“For what is idolatry if not this: to worship the gifts in place of the giver himself?” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.36) Calvin summarizes well what it means to commit idolatry. Idolatry may well be in full view in the days to come as so many of us make our New Year’s resolutions. Do we make these resolutions because we want to honor God? Or are we resolving to do things that make us feel better about the idols we worship? Losing weight may be a noble goal, but not if we want to lose weight for all the wrong reasons.
Let us learn by this how ready the world is to fall to superstition. Yea, this wickedness is in a manner born with us, to be desirous to adorn creatures with that which we take from God. Wherefore, no marvel if new errors have come abroad in all ages, seeing every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols. But lest men excuse themselves therewithal, this history doth witness that this is the fountain of superstitions, because men are unthankful to God, and do give his glory to some other.
Let us also learn from this how ready the world is to become superstitious. We seem to be born with the desire to adorn created things with what belongs only to God. It is not surprising, then, that new errors have spread in every age, since every one of us is expert in inventing idols. But this story show that the source of superstitions is our ingratitude to God and giving his glory to someone else.
He was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.
If we want to identify our idols, we can ask ourselves some very simple diagnostic questions.
What makes you angry?
What frustrates you?
What depresses you?
What brings you the most happiness?
If you have answered these questions, you have likely found some of the idols of your heart.
For instance, just yesterday I was driving to a meeting in a neighboring city. For about 10-12 of the miles I was stuck behind two trucks carrying the two halves of a modular home. They took up both lanes and made it impossible to pass.
I must admit two things: they were actually doing a good job of keeping up with the speed limit and according to my GPS I would easily make it to my meeting on time.
So how did I respond? I got frustrated that I could not get around these trucks. I was irritated and sulking for that entire 10-12 miles. Why was I so upset? My idols were at work. Which one? Take your pick . . . but maybe my control idol. Particularly when I am driving I enjoy the control that I have . . . I am the king of the road. That is why I do not like people driving slow in the left lane. (It’s for passing right?) When my ability to control a situation is taken away, suddenly I am frustrated and begin to get angry.
Why do we . . . no take that back . . . why do I so easily find my life so easily upset? My heart is an Idol Factory.