We often think of idols as golden calves, images carved in stone or Asherah poles in high places. These are the well-known idols of the Old Testament. Idols you can see, touch and feel.
The first two commandments given to Moses in Exodus 20 speak clearly about idolatry. We are not to have any other gods except the one, true God, and we are not to make idols and worship them.
Does that mean since golden calves have fallen out of favor that we no longer need to be concerned about idols in our lives? Not at all!
Our modern culture subtly infuses idols into our families in such a way that we are often unaware that we are serving an idol until we find ourselves figuratively prostrate before it wondering, “How did we get here?”
In The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer writes, “An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.” In other words, it’s not the “object” that matters as much as how it is used in our life.
Keep in mind, the four idols listed below are not idols for everyone, nor are they all-inclusive. However, these items have become so commonplace to the point that we must seriously question if they have usurped God in our families.
There is an electronic battle being waged for our time together as families, and the enemy takes on various different names: television, computer, phone, tablet, video game, etc. A recent study showed that teenagers spend 9 hours a day consuming information from a screen while adults consume up to 11 hours (about a third of those hours are work related).
It’s ironic (or is it?) that “finding time” is the number one objection of families not being able to do a weekly devotional together. Yet, we make plenty of time to be on our screens. Screen time that sacrifices our time with God crosses the threshold into idolatry.
According to a recent CNN report, Americans work more hours per week than any other industrialized nation – 47 hours per week on average but 50+ hours per week for almost a majority of workers. Some employees can’t control their schedule but many do have a choice about the extra hours they work.
The Bible is clear that we are to work hard…not to please people, but to serve Christ. (Col. 3:22-24) When our effort and focus at work rests solely on prospering ourselves and finding our significance in what we do rather than who we are in Christ, we cross that line into idolatry.
Parents spend thousands ($5,000+ is not uncommon) in lessons, equipment and travel for youth sports. Practices, weekend tournaments and more account for 30-40 hours a week dedicated to sports that have an attrition rate as high as 80% by the time participants reach high school (source: NCBI)
What needs to be clear is that although sports have the highest participation rate among youth, the same could be said for competitive dance, theater, or other activities that require significant time and resources from the family. Can there be a balance? Sure…but it is a road less traveled. The question becomes, “Does this activity take preference, or even eliminate, time that could be spent growing and nurturing our families in Christ?”
In the past 75 years, the average size of a house doubled while the average family size declined by about half. Spending on things other than food, clothing and shelter has tripled. (2012 U.S. Dept. of Labor) We have an insatiable desire for more – even if it means going deeply into debt.
Although God does not deny us pleasure or enjoyment as temporary tenants on this earth, our families were not meant to be storehouses of earthly accumulation. If our families are driven more toward storing up treasures on earth rather than treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20), we may need to assess whether we have built an idol to materialism within our family.
Worshiping at the feet of our modern idols is a behavior that often begins innocently and is, therefore, difficult to detect. To know whether something has become an idol in your family, ask these 3 questions:
“Does ____________ cause us to sacrifice time with God?”
“Are we pursuing God when we pursue ______________?”
“Does ____________ comfort me/make me feel significant?”