There’s something about marriage that squeezes out the good, the bad, and the ugly of the heart. I remember thinking I was a decent human being . . . until I got married. One main thing that I didn’t realize was that I had many passions and desires that would wage war within me and pour out when I wasn’t getting what I desired. Many of those things were trivial, but they would tempt me to anger and quarreling. What the Lord kindly revealed early on in my marriage was that these things weren’t merely desires—they were deadly idols.
In ancient times, people didn’t hide their idols. They were out there and plain to see. This is illustrated as Isaiah pokes fun at what an idol is compared to the real God:
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move. (Isa. 40:18–20)
These manufacturers and buyers weren’t trying to put their idols away so that no one would see them. It was clear whom they worshiped. Notice also that no one was exempt from trying to purchase and craft an idol. Everyone did it.
Today, we are skilled at masking our idols. We even excuse them as “preferences.” But at the heart of idolatry is forgetting who God is and worshiping self.
Idols are the passions that James addresses that make us wage war, judge, or hate others (James 4:1–4). They become more important to us than loving our neighbor as ourselves. We forget the Scriptures. We forget how to love, and we instead make war, complain, and become envious. Whatever the specific result, it’s not the fruit of the Spirit that we so long for.
Isaiah goes on to tell us about something so much better than our idols. Take a minute and read through Isaiah 40:21–26. The makeshift idols of the human heart are not worth comparing with the God of heaven and earth:
To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. (vv. 25–26)
Doesn’t this passage make you want to worship our one true God? Who can compare to Him? No one. Nothing. We worship at the altar of our desires, but there’s someone so much greater and better. So, during those times when our idols rear their ugly heads, we pray and ask God to reveal Himself even more mightily. He’s already changed our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. We can rest assured that He will finish the work He began—including helping us put away our idolatry.