Does the word “idol” conjure up a thought in your mind of a tiny little statue whose belly you rub so he’ll grant you a wish?
When you think of idolatry does your mind slip into a distant land far away where idol worship is part of the culture?
Perhaps you think of a golden calf or a little statue offered to pagan gods. Do you quickly push the word aside, thinking there’s no way your heart could be idolatrous?
If you’re like me, you may be tempted to think that idolatry has no place in your life. In fact, I’ve never been involved in idol worship. Or at least I didn’t think I had!
When God told Moses that His people should have no other gods before Him, (Exodus 20:3) I’ve always congratulated myself, thinking that Commandment Number One is the easiest commandant to keep.
Or is it?
I couldn’t see me bowing down to worship some fake statue.
The story of Aaron and the disobedient Israelites making the golden calf always made me cringe. (Exodus 32)
There may have even been some pride in my heart as I heard the Old Testament story recounted. I would never do such a thing!
God is my Number One!
Or is He?
What happens to my heart when I want something that I don’t get?
What happens to yours?
Let’s set aside the stereotypical viewpoint of an idol for a moment. No golden calves or little bald men.
Let’s take another look.
When I learned the concept of identifying Idols in my heart, I began to look differently at all of my behaviors and realized, ashamedly, that I do in fact struggle with idol worship.
Although I don’t make idols with my hands, I manufacture them in my heart.
I struggle with idolatry on a daily basis.
Perhaps, understanding what idolatry is, may help you take a second look at your own heart as you contemplate the question, is your heart idolatrous?
There are two simple questions you can ask yourself to identify whether or not your heart is an idol factory.
- Am I willing to sin to get what I want?
- Am I willing to sin if I don’t get what I want?
At first glance those questions seem easy enough to answer. But let’s dive into them and really dissect the questions.
But first, the definition of idolatry:
- Idolatry is anything I am willing to sin to get; and anything I’m willing to sin for if I don’t get it.
Yikes! That pretty much means that idolatry isn’t as easy to escape as I once thought.
Am I Willing to Sin to Get What I Want?
Let’s use an example for the sake of this illustration in order to make it easier to understand.
I’m going to give you a hypothetical example to protect the name of the guilty (ahem – me!) Though this isn’t an actual scenario, it’s based on events that may have happened in my house at least once. (And I’m not proud of it!)
The setting is a typical Sunday morning.
It’s my heart’s desire to have my family ready to attend church together.
YAY! Not a bad goal, right? So far, we’re doing good!
As a mom, I prefer my kids go to church looking somewhat pulled together! I don’t want anyone to attend Sunday morning worship in their underwear and I’m hopeful that everyone will at least have had some breakfast.
I like to be ready for church ahead of time so we aren’t late. This is especially helpful since my husband is the pastor 🙂 !
You and I both know that most kids don’t get themselves ready on their own.
Even my teenagers still need reminders and prompting at times, in order to make it out the door on time.
So we’re cruising along on a Sunday morning and everything seems to be going quite well. As I glance at the clock, it looks like we’re actually going to make it extra early today.
But then my three-year-old spills his breakfast and two kids are fighting in the living room. I look down and remnants of eggs are all over my church dress. The baby had a diaper blow out and the meat I was searing to prep for Sunday dinner just, well…
seared burnt to a crisp!
I was handling the spill alright until I realize things were crashing down on me. Everything at once! (Following me? Have you been there?)
Suddenly my chipper attitude begins to change. Anger wells up in my heart and I start to treat everyone with a poor attitude.
If I was smart, I would stop there, evaluate my attitude, confess my sin of idolatry, and begin to change. Unfortunately, most of the time I just continue to manufacture idols.
My idolatrous heart wanted to be to church on time and I definitely didn’t want to go wearing egg bake! (Still a noble desire)
So what happens in this instant? As my attitudes sours, I have now allowed my desire to go to church on time, which is a good desire, become an idol.
I’m willing to sin to get it.
Now it’s not necessarily a conscious desire, but as I evaluate, I can see that is exactly where my attitude went.
I was willing to speak gruffly to my kids, act angrily toward my family, and be crabby in order to get the kids to do what I wanted.
See how quickly I have become an idol worshipper?
Now on the contrary:
Am I Willing to Sin if I Don’t Get What I Want?
In the above example both forms of idolatry can be seen.
As soon as I didn’t get what I wanted, my attitude went South. I started getting angry because I didn’t get what I wanted.
In my desire to get to church on time, (which is a very good thing) the idolatry of my heart was revealed as soon as I didn’t get what I wanted.
My attitude changed, and I made everyone know that I wasn’t happy.
Now Ask Yourself
My friend, the above example is just a silly little scenario that may (or may not be true.)
But we are faced with these choices everyday:
Will you sin to get what you want (for a noble or sinful cause)?
Will you sin if you don’t get what you want (no matter how pure your desire is)?
- Someone cuts you off at an intersection, how do you respond?
- Your husband is home late from work, how do you react?
- Your home is less than perfect, do you treat your family poorly?
- The kids don’t do their chores, leaving them all to you, what is your attitude?
Do you see yourself in any of these examples? If you apply these questions to your own heart, are there times when you can see the sin of idolatry rear its ugly head?
How many times in any given day do you have to stop and remind yourself that not getting something you’re hoping for or wanting something badly is not a reason to sin? Evaluate your heart and ask yourself these questions the next time you are tempted to sin.
Related: Identify the Idols in Your Life With These 4 Questions