We’re living in a time where subconsciously, idolatry has become socially acceptable by the double tapping of a thumb. We’re no longer concerned about ourselves, instead we now live out our lives vicariously through the Instagram feed of others. For some, it’s just a pastime, for others it’s an indirect way of “keeping up” with the life of someone else. Yet for the majority of us, it has become a place of constant comparison. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be honest. How many times have you scrolled up and down a stream of IG pictures or videos and compared yourself, or possibly even coveted? Whether you admit it or not, did so consciously or subconsciously, the fact is that we’ve all participated in this to some extent. The truth is that there are serious consequences to idolatry, and the Lord doesn’t approve of it; simply because it expresses the “ingratitude” we feel about our own lives and our own journey.
Thankfully, we have a merciful God who is patient, kind and slow to anger. As followers of Christ Jesus, we must always remember what he said to us regarding idolatry, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the others, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the others. You cannot serve both God and money,” Matthew 6:24. We cannot constantly worry about our inadequacies, failures or shortcomings because the truth is that God is sufficient, and our lives are in his hands. As humans, we can easily become ensnared by merely scrolling through the pages of our social media accounts. What’s more, we live in an age of constant information and easy access to it, which means we need to learn how to stop the buck before it gets out of hand. I highly believe that Satan tries to utilize social media and pervert what was intended for good in order to use it to his advantage. However, the good news is that we have the authority in Christ to take dominion over what we allow to dwell within our spirit and thoughts.
With this in mind, how do we maintain dominion over our thoughts and prevent it from turning into vain imaginations and idolatry? After all, thoughts move approximately as fast as the speed of light, so how can we really stop them? While they may be coming at you like fiery darts, you have the ability to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, even after it has passed through. You don’t have to agree with it or accept it as your own; simply discard it, repent and give it to God.
You’re probably thinking, “but how do I know if the thought is idolatrous”? Well, let’s first identify what idolatry actually is. Idolatry isn’t just about having a deep adoration for something, it’s about replacing God with another “person” or “thing” (Read Exodus 20:3-5). It can creep in like a little fox that comes in to ruin a vineyard, because all it really takes is one thought of comparison or ungratefulness to begin coveting. Colossians 3:5 describes what idolatry is, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” Before Christ, we were disobedient and likely ignorant to Satan’s devices. Today, however, I encourage you to evaluate your thoughts and determine whether or not they’re idolatrous. Do not let them overrule you, define you or create something within your heart that is displeasing to the Lord. After all, we have a responsibility to control and monitor what we think. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
So how do I know if a desire or thought is idolatrous? A good rule of thumb is to always use the filter of the Holy Spirit. When a thought comes through, ask yourself the following; is this true, noble, right, pure, lovely or admirable? If you cannot answer this with sincerity, something is off. If you take a look at the story of Hannah in the book of Samuel, you can see how Hannah deeply desired to be a mother yet was barren. Peninnah’s idol, however, was her husband. For Hannah, she didn’t want children to supersede Peninnah, nor to gain more value in the sight of her husband – she simply yearned to be a mother. She understood the importance of depending on God for her needs, and not allowing her strong yearnings to become more important than the presence of God. She did what any devoted person to God would do, she put it in prayer and vowed to give this son, if granted, back to God. It takes a strong woman to be able to let go of what she intensely desires to have. That’s a good sign that the gift did not become an idol for her because it shows that her first love was God. Later on we see how the Lord not only answered her prayer, but gave her more than what she asked for. 1 Samuel 2:21 says “And the LORD visited Hannah so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters.”
So what is the ultimate lesson here? We must always depend on God and thank Him for what He has already given us. As social media takes on different forms and evolves, we must make sure that we’re transformed by the renewal of our minds. This is how we guard our hearts from idols.