Saturday, November 10, 2012

Egocentric idols

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 2:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "Their land is also full of idols;
They worship the work of their own hands,
That which their own fingers have made." Isaiah 2:8

John Piper takes a little swipe at a common interpretation of Jesus' command, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39):

"The popular misconception is that this command teaches us to learn to esteem ourselves so we can love others. This is not what the command means. Jesus does not command us to love ourselves. He assumes that we do." — John Piper, Desiring God, p. 209.

It seems to me there is only a short distance between healthy self-love and idolatrous self-love. I wonder if, in our rich, possession-obsessed society, we don't indulge in such idolatry more than we realize. We regularly look to the things we own to give us a sense of worth. We dote on their excellence and how their quality will reflect well on us. When we get down, we shop for more things to help us feel better.

Making an idol out of a car or house or pair of shoes is an easy kind of idolatry to identify. However, there are other ego-centric idols that are just as widespread, but may be harder to put their fingers on. Dale Hanson Bourke in a chapter on idols in her book Embracing Your Second Calling speaks of a Bible-study worksheet (written by Tim Keller) that probed her heart in this regard:

"...the worksheet contained a list of the types of idolatry many modern-day men and women embrace. In part, it included statements like:

Approval idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am loved and respected by...'

Control idolatry: Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of...'

Helping idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if people are dependent on me.'

Work idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am highly productive and get a lot done.'

Achievement idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am being recognized for my accomplishments / excelling in my career.'

...One suggestion from the study is to think about what you fear the most or what you worry about most often. If you follow that trail, you almost always arrive at the foot of an idol." -- Dale Hanson Bourke, Embracing Your Second Calling, pp. 90-91

These thoughts convict me. I need to sweep a spotlight into and through the tucked-away rooms of my heart to see what self-idols are hidden there. What about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, please show me where I am worshiping something/someone other than You. Amen.

MORE: More from Tim Keller:

Pastor and teacher Dr. Tim Keller develops the concepts of modern idolatry further in his book Counterfeit Gods. A talk he gave at The Gospel Coalition in 2005 is summarized  in "The Grand Demythologizers: The Gospel and Idolatry." Follow this link to hear/watch the entire talk.


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