“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small parcel.”
― John Ruskin
When we think of idolatry, our minds jump to tales of those worshiping totem poles and figurines. The Bible poses a much wider definition of idolatry — anything that draws us away from dependence upon God and toward living independently from Him. Essentially, anything that gets between us and God.
By that definition, our idols can be inanimate objects like money, cars, homes, prestigious jobs, fame, various addictions, etc.
But our most menacing idol resides closer to home, lives within us and wears many clever disguises. It is nearly invisible.
It is said that the only thing the eye cannot see is itself. Likewise, with our ego. We tend to be blind to the most enduring part of ourselves — our inner “psyche” as Sigmund Freud would have put it. The Bible calls that immaterial component our “soul.”
Trouble is, even among the “best” of us, something is defective at the level of our very natures as descendants of Adam and Eve.
Scripture puts it this way in Romans 5:12-14, “You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in — first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone …”
The Birth of Idolatry
Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had disobeyed a direct order of God and ate of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” at the Serpent’s sly suggestion. They had swallowed the lie that “God is not good, He can’t be trusted, you can only trust yourself” — which it turns out, is the essence of idolatry.
The Apostle Paul wrote later in Romans 1:25-26, “For they (rebellious mankind) exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
In the process, they devolved from God worship to self-worship (self-realization), turning their spiritual focus inward to “self” rather than outward to God.
The resultant effects upon their formerly carefree lives were immediate and devastating. Their consciences were awakened, making them aware of their predicament, but giving them no power to do anything about it.
Their searing sense of guilt and shame drove them to foolishly fashion clothing out of fig leaves to cover up their exposure. But their nakedness was spiritual, not physical.
We, their offspring, have felt naked ever since and the cover-ups continue in the form of man-made religion cloaked in the deceptive garb of works-righteousness.
The Way Back to God: Surrender
While Adam and Eve cowered in the bushes hiding from God, He never gave up on those two miscreants. He sought them out, allowed them to surrender, forgave them, covered them in animal skins (a beautiful picture of substitutionary sacrifice) and restored them to fellowship with Him.
He’s doing the same for us today, but it calls for something that goes against our grain — surrendering our right to ourselves, leaving our independent way of life and placing ourselves under His authority.
The great 19th century pastor-teacher, Oswald Chambers, reminded his students: “Jesus Christ is always unyielding to my claim to my right to myself. The one essential element in all our Lord’s teaching about discipleship is abandon, no calculation, no trace of self-interest.”
Chambers explained, “The natural life is not spiritual, and it can be made spiritual only through sacrifice. If we do not purposely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural to us. There is no high or easy road. Each of us has the means to accomplish it entirely in his own hands. It is not a question of praying, but of sacrificing, and thereby performing His will.”
How About You?
Have you attended the funeral of your own independence? Or are you still living like the Lone Ranger?
Suppose you bought a new automobile, parked it in your garage, and came out the next morning to go somewhere. But the car is gone. Hours later, it drives itself back home and pulls into the garage. You learn later, your car came with a mind of its own and couldn’t be relied upon to be there when you need it.
How would that work for you?
Now picture God. He created you, built you to be with Him forever in a fellowship of joy and love. But you bolted, returning now and then because you need something. Then off you go again.
Men, treating your wife like that won’t get you very far.
— D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.