Modern Day Idols

By: Sabrina Peters

So, what’s an idol? Maybe thoughts of wooden statues or graven images immediately spring to mind. Maybe the words of Exodus 20:3 echo in your head, “You must have no other gods apart from me.” Maybe an idol seems completely irrelevant to your life. After all, if I went into your home right now, I probably wouldn’t find any stone altars or brass statues and see you bowing down on the floor.

But did you know it’s quite possible that there’s other modern-day idols in your life?

I know from time to time there has definitely been in mine! There are things that I have put on the throne of my heart that was solely meant for God.

I love the way Timothy Keller expands this definition in his book ‘Counterfeit Gods’,

“An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart or imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”

Oh wow, feel that pinch! If I’m completely honest there have definitely been things I have pursued to give me a sense of peace, love and worth.

The crazy thing is idols aren’t always bad. Sometimes they’re actually good things like friends, romance, marriage or ministry. They’re often God’s blessings from above.

The problem arises when we value them, more than we value God. When we end up putting them on a pedestal and leaving Him on the floor.  

Let’s just get real and unpack that for a moment.

1. Love/Romance

Love and intimacy are God’s idea and His gift to us. We were made for connection and created for community. But when we pursue love and intimacy from a place of lack and insecurity (instead of wholeness and identity) we so often elevate our need for a romantic partner instead of anchoring our contentment fully in the Lord.

We were created to live from love, not for it.

It’s not wrong to desire a relationship or intimacy and affection but we set ourselves up for disappointment when we try and find fulfilment in the pursuit of something or someone outside of Him, including a boyfriend or a spouse. Which leads me to below.

2. Marriage

The truth is, your spouse shouldn’t complete your life, they should complement it.

Two half people don’t make a whole. The best thing you can do for your spouse is bring a whole heart and secure identity to the table. It took me a while to fully grasp that reality and move towards spiritual and emotional maturity (a journey I’m still well and truly on). I remember the first couple of years of being married expecting my husband, Ben, to meet some of my most deep-seated needs, not realising, only God ever could. No matter how much your spouse loves and adores you, if you don’t first know the love of the Father and continually reach for Him to fulfil you, you’ll be unsatisfied. Because no matter how much water you pour in, if there’s a hole in the bucket it’ll always run dry.

3. Family

There really is nothing more precious and valuable than family. But we mustn’t turn something good, into our God. Sadly, I’ve seen many people do just that. Their calendar is packed to the rafters with family commitments, weekend sports and extra school activities, but they’ll regularly say they don’t have time for church on Sundays or the need to attend a small group bible study. The reality is God and family are not enemies, but our responsibility as parents is to raise families that are God-seeking first and continually place value of His heart, His presence and His house.

4. Ministry

Did you know it’s actually possible to spend your life serving God and end up not really knowing Him?

It’s possible to build a big church, big ministry or big online platform and completely forget who it’s for.

It’s possible to walk out your journey of faith and forget Jesus altogether. (Seriously Jesus’ own parents did, check out Luke 2:43). And at times I feel like I have too. At times I have thrown myself so passionately into serving God, that I had actually neglected to just love Him. I found myself more focused on writing or speaking about Him, than actually sitting, talking, listening and hearing from His sweet voice. Over the years my heart’s desire has shifted to Jesus first and everything else second (including serving Him in ministry). May we never be women that replace intimacy with God for mere activity around Him.

5. Appearance

Another idol may be your outward appearance. Maybe you’re obsessed with your body, your beauty, your looks? Maybe you spend endless hours at the gym and buying new clothes, but you haven’t read your bible in over a month. Look, don’t hear what I’m not saying. Work-out, wear make-up. I do, often. Ok, I wear make-up (most of its permanent), but I don’t really work out, ha. It’s not about ignoring the external, it’s simply about focusing on your inward disposition just as much (maybe even more).

In a culture that elevates the outer, I wonder if we could be people who refuse to buy into the lie that our greatest asset is our body or beauty but instead let our pursuit of Him be our greatest strength.

6. Success

For so many people, success, money, affluence, and influence becomes their highest goal. They pour endless hours into climbing the corporate ladder, being promoted and rising above the pack. They pursue higher education not out of obedience, but out of ego. Again, all good things! I’m in my final year of finishing a double degree right now, but if I don’t listen to God’s leading, I could easily run ahead to places I was never meant to go. Point is, always involve Him in the equation. Stop telling God your plan and just hand Him the pen!

And remember, true success is just doing what God tells you to do, every day, in the big things and the small ones. It’s about knowing him intimately, showing him publicly and serving him in unity.

St. Augustine of Hippo reminds us that loving God is our sweetest romance, seeking Him is our wildest adventure and finding Him is our greatest achievement. Deuteronomy 6:5 puts it like this, “Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!”

There could be so many other idols hiding in your life. Like an addiction to entertainment and using TV shows or movies to escape. Or a dependence on social affirmation to make you feel good after a long day. Maybe your idol is a spirit of control or seeking to be comfortable more than seeking to do His will. Maybe your idol is actually a real person (like a celebrity, a leader or a friend). Maybe it’s as simple as an obsession with your smartphone, where you can’t go without it for more than a few hours. Really, it’s only something that you and God would know. Because modern-day idols aren’t usually statues made of wood and stone, they’re invisible things that we simply pursue more than we pursue Him.

So, ask yourself these questions

What or who is the most important thing in my life?

Where do I invest most of my time, energy, and money?

What is my main source of joy, peace, and strength?

Take a moment and just be honest with God. I guarantee when you are, He’ll end up back on the throne of your heart.

Article supplied with thanks to Sabrina Peters.

About the Author: Sabrina is a writer, pastor and relationships blogger. She is passionate about Jesus and changing the way people think about God & sex.

Feature image: Photo by Lisa from Pexels