John Calvin said that our hearts are idol-making factories. If we can somehow avoid idolizing ourselves, we are then apt to put other people on a pedestal and let them take the place of God.
This can be subtle. I know that human idols did not die on the cross for me, so they cannot become my savior, but what is my primary source of advice? Do I ask people before asking God? Where is my source of spiritual truth? Is it my pastor or good books, or do I rely on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God? There are many ways that I can put friends or admired people on the throne of my heart.
You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
God is clear. He says “no other gods” and the word ‘before’ can also be translated ‘besides’ so whatever the preposition, He is God, the only God. Why would I or anyone else worship people? It makes no sense except that the human heart is prone to turn from God to its own devices.
Part of the problem is that we think we know better than God, or that our friends can help us make our lives better. To my sinful heart, God’s ways can seem too slow, or too simple, or just not what I want. Even Christians struggle with their own wisdom vs. God’s wisdom.
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:21–25)
Even though I know that the Gospel is the power of God and that God is wiser than I am, there are unfulfilled desires that I wish He would “fix” and unanswered prayers that make me impatient. If someone else seems to have quicker or better answers, will I wait on God for His answers? Do I recognize that His ways are different, but always better?
God promises to never let me down. It might seem like it to my sinful, “I want it now” impatience, but when He comes through, I am given lasting satisfaction. This is not true for human idols. Even the best of humanity will eventually let me down for they are human, and we humans are sinners. We cannot be for others what God can be. We are not consistent or totally reliable.
Even worse, the failure of human idols can be destructive to faith, especially the faith of new believers. I’ve met some “big names” in the family of God, people I could easily put on a pedestal, but by grace I’ve seen that they are sinners saved by grace too. They need the power of God to be what they are and do what they do.
Besides, God does far more for me than any person can ever do. Idols have the power to destroy me, but God declares me holy. Idolizing “big names” or anyone else might appear to be smart in that I can learn from them, but that sort of wisdom can be foolish if I let them come between me and the Lord.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:16–23)
The bottom line is that all of us belong to Jesus Christ. We are God’s possessions and because of Him, the resources of every Christian are available to all Christians, according to the wisdom of God. As I trust Him, He will supply whatever I need from whomever He wants. It may be a “big name” or an ordinary person, but the source is always God, and I’m not to put others above Him.