What is an Idol?

“The human heart is an idol factory,” John Calvin once rightly proclaimed. All this talk about idols in our hearts and life. But what is an idol?

An idol, as the Bible describes (Ezekiel 14:3), and as Tim Keller accurately says in his book Counterfeit Gods, is “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.” Anything is stressed here because it can be absolutely anything: sex, money, popularity, a marriage, ministry success, an athletic career, a family, education, etc.The tricky thing about idols are that they are usually good things. Idolatry, though, happens when we turn a good thing into a god thing and that’s a bad thing. Tim Keller then goes on to say that idolatry is “turning a good thing in an ultimate thing.” To practice idolatry is slavery, and that is destructive.

An idol is that thing in your life that you look at and say, “If I can only obtain that, then my life will be fulfilled and I will have peace and happiness.” That is a demonic lie because the only way we can find true purpose and happiness in life is through a relationship with God. The Creator, not creation, is the only One that can fulfill our deep longings in life. Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “The incomplete joys of this world can never satisfy the human heart.” He was right. Only God can do that.

So…how can we discern our idols? I’ll post that later this week. Stay tuned.


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