Idols of the Heart
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
But it is not alone in denying the existence of God, or in bowing down to idols of wood and stone, that this first commandment is broken. By many who profess to be followers of Christ, its principles are infringed; but the Lord of heaven does not acknowledge those as his children who are cherishing in their hearts anything that takes the place which God alone should hold. With many the gratification of appetite holds sway, while with others dress and love of the world are given the first place in the heart. But in his word, God has shown us that these things must not hold the first place. He says, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
God has given us many things in this life upon which to bestow our affections; but when we carry to excess that which in itself is lawful, we become idolaters. The law of God requires that every son and daughter of Adam shall love him supremely, and anything that separates our affections from God, and lessens our interest in eternal things, is an idol. Those who use the precious time given them by God—time that has been purchased at an infinite cost—in embellishing their homes for display, in following the fashions and customs of the world, are not only robbing their own souls of spiritual food, but are failing to give God his due. The time thus spent in the gratification of selfish desires might be employed in obtaining a knowledge of the word of God, in cultivating our talents, that we might render intelligent service to our Creator.
Can we look into the mirror of God’s law, and feel no condemnation in this respect? Let each look over his past experience, and inquire of his own heart, How much of the precious time granted me by God might I have saved and used in doing good, in learning of God, in seeking to become a pillar in his house, and a light and blessing to the world?
“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” God will not share a divided heart. If the world absorbs our attention, he cannot reign supreme. If this diminishes our devotion for God, it is idolatry in his eyes. God will not excuse the transgressor in this respect. He is “a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” of them that hate him; and “showing mercy unto thousands” of them that love him, and keep his commandments. Just as surely as a life of devotion, of respect and reverence for him, will redound in blessings to ourselves, so surely will indifference to his requirements result in the ruin of our souls.
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” When our hearts are tuned to praise our Maker, not only in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, but also in our lives, we shall live in communion with Heaven. Our offering of grateful thanks will not be spasmodic, or reserved for special occasions; there will be gratitude in the heart and in the home, in private as well as in public devotion. This constitutes the true worship of God.
— E.G. White, Youth’s Instructor, December 31, 1896