Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. (1 Cor. 10:6)
In Institutes, John Calvin famously asserted that the human heart is a perpetual idol factory. While Wesleyans don’t subscribe to Calvin’s theology, his words on idolatry are worth considering. If an idol is anything that robs God of the attention, affection, and adoration God deserves, then our hearts are indeed insidious idol makers.
Paul’s warning to the Corinthians refers back to the incident of the golden calf in Exodus 32. When Moses took longer than expected to return from his mountaintop rendezvous with God, the Israelites began to panic. They thought perhaps the God who had rescued them from Egypt was leaving them to die alone in the wilderness. Rather than seeking a renewed awareness of God’s presence, they asked Moses’ brother, Aaron, to create an idol they could worship in God’s place—something tangible so they would never feel alone. They replaced God with something they could see and touch.
Christians today are rarely tempted to worship metal figurines, but we are not immune to replacing God with pursuits that feel more tangible to us. It’s easy to do things we perceive to be “for” Christ—whether in church, politics, or patriotism—as a substitute for cultivating a moment-by-moment awareness of and presence with Christ. That’s why biblical writers like Paul and John were so insistent: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
Pursue Christ alone—and accept no substitutes.
Kevin R. Scott is a pastor, author of ReCreatable: How God Heals the Brokenness of Life, and editor for Wesleyan Publishing House. He lives with his family in middle Tennessee.
© 2022 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.