Idolatry Corrupts, but God Is Faithful.

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul ties idolatry to all kinds of corrupted behavior, imploring us to learn from Israel’s example and avoid its trap. But in order to avoid that trap, we need to know what idolatry is.

For most of us, our temptation to idolatry isn’t going to manifest in bowing down to a stone statue in a temple. (Though if that is you, what applies here is equally relevant.) More often, an idol is a good thing you’ve turned into a God thing—that then becomes a bad thing. And we all have at least one.

Don’t believe me?

Try asking yourself these questions:

  • What’s the desire in my life that I have to have to be complete?
  • What am I willing to do whatever it takes to obtain?
  • What would I put in this blank? Just give me _____________, and I’ll be happy.

Peel back the layers of your sin, and you’ll find an altar to an idol there. Idolatry drives our sinful choices. It corrupts our hearts, which in turn corrupts our behavior. It makes us frantic, always striving in pursuit of that thing.

Saint Augustine once said that in many ways, our sinful actions and sinful emotions are like smoke from a fire. If you see smoke in your house, you’d be a fool to deal with just the smoke. Can you imagine? Billows of black smoke start pouring out of your kitchen, so you just open a few windows and close the door. Not terribly bright.

But far too many of us take this approach with our idolatry. We treat the smoke but leave the fire untouched. When the smoke of your bad behaviors or the complicated emotions in your heart fills your life, don’t just wave it away. Find the source of the fire and put it out.

Thankfully, we don’t have to do this alone.

First Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it” (CSB).

Read it again.

God. Is. Faithful.

The way we overcome idolatry is to lean into the presence and faithfulness of God. He is present. He is real. He is filled with unconditional and unrelenting love toward you. He is ready to help you.

Dallas Willard says it this way, “The freedom from the frantic desire to have is grounded in God’s promise to never leave us [and to always be our helper].” Where can you find freedom from fear? Where can you find an antidote to the craving that leads to idolatry? Where can you find the power to overcome your idolatry?

One place alone—in the loving presence of God.