Imagine that you’re at the doctor’s office complaining of chronic pain in your abdomen, but the doctor aks you no questions, runs no tests, and performs no examination. Instead, he writes you a prescription and tells you to make sure to pay the cashier on your way out. Would you be hesitant to take that prescription? I would think so, but why? Because the doctor gave you no diagnosis, nor did he do anything to collect the data that would help him give a diagnosis. Diagnosis must come before prescription if the prescription is going to accurately address the problem.
The same can be said of our spiritual condition. Before we can prescribe the right treatment for our hearts, we need to accurately diagnose the idols inside them. An idol can be defined as anything that we desire more than God (whether we think that something is good or bad). Every time we sin there’s an idol at the root of that sin, which is why James says, “You desire and do not have, so you murder”. Idols can be money, a spouse, a job, alcohol, a house, good grades, technology, etc. But after reading an article yesterday by Lou Going titled Modern Idolatry, I realized that the diagnosis of our idols is much deeper than we realize. There are actually multiple levels to the idols we crave. For example, a person may come to the conclusion that his spiritual problem is that he desires money more than God, but it’s not money in and of itself that he craves. Money is just paper, right? There is another level to this idolatry. Money is a means to the end of that person getting what he really wants, which may be security or pleasure. People don’t go nuts and lose all dignity when they win the lottery because they get loads of paper, it’s because they get loads of paper that they can trade in for something else like comfort or respect.
But in all actuality, there’s even another level to this idolatry. Think about it, why does this person want what he wants? In his greed, why is he not concerned with what God wants or what other people want? Because self is at the center of all idolatry. When you get to the bottom of it, you find that we are our own idols. We think we’re great and that we deserve to get what we want, so we diligently pursue things like money and people to get what we want so that we can get what we really want: to be our own god. It was true of Eve in the garden when she believed Satan’s lie that she would be like God if she ate the fruit (Genesis 3:5-6), and it’s true of us every time we sin. Christians, our idols go deeper than we think and before we can get an accurate prescription for them we need an accurate diagnosis. Stay tuned tomorrow when we’ll look at what God’s prescription for our idols.