The way to render a man happy, is to engage him with an object that will make him forget his private troubles. — Pascal
Don’t be fooled by the apparent innocence of the object you’ve chosen as an idol; what is the function of it? Most of our idols also have a perfectly legitimate place in our lives. That’s their cover, that’s how we get away with our infidelity. The prophet Isaiah gives an example of this when he marvels at a man who cuts down a tree in the forest, and then puts it to two very different uses:
Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
Over it he prepares his meal,
He roasts his meat and eats his fill.
Nothing wrong here. That’s the perfectly appropriate use of wood. But it doesn’t end there (it rarely does):
From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
He bows down to it and worships
He prays to it and says,
“Save me; you are my god.”
The prophet is incredulous. “Doesn’t he see what he’s doing?,” he wonders:
No one stops to think,
No one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?
He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him;
He cannot save himself or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?” (44:16-17,19-20)
So there you have it: No one stops to think. No one wants to take a good, hard look at what they are really doing, for then we might see the lie. We would see the water hole for the muddy puddle it is. Our idols become the means by which we forget who we truly are and where we truly come from. They numb us.
And that’s the memo.
An Excerpt from The Journey of Desire by John Eldredge