This post contains affiliate links.
Let’s be honest, when I think of an idol the first mental picture is of a statue. Maybe a golden calf as in the Old Testament or a modern day figurine.
Author Tim Keller opened my eyes to a whole new understanding of “Thou shalt have no idols.” In his book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters he says:
What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.
A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought.
It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry.
When your meaning in life is to fix someone else’s life, we may call it “codependency” but it is really idolatry. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”
Anything that I place more important than God is an idol. Period. Yes, even your family and children can become an idol.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God… Exodus 20: 3-5