Idols of the heart

If you’ve read the Bible, then you know it’s no secret that God hates idols (Deut.32:21). I know it’s a strong word. We usually think of God and love in the same sentence not God and hate. I used to think that God’s abhorrence of idol worship was simply about his glory (Ex. 20:2-6). After all, he made us so it only makes sense that he is worthy of worship.

But avoiding idols is also about something more. It’s about our protection. God declares that idol worship is a trap to us, and actually equates it with worshiping demons.

They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and daughters to the demons (Psalm 106:36-37)

God desires that we give the best of ourselves to something that really matters: the worship of the true and living God. He understands that when we elevate our desires to that all-consuming status they will drain the very life out of us.

Ezekiel the prophet wrote to the nation of Judah.. Remember, the nation of Judah had been exiled to Babylon because of their infatuation with idol worship. While it appears they had put away their external idols, it seems they had only embraced them internally. So we read,

“Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols (Ezekiel 14:3-5).

I can think of several reasons why idols of the heart are more dangerous than idols made of wood or stone.

Reason #1: No one else can see your idols. If you had an idol shrine in your living room everyone would know. But because your “idol factory” is internal, you’re the only one who knows you have a problem. Unless you share your struggle with others for added prayer and accountability you will continue to worship secretly that which pleases your desires.

Reason #2: Your heart can deceive you. Jeremiah 17: 9 states,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds (Jer 17:9-10).

If you have idols in your heart, not only can others not see them, but there’s a good chance you don’t know they are there either. The only way they reveal themselves is when you’re willing to sin in order to have them. The rest of the time they will work like a silent cancer–growing in size and severity.

Reason # 3: They are all-controlling. 

This is God’s advice with idols of the heart: Destroy them, before they destroy you. Don’t feed your heart-idols. The desires will become stronger, the thoughts all-consuming, and they will feed on your will to say no.

Floridians warn you not feed the alligators. They will instinctively come to the same place, at the same time every day. And one day when you don’t bring food, their small-reptilian mind will assume you are the food. It’s the same with the idols of the heart. Perhaps Paul captured it best,

Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey (Rom. 6:16 NLT)

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