It’s easy to read the bible and judge the stories of people worshipping golden calves and other oddly shaped creatures made out of precious metals. We sometimes gloss over the seriousness of the offense to God, because we can’t even imagine ourselves propping up a statue in our living room and worshipping it.
You might find yourself reading through the prophets and nonchalantly grazing past the verses on idol worship without stopping to think twice. You may be tempted to think that they don’t apply to you, because you don’t struggle with those things.
We might think we’re far too advanced for such simple thinking. We live in a day and age with advanced science, technology, and education. We wouldn’t even consider idol worship as a temptation.
It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking when you only understand idols based on the examples given in scripture.
But idols aren’t limited to graven objects crafted by human hands. Idols are anything that you give your life to. That you pour every ounce of your energy into in hopes of it bringing you the things you desire in return. Anything you place above God. There are many idols we struggle with and many of them creep into our lives without us even realizing.
We assign far too much value, energy, and hope to these things. The idols we build in our lives are serious offenses against God.
We need to be aware of our temptations and the idols we build in our lives without realizing.
Here are 7 unsuspecting idols that might be creeping into your life.
Now, I’m the first that to say family is important and a major part of all our life experiences. Without family, life would be rough.
But we begin to idolize our family when we see our family unit as an inwardly focused huddle that is above all other things in life. We should link arms and take the unity of our family to be outwardly focused instead. When family becomes more important than church, caring for other people, and living out the love of Jesus, we have turned our family into an idol.
Family is not an end to itself.
Let’s be honest. Many of us desire more than simply surviving. We want to enjoy life and most often that means the wealth to pursue things we like.
God doesn’t wish for us to live in poverty or in constant need. He actually desires of us to live a life of abundance. And abundance doesn’t even always mean endless wealth. We allow wealth to become an idol when it’s our core pursuit.
If we’re constantly looking at ways to make an extra dollar, even at the expense of others, it’s very likely wealth is an idol. Being wise with your money is one thing. Obsessing over it is another.
Another sign of wealth being an idol in your life is if the idea of giving money away makes you cringe.
If you take great pride in how much money you make and that’s the only thing you look for in a job, then it’s probably an idol built up in your heart.
Wealth is not a sinful endeavor. But it becomes one when it’s your sole pursuit.
Prosperity doesn’t mean just monetary wealth. You might have figured out that money isn’t everything, but your desire to prosper in different ways has overtaken your life.
This is an extreme example but it’s largely rooted in the idol of prosperity. There are many who make the case for abortion, because they’re not ready for a child. They’re not ready to make the life shift of caring for another life, because it means giving up so much of their own ambitions and opportunities. So they would lean towards an abortion because of the cost to their personal prosperity.
We all want to prosper, but at what cost? What are we willing to give up in order to live a prosperous life in our educational pursuits, job pursuits, or even relational pursuits?
When we begin to weigh our own prosperity as more important than loving others with our time, resources, and energy, it’s likely that the idol of prosperity has taken over.
4. Career Success
Being successful in your field or even move into a place of leadership looks really admirable–as if you’ve arrived. For some the idea of sitting at an entry level position for longer than you’d like makes you feel as if you’re unsuccessful.
So you pour everything you have into that career. You will work all the hours in the world. You will be the first to arrive and the last to leave. You will make sure your answer is “yes” to any request that is made of you. You’re known as the reliable and hard worker who gets the job done.
But the reason you’re doing all of these things is because career success is your top priority. It’s more than just being a hard worker. Your life is defined by how successful you are at your career. Even to the point of placing other life priorities on the back burner all for the sake of success.
When your life revolves around your job and how good you are at that job, it’s very likely that career success has become your idol.
Image is a super sneaky idol. To be righteously angry when someone slanders you or speaks ill about you isn’t bad. But many are far more upset when this happens because of how it hurts your image.
We want to be seen as a certain kind of person in our churches, work places, communities, and even families. What people think about us matters.
It matters so much that you will do anything to protect that image. You will dissolve relationships instead of trying to reconcile because of how much someone hurt your image. You will leave a job because the way your image was tainted became too much to bear.
We hold tight to our image. And when that is hurt or destroyed we might even make irrational decisions just to preserve it. Our desire for others to see us a certain way can become one of the most unsuspecting idols in our lives.
It’s not just single people who idolize a romantic relationship. Married people do it too. There’s an excitement and a mystery to romance that our hearts long for. In fact, this becomes a big issue in marriage when things feel a bit stale or same-old routine, day in and out. We want back the mystery and excitement that first appeared when we were dating.
There’s nothing wrong with continuing to invest in your relationship. But romance can become something we idolize.
This desire and expectation in a dating relationship or marriage can become the only standard by which you value that relationship. Idolizing romance can leave you unsatisfied and possibly down a road you never wanted to travel.
7. Safety & Security
Safety and security are built into the western culture. I once read a bible study when I was on a mission trip in South Africa and it talked about surrendering my safety and security to Jesus. The study stated that as Christians, we’re not promised safety and security in the physical way our culture tells us. That really didn’t sit well with me.
Yet, the more I read the bible, the more I realized that was true. Stephen was stoned. Paul was shipwrecked. John the Baptist was beheaded. Being a Christian bears no promise that we will be safe and secure in the ways we would like.
Our safety and security often dictate the way we vote, decisions we make with our finances, where we live, who we allow in our lives as friends. Think about it. We have insurance for every possible life altering disaster that could happen. We’re constantly building up our safety nets for the “just in case.” Some people buy the extended warranty on every item because you just never know.
I’m not saying some of these things aren’t wise decisions. But it is clear our culture values safety and security. And when this becomes a core part of your life it’s very likely you have built and idol around being safe and secure.
Most of it is really driven by fear. We build up our safety net because we never want the time to come when our life is pulled out from under us. When you’re constantly worried about what might go wrong, the idol of safety and security may be creeping into your life.
Be careful what you cling to.
Though there are many advancements in the times we live compared to bible times, we have not advanced past building up idols in our lives. We may think they are harmless or even justified. But scripture is very clear about how God views idols.
We can never be ignorant to the fact that each and every one of us is prone to building an idol in our life. To investing, trusting, and leaning on that thing more than we do God. We must constantly be tearing down and burning up the altars of our own idols in order to let God in. He wants to be the one to make us whole–not the many other things we cling to.
OTHER RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT
If you enjoyed this article, these books might be useful resources to you.
(As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.)
- The Her & Hymn Podcast: American Idols
- Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt is a convicting call toward a life of radically following Jesus, even if it costs you your American dream.
- Not a Fan Updated and Expanded: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman is a book about defining your relationship with Jesus as a fully devoted follower and not simply a fan.
- The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy and Amy Crouch is a helpful tool in creating an intentional plan for your family with regard to technology and keeping technology from becoming an idol in your home.