Idolatry 101

Some additional yet basic insight about idols . . .
Something isn’t an idol because of what it is, but rather because of why we choose it and how we use it. (Rom 14)

We generally don’t know what our idols are until we evaluate our consistent choices in the face of competition. (Joshua 24)

For instance . . . let’s take Harry and Mary, a husband and wife from Anytown, USA. They look forward to Monday nights becasuse its their “date night,” the night they catch up and talk, laugh, and enjoy time together. But come the NFL season, Harry says to Mary, “I’d love to see the season opener; can I get a rain check for that night?” She responds, “Sure, no problem.” After all, it’s just one game, Mary reasons, and Harry really enjoys football. That’s a workable compromise.

After week one, Harry says to Mary, “Honey, Bill is coming over for Monday’s game.” Mary is a tad surprised, but no bigee, she thinks. He and Bill are good friends, it’s still early in the season…no harm done.

Then on week three Bill shows up about an hour before the game, and Mary finds out it was actually a standing invitation. So later Mary asks her dear ol’ hubby about the news from Bill — that the game is now a regular event for him and his friends. He responds by saying that there really is no problem, for the season “is only 16 weeks long. And that leaves 36 for you, my dear — more than twice as many as the football season.” Without any conflicts, to boot!

More than likely, Mary would leave that conversation crushed. Why? Because her place in your husband’s life was revealed, not by his commitmement to her in the absence of competition, but rather by his consistent choices in the face of competition. Hard as it would be to admit, Mary would be left realizing that, at least in some weird way, her husband loves football at least as much, if not more, than he loves her. Is football in and of itself wrong? No. But the way Harry uses it, and why he consistently chooses it over and above other more important priorities, makes it a “graven image” in his life that is pulling him away from his real love. And it wasn’t even revealed until the fire of competition was lit.

You can substitute anything you want in into that illustration/analogy: Music, food, work, money, family, exercise, on and on and on. The hard reality is that we show what we really trust — worship — by the consistent choices we make in the face of competition. The question I am left wrestling with is this: Do my consistent choices prove I worship and trust Jesus?

This was the whole point of Satan’s accusation against Job — “give him some competition and he won’t worship you anymore!” Would Job remain faithful even when tempted with apparently better roads than the one labeled “trust God?” Hallelujah, he did!

This was the primary backdrop of Moses’ decision in Hebrews 11. Would he worship and follow God in suffering even when faced with the lure of Egyptian riches and security? Hallelujah, he did!

This was the billboard that blazed behind Joshua’s charge to the Israelites in Joshua 24 when he ever so boldly brought them to the crossroads of decision, forcing them to “choose this day whom you are going to serve.” Would they follow Yahweh to the Promised Land even amid the competition of the gods (i.e., idols) on the other side of the river? Hallelujah, they did (albeit not without incident!)

Without a doubt, our decisions that seem to be about so many whats — budgets, schedules, projects, ideas, commitments, work, hobbies, etc — eventually reveal who we really trust and worship. Indeed, at a certain point it no longer becomes about the whats at all, but rather about who you’re going to trust — Jesus or an idol?

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