I race a vintage Porsche and have used racing as a platform to build relationships with men and share my faith. One day a man who never misses a chance to race asked me quite seriously, "When does my passion for racing become an idol?" Good question.
All idolatry is rooted in unbelief. This unbelief can take many forms, but at its root is the powerful lie, "Jesus Christ alone is not enough to make me happy. I need something else." An idol is something we worship. The issue is looking to anything except Jesus Christ for identity, meaning, and ultimate purpose. An idol is anything that becomes the object of inordinate affection. An idol is anything of which we say, "I must have this to be happy."
John Calvin said that men are "idol factories." Perhaps nothing interferes with a man’s faith more than the root problem of making idols–it’s the "next step" after believing a lie. The average American Christian male has made an idol of something that competes with his full surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Men can make idols of almost anything, but common examples today include:
- Titles and positions (and especially if their work doesn’t generate large revenues)
- Homes (i.e., attaching personal worth and identity to a dwelling)
- Country club memberships (i.e., being part of the "right" crowd)
- Ministry titles (e.g., elder, deacon)
- Relationships (e.g., idolizing a wife)
- Affiliations with important people
- Cars, boats, planes, motorcycles
- Their bodies (i.e., physical appearance)
- Superior intelligence
- Their own righteousness
- The praise of men
As you can readily see, all these affections are horizontal and worldly. All such friendship with the world is spiritual adultery (James 4:4).
Idols make promises they cannot keep, which is why you can be on a winning streak and still feel empty.
Discipling Men Applications:
- Most men don’t really understand the definition of an idol. Periodically define "idols" and give appropriate examples.
- Remind your men that we are "idol factories."
- Challenge your men to consider how they can make even their own spirituality into an idol–like a church position or exceptionally righteous behavior.
Yours for changed lives,
Patrick Morley, Ph.D.
Man in the Mirror