When Good Things Become Idols

I’ve been thinking about idols lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how anything can become an idol: good things, bad things, and even the in-between sort of things.

There’s a lot of good things that we can strive for in this life. Financial freedom, physical fitness, healthful living, pleasing homes, productive days, consistent routines, accomplished children, perfect marriages…

But when those things start stealing our focus away from pleasing God, they become idols. When they begin controlling our emotions and thoughts, they become idols. When they start making us discontent or whiny, they become idols.

  • When financial freedom becomes more important than supporting your local church, giving to missions, or helping a friend in need… it’s an idol.
  • When physical fitness or healthful living becomes “my way or the highway” and starts wrecking the family budgets of money or time… it’s an idol.
  • When having the perfect family or being a perfect mom/wife/daughter causes more grief than peace, shifting your focus away from simple godliness, and stressing others out in your race to be the best… it’s an idol.
  • When writing the best blog post, performing the best piano solo, or coming up with the best art project becomes more important than spending time with God and your family… it’s an idol.
  • When home improvement, organization, or playing hostess stresses out your entire family instead of building each other up in unity and love… it’s an idol.
  • When watching that last episode of your favorite show, or reading the latest novel, forces you to ignore your family’s needs and desires… it’s an idol.
  • When friendships or social networks shift your focus from serving to being served, from being a friend to making friends, from being used by God to using others… it’s an idol.

As another blogger recently defined it: “An idol is anything other than God in which we seek security and fulfillment. It may be something biblical or good, but if it has the power to determine our wellbeing, we have elevated it higher than God meant for us.

 Anything can become an idol. But thankfully, nothing has to stay an idol!

Anything can become an idol.
But thankfully, nothing has to stay an idol!
{tweet that!}

However, those things don’t have continue as idols! The first step to overcoming idolatry is recognizing that — through prayer and Scriptural guidance and divine help from the Spirit — we really can turn away from the idols in our lives.

It starts by looking at every area of your life through the lens of Scripture. Where do you care more about a goal or a lifestyle, than you do about godliness with contentment? Where are your priorities causing you to dishonor your family’s budget, time constraints, or other needs? Where are you too focused on doing something a particular way, even to the detriment of someone else’s needs?

Then comes the joy of repentance. Confessing to your Savior that those areas have become more important to you than pleasing Him, loving others, and obeying His commands. And yes, it really is a joy to repent — because He is always faithful to forgive and restore us to a beautiful relationship with Himself! And confessing to your family, or anyone else you’ve ignored, in your single-minded focus.

Finally, we can take deliberate steps to ensure that nothing takes His place anymore. Spend time praying about ways to keep your focus on God, rather than that goal or desire. Write it down. Share it with your family or another Christian friend who can keep you accountable. Take time to check in with God about it every day, always asking for His help and reaffirming His place in your life.

Idolatry will always be a struggle as long as we’re on this earth. As long as we have sin natures, we will be tempted to turn our gaze off the hard road of godliness, to the shiny attractions of this world.

But the key is to always keep striving, to never give up the fight, to keep running the race.
Beloved, keep yourselves from idols!

Original Photo: joiseyshowaa


Question: What other “good things” can easily become an idol? How can we take steps to overcome those idolatries?


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10 thoughts on “When Good Things Become Idols

  1. Dear Elizabeth!
    Thank you so much for this post! This is exactly what I needed… I’ve been so focused on getting my blog to grow that I was being discouraged by the whole thing.
    Your words spoke to me and I wish more times I would look to Jesus for fulfillment not number of followers…
    Just discovered your blog and absolutely love this!


    1. So glad to hear this was an encouragement to you, Anna! One thing that’s helped keep the numbers in perspective for me, as I blog, is picturing those numbers as real people filling an auditorium or sitting around a table. 30 sounds small until you realize that would be several tables full! 150 sounds small until you picture a packed auditorium! 🙂

  2. Great thoughts, so glad you shared. It is so true, I can make idols out of many things. I saw a quote in a book, I thought it would be great to share here. Look at self and be distressed, look at others and be distressed, look at Jesus and you’ll be blessed. Only Jesus can fulfill us!!

    1. I’ve seen that quote before, Darcy, and love it! So true.

  3. Great Post, Elizabeth! I have struggled with idols all my life, but only recently knew what to call them. I realize now that wanting others to like me is an idol that leads me to feelings of loneliness and sadness (I’m doing a 31 day series on loneliness right now). Now that I know what my idol is, I can repent of it and give it to God.
    You are a wonderful writer and I know you are an encouragement to many! I’m glad I found you through Fellowship Fridays!

    1. Thank you, Tiffany!

  4. […] the Rich Young Ruler and I Have In Common – This aligns perfectly with last week’s post about idols! If you’ve ever tried to plan out your life, or control something like your health or […]

  5. Idols are detestable to God and with the help of the Holy Spirit we must strive as you said to keep ourselves away from idolatry. Sometimes it can be the smallest thing that we would never consider to be an idol but the Holy Spirit reveals that it is and right then we need to deal with it.

    1. Yes, exactly! It is a daily battle to watch for those “little things” that can turn our focus away, one glance at a time. So hard to remember, but so necessary!

  6. Great article, Elizabeth. Really insightful in showing that idols don’t just affect our relationship with God, but others as our love for our idols often cause us to neglect our own family in terms of possessing ‘our’ time and being impatient with them.

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