Idols of the Heart

“My precious” was the seemingly benign phrase that the creature Gollum from the Lord of the Rings books used to refer to the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien, as he wrote the series, stumbled onto something anciently modern within each human heart; our incredible ability to create an idol of almost anything.

Gollum’s obsession over the ring (his idol) drove him to isolation, paranoia, and a complete mental breakdown.

It became his singular focus. It became his life.

Gollum in Tolkien’s novels serves as a grotesque image of what the idols of our hearts leave us with in the end. Nothing. An idol, in and of itself, can be good.

Food is good. It nourishes us, sustains us. And yet, when food becomes an idol we find we simply cannot be satisfied enough. And so is sex. Sex is good, in the context of the marriage relationship it was created for, it is the physical expression of love. And yet, when it becomes the thing we go to as a means of seeking life, it leaves us used and empty.

But the truth is, an idol is anything we give our hearts to with the expectation of receiving life in return. Notice the word “anything.” An idol can be anything we turn to for life.

An idol is subtle. It does not set out to be the object of our deep affection. After all, God made remarkable gifts for His creatures to take pure delight in. A peach. A wave breaking on the beach. The smell of rain before a drop hits the ground. Laughter of a child. A nap. All of those are gifts from a good Father.

However, we were made for life. And it is what our hearts seek desperately and daily. Jesus is life and in Him we find true life. But a cold beer on a hot day after some hard news can sure seem like life in the moment. It is just the slightest turn of our heart’s gaze away from Jesus and to something else when it happens. Our heart gently whispers, “my precious”, and we are hooked. Remember, nothing can bring us the life we deeply desire except Jesus.

What do you give your heart to in exchange for life?

If I’m honest, I turn to beer, Texas Longhorns football, and potato chips. Sometimes in that order. They make me feel alive. The seem to satisfy me, for a moment. And when the moment is gone, my natural solution is to get more. It never works.

You see, idols were never meant to work. The Father designed your heart to seek the full portion of life we came to know in the Garden of Eden. Beauty, conversational intimacy with God, and no brokenness of any kind. And we can never find that in anything but God. Exactly the way He designed it.

You were meant for life. Where are you finding it today?

Shane Bowen