The human heart is an idol factory.
John Calvin wrote that, and I get it. Probably you do, too. But to really feel the weight of that statement, we must realize that an idol can truly be anything. Typically, we think of idolatry as something receiving undue weight, worth, and devotion in our lives. Sure, things like money or sex can become idols, but so can family. Or friends. Or church. We have an incredible propensity to twist good things into “god” things.
One of the tell tale signs of idolatry is when you begin to define yourself primarily by something other than Jesus. Sure, you know you’re a child of God and that’s the most important thing, but the marks of your self worth are found elsewhere. Your validation comes from your job or your home or your children. Idols abound, for we reveal that we are looking to these things rather than God for our satisfaction and worth. These things become the things that make us who we are.
They shouldn’t be. Jesus should. But it can get twisted around quickly. And without our knowledge. I offer myself as a case study in this respect.
It’s been five years since our 2-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia. That diagnosis resulted in a dramatic change in our lives, as you can imagine. For me personally, it meant a career change which proved to be very difficult. On the one hand, I was glad to grow up and get a “real job” in order to provide stability for my family. On the other hand, abandoning my dreams of being a career author and speaker was harder than I’d like to admit, for you see, I had come to find my self worth in the number of speaking events or writing assignments on my calendar.
For this reason I hated cancer. Not only because of what it did to my son, but because it stripped me of my marks of validation.
But not any more. Now (and this is particularly shameful to admit) I sense in my heart a growing dependence on cancer. I have found myself in recent days hoping that somehow the topic will come up in new relationships and conversations because the fact that I have had this experience makes me different.
And here we go again. The idol factory might shut down business due to recession for a while, but there will always be a reason to start up production.
The only answer for idol factories like me is returning to the Gospel. It not only reminds me that Jesus is what validates me as a person; it reminds me that there’s enough grace to hang a sign on the doors of the factory:
“Closed for business.”