American Idol

I read a quote last night in Tim Keller’s book, “Counterfeit Gods” that I really liked. 

“Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” – William Temple

Keller goes on to say,

“In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention.  What do you enjoy daydreaming about?  What occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about?  Do you develop potential scenarios about career advancement?  Or material goods such as a dream home?  Or a relationship with a particular person?  One or two daydreams are no indication of idolatry.  Ask rather, what do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart?”

What do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart?  This is an important question that my take some reflection and introspection to truly answer.  I typically find when I reflect on it that I don’t really want to know the answer.  However it’s important that we deal with our idolatry. 

Typically, we like to think of idolatry as something Old Testament heathens did when they bowed down to weird statues, and sacrificed their kids, and did weird dances and things.  It’s easier if we make these people sound wacky, so that we don’t have to feel convicted by the strong words the Bible has for idolaters.  “We don’t have much to worry about since we don’t make any gold statues of cows to pray to or anything weird like that.” 

“For his (God’s) invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”   Romans 1:19-23

We may read this passage and say to ourselves that we certainly don’t worship images “resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”  Maybe that isn’t exactly what we do, but I believe the concept is the same.  Keller does a good job of connecting the dots for us.

“The biblical book of Acts in the New Testament contains vivid descriptions of the cultures of the ancient Greco-Roman world.  Each city worshipped its favorite deities and built shrines around their images for worship…The Partenon of Athena overshadowed everything but other duties were represented in every public space.  There was Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty; Ares, the god of war; Artemis, the goddess of fertility and wealth; Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship.  Our contemporary society is not fundamentally different from these ancient ones.  Each culture is dominated by its own set of idols.  Each has its own priesthoods, its totems and rituals.  Each one has its own shrines – whether office towers, spas and gyms, studios, or stadiums – where sacrifices must be made in order to procure the blessings of the good life and ward off disaster.  What are the gods of beauty, power, money, and achievement but these same things that have assumed mythic proportions in our individual lives and in our society?  We may not physically kneel before the statue of Aphrodite, but many young women today are driven into depression and eating disorders by an obsessive concern over their body image.  We may not actually burn incense to Artemis, but when money and career are raised to cosmic proportions, we perform a kind of child sacrifice, neglecting family and community to achieve a higher place in business and gain more wealth and prestige.

In Ezekiel 14:3, God says about elders of Israel, “These men have set up their idols in their hearts.”  Like us, the elders must have responded to this charge, “Idols?  What idols?  I don’t see any idols.”  God was saying that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things.  Our hearts deify them as the center of our live, because, we thing, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.”

We can see these every day in our daily lives, with things that we just take for granted.  I just recently needed to get a new cell phone for example.  Well, I managed to take something I “need” (and there’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with having a cell phone) and it dominated my thoughts for two or three days.  It reminded me of how I opened this post, I found myself daydreaming about iPhones, and Droids, and Google phones, and everything else.  In the end I decided to just get an old school Treo off of ebay, not because I didn’t want ANY of the other phones I had researched, but basically because I wanted THEM ALL.  Unbelievable.  I had taken a good thing (having a cell phone) and turned it into such an ultimate thing that it paralyzed my decision-making.  I wanted them all, I just couldn’t make up my mind.  (And I certainly didn’t want to sign a contract because the iPhone’s coming to Verizon later this year…right?)  It’s amazing how our hearts work.  Keller calls them Idol factory’s and it’s no wonder.

Speaking of electronic gadgets, how about that iPad?  Here’s a blog about both the iPad and idolatry: 

3 Questions to ask before taking the plunge

1.   Is this is a tool or a toy?

2.   What’s the posture of my heart towards this device?

3.   Is this a wise financial move?

Click the link to read the whole thing.  It’s short, very direct, and I think they are questions we don’t really want to ask when we find something we want to buy, but probably should. 

Have a Happy Easter!


3 Responses to “American Idol”

  1. 1 Chris April 4, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    I think my work is my idol many times in my life. Even when I had a steady job, I thought about it when I wasn’t there. I planned and prepared in my head while going to sleep at times. Now part of this is bc I am committed, but it is hard to know when/how to shut this off sometimes.

    • 2 David April 4, 2010 at 5:38 PM

      Work is got to be an idol for most guys. We just don’t know how to shut it off. We typically find our meaning in life in our standing ar work, or our social status (because of the money we make), or just our level of income. If our desire for these things is outweighing our desire to serve God, then it’s a pretty clear indicator I would say. By the way, I love the, “even when I had a steady job.”

  2. 3 gambir ridge bartley December 8, 2013 at 3:24 AM

    Hi there, after reading this remarkable article i am as wll delighted
    to share my know-how here with mates.

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