John Calvin said:
“The human heart is a factory of idols… Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.”
This truth is difficult to convey. Few people think of themselves as idolators. And when I as a pastor, or a friend, suggest to people that they – like me – struggle from this affliction, the most common response is a grinning dismissal.
For most people the concept of idolatry conjurs mental images of statues and shrines. And since few people I encounter would knowingly do something as primitive as that, it is easy to understand why that notion is so easily ignored.
Nevertheless it is a condition that needs to be recognized. We need to recognize it as a general condition of humanity. And each of us needs to discover what kinds of idols our own hearts are producing. You see, what my production center cranks out is different than what your production center develops – both in product and in volume.
Examine the following questions and ponder your heart for the existent idols and then crush the idols of our heart before they crush you.
- What do you love? Hate?
- What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?
- What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?
- Where do you bank your hopes?
- What do you fear? What do you not want? What do you tend to worry about?
- What do you feel like doing?
- What do you think you need? What are your ‘felt needs’?
- What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?
- What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? What do you organize your life around?
- Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, and security?
- What or whom do you trust?
- Whose performance matters? On whose shoulders does the well being of your world rest? Who can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful?
- Whom must you please? Whose opinion of you counts? From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?
- Who are your role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be?
- On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning?
- How do you define and weigh success and failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation?
- What would make you feel rich, secure, prosperous? What must you get to make life sing?
- What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? The greatest pain or misery?
- Whose coming into political power would make everything better?
- Whose victory or success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?
- What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?
- In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? Confident and relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? What do you think about? What are your escapes? What do you escape from?
- What do you want to get out of life? What payoff do you seek out of the things you do?
- What do you pray for?
- What do you think about most often? What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?
- What do you talk about? What is important to you? What attitudes do you communicate?
- How do you spend your time? What are your priorities?
- What are your characteristic fantasies, either pleasurable or fearful? Daydreams? What do your night dreams revolve around?
- What are the functional beliefs that control how you interpret your life and determine how you act?
- What are your idols and false gods? In what do you place your trust, or set your hopes? What do you turn to or seek? Where do you take refuge?
- How do you live for yourself?
- How do you live as a slave of the devil?
- How do you implicitly say, “If only…” (to get what you want, avoid what you don’t want, keep what you have)?
- What instinctively seems and feels right to you? What are your opinions, the things you feel true?
- Where do you find your identity? How do you define who you are?
Two other worthwhile resources on this subject: