The Idols of Marriage

We should be in daily worship of God if we can have any hope of living out the Gospel.  This is true, of course, whether we are married or not.  That one has a spouse that is (like me) muscular, suave, yet sensitive and oh-so-humble is only one aspect of true joy in life.  Our marriages are precious, but they can breed idols that turn us away from the supremacy of Christ.

I've quoted from Stuart Scott's The Exemplary Husband a couple of times before, and here is another section of his book I wanted to share.  John Calvin is often quoted as saying that our hearts are idol-factories, and Scott does a good job in highlighting some of the idols we have in a relationship.

First, he notes (90) that when we worship something, we will:
  • Adore it
  • Sacrifice for it
  • Focus on it
  • Submit to it
  • Seek after it
  • Hope in it
  • Serve it/ give to it
  • Speak about it
  • Look to it for peace, meaning, and happiness
  • Spend a great amount of thoughts, time, energy, and resources on it
Often times our object of worship is not God, and we find these bullet-points shoot us in the spiritual foot.  We begin to sin, often times without knowing it, but the results are the same.  Sin damages both our relationship with God and with others, and marriage problems are symptomatic of at least one heart that is not right before God.  Scott writes,
"When we make something other than God our primary focus and goal we are clearly engaged in idol worship.  We worship what we believe we desperately need or must have in order to be happy (James 4:1-3). ... Thus, an idol is anything that we consistently make equal to or more important than God in our attention, desire, devotion, and choices" (91, emphasis his).  
Scott provides the following list of possible idols that might appear in people's hearts (91-92):
  • Security
  • Material things
  • Knowledge
  • Control
  • Wealth
  • Themselves
  • Good health
  • Other gods of the cults
  • Another person
  • A god of their own making 
  • Pleasure/ comfort
  • Pain-free/ trouble-free life
  • An accomplishment
  • Fair or good treatment
  • The good opinion of others
  • Significance/ success/ impact
  • Physical appearance
  • A desired circumstance of life (a good marriage, children, financial stability, etc.)
  • Ambition
Scott warns, "A divided heart leads to the self-deception of divided worship" (93).  Yet, God may reclaim a believer's heart by revealing these idols.  Scott gives four ways God may do this (93-94).
  1. God has given His Word and His Spirit to consistently speak to this issue (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
  2. God may frustrate our idols by withholding them, or He may allow us to experience the futility of our idols and refuges by granting them (Psalm 106:13-15)
  3. God may give us a living example (a person) of true worship to convict us (e.g., Elijah; 1 Kings 18:26, 36).
  4. God may administer loving discipline.  Because God cares for His own, a person who is not being convicted, frustrated, or chastened in his idol worship may not be one of God's children at all (Hebrews 12:5-11).
Specifically in marriage, Scott lists the following false refuges (94):
  • Food 
  • Sleep 
  • Drugs
  • Travel
  • Sports
  • Music
  • Reading
  • Television
  • Another person (man or woman)
  • Strong drink
  • Sex/ pornography
  • Fantasies/ imaginations
  • Shopping/ spending money
  • Fleeing (leaving, driving)
  • Busyness at work, church, or hobbies
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
1 John 5:21

So, what do we do?  Scott compiled the following (96-97):
  1. Asking God to search your heart and reveal any idols you may be worshiping as you evaluate your life and worship of God (Psalm 139:23-24).
  2. Confessing your abominable sin to God (Psalm 51:3, 4, 17).
  3. Repenting.  Turn away from the pursuit of your idol and turn to the worship of God alone by: (a) determining how to rightly view your idol and (b) pursuing a passion for God (Ezekiel 14:6).
  4. Removing the possibility of idol worship.  For some this may mean taking radical steps to remove temptation. ...
  5. Be on guard.  Be watchful and prayerful concerning habitual or new idol worship (1 Peter 1:13-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 John 5:21)

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