Tag Archives: Idols

A Sign That Your Money, or Anything Else, is an Idol

We know that idols still exist today, but spotting them in western culture is trickier than it was 3,000 years ago when they sat on altars in the center of a family home.

An idol is anything that we look to for the security and significance that we should only find in God. And if this is the case, well, then, the sky’s the limit on what can actually be an idol. My job can be an idol, my spouse, my car, my children, etc.

And yet it’s the idol of money that Jesus speaks to so clearly in Matthew 6:24…

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (ESV)

Of course money can be an idol, because it is so very easy to find self-worth (significance) and security in a large bank account.

But how do you really tell if your money is an idol to you, or if anything else you have falls into that category? Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods has been a help to me in discernment, but reading in Proverbs the other day, I found another sign: Idols make you “calculate inwardly” and keep you from focusing on what really matters.

In Proverbs 23, our writer has just finished warning us not to “toil to acquire wealth”, to be “discerning enough to desist”, for money disappears easily, or as he says, it “suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

And then he says this…

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
and waste your pleasant words. Proverbs 23:6-8 (ESV)

When something is an idol, you must constantly inwardly calculate whether you will lose it; in other words, you can never rest your mind. This is why, when you are eating dinner with a “stingy” person, someone who serves and worships money as an idol, you can never really have a true conversation with him – he is always “inwardly calculating”, thinking about his money and what he can do to keep it from “sprouting wings.”

As the writer puts it, “his heart is not with you.” In contemporary idiom, “his mind is somewhere else.” Therefore, you “waste your pleasant words.” Idolaters make lousy conversationalists.

And such is what idols do to us again and again. Whether it is money or a girlfriend or a job, if the particular object has become an idol, we lose ourselves in it and are always “inwardly calculating” what we can do to keep it from going away. Idols keep our minds from rest.

In fact, many people, understanding salvation incorrectly, relate to the true God incorrectly as a idol. They believe that they are saved by works and not by grace through faith, and therefore they are always inwardly calculating: “Have I done enough? Does God love me yet? What can I yet do to prove my sincerity? Have I earned my way into God’s acceptance?”

But in a relationship with Jesus Christ, when God becomes my Father and will never “sprout wings” and abandon me, I need never calculate again. As a result I find myself loving Him in return, and the only “calculation” I do is relaxed and joyful, centering around this question: “How can I take everything I have, my money, my relationships, my work, etc., and use it all in passionate service of this good and gracious God who has freed my heart and soul?”

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 (ESV)



Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Knowledge…or Love?

Around the Knowlton house, we’ve had a few air mattresses through the years, but I don’t think we’ve bought one lately. As far as I can tell, they aren’t worth whatever money you spend on them.  Just one nick, one tiny little hole, and you’re sleeping on the cold, hard ground. I know you can patch it, but how long does that last? No. give me a firm, real, mattress on an actual bed any day.

I bring this up because of 1 Corinthians 8:1…

This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. (ESV)

Knowledge is the air mattress; love is the real bed.

Now, the whole chapter is about eating food sacrificed to idols, which is something we obviously don’t think anything about today.  But in that culture, it was a huge deal, perhaps akin to the kinds of social questions some evangelical Christians in North America ask today, say about drinking alcohol. In this case, eating food sacrificed to idols was not a problem, Paul said, because an idol was nothing anyway, but some people didn’t see it that way. If these folks had eaten such meat, their consciences would have cried out in horror.

Now apparently, at least some of the Corinthian Christians knew along with Paul that idols were a no-thing. These believers had knowledge and were thus “wise” about these matters. And because of this…they were proud. Their knowledge had puffed them up with conceit. And as a result, they looked down on brothers with weaker consciences who felt the need to abstain.

Paul was not impressed. These believers may have had better ethics, but their love was lacking.  And so the Apostle was basically saying, “If you have a choice between knowledge about right and wrong…or acting in love, choose love every time.” Love is like a firm bed; it’s solid and firm, building up others and helps them grow in grace long term. But on the other hand having knowledge is like an air mattress – it may make you feel good in the moment, but it often only helps for the first night, and that restful feeling wIll soon give way to the hard and uneven ground.

So the application? Well, of course, we should study God’s word and understand the truths of the Christian life as much as possible. But there is a tendency for knowledge, even knowledge about God and His ways, to inflate our ego and make us think we are better than others. And that’s a lie. In fact, ironically, the moment we start thinking we are wiser and thus better than others, we fall behind them in the race for holiness.

So give yourself to loving others, and forsake pride by remembering that you are a sinner like everyone else. And if you do have knowledge, well, remember it came from God, and others probably have knowledge where you are yet ignorant.

For Friday, May 15th: 1 Corinthians 9


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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


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