Throughout the Bible we see examples of idolatry. I don't know about you, but whenever I read examples of idolatry in the Bible, specifically with the golden calf (see Exodus 32), I think the Israelites are crazy. Why would anyone worship that over God? God has done so many good things for Israel, and they still choose to worship some object? This might seem like some unrealistic form of idolatry today – you probably won't see people worshipping a golden calf; however, we still struggle with having modern day "golden calves". We might not notice initially, but they're there. Just like the Israelites and the golden calf, we're crazy when we idolize anything more than our perfect and loving God. My hope for this blog is to help you recognize your "golden calf" or identify potential "golden calves" that can cause us to turn away from God.
Before jumping into specific modern-day idols, let's start by defining idolatry. Simply put, idolatry is treasuring something more than God. These are things that can cause us to divert our attention away from Him. Satan likes to use earthly fillers or fulfillments as tools to turn us away from God. Oftentimes, he'll use things that are good and we won't even recognize when they become idols. I'm not going to be able to cover all potential idols, but here are some things we might idolize today.
Modern Day Idols
This is a hard one in today's world. Today's culture is teaching us to be self-absorbed. Self-help books, personal development, etc. can be good things. We should be striving to better ourselves, but we should do it because we want to better glorify God. It can be hard to not invest a lot of our time and money on ourselves when the people around you are. We're told throughout the Bible to stand out from the rest of the world:
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:2
"My son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths." - Proverbs 1:15
I'm not saying you shouldn't read personal development books or anything like that. Some of these books can be a really good resource. The problem arises when you begin spending more time reading these than the Bible, or when the books completely disagree with Scripture. Ultimately if we want to grow and become more like Christ, we should be spending time in God's Word. I still read personal development books/self-help books; however, I'm cautious when I do because I want to make sure they align with what God says.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." - Genesis 1:27
We are made in the image of God. We should value ourselves! Just don't let your self-image be formed by worldly characteristics.
We live in a very materialistic world. A lot of people are focused on making more money at work, having a nice house/car, etc.
It's important to recognize that we have these things because of God.
"You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day." - Deuteronomy 8:18
"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." - Romans 11:36
It can be so easy to get caught up in these things and lose the proper perspective – that God is the reason we have anything. God doesn't say we cannot have these things, but we do need to be cautious that these things don't become our top priority.
Check out the story of the rich young man in Mark chapter 10:
"And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." (vv.21-22)
If you were asked to give away your money or possessions, how would you feel? In a world that focuses so much on what we own, let's focus on heavenly treasures:
"'Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." - Matthew 6:19-21; 24
We have created a free multi-session financial workshop, "A Biblical Approach to Finances." One of the sessions specifically talks about our attitude towards money and "stuff". If you're interested in learning more, fill out the interest form here.
We weren't created to do life alone. God wants us to build relationships with people.
Have you said or heard someone say "He/she completes me?" That's something we want to avoid. When you look to another person to complete you, it actually creates more conflict in the relationship. We're all imperfect people; we can't complete anyone and we shouldn't put that pressure on someone. Having relationships is good, but no one besides God can complete us. If we feel like there's a "hole in our heart," chances are we're neglecting our relationship with God. God should always be our number 1 priority – even before your relationship with your husband/wife or kids.
We want to be successful in life, right? I know I do! But someone's definition of success might be different than another's. The definition of success is, "the accomplishment of an aim or purpose." Our main purpose in life is to glorify God.
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31
Worldly success will look different. It's not bad to want to be successful at your job, in a sport, etc.; however, it shouldn't be your number 1 focus. Our value shouldn't increase or decrease depending on if we reach (or don't reach) certain goals.
Approval from others
This ties into both the relationship and success sections above. Our desire to be liked by others should not be more important than the approval of God and our relationship with Him.
Growing up, I was always involved in sports, and now I try to get at least 30 minutes of movement every day. Our body is a temple and I believe we should be good stewards of our body – for me, this means taking care of it to the best of my ability. Your health is important, but you still have to be careful that it doesn't consume your life. Something I struggled with for a while was making time to work out in the morning, but neglecting to spend time with God. Do you clear your schedule more for the gym/sports over Bible reading or Bible studies? Our schedules tend to reveal where our priorities lie.
I'm someone who has always enjoyed school, and I know other people who love it more than I do. Learning and using God's gifts are good! A friend of mine has described her struggle with overprioritizing academics as idolatrous because she largely attributed her talents to herself and her hard work, not to the Lord. As with sports, caring about your performance and striving to do well is important. But just like with the other sections I've discussed, the issue arises when your priorities are misaligned. Be careful to make sure academics doesn't consume your life!
All of these things are good, right? The issue aren't the things above. The issue lies when these things become more important in our lives than God – our identity shouldn't be formed by these things. God wants us to have fruitful lives on earth, which is why He doesn't say they are bad. How do we recognize our personal idols in our lives?
Recognizing your idols
Here are some questions that might help you figure out if you idolize something or someone:
What's your identity?
If people close to you were to describe you, what things would they say about you? It's very easy to start identifying yourself through your works – saying you're an athlete, a student, a [insert your occupation]. As Christians, we have a new identity found in Christ.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5:17
I'm not going to go deeper into your identity here (maybe in a future blog), but the main point is that we might be idolizing something if we find our identity there more than with Christ.
What things do you spend your time and money on?
What we spend our time and money on shows where our priorities lie. You often spend more time and money on the people or things you care most about. Do you make time for hanging out with friends, sports, exercise, school, etc., but don't mind skipping Bible studies or church? If you don't mind skipping church on Sunday but you can't miss something for sports (or another activity), then you might be idolizing that. The same thing goes with your money. If you don't mind spending money on activities or other materials but you have a hard time giving at church, you might be idolizing money/possessions.
It's very easy to idolize things over God. It's often a slow transition, and you might not even realize it's happening. I encourage you to take some time to reflect on your life right now and see if you're idolizing anything over God.
Cornerstone Impact Update
Eventide: "Values-Based Investing Rooted in a Biblical Worldview"
"Values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our attitudes and actions."
This is true for all areas of our life – including our investments! What values drive your investing decisions?
Shaun Morgan at Eventide wrote a recent blog on values "rooted in a biblical worldview." One of the fundamental elements of this worldview is the belief that all humans are created in the image of God. Read the full article for the implications of this worldview as well as the role of investing.
Inspire: "Is Biblically Responsible Investing Hypocritical?"
Is it hypocrisy to own an iPhone and exclude AAPL from my portfolio? To drink Starbucks coffee, but avoid buying SBUX? To shop at Target, but keep TGT out of my portfolio? These are valid questions when considering a biblically responsible portfolio. We don't want to be hypocritical! Read this recent article by Robert Netzly, CEO of Inspire Investing for more.
If you have any questions or would like more information on how to align your investments with your faith, please contact me. You can also learn more about the Cornerstone Portfolios at: SEMWealth.com/Cornerstone.
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