By some estimates, we spend over 12 hours a day consuming some kind of media. In fact, the average person spends over two hours a day just on social media alone. When you start counting the hours in a day, that’s a lot of time spent potentially staring at a screen or scrolling through posts. We live in a day and age when distractions are everywhere — from sports and pop culture to work and money. In comparison, how much time do you spend focusing on or developing your relationship with Christ?
Storing up treasure
Not everything that isn’t prayer, reading the Word or focusing on God is evil or sinful. However, Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV):
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Where are you storing up your treasure? It’s likely that’s where your heart is as well. When we place things above God in our hearts or prioritize something over time with our Creator, those things become idols in our lives. We read about the Isrealites turning to worship a golden calf in Exodus 32. The Isrealites grew impatient waiting on Moses to return from talking to God on a mountain and had Aaron make an idol out of their gold. Our idols may look different today, but how often do we similarly grow impatient waiting for joy, peace, happiness and contentment from God? In turn we worship other, temporary sources of satisfaction.
Identifying our idols
In New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp describes idols as “things that claim the place in [our] heart that only God should have.” It’s easy to rationalize that something isn’t an idol, which is why we need to know how to identify the idols in our life. In Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller provides some basic questions to ask ourselves to help discern our idols.
- What do you usually daydream about?
- What do you most fear? What could you lose that would make life not worth living?
- What fills you with irrational anger, anxiety, despondency, or guilt?
- What do you effortlessly spend too much money on?
These questions can help identify the part of your heart where potential idols may be pushing God out. Colossians 3 says to “set your hearts on things above” and “put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” When we identify idols in our lives, we must repent of our idolatry before God. In doing so, we humble ourselves. We know that “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6b NIV). In the same way, when we draw near to God, he will draw near to us (James 4:8a).
The gift of grace
We are no longer owned by sin, because we are no longer under the law, but under grace, through Christ (Romans 6:14). So, where do we set our minds? Where can we put our hope? Where can we find contentment?
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” (1 Peter 1:13 NIV)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)
When we give our heart to something other than God, we’re showing that we don’t trust God with our whole life. We’re saying there’s something that God can’t provide. Instead, we cast down our idols in favor of a God who offers us peace, hope, joy and lasting contentment that nothing in this world will never provide.