Elizabeth Elliot makes a point in one of her books that God desires us to grow in our lives for Him and that means God wants to break down the idols of our life – one by one. That point forces us to deal with the question—What is an idol? If we are called to eliminate them, we have to understand what they are.
An idol is anything that is more important to you than God. Idols are not just statues made of gold, silver or stone. An idol is often a good thing in our life like children, grandchildren, having money, a good position, a good education, a beautiful car, a college degree, your wife or husband, your family or your career. Many of these things are good to have, but when we value them more than God, we make them into an idol. It is probably safe to say that all of us have, at one time or another, had idols in our lives. There are things (sometimes sins) that overwhelm us. They occupy all our thinking and our time. Politics can become our idol. Sex can become our idol. A possession can become our idol. Revenge can become our idol when it takes over our life by causing us to think constantly about how someone has hurt us, or wounded us. Our time is consumed because our thoughts are controlled by how can we retaliate and make them hurt as much as we are hurt. One of the ways of determining your idol is to examine how you spend your money. If you are spending too much money on something, it has probably become your idol.
One of the lessons in the story of Abraham and Isaac concerns the threat of idolatry. When Abraham was told by God to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him on the altar, he faced the question: “Is this son, who you waited for many years, first in your life, or is the Lord God first in your life?” Remember that Abraham was a very old man when his wife Sarah gave birth to Isaac. The child he had waited for could easily become central in his life. If the Lord God was going to use Abraham in his life to be the father of a nation, he would have to put God first in his life. Idolatry comes into our life when we value something more than God. For most of us, that can easily happen. C. S, Lewis puts it this way in his writing on The Four Loves:
“We must pray that this gift should be given us. But the question whether we are loving
God or the earthly beloved more is not, so far as concerns our Christian duty, a
question about the comparative intensity of two feelings. The real question is, which
(when the alternative comes) do you serve, or choose, or put first? To which claim does
your will, in the last resort, yield?”
The process of replacing idols with devotion to the true God is an ongoing struggle. The only way of dealing with idolatry is to always remind ourselves that everything we have in life is a gift of God. It does not belong to us. Many of the idols in our life are things we get involved in every day. If it is a material thing, then when we die, it goes to someone else. There is a time when we all have to say to our Lord: “Lord, everything I have belongs to you.” The only way to eliminate idols in our lives is to worship the true God – the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who sent his only son to the cross to pay for our sins. Jesus Christ has to become the center of our life. Only then will our idols cease.