American Idol

Idol worship?! Sure – every Tuesday at 8pm!

Shows like “American Idol” popularize the idea of having someone we can admire – someone we can look up to. There are good things associated with having proper role models, no doubt, but what is at the root of this concept of idolatry? And why would I be concerned if idolatry crept into my life?
Let’s define the word first (Dictionary.com):

Idol (noun):  
1. An image used as an object of worship. A false god.
2. One that is adored, often blindly or excessively.
3. Something visible but without substance.

I’d like to compare #1 with #3 because substance IS the main issue here. I’ll leave definition #2 for the “American Idol” show.

The very nature of a false god or an idol is that, behind the smokescreen, it is
lacking something (Def #3: something visible but without substance). In other words, there is something false about it - something lacking in substance – in other words, something lacking in truth.

And if it is lacking in truth it is lacking in reality, which makes it empty.

ALL FORM...NO SUBSTANCE with NO POWER.

The result of pursuing false anything = WASTED TIME and EFFORT.

Idols can suck the life right out of us promising a level of lasting satisfaction and fulfillment they just can’t deliver on. At worse, pursuing idols can become addictive. And idols are not just carvings or altars…they can come in all kinds of forms including our own personal accomplishments.

This is kind of a funny example to me of how idolizing personal accomplishments can backfire:

I recently watched the film “Seven Years in Tibet” – yes, the
very blonde Brad Pitt movie from the late 1990’s. It was based on an autobiography of an Austrian explorer who, through a series of unforeseen circumstances, wound up in Tibet for, well, seven years. I know it’s “Hollywood history” so must be treated as such…but the author’s original intent was to share his real life experiences during his years in Tibet.

Eventually, there are 2 men traveling together (out of pure necessity at first) and they wind up in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

In several scenes, they are both clearly trying to win the affections of one particular female. What I found very interesting is that the Brad Pitt character, arguably the more physically attractive and cleverer of the two, did
not ultimately win the woman’s affections, much to his own confusion and dismay.

Why not? Well, Brad Pitt was spending all of his efforts trying to “show off” his various accomplishments including mountain climbing expeditions and an Olympic gold medal to impress her into liking him. He was clearly self-absorbed with his own efforts and opinions and must have assumed that she would value his accomplishments as much as he did, thus rendering him the clear winner.

But he couldn’t see it until, at one point, after he lists off some things he believes will impress her, she calmly responds:

This is another great difference between our civilization and yours. You admire the man that pushes his way to the top in any walk of life, while we admire the man who abandones his ego.

Ouch. To his surprise, she valued and admired the opposite of what he idolized, his personal achievements, which he had spent much of his life pursuing and boasting about.

Consequently, Brad Pitt’s character re-examines his self-centered values and slowly transforms them during his 7-year stay in Tibet to his betterment, greater service and greater joy.

There’s hope for all of us!! Including myself…

I recognized this pattern of idolatry from my own life. Before I had a stake in what God values and before I had experience pursuing God’s purposes for my life, my old set of values were built around idolizing myself and my own achievements (shall we say, resumé) because it defined who I was. It gave me what I thought was a lasting purpose and value compared to others. But was I deeply happy and satisfied in solely the pursuit of or the attainment of all my achievements? The answer is no.

I even slowly developed an attitude that was unable to appreciate and applaud the accomplishments of others because they somehow threatened my own.

What is more, in the midst of the earthly rat race where ambitions can rule us, we can get bored of chasing after an idol once we attain it, so we’re forced to find another pursuit or attempt to escape in despair. What a cycle…

Then I learned that life can be different!!!

If idols are false, then what is true? If idols can only promise emptiness what can offer fullness?

A relationship with the infinite God who created us can and will satisfy our deepest longings. What is more, He has the power to either give us what we desire or change our desires if they are not best for us. As the all-knowing, all-powerful God that He is, He sure knows better than me!

The God of the Bible = NO FORM...ALL SUBSTANCE with ALL POWER.

…The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, - Ex. 34:6


God knows that pursuing Idols are ultimately not best for us nor for our ultimate satisfaction. He warns us of this, not just in the “Ten Commandments”, but there are at least 120 verses referencing this in he Bible including:

And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.
–Psalm 106:36

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. -1 John5:20-21

Accomplishments can be good! We were created to accomplish things! However, the ability to fully enjoy them really stems from the purpose behind them. Pursuing accomplishments alone will simply become addictive.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. -Matthew 6:33

What do you really crave? What might be your idol? Being significant in the eyes of others? Accomplishments? A relationship? Kids?

May we honestly search and root out false idols in our lives.
-cc