Idle about Idols

We are all addicts.  We are all addicted to various idols that captivate us, allure us, and lie to us.  Instead of holding to the promises of God and/or heeding His warnings, we believe the promises of sin.  Their lies patterned after the first lie, telling us we will be happier apart from God’s Word.  Idols never sleep.

As a recovering-moralist, for years I wrongly believed that if I just avoided idols (and their sinful followers) I would be safe from their sinful influences.  If the devil really was prowling about “like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”, then I’d just work hard to avoid his hunting grounds.   For extra protection, I’d build big walls, not so I could fight better, but so that I could sit in my bomb shelter and not fight at all.  It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that this is a woeful misunderstanding of sin.  Sin is not an external problem that you can hide from.   There was time when I believed that it was, that every time I sinned I had an enemy, situation, or reason outside of myself to blame.  Many people still live this way–they call themselves “victims”…perpetually.  Personally, I preferred blaming the “big bad guy”, buying into the saying, “The devil made me do it.”  Until, that is, I read the Bible.  The brother of Jesus, James, wrote:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1.14-15).

James doesn’t blame the devil or anything else outside of our own hearts, and seeing that the he is writing God’s Words, neither should we.  John Calvin agreed with James, describing men’s hearts as ‘idol factories.’ I don’t know about you, but my “factory” is coming out with new models every week, each one better than the last.  The fact that my heart is so easily drawn away by a pint or a picture proves that I/we have a serious worship disorder.  The enemy we fight comes from within and our broken hearts are constantly drawing us away from God–we cannot afford to be idle about idols.  Waging war against the idol is foolish and futile.  The idol is usually some part of creation God declared “good” that my heart made bad.  It is not, to paraphrase Tim Keller, that I want bad things, it is that I want things  (even good ones) so badly.

We fight against satisfaction in an idol by fighting for satisfaction in the one true God.  This is not easy.  Paul described it as physical training–a spiritual form of P90X (I guess that makes Paul our Tony Horton).  Did you know that you can become out of shape within 72 hours physically?  Spiritually, I have found it is much faster…like within minutes some times.   The moment we become idle is the moment we stop working like farmers, running like athletes , and/or fighting like soldiers.  Spiritually speaking, we develop soft hands, get fat on “sin-twinkies”, and lose every battle that catches us. Idleness, and the idolatry that accompanies it, is resisted through an active pursuit of godliness.

We pursue idols because we were made creatures designed to worship.  SOMETHING will captivate our affections, give us meaning, and fill us with joy.   Invariably, without exception or fail, idleness will result in idolatry. We cannot afford to be idle about idols.  If you feel defeated or allured by something that is not Jesus, ask yourself whether your heart has been taken away by the idol or given away through your idleness.


Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.

2 thoughts on “Idle about Idols”

  1. You are absolutely right Sam, something will capitvate us, one way or another. Apathy in the church and surrounding the Gospel seems to have become an idol or idle in the lives of so many who once proclaimed Him as Lord. That which we feed does grow stronger. Spirit or self? Apathy has become a feast for the idle. I so enjoy this re learning process.


  2. It’s funny that you say we pursue idols, it’s so true, and often such an active thing. I will often go out of my way to get or do something I want very much and yet just as often do not give God that same active planning to fit him into my day or hour or minute. For so long I thought that the pursuit of God had to be fancy and perfectly planned out: An hour at the kitchen table before the sun came up or an evening in candle light and contemplation. Those things are great, but they don’t make sense for my life right now. Once I realized that I did not have to bow my head and close my eyes to pray, that I could talk to God whenever I wanted to, that I could read my Bible in the bathroom (with small children pounding on the door, of course 😉 or on the internet even I started opening myself up to connecting with Him in a moment by moment manner. Maybe the pursuit of God rather than idols could be as simple as realizing that He is with us all the time and we can commune with Him at any moment. Letting go of thinking we have to straighten our hair and clean under our fingernails before we can reach out to hold his hand.


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