Friday, February 24, 2006

Another Good Question

Recently, I was listening to a radio program — Family Life Today. They were discussing conflict, and their guest Tara Barthel answered Dennis Rainey's question, "How can you know if a relationship is an idol?," with an astute observation.

She said,

"I think it is Elyse Fitzpatrick who says the way to identifying [an] idol is will I sin to get it or will I sin if I don't get it? I think if you ask those questions, that's going to show you a lot of things."

That is a good question. What am I willing to sin for to get? What am I willing to sin for if I don't get it?

But more importantly, what am I willing to sin for to keep?

These questions are important and challenging, because inherent in them is a clear choice: Do I sin against God for this? If I do, it is an idol. I can not have two masters. I will hate the one, and love the other. I must choose, or it will be chosen for me.

I know in our society we keep the question of idolatry at a safe distance from ourselves. We sometimes reassure ourselves. "Well, modern idolatry is simply greed. I am not really greedy. But if I am, I struggle against it, because I give to the church and to the poor. Besides, I am not really rich, like those corrupt CEO's."

Sometimes we may see idolatry as a minor struggle with temptation. "Yeah, I struggle with my desire for chocolate. So I can't even look at a commercial for chocolate and not want some." And sometimes we may even justify our idolatry. "I need food to eat. I need a man/woman in my life. I just have needs."

But this question cuts through all the justifications. Am I willing to sin to get it, to keep it, or to sin if I don't get it? For it is in the sinning that we place worth on the object of our desire. We declare, "This thing is worth more than God."


  1. Great thoughts as always, Kerry.

    What's really dangerous is when we find ourselves willing to sin in order to attain or maintain good things -- like a ministry.

    Very convicting.

  2. Yeah. I was thinking about that when I wrote this. In fact, ministry is the easiest to justify sinning for. After all, we are doing it for God.

    Reminds me of King Saul in 1 Samuel 13:5-15. When he didn't follow God's instructions about sacrifices. Instead of waiting on Samuel, he went ahead and did it himself, because the men were getting ansy. But, Samuel clearly pointed out that what Saul did was evil. He sinned against God because he offered God religion instead of devotion. He was more afraid of losing his men, and his power, than losing God's respect.

  3. Dear Mr. Kerry,

    Just a note to say hello and thank you for your wonderful, God-centered blog! I'm glad I stumbled onto it because of this "Another Good Question" post.

    Your sister in Christ,
    Tara Barthel

    I was in your state last weekend! I flew into Philly, slept in Maryland, and taught in Delaware. That doesn't happen way out here in Montana. :)

    Thanks again for your ministry--tkb

  4. Thank you, Tara, for your encouraging words, and the work you are involved in. Glad you stumbled on my blog.