When you see the word “idol” what comes to mind? American Idol is on the top of mind for some. Perhaps you think of giant statues or carvings. Maybe we see them as a thing of the past and not congruent with our Western culture of reason and science. Whatever ended up coming to your mind, the conversation we want to unpack is that the thought of idols being in our lives is more prevalent than we may initially think.
In order to set the foundation for this conversation, let’s go back to the 10 commandments found in Exodus 20 (additionally in Deuteronomy 5). The first two commandments deal with our allegiance to God as well as our removal of other gods. The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me” and the second is “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…” (Exodus 20:3-5)
Off the top of our heads, we are pretty confident that we don’t violate either of these commandments. We don’t serve another god, or pray to any of the gods I’ve heard of from other religions, so let’s move on to the rest of the list. Well, hold on just a second. We may not pray to a wood carving or a golden statue but perhaps we should address things that may be taking the place of God in our life.
God can’t be anything less than first in our life. We see this expressed early in Genesis with the offerings of Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:3-7 says over time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?
God wasn’t first for Cain and the Lord rejected him. Abel put God first and was received. How does this make sense in our topic? God needs to be first, not our job, our family, our phones, our social media or entertainment. God has to be first and if He isn’t then something else is taking His place.
Most of us would never admit that there is something in our life more important than God. However, when we look at the priorities in our lives, God isn’t first, maybe not even top 3 or 5! Looking from this perspective, the conversation of “everyday idols” isn’t so farfetched.
Let’s address the most prevalent “idols” we see in the lives of Christians today and how we can dismantle them by putting God in His rightful place in our life.
Family – Many people may not realize that their family comes before their relationship with God. Perhaps it’s your spouse, more commonly it’s children and sometimes even pets that take priority over God. We hold the opinion of our spouse higher than God’s opinion expressed in His word. Our kids get whatever they want whenever they want and that includes not going to church. Sport practices and games are the highest priority and church services and events fit in when it’s not inconvenient. We don’t read our Bibles or spend time in a small group because we have soccer practice MWF and piano lessons on Tuesday and we can go to church every 3rd Sunday when we don’t have a tournament. We have to think about what we are showing them is the priority in life.
Career – “So what do you do?” That has become the quintessential small-talk question to break the ice in our culture. We are so defined by what we do and not who we are. We can’t let our job become more important than our relationship with God. Ask yourself, “Do I chase after promotions, work long hours and miss out on opportunities to grow in my walk with the Lord because I’m chasing status, money, success or fame?”
Entertainment – Right now we have more entertainment available to us than ever before. Think about the millions of shows, movies, books, video games, social media sites that we can scour for a lifetime and never even come close to reaching the end. God jealously longs for us to spend time with Him and all too often we spend hours watching a show or aimlessly scrolling through social media while finding it hard to carve out time to spend with God.
Family is ordained by God and a blessing for us. God has given us skills to use and a drive to work hard on earth. Entertainment is ok for us to consume, as long as it’s God honoring and not pulling us away from Him.
Ask yourself if you need to reprioritize your family schedule to reflect that God is first and extra activities build around your relationship to God. Work should align with the purpose that God has given us and help us to build God’s kingdom. Perhaps we set limits on our phones or TV so we can use the time we already have to connect in a small group or watch content that will grow our faith.
We just scratched the surface, perhaps there is something else taking precedence in your life. Regardless of what it is, we need to repent and place God back to His rightful place as Lord of our lives. He is in control, He is first and He takes precedence over all!