After I graduated from college, I worked in the family jewelry business. We sold, along with a variety of jewelry, Rolex watches. These timepieces were works of art – the precision and detail were stunning. Most were made of gold and steel and some were diamond encrusted. One day a man walked into the store and requested a new battery for his Rolex. The moment he made his request I knew we had a problem. You see, a “real” Rolex uses the motion of a person’s hand to move a perpetual rotor that winds a mainspring in the watch. No batteries. I informed the gentleman that his watch was not a Rolex. He was not happy and in fact didn’t believe me until I showed him a real Rolex and a comparison could be made. He had bought what he thought was genuine, only to find out it was a fake (he had spent good money, too!) He had been fooled by a deceiver and had lived with that lie until the batteries had run out and the truth was revealed.
There have been times I have been deceived and have “bought” the lie of an untrustworthy source. Sometimes it happens without me being aware that I am being duped. But sometimes I like the lie better than the truth. Either way I am relying on something that is not reliable.
The Oxford Dictionary states that idolatry is extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone (other than God). The apostle John writes at the very end of his first epistle a warning: “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” (1 John 5:21, NLT)
Why would John write that at the end of his letter? Seems like an afterthought or an “oh by the way…” When we think of idols, we often imagine some figure of stone with a pagan bowing before it. But what is idolatry anyway? Do we see it today? Aren’t we much more sophisticated than that? Well, not really. Romans chapter one shows us the pattern of idolatry. God has made some basic things evident about Himself in creation but man (that’s us) did not honor God or give thanks to Him, but came up with some really dumb ideas and exchanged these ideas in the place of God. We removed God from His rightful place and put something else in that place. In other words, a cheap replacement. So, God allows us to go our own way with all the corresponding repercussions, the spiral downward in both our minds and our morality. We see this played out in our own society where God has been replaced by a natural worldview. God is banned from our institutions of learning and government. The downward spiral of the mind and morality is on display as we move further and further away.
But this is just for those who do not know Christ, right? Unfortunately, no – this is still possible for the Christian, hence the word of admonition from the Apostle John at the end of his letter. There are many things that exist which clamor for our affections, trust and adoration. Many times, these things are not wrong in and of themselves but can take on an idolatrous form. Praise and worship belong to God; idolatry is stealing that which belongs to Him and giving it to another.
How do I know if something is an idol in my life? Well, what happens to my world when the batteries run out? I.e. when the job is lost, my team loses, or my health is threatened. On what do I depend for my security? How far do I go to maintain and control my world? What am I willing to sacrifice to keep things running well? What gets most of my attention, time and energy? I think we get the idea.
Jesus Christ is due all my trust, dedication and love. Anything that takes the place of what is rightly due Him is an idol, dear friends. May we guard ourselves from them.