“Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
And anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.
And anything that I give all my love is an idol.”
I am not an Old Testament expert by any stretch of the imagination, but my understanding of idols is that they were manmade creations that mankind chose to worship in the place of the real God. The example that I tend to look to is in Exodus, when Aaron fashioned the golden calf for the displaced Israelites to bow before. Funnily enough, at the same time, God was bequeathing the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, the Law that would end up showing the Israelites how much they deserved God’s wrath. The consequences of this calf are often overlooked; people recognize that this was when Moses threw down the tablets in disgust, breaking them and requiring another trip up Mount Sinai. But we forget that Moses then had the Lord’s priests strike down with their swords nearly three thousand of the Israelites. God then sent a plague upon His people. Maybe the extent of this response seems strange to you, even barbaric. But it speaks volumes about the extent to which God hates idolatry. And the shock we feel at God’s wrath speaks volumes about the depth of our own idolatry.
I have had many idols in my short life. A few that stand out to me as I write this: my reputation among my friends; how many friends I have; the affection of specific girls; the affection of my parents; my reputation among people who don’t know me; my skills in performing, whether it be in singing or acting or sports*; how good I feel; whether or not what I’m involved in means anything; and the list goes on. I think I am quick to point out other people and say that they have idols of MONEY or APPROVAL or COMFORT. Those are big idols that are increasingly obvious the more you spend time around a person. But it is a lie that the only idols are the big, obvious ones. Idolatry is more than caring too much about something. Idolatry is more often about the things that keep us from worshiping God in all facets of our lives. They don’t just cause us to do things, they cause us to not do things. We fail to serve God because we want, with all of our hearts, to be respected by others. We fail to tell others about Jesus because we can’t stop thinking of how uncomfortable that situation would be. We fail to give up time to serve our churches because we put our satisfaction before God’s.
Recently, I’ve noticed an idol in my life is busyness. When I say busyness, I don’t mean that I’m involved in too many organizations or I have too many responsibilities pulling me in different directions. Quite the opposite, actually. I have plenty of free time; it’s just that I choose to spend that free time distracting myself. I keep my mind busy with websites, books, movies, music, TV shows, Words with Friends, etc. I can’t tell you why I do this; I can tell you that it is sinful. I have not allowed my life the space I need to truly worship God throughout my day. Maybe my heart is scared of the sanctification God would force me into if I allowed Him that space. I suppose that makes sense; it is easier to fill my mind with useless trivia and boredom-killers than to challenge it with prayer and good conversation. The bad isn’t in the websites and the media I consume; the bad is in the level to which I submerge myself in them. This has been going on for quite some time.
The song lyrics at the top come from a great (maybe the best) Jimmy Needham song called “Clear the Stage”. The song is a passionate intervention; Jimmy wants to grab us and shake us, to make us purge out the idols in our lives. He defines idols for us- anything that I can’t stop thinking of is an idol. Have you ever thought of it that way? It puts a lot of things in my life up for discussion. The title of the song is a reference to the drastic measures we must take to let God pull us out of idolatry. At one point, Jimmy gives us this precious reminder: “Know that great is the reward, so just be hopeful.” There is more joy in store for me than simply being distracted all day. What am I missing out on now because my head is stuck in meaninglessness that I think will make me happy? I have to remember that my hope is not in being happy each day, but in the great reward at the end of my life here on earth. So I’m trying.
A reminder, perhaps a mantra: “Worship is more than a song.”
*Hahahaha I don’t have any skills in sports…