It’s a tough question for the believer: How do we enjoy God’s gift without falling into idolatry?
Between the blessings of food, jobs, entertainment, and even relationships, how do we enjoy the things God allows us to enjoy without turning them into idols? Let’s see what Scripture has to say.
In Romans 14:5, Paul charges the believers in Rome to be fully convinced of God’s will for their lives “in their own minds,” especially in regards to what we might call “gray areas.” For the Romans, this centered around eating food that was offered to idols. “Stronger” believers understood that because the false Roman gods weren’t actually alive, the food was fine to eat, whereas weaker believers felt like it was wrong to eat. Paul’s command: Do what the Lord leads you to do, and don’t judge other believers for it.
When it comes to things like entertainment, different foods and drinks, and how much of it we should consume, there are clear Scriptural guidelines, but there is also room to simply do what you feel like best honors the Lord and shows His greatness. If you feel like God has called you to abstain from Netflix, or watching sports on Sunday, then follow the Lord, not popular culture.
Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.“–Matt. 6:24
While this passage directly deals with money, which is one of God’s gifts, the principle of not serving the gifts God gives us helps us understand how to approach the “stuff” of our lives.We want to enjoy God’s gifts, because doing so honors Him. When God allows you to take a day off and go fishing, or take a day off to take your kid to a baseball game, or God allows you to (fill in the blank with your favorite relaxing hobby/activity), you ought to worship God for that. I recently had a three-day weekend where I went to two baseball games, and spent the Monday watching more baseball. It was a wonderful time enjoying my favorite sport with my friends and family. And while I certainly was not faultless in regards to indulgence in this area, I can say I praised God for those three days.
But again, I am not faultless. I began to overindulge, and found myself spending too much time with baseball, especially on the third day of my three-day weekend. I had let a gift turn into an idol, and had to repent. For you, it may be spending an exorbitant amount of time on social media, or watching another sport, or even spending too much time at the office. Good things can become god things very quickly if we aren’t carefully seeking God’s will for them in our lives. Idolatry begins when God begins to exit the picture, and we begin to let the gifts direct our lives, instead of the gift-giver.
We must remember where our gifts come from. James 1:17 says that every good gift is from above, that is, it is from God. God gives us good things, not to magnify and exalt the thing, but to magnify and exalt Himself!
Lastly, treat God’s gifts as that–gifts. As stated before, enjoy them, thank God for them, and see God’s grace in giving you good gifts. But use God’s gifts God’s way–don’t worship them, worship God.
How do we do this? By remembering the greatest gift God gives–Himself, in the person and through the work of His Son Jesus Christ. Because Christ has died for us and has brought us back to the Father, we can enjoy good gifts from a good Father, and let them lead us, not to idolatrous worship of worldly pleasures, but to eternal worship of our gracious God.
Lord, may we enjoy your gifts. May we thank you for them. May we enjoy you through your gifts, thanking you for your grace toward us. May we not turn your gifts into false gods and idols that would keep us from worshiping and finding our deepest joy and satisfaction in you.