3 Warning Signs That Something May Be Becoming an Idol

I will confess, I think we have a propensity to go overboard in some of these diagnostic questions. As an example, consider a newlywed couple. And now ask a few of the typical diagnostic questions. 

  • What am I daydreaming about most? 
  • What am I the most passionate about? 
  • What am I bragging about? 
  • Where is most of my time going?
  • What is making me happy? 

If you have a healthy relationship with you new spouse, you are probably going to be thinking about them a ton. There will be much joy, passion, and daydreaming about the future. Is this idolatry? Is this what we see as the struggle of the people of God in the Old Testament? 

Not exactly. Yes, it is possible that a spouse can be an idol. And it’s also possible to truly be enamored with your God-given spouse, and it not be idolatry. It’s okay to deeply love. You don’t have to be afraid that God is going to kill your spouse because you love them a little too much. That’s not the picture we see painted in Scripture. 

But we do see that hearts can be drawn away from the Lord. Idolatry is real. And the warning of 1 John 5:21 ought to be heeded, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” How do I know if something is slowly becoming an idol? 

Idols rival the living God in areas of trust, obedience, and love. 

1. Where Do I Turn When I’m in Need? 

The heart of idolatry has to do with where our hearts find their security. If my crops are failing and I need rain, where do I turn? That was a primary concern with the agrarian society in the Old Testament. The people were turning to other gods (that aren’t gods) for protection and care. When a warring nation is threatening to invade — where does that nation turn? Will it turn to worldly powers? That is really the heart of idolatry. Ray Ortlund says it well,

“Spiritual adultery entails more than religious offences; whenever God is not trusted fully and obeyed exactly, including in the realm of politics, his people deny the adequacy of his care and protection, so that they fend for themselves, on their own terms.”

If I have ____ I will be safe, secure, and fulfilled. Whatever fills in that blank could be a contender for an idol in the heart.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Erstudiostok

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