In the early years of our marriage, I took up golf and enjoyed the game and the camaraderie of the men with whom I played. I would play every Saturday morning, not getting home until 2 PM plus once during the week after work. There was also the occasional visit to the driving range. At the time, my wife was looking after our two daughters under five with no car since we only had one at the time. I was a young attorney who had to work late some evenings and travel from time to time.
I had made golf an idol that was taking an inordinate amount of time away from the love of my wife, family, and responsibilities that should have taken a higher priority.
A couple of years later, right after the Kansas City Chiefs had won Super Bowl V, we seized the opportunity to get season tickets as the Chiefs were moving from their old stadium into the larger Arrowhead stadium. At first it was exciting, but it grew to become a project every Sunday on which there was a game. It took nearly the whole day, including the time for transportation, traffic, parking, etc. We had to get a baby sitter for our daughters for nearly the whole day. In addition to the time, it was also becoming rather costly.
I had acquired another idol, a professional football team, again to the detriment of my love and responsibilities to the family. There is nothing inherently wrong with golf or being a fan of a professional football team, but when they detract from loving your spouse and family, and expressing your love for God on Sunday, I was in danger of creating and serving idols over more important relationships and responsibilities – God and family.
The people of Israel seemed to suffer from this tendency when the Bible reports in 2 Kings: 17:41, “Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols.” This eventually led to their exile in 722 BC, by the king of Assyria, after more than two centuries of unfaithfulness to God who had raised them up as a people and nation. Later, a teacher of the law would ask Jesus which was the most important of the commandments. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Loving God and the people he puts in our lives with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, is a consuming task. It impacts every moment and facet of our lives. In Old Testament times, the idols people worshiped included false gods and their images. Today, our idols include entertainers, professional athletes, public officials, hobbies, careers, material things like cars, homes, jewelry, retirement accounts, etc. None of these are inherently wrong in themselves, but they can become idols if we make them so.
Do you have idols in your life that compete with your love of God and the people he puts in your life?