What’s confusing with idolatry is when our relationship to something good distorts into worship rather than an interest, a value, or a commitment. For example:
- It’s good to have a career
- It’s good to have a romantic relationship in your life
- It’s good to have a hobby
- It’s good to love your family and have a house
- It’s good to be a part of a vibrant church; to have a respected and fruitful ministry
- It’s good to value your spiritual tradition
But any of these become idolatrous. One criterion for evaluating if you are drifting into idolatry is to experience a deep loss or threat to any of these areas then see how it affects you. Does it sadden you but you are able to recover or does it devastate your sense of meaning, hope, significance, success, or security?
You may be thinking about now “Oh yeah, I see those worldly people and their idols.” But Christians do the same things (cf. Rom. 2:1)
- We like to point to our possessions with pride and say “Look what God has blessed me with.”
- Or point to our ministry giftings and say “Look what God has anointed me with.”
- We have our celebrity pastors, leaders and authors. We love and follow their every conference, book, blog post, Facebook status update and Twitter message.
- We become full greed, hate, envy, quarrelling, insults, and gossip whenever someone threatens our idols of doctrinal positions, worship styles, and other spiritual loyalties.
- We sit and long for the day “If only my church was like that…if only we could experience a move of God like that…then I would know my life and ministry was significant, successful, and secure.”
There are so many ways to describe those kinds of attitudes, relationships, or longings but perhaps the best word is worship.
“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:20-21)