With the holidays quickly approaching, I know that people will be strapped for time, so we are taking a sabbatical from our weekly book discussion this quarter. Instead I am recommending a book for you to read, and in the coming months I will also be sharing with you from some of the other books that I am reading or reviewing.
This quarter’s book recommendation is Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters.
Let me provide a word of caution before you think, I don’t struggle with money, sex, or power. This books talks about the various idols that present struggles for all of us. The author defines an idol as, “anything more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, or identity.” He goes on to say, “Idols are not bad things. They are really good things turned into ultimate things. Anything can be an idol.”
That’s the problem with idolatry; it is deceptive. On the surface, idolatry is sometimes presented as nonessential issues or practices when left by themselves are not considered sin. For example, watching television, talking on the phone, or even sleeping can become idols.
At other times, idolatry is a good thing that we approach in a way that God did not intend. Let’s look at a couple idols from the subtitle. Take money for example; money is a need. Not only that, the Bible encourages us not to be lazy, but to work to obtain money for a purpose (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We are warned, however, against the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10). Next up, sex…yep, it is not a bad word. God designed it for the purpose of reproduction but also for the pleasure, intimacy and “oneness” that a man and woman are to share in marriage (Gen 2:24). Any form of sexual activity outside of the picture presented in the previous sentence is idolatry and sin. (Don’t just take my word for it; it’s in the book – 1 Corinthians 6: 16 & 18.)
Oftentimes we don’t know when idolatry has taken root in our hearts, until the reality of a situation or a courageous person brings it to our attention, and we then stand appalled at the ugliness that has been revealed in our hearts.
The author encourages us to not deceive ourselves. “Anything can be an idol.” Consider this list: your job, your family, your bank account, accomplishment, politics, seeking the approval of others, your friends, and the list goes on and on. Idolatry can begin quite subtly. For example, missing Sunday morning church service to attend a sporting event or to have your child participate in an activity can quickly lead to a shifting of priorities.
So I thought this was a timely book to prepare our hearts and minds before the temptations kick in. Very soon, we will all be tempted to buy what we don’t need, spend what we don’t have, and eat in access only to pay a stiff price in the weeks and months following our indulgence. In sisterly love I say, Please don’t buy into the deception. Replace those idols with the only hope that truly matters.
© Natasha L. Robinson 2010
Official website for book excerpt, book blog, and presentation: http://www.counterfeitgods.com/