What Distracts You from God?
God’s been showing me things in my devotionals lately about the idol worship in my life. In modern terms, an idol is something that we put before God — something that distracts us from Him. There are many idols hanging out that I just never had time for (my schedule being an idol on its own). My idols were just out there waiting for me. It’s probably why the Apostle John says in 1st John 5:21, “… guard yourselves from idols,” because he knew that idols would eventually distract us from what mattered most.
Tim Keller, in his book “Counterfeit Gods” defines an idol this way:
“An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”
For example, the amount of free time I now have because, well, everything is closed has really opened the doors to streaming TV. I can now watch all the shows I’ve never previously had time to watch. There is nothing wrong with watching TV on its own. But now that there are no people to meet or places to go, Netflix or whatever else is streaming are streaming. Not that I’m watching all day, but it’s on in the background, softly dulling my attention and distracting my thoughts. Before I knew it, I have two or three screens up around me, all playing different things simultaneously, and I’m on another device trying to find what to play next.
Many of us have idols in our lives, that if left unexamined, are actually ascribed a power over our lives they were never meant to have. Look at what the Prophet Jeremiah says about idols in our lives:
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good. - Jeremiah 10:5 ESV
The purpose of a scarecrow is to strike fear in the hearts of animals and some unsuspecting humans. They strike fear because the people or the animals imagine a potential danger from the scarecrows in the fields and keep them from the real prize — the delicious cucumbers growing freely in the fields. That’s what idols do. They capture our imagination and strike our hearts, so the real prize is lost on us. In our case, that is the love of God that fulfills our lives as His children.
The truth about these idols is this: they cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot do evil, but they can’t do good either. They have no inherent power except what we give to them, yet we ascribe to them a power they don’t deserve. There is something wrong with that. It should be clear that nothing we must speak for, carry, and impute as good or evil deserves a place in our hearts and minds.
Let me name five everyday idols that occupy our hearts and minds and keep us from seeing what matters most:
1️⃣ Self — People who are inherently self-focused and so looking to improve themselves at the cost of others for your curated social feed is an idol. Not sure? Ask yourself: have you taken more time getting the perfect picture than you did being present?
2️⃣ Money — People will do just about anything if it means they can make money off it. Money is a great asset, but not at the cost of your soul. Ask yourself, what have you done for a buck? Did you lose a little piece of yourself for that extra dollar?
3️⃣ Sex — These themes dominate music, movies, video games, TV shows, advertising, and even everyday life. They grab our attention and captivate our imagination, so we seek them out.
4️⃣ Creature comforts — There are illicit drugs or pharmaceuticals, but also, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. Sometimes we even use comfort food (pizza, chips, etc.) to feel better about ourselves or our situation.
5️⃣ Relationships (kids or spouse) — Spouses and kids are great, except when used to anchor our identities and perpetual hope. Like when your kids leave you to be independent, and you’re spiraling. That’s because they were an idol in your life.
Idols have no power and no value except what we ascribe to them with our heart’s attention and mind’s imagination. If that is true, then what idols have you been giving life to? Better question: what idols do you need to destroy in your life so that you can give God, who loves you, your attention and imagination? If you are looking for your life to be fulfilled by meaning, purpose, and peace, then seek God because there is none like our God.
Written by: Jonathan Kwon
Published by Woodside Bible Church, www.woodsidebible.org