Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Heart Idolatry - A devotional for Tuesday, 9/15/2009

Heart Idolatry

"Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. Then the word of the LORD came to me: 'Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts'" (Ezekiel 14:1-2a--ESV).

During my last travels through India the presence of idols was hard to miss. They are in every Hindu home and place of business. Even the taxi-cab drivers have them mounted to the dash or dangling from the rear-view mirror. As a modern-day Western Christian it was almost as if I entered the New Testament time period. All the passages of scripture that referred to idols suddenly had all new significance. During my entire time in India my thoughts kept returning to the foolishness of idol worship.

Then I got on the plan and returned home. The contrast was pointed and sharp. Two countries could not be more different--yet they shared a deep similarity. In their own way, both places were full of idols. India has its statues and America has its possessions. Hindus worship Vishnu while Americans worship wealth or even themselves.

But notice that this passage from Ezekiel is speaking about the spiritual leaders of Israel (the 'elders'). These were the good guys, yet God is accusing them of what we might call 'heart idolatry'. It is amazing what Christians can turn into an object of worship--even things we pretend are God-centered. Some worship theological systems (such as Calvinism or Dispensationalism), others worship family, still others worship schooling preferences (homeschooling, public schooling, etc). Christians can even worship music forms or a particular style of worship. What happens in every case is that we demonize anything that threatens our idol. People who "idolize" traditional worship styles demonize contemporary worship. Those who worship the King James Version demonize all other translations. Public school devotees verbally assault or belittle homsechoolers (and vice-versa). When our god is challenged we go on the offensive and attack.

As Mark Driscoll says, far too often we take a good thing, pretend it is a God-thing, and that is always a bad thing. What are you worshipping?

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  1. Josh, is it more emotion than worship? I really like my 1984 F-150, even though it's quite ragged, I actually take care of it. I am sure it needs care that only I can give. I am not clear on your term worship here. Is it possible these are mere emotions even strong emotions. When the rubber hits the road these are not the things we actually worship. This is not an argument of opposition to your thoughts, rather it's another thought on the subject.
    Ken Clouse

  2. Ken,

    You do bring up a good point---that is, we can have strong pleasant emotions for things, people, and ideas without being guilty of worshipping them.

    But that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about the lust for a thing or an idea that stands above (or competes with) our love for God.

    For example, a few years ago I met a woman and we began talking about faith. She said she was a Christian but didn't go to church. I asked her why and she said "because my pastor built a new church building, and I refuse to worship anywhere other than my old church building". While claiming to worship God, this woman actually just worshipped a building (or, perhaps better stated, a certain "atmosphere"). At the end of the day it was a form of worship she actually idolized, not the living God.