A big house with a white picket fence. Two car garage complete with two cars. Two perfectly behaved kids and a dog. People work themselves half-to-death trying to reach this standard....known as “living the American Dream.” Keeping up with the Joneses. Who created this standard anyway? You know what I think is sad? The so-called American dream mentions nothing about spiritual life. So you have all these things...you’re living the life. All the perks and benefits of those hours and hours of hard work you put in at the office. But your soul is languishing. You spend all your time and money and effort and thought on building your own little shrine to yourself and all “your hard work” until it’s so big that other people notice it and pat you on the back. “Wow, look at that house! You must be so proud. You must have worked so hard!” Guess what....that house is going to be gone one day. People who make idols will become like them....a house is just a big empty box. We put stuff in it, we live in it....but really it’s just a shell. Put all your blood, sweat and tears into building up that house....what will it do for you? In the end, you’ll be just like that house....empty. The American Dream is really a nightmare....it’s an idol.
Here in Ghana (even more so in other African nations) you can see actual “idols.” Meaning what you would typically envision when you hear the word idol. If you go out to the village you might see an actual carved image or rock, or tree or whatever; that people offer sacrifices to and worship on a regular basis. Now, in the U.S. you’re not going to see people bowing down in front of their cars or their houses....You do however see people investing a significant portion of their time, energy, money and thought into improving their status. They might not physically bow down and worship their house or their job or their car or their hobby....but in their heart it’s the most important thing to them. Sometimes they don’t even realize it. It seems to me that Americans have a hard time recognizing their idols so we think they don’t exist. Americans have idols....they’re just packaged differently than the idols out in the villages of Africa.
Anything that you devote yourself to can become your idol. Even (seemingly) good things can become idols. I bet you know a guy that spends lots of time working in the yard of your church building; mowing the grass, trimming hedges, even doing small repairs and things around the building. That’s great, maintenance needs to be taken care of....but if that same gentleman doesn’t ever do any outreach or personal Bible studies with anyone because he’s done “his part” working in the church...then the maintenance of the church building has become his idol. What’s more important, the stones around the church building or the living stones that God uses to build THE church?
People will never be able to fully submit to God and serve him until they recognize and eliminate the idols in their lives. We have to thoroughly examine our lives. Where do you spend most of your time and your money? What do you spend most of your time doing or thinking about? If our lives are not focused on serving God (even if you’re not working “in ministry”) then we need to seriously reevaluate our priorities. Maybe I’ll post more on this later....but in the meantime, remember, where you heart is, there your treasures will be also.