Idolatry versus Joy

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  (Romans 1:22-25, ESV)

For some reason, I’ve recently become more aware of the ocean of idolatry I live in (and often swim in). Gone are the days when I would read of the Israelites rising up to play around the golden calf with a quizzical expression on my face. Idolatry can seem quaint, a relic from antiquity, but only when we are blind to what idolatry is. 

Here’s my definition: Idolatry is the expectation, pursued with our daily energy, that there is something out there that can make me happy in the ways that only God can.

There is much that we consider good that can be that graven image of a man, bird, animal or creeping things in our lives. Our family can be an idol. A relationship. Good music.. Our children. Technology – and before you roll your eyes, how excited were you for IOS 7? The day it came out my twitter feed turned into such a river of joy that for a moment I thought perhaps Jesus had returned.

Exchanging the glory of the Creator for the things that he has created is never good; it brings dishonor and destruction into our lives. It also, inevitably, brings disappointment. We weren’t designed to find ultimate satisfaction in things or people. But it doesn’t mean we don’t try. We keep replacing our idols with newer, shinier models because we have an innate knowledge that we were made for better things.

The mistake we make is trying to find joy in better things, or the next, better thrill, or a better relationship, or a better cause, or . . . you get the idea. The chase is fun for awhile, but it gets old. Running around in circles usually does. The scenery starts to look the same. Still excited about IOS 7?

Running after Jesus is the path of real joy, though our idols work very hard at blinding our eyes to that truth. One reason we find joy in Jesus is because Jesus’ path does not go in circles. It goes straight on and up! He is making all things new, including the daily joys of the former idolater who has found the true God that the false ones can only hope to imitate.

We were made by Him. They are made by us. Wise is the person who has compared the Creator’s credentials to those of us idol-makers and has chosen joy!

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