Embracing God’s love for me

27. What are my idols?

Ephesians 5:5. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. (NLT)

What idols do I worship? I’ve heard I can determine this by looking at how I spend my time, my money, and my energy (emotional, physical, and thought energy). I recognize that sometimes there are things in my life that are a higher priority or more alluring to me than God, that fill my mind and stir my emotions and could almost be obsessions. When I initially fell in love with Allan, he was nearly all I could think about. When my “perfect” job started it crowded out most other thoughts for a while. My ongoing thrill of having grandchildren brings me enjoyment that rivals other interests in my life. The enjoyment and refreshment of a new hobby takes up my thoughts, time, and money. Are these idols?

When recognized as gifts from God, and received with gratitude to Him, I don’t think these experiences and responses are sinful. But I am aware that they each have the potential of distancing me from God, as when they crowd my daily quiet time. But they also have the potential of drawing me closer to God when I thank Him for His gifts and use them to serve others and bring glory to Him. In these situations, I need to monitor the impact of the gifts by being aware of how they might distract me from other priorities and responsibilities. Focusing on thanking God for these blessings will help me keep appropriate boundaries and priorities.

Was Paul referring to these types of distractions as idols? I don’t think so. Some commentators, because of the obvious context of the passage, believe that Paul is referring here to unrestrained sexual greed as being idolatry. “All the important idolatries have always centered on those forces which have enough specious [deceptive] power to be truly counterfeit, and therefore truly dangerous: sexuality (fertility), riches, and power (glory). All idolatry is a form of covetousness,” wanting to get personal gain without acknowledging that the gifts and/or power are from God.*   

So what are clearly the real idols in my life, which I put ahead of my relationship with God? I asked a wise man today what he thought was the most common idol among American Christians. He said, “independence.” I can identify with that idol. Isn’t wanting to be self-sufficient, in control of my circumstances, and the solver of all my (and everyone else’s) problems exactly how I naturally respond to life? Why do I first try to control life with my plans and abilities and only remember to trust God with my cares when my own plans fail? In those situations, I want to “do it my way” without acknowledging that I need God’s help. My progress in exercising faith is slow, but I am learning.

Father I am aware of my tendency to run after the things that bring me the most immediate gratification. Please help me to love You more than them all. Turn my affections and attention back toward you as a response of gratitude. Please convict me when I am neglecting you for the things of the world, no matter how bright and shiny they are. My desire is to love you with all that I am and all that I have. And please help me to trust You quickly when I am in need. I want to live in truth, recognizing that I am completely dependent on You. Amen

* L. T. Johnson, as quoted in Andrew T. Lincoln (1990). Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians. Dallas: Word Books, p 324.

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

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