By James Metsger
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
I’m trying to remember my parents’ last words as I went off to college.
I’m not positive, but they were probably along the lines of “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or “Work hard” or “Remember, you don’t have a job or money so spend accordingly.” Either way, their last words were encouraging, uplifting, and wise.
Do you know what my parents didn’t say as I backed out of my driveway? They didn’t say, “Keep yourself from idols!”
But these were John’s last words.
When I think of idols, I think of some cool stone cat sitting crisscross-applesauce with an extra eye on his forehead. But I’m not sure that’s what John had in mind. An idol doesn’t have to sit in a prominent position on your fireplace. It just needs a place in your heart.
An idol is anything that takes God’s seat in our hearts and minds.
Want to identify your idols? Try this: Take them away and see how you respond.
Does the thought of losing your title at work crush you? Do you suffer sleepless nights when your stocks go down a few percentage points? How do you feel when your kids don’t make the honor roll, let in the game winning goal, or are overlooked at the end of year banquet? I can make an idol of my reputation, my accomplishments, my income, my possessions, my retirement account, my spouse, my kids. Honestly, that’s just scratching the idol surface.
The thing about idols is they never satisfy our restless hearts. The public praise we long for lifts our soul for a second before we’re looking for the next fix. The new trinket that tickles our fancy when it arrives at our doorstep quickly seems “less than” when the new version of the same trinket is released. The grass at the new house still needs to be mowed; the new car still needs new brakes; the dream job still calls for work to be done.
Idols never fully satisfy our souls, but that’s not the biggest issue. If it was, we’d just live life like Goldilocks. We’d move from one experience to the next, thinking there’s something better to be discovered–a more filling food or more pleasurable place. No, idolatry isn’t only a satisfaction problem, it’s a savior problem. It’s when we look to something or someone other than Jesus to save us. It’s trusting, following or exalting anyone or anything above Jesus. He said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
It’s no wonder John’s last words are a command. Keep yourself from idols.
Reflect: What captivates my heart so much that if I lost it, I would be devastated?