Whatever it is that makes a man do something, that motive is his god. -
The first gods of man were usually centered around physical idols. In those times it was easy to choose our gods, the one on the left or the one on the right. Today in the “enlightened” age, our gods are not so obvious. Few people still worship shrines and statues. Because of this, many of us never really stop to question or examine our lives from a perspective of “idol worship.” Idolatry still has very impact on how we live, but learning to see it is difficult.
The “American Dream” has been an amazing motivator for our nation. It is a vision which claims that everyone can have, and deserves, a middle-class paradise. If you achieve it, you were a success. If you didn’t, you are a failure. Generations have held themselves to the motivating standard of “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.” Not that there is something inherently wrong with these possible lives, but as goals to motivate our behavior, they are poor idols.
Where We Look for Reward
Our gods, in the end, are whatever we look at to tell ourselves “I am on the right path.” If money is our god, then we feel we are successful with money. If our god is praise, then we feel successful when we are being praised. If our god is leisure, then we feel successful when we have lots of time to ourselves. Our god is whatever takes priority of our resources and attention, everything shapes and conforms around it.
The Idol is The Top of the Pyramid, Not the Stones Beneath
Let me clarify as I don’t want to contribute to over-zealous paranoia often caused by fundamentalist preachers. Some preachers would attempt to shame you with propaganda like; “You watch two hours of TV a day, but only read your Bible for ten minutes? Then TV is an idol!” This is not true. While we live, we all need food, sleep, work, play, friends, recreation, etc. Needing a thing or spending time on an activity does not make it an idol, it is what we use the mental, physical, and spiritual resources these things fill us with for.
What Are You Living For?
It is easy to say, “I live to serve God.” But what does that really mean? What is the actual vision you are living for? Do you live and work for a leisurely retirement? Do you live and work for fame? Do you live and work for a legacy? Do you live and work for pleasure? What ultimately is the fruit you labor for? This is about seeking out the deepest and most desperate desires of our heart. If we never discover what they are, then we are slaves to them. We can live our whole lives serving one god while claiming allegiance to another.
To live for God does not mean we have to live pious lives of self-denial. Sleep, food, recreation, and entertainment can all help us be healthy and energized when used in balance. It is what we use that heal and energy for. Have we labored well to improve our relationships with our neighbors, our community, and our church? Have we left the world a better place than we found it? Can the work of our hands be carried on by our children, or does it die with us? When we look at our lives and judge our progress, we should stand alone before Christ and see if we hear the phrase, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
- Every human being works in cycles of invested effort and reward. When we go a long time without experiencing that reward, our stress and anxiety grows. What are the rewards you seek?
- When you “recharge” yourself, what in your mind is the thing you are “recharging” for?
- When you are depressed or feeling bad about yourself, what are the circumstances you think you “failed at?”
- When you are proud and feeling good about yourself, what are the circumstances you “succeed at?”
- What do think a Christian should be trying to “succeed” at?
- What do accomplishments do you think it would be better for your heart to be proud of?