A man I respect once preached me a one-sentence on idolatry – and he didn’t even know it. In fact, he’s not even a pastor. Well, he’s trained as one, but he works as a history professor.
He said that “idolatry is the mistaking of the relative for the absolute.” A little abstract, but it makes a lot of sense.
Idolatry isn’t about statues or bizarre sexual practices. It’s about priorities. Do you peg your self-identity on something that peaks at 19? Or 30? Or 65? Do you live your life for something that dies? Or, more simply (and more verbosely)
“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”
– David Foster Wallace
So, what’s your idol?