In elementary school I attempted an art project.
I say attempted because the results were far from impressive. I think it was supposed to be a ceramic cobra dish for Mother’s Day, but it looked more like a deformed blue plant. It was something only a mother could love and proudly display.
My efforts at ceramic art are similar to the way I sometimes approach life. I spend time and creative energy attempting to make life work out just the way I want, but the results are far from impressive. The harder I try to fashion and shape my life, the uglier it gets. These efforts at controlling people and circumstances never end well. It can be as simple as dishing out ice cream for my family in a way that guarantees I get the biggest (or last) scoop. It can be as damaging as using guilt and passive-aggressive words with my wife, hoping she will focus on my needs and wants. Or it can be interacting with our loved ones as if they are part of our units, by issuing directives, commands, and military-style discipline.
This approach to life is what the Bible calls idolatry. It’s making, creating, fashioning, using, and relying upon anything or anyone to get us what we think we need and want. It’s selfishness disguised as art!
The Apostle John’s letter (found almost at the end of the Bible) finishes in a strange way. “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
John spends most of the letter talking about the importance of knowing what is true–God’s love, life, and light. So, when he says keep or guard yourselves from idols, it must be important. John wants to leave his readers with a warning that idols take hold of the heart and turn us away from what we truly need, God Himself.
Idols are not our friends, though they promise to help us. They are like an enemy behind our battle lines–sneaky, hidden, and destructive. John is warning us to guard ourselves closely. He knows our hearts are vulnerable to this enemy, so we need to keep our hearts under strict supervision. Wandering hearts find ways to hurt others and ourselves in the process. Hearts guided by God’s love, life, and light are protected and secure. Hearts guided by God allow us to see our self-made masterpieces for what they really are–junk.
Will you set aside your “ceramic masterpiece” and trust the One who will provide for your every need? It starts with a simple prayer, “Lord I give you my life. Help me to stop trying to take control and instead trust you to provide for my needs.” Now watch and wait for how God will answer!