This is an article I wrote for a friend as part of his blog. He has asked several youth ministers to contribute to a project entitled, “Hot Topics for Teens.” Below are my thoughts on idols from a teenagers perspective.
When you think about idols, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s a statue of a fat man sitting with his legs crossed, perhaps it’s a big shrine dedicated to someone or something, or maybe it’s just a picture of someone prominent to whom people worship and pay tribute. When I think about idols in our culture today, I think of things and objects that many times go unnoticed. Sadly, Americans have made everything from money and objects to people and things idols today. Consider some of the most popular “American” idols from a teen perspective.
It’s one thing to like money, but quite another to be in love with money. Many people spend their lives working to earn just a little bit more so they can buy this or that. They simply love money. Listen to what the apostle Paul said about money, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (I Tim. 6:9-10). When we allow money to become a god in our life, we run the risk of falling away from God. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24). We only have room for one God in our life.
We use our money to buy things that we really don’t even need. We are always looking for the bigger and the better. Sadly, too many have allowed material possessions to become a god in their lives. Jesus was approached by a man asking, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The man informed Jesus that he had kept the commandments since he was young. Jesus responded, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Lk. 18:22). What the Bible says next is a sad reflection of many so called Christians’ attitudes today: “But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Lk. 18:23). This young man allowed his possessions to possess him and become a god in his life. Many times we do the exact same thing. We can’t allow material possessions to replace God. We only have room for one God in our life.
Who are you? Are you a star athlete? What about a cheerleader? One of the smart kids? Are you popular? A class officer? Someone everyone in school likes and respects? Or are you just one of the many students who sometimes go unnoticed and overlooked? For many teens and adults alike, who we are or for what we are known is a big part of our lives. We want to have a status of which we are proud. We want to have a status among our peers that is accepted and respected. The important thing for us to remember is, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). Who we are in the eyes of our friends is not nearly as important as who we are in the eyes of God. The only status that truly matters is that we are faithful children of God. We only have room for one God in our life.
Have No Idols Before Me
It doesn’t matter whether or not our idols are money, possessions, status or something completely different; God has been clear, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:3-5). Anything that comes before God in our lives is considered an idol. If we want to be pleasing to God, we must rid ourselves of the idols that occupy our lives.
Idols Are Worthless
Idols have no value in our lives. God, through the prophet Jeremiah, told his people the idols they were following after were worthless (Jer. 2:5). Why? What was it about their idols that made them so worthless? They were worthless because they were unable to protect the people who worshipped them. The idols that Israel had begun to follow after were nothing more than manmade gods, they were worthless. Sadly many people of Israel never came to this realization. Let us learn from the people of Israel about the worthlessness of our idols.
God Is All You Need
Friends, we must make a point to clean house when it comes to the idols in our lives. Remember the words of Jesus, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). We have to deny ourselves and give up those things in our lives that get in the way of our relationship with the Father. We may think we can’t live without them, but we are wrong. Jesus went on to say, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26) We may gain wealth, popularity and friendships with the idols we allow in our lives, but that doesn’t profit us anything in the end. Unfortunately, for those who practice idolatry of any kind, they will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:5). Remember, we only have room for one God in our life.
Sit down and make a list of all the things in your life that you have elevated to idol status. Spend time in prayer asking God to help you with the struggle you are having of allowing these “idols” to dominate your life. Begin today tearing down these idols and replacing them with a time of Bible study and prayer.