Tuesday, January 05, 2016

How Idolatry Leads To Spiritual Slavery

Photo Credit: Leslee Mitchell
I'm currently reading Tim Keller's book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. Keller does a brilliant job of unpacking how often the good things in our lives can subtly turn into ultimate things in our hearts, usurping God's rightful place in our lives.

In the second chapter entitled "Love is Not All You Need", Keller shares the story of a beautiful woman he met while he was a young pastor and makes the correlation between idolatry and slavery:

"In the early days of my pastoral ministry, I met a woman named Sally, who'd had the misfortune of being born beautiful. Even in childhood she saw the power that she could wield with her physical attractiveness. At first she used her beauty to manipulate others, but eventually others used it to manipulate her. She came to feel that she was powerless and invisible unless some man was in love wither her. She could not bear to be alone. As a result, she was willing to remain in relationships with men who were abusive. 
Why did she endure such treatment? She had come to look to men for the kind of deep affirmation and acceptance that only God can provide. As a result, she became a slave to love. Nowadays we may hear someone say, "Oh, my boss is a slave master," but that is only a loose metaphor. Some bosses can make things hard on you, but real slave masters know no boundaries. They can literally do anything they want to you - beat you, rape you, or even kill you. In the same way, we know a good thing has become a counterfeit god when its demands on you exceed proper boundaries
Making an idol out of work may mean that you work until you ruin your health, or you break the laws in order to get ahead. Making an idol out of love may mean allowing the lover to exploit and abuse you, or it may cause terrible blindness to the pathologies in the relationship. An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance, in order to hold onto it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries. To practice idolatry is to be a slave."

Anything in our life can become an idol when it gets elevated from just being a good thing into an ultimate thing. Whether its a relationship, work, money, food, comfort or any other host of things, idols are those things that take God's place in our lives. And once something becomes an idol in our heart, we then become a slave to that idol.

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