demolish them, freeing our hearts up to chase after the good things of the Lord.
What idols have you been letting live in your life? Can you easily identify what you run to and worship instead of God? I can tell you firsthand that the things of this world are dim and fractured when compared to what the Lord has to offer. So take some time to pray and ask God to show you what weeds you need to rip out of your life so that the good things of the Father can grow and mature.