Idolatry: Making good things into ultimate things

When my wife and I were first married we made a decision to start going to Church. One of the primary reasons for making this decision was to raise our Kids in Christian way and to raise our kids to be moral, upright citizens.  Many people start going to Church for the same reason.  However, I have learned over the years that this is an incorrect motive for going to Church.  Our primary reason to go to Church needs to be to  worship the creator and NOT created things.  Any other reason is a violation of the 1st commandment … to have no other Gods!  Unfortunately, making functional idols out of our children and our spouses is a subtle idol that many people have!

I have also noticed in my own family that we have a tendency to make good things like family into ultimate things in our hearts.  I believe one of the areas of the heart that needs to be discerned with much wisdom are areas where we make good things (like family, money, cars, good moral image) into  ultimate things.

Recently, I have seen some extreme of examples of this in other peoples lives recently too.  I won’t go into the details on this since its fairly recent history.

Lets read Luke:

Luke 18:

The Rich Ruler

18A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[b]

21“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

28Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.

In this verse, some people only read into the parable of the Rich Ruler a discussion about the evils of wealth. However, immediately after this discussion of the Rich Ruler and his wealth you can see that the disciples and Jesus understood this not to mean just wealth but also other deeper idolatries of the heart.  The disciples generalized the discussion Jesus had with the Rich Ruler to “leaving everything behind including their homes, their wives, and their family….. basically everything that would have the MOST significant place in most peoples lives. Jesus was talking about things that are “gifts” from God but man has prioritized them over Jesus Christ.   This normally creates a subtle latent idolatrous sin in our lives that comes out out as real sin when this idol is attacked.

In my family, and this recent example in some friends lives,  I can see that when we maintain functional idols in the heart of family over Jesus we will have a latent dysfunctional pathology  in our hearts that is waiting to come out.  We can look Christian but if our we have filled our cups (heart) with the idol of family then when this idol is attacked our cup will spill out with anger since our cup is overflowing with the wrong substance filling it.

Jesus in Luke was speaking in a parable.   He was examining the heart of a man that needed to discern the idols in his heart For most of us discerning the idols of family, wealth, materialsim, and self-righteousness are very hard things to do.

I am also thinking of Revelation 2 where Jesus was talking to the Church of Ephesus.  He said the Church had done many good things.  However, they left behind their first love and God held that against them and encouraged them to get back to their first love.   Idolatry means man has a worship disorder. It means we worship created things like money, image, family, material things (cars and motorcycles) over Jesus Christ.

If , for example, we worshiped family or children over Jesus then we would have  latent dysfunctional pathology in our hearts waiting to get out.  This pathology would spill out  when our functional idol of family was being attacked as we worshiped the “image” of being a moral, Christian Mother, Father, wife, or husband.

In my own life, I have started a family ministries board in one  Church, led parenting classes,  taught marriage classes, and on and on. As I had to deal with my own sin in my heart I had to learn how idolatry so subtly works in my heart….. and I know I still retain some of this idolatry.  If you have your family as an idol in your heart (like I did) I believe God will never ask you to love your family less…. but he is asking you to love HIM more!!!!! Lets get back to our first love. Who/What do you love first in your life?

I will try to refine the words of this post so it most exactly describes my feelings over the next week or two.  However, lets keep the Jesus (our first love) and the Gospel central to our hearts so we can work to remove both the worldly sin and idolatry  as well as the religious sins and idolatry that make good things into ultimate things.

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3 thoughts on “Idolatry: Making good things into ultimate things

  1. Juli

    Awesome! I had the “perfect” family. And then reality set with the rebellion of one child and I had to come to terms with the fact that I “wore” my children as a badge of honor. God has definitely extended his grace to me through this, and has helped me to look at others without so much judgement as He has given me a heart that is more readily able to extend grace.

  2. centralityofthegospel Post author

    Thanks Juli! It is indeed difficult to root out the functional idols of the heart! I believe it means allowing time for grace to work in the hearts of ourselves. The slow transformation of grace in our hearts is worth wait as opposed to going after the quick fix approach….. focusing on behavior only.

  3. centralityofthegospel Post author

    I dont think I could have said it much better than you stated it Juli!

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