The Bible talks a lot about idols. In Scripture, idols are often described in physical terms: statues of false gods made of wood or stone. Yet an idol doesn’t have to be a physical object to hold our attention. An idol is anything that shifts our attention and worship off of God and onto itself.
Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. (Jonah 2:8)
This means an idol can be the relationship you wish you had. It can be the perfect job. It can be food, a car, clothes or even your friends. Even good things, like marriage or friendship, can become idols if we place them on the throne of our heart!
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply… (Psalm 16:4)
How do you know if you have an idol in your life? Here are a few ways to tell.
Take a Look at Your Emotions
First, look at your emotions. When we have an idol in our heart, we tend to get very emotional—angry, depressed, anxious—if that idol is threatened. If you get extremely upset at the idea of being single for another year, a relationship may be an idol in your life. This doesn’t mean you deny emotions; it’s okay to be sad or upset about life circumstances! But what do you do with those emotions? Do they dictate your decisions? Do you wallow in them, allowing them to pull you away from Christ? If so, that’s a sign of idolatry. Your circumstance or desired outcome has become more important that God Himself.
Your emotional response to desire reveals whether or not God is the ultimate satisfaction in your life. This satisfaction won’t happen automatically, so if you’re not there yet, you’re not alone! It’s time to start asking God to reveal Himself as more than enough for your desires. Persevere in prayer over this topic. Let Him remove those idols from your life and heart.
Take a Look at Your Priorities
Another way to know you have an idol in your life is to look at your priorities. Do you spend more time choosing an outfit than you spend in God’s Word? Do you think about a relationship far more often than you think about how you can glorify God with your life this month? Again, this doesn’t mean you’re spending every waking minute thinking spiritual thoughts! But if your priority lies with the same thing over the course of weeks and months, that thing might be on the throne of your life.
I’ll give an example from my own life. I love decorating and organizing my home. I also love my work. It’s very easy for me to skip over my time with God so I can work on my tasks. Work becomes an idol in my life if I’m not diligent to keep God central! Your priorities will reveal the truth.
Take a Look at Your Walk with God
Finally, look at your walk with God. Has it been growing or has it plateaued? If you’re not spending time with the Lord in His Word and prayer, where are you spending it? Who or what has consumed your thoughts, time and energy?
Your walk with the Lord—how much you relate to Him, talk to Him and spend time with Him—will reveal what is on the throne of your life.
Letting go of idols is a process. It’s not easy to release what we desire, putting it on the altar of trust. But each time we entrust our desires to God, He shows us just how satisfying He can be. The Christian faith is a journey of choosing faith instead of what we can see. Sometimes that means sacrificing the things we love most for the God who loved us best.