The Family Idols
"This is the essence of idolatry: someone or something other than the living God is occupying the God-shaped space at the core of our being. We were created as worshiping beings, people whose meaning and purpose cannot be derived from ourselves but must come from outside us. There is always someone or something other than ourselves on which we have hung our whole identity or self-worth. If we turn our backs on the true God, we inevitably attempt to fill that void with something else. Whatever we must have instead of, or as well as, the God of the Bible, if life is to have meaning for us—that is our idol. For you, it may be health, comfort, wealth, control, the affection of a particular individual, or any of a thousand and one things. Whatever it is, it is an idol. Idols, however, ultimately never satisfy. In reality, a deep relationship with God and God alone is all we need to possess life in all its fullness (see Ps. 27:4–5)."1
This serves as a warning for those of us in the church today. We, no different than they, have hearts that are conditioned and bent toward giving our time, energy and affection to created things and persons--even to those who are our closest of relatives in the home--rather than to the living and true God. The perniciousness of this idolatry is seen in the fact that we can even make idols of our spouse or children in the name of being a good husband or wife, father or mother--all the while justifying our idolatry as if we are doing it as unto the Lord. Throughout the Genesis narrative, the men and women of the patriarchal home are constantly appealing to the name of the God of the covenant while acting with sinful and idolatrous motives (Gen. 27:20; 30:6; 30:13).
There is a very real danger for those who live in the pale of the church to fall into family idolatry in the name of having a model marriage or in being seen as being a good parent.
I sometimes fear that marriages in the church--where the parents are always together in the home with their children--but who are relatively uninvolved in the life of the church on a day-in or day-out basis--may be more driven by an idol of family than by a deep commitment to the Lord. It is no sure mark of godliness that husbands and wives are constantly together, have very few friends outside of marriage and do everything together. It may actually be a mark of the idolatrous quest for security and satisfaction.
Additionally, there is always the danger of chalking idolatrous parenting up to godly parenting. It is not alway easy to discern whether parents in the church have fallen into idolatrous parenting or not. It is far too easy to counterfeit godly parenting with idolatrous parenting. One of the ways to help determine whether or not you have fallen into such family idolatry is to ask yourself how much time do you invest in reading the Scriptures to your children, in praying with and for your children and in having your children involved in the life of the local church in order to shepherd them to Christ. In many serious-minded churches today, rather than investing in those things, the overwhelming amount of time is invested in seeking to find fulfillment in having as many children as possible, in being consumed with researching health matters, in homeschooling and in only spending time with other families in the church that are deeply interested in the same commitments. This is not to say that having many children is idolatry, or that we should not be interested in our children's health or schooling; but, it is a call to examine whether or not we have fallen into an insidious form of family idolatry or not.
Jesus warned against this form of idolatry when He said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:37). All of us must examine our hearts to see whether we give more time and affection to our spouse or children than we do to Christ. If we get angry that we are being asked to examine this aspect of our lives in this way then it is probably a mark that we have more family idolatry in our hearts than we would like to admit. The cross frees us from this form of idolatry, even as it does the idolatry of covetousness (Col. 3:5), lust, anger, control, pleasure and false teaching, etc. Jesus died to win the love of His spouse--and to insure that her love for Him would excel, in a superior way, her love to every other relation (even to the relationships in the home during the time of her sojourning here). May God give us grace in Jesus Christ to put to death the idolatry of our family relations for the love, glory and honor of Christ. When we do, we will actually end up loving our spouse and children in a way that will much more effectively teach them to find their greatest love in Christ.1. Duguid, I. M. (2002). Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob. (T. Longman III & J. A. Groves, Eds.) (p. 82). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.